I believe it started when I was twelve years old.
I’d been normal, before that – more or less. I had friends, family. Sometimes we disagreed, sometimes we fought – it was a normal childhood, full of normal relationships. People would listen to what I say, and respond based on whether they agreed or disagreed. It didn’t seem unusual. I didn’t know how precious it was.
Then it happened.
It began with the girls. When before, they’d generally just treated me with friendship, cordial distance, or dislike, now they started stuttering. Blushing as they spoke to me, or just awkwardly turning away. Telling me I was a dork, and then staring at me over their textbook, day after day after day. And it wasn’t just a few girls – not just some usual schoolyard crush. It was every female in my presence, always, forever.
Then it started with the boys. Some began laughing uproariously at anything I said, matching my every word and gesture with a “you said it, bro!” Younger boys began to preen and sulk, acting like attention-starved children. Men began to point at me in elevators, cackling wildly as I walked away. You were either with me or against me, and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it – no matter how I acted, no matter what I said, women fell for me, boys idolized me, and men stared at me through wild eyes and steepled hands.
I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know what would make it stop. Was I being punished, somehow? Was it some kind of cruel cosmic joke?
All I know is that I am no longer one of them. They can’t help it – though I see them act like human beings among themselves, in my presence, they become slaves to their own instincts. They love me or despise me, all acted out in some sick approximation of human emotion, all entirely beyond my control. I am a monster, now. I am cursed.
I wander this simulacra of reality, haunted by simulacra of human beings. It suits me, I suppose. God or devil, I only know that I am alone.
0:19 – The elf girl frames it as a jab, but it only brings me pain. I know she loves me, already. They all love me. They love me the moment they see me. But what can you call that – a love based in nothing I’ve done, nothing I am? Who am I, at that? What self-definition can I hope to believe in, if none around me see me as anything but this fated attraction? They don’t love me. They love my curse
0:20 – Still, I play my part, returning the gesture. Playing along gives me some small comfort – even this tawdry approximation of human chemistry is still better than no connection at all. And what good would fighting do? I could literally only say “dog farts dog farts dog farts” to any girl in this world, and they’d still treat me as the same alluring stranger
0:30 – It’s no surprise to me that my character’s abilities match my own strange power. Such symmetries have become common in the years since my awakening – I live in a world of unbelievable coincidence and artificial convenience
0:37 – Now that she’s said it, the timer has begun. In less than twenty minutes, my “crummy Spriggan magic” will save her life, resulting in her falling even further in love with my charmed, fate-bound self. It will happen naturally, and the circumstances will seem treacherous, but I will win. I always win, like a puppet dangling on golden strings. I’m like a grim parody of the very concept of excellence
2:24 – The irony of her words cuts deep. If only she knew the track her own emotions ran on, the simple role she is programmed to play. They’d hate me for it, if they knew. Instead they sigh, and cheer, and mutter “there’s just something about you…”
2:44 – It’s simpler that way. I’ll go through the motions, but I won’t commit any more than I have to. It’s not like I’m capable of losing either way
2:59 – Trouble, no doubt. The boy whose every action seems intended to make me look powerful is warning us about the man whose every action is intended to make me look just. How the puppets dance
3:12 – Of all the absurd world-breaking circumstances my power has brought about, Yui is perhaps the most ridiculous. A computer program who literally manifested herself as an adopted daughter, unable to resist the sheer force of my inhuman magnetism. I suppose I should be grateful the sun itself is not a woman, or we’d all burn from it leaping into my arms. But then again, maybe even death by incineration would be better than this
3:31 – This one’s bolder than most, but it’s all the same in the end. Should I feel sorry for her? Neither of us have a choice
3:57 – Why does the world do this? What does it want from me? Am I fulfilling reality’s own childish fantasies?
5:03 – I say, knowing full well I’ll soon be called to demonstrate my invincibility. Sometimes it’s best just to lean into the fantasy
5:53 – The better for me to make a joke of this game’s balance, I suppose
6:06 – Sometimes the curse takes over, spewing bile and ensuring my supremacy over all others. Women to the back, Kirito to the front. I hate the man it’s made of me
6:09 – Oh, is that why. I feel like I’m floating, watching these hackneyed words from some far-off distance. It helps, somewhat – it makes me feel less responsible for them
6:43 – They line up in their numbers, dispassionate, inhuman. On other days, these men might have families, children. On other days, they laugh and fret and go about their lives as human beings. Today, they are drones, fodder for the beast. Maybe better for all if I destroy myself, and no longer cast this gross influence over the world
7:27 – This is how it was meant to be. A woman chanting encouragement at my back, a field of villains waiting before me, and all around, the world burns
7:44 – Oh I see, it was meant to set up my one-liner. Our performance could use a few revisions
7:48 – And her breath catches as she falls even more in love with me. That’s right Leafa, I swore to protect you in a videogame
8:55 – The role I was born to play. I remember enjoying table tennis, once
9:19 – At last, my form reflects what I truly am. The honesty is exhilarating
9:41 – He stammers that my weapon is only psychological, as if my psychological power weren’t enough to crush all these ants
It is difficult, sometimes, to believe they are really people
9:53 – And the crowd cheers, thirsty for blood. I am the hero, therefore my actions are heroic. There are no questions of morality here
10:22 – I killed a monster like this, long ago. Is this again some chosen irony of eternity? Am I a demonstration of our arbitrary conceptions of right and wrong? I fail to see the humor. This is just a videogame
10:59 – More blood, master? Whoever made me, whoever pulls the strings – will this make you happy?
11:57 – And just like that, I win them back over to my side. Raving villains or chuckling underlings, there is no in-between
12:45 – Sometimes it seems like they’re all reading from the same script. Like there is a “big book of villain vocabulary” out there, where you scroll past “maniacal laughter” to investigate “meddling heroes.” I’m always interfering with someone’s plans…
13:36 – I’ve learned to live with it
13:53 – From time to time the story demands I tear people apart with my bare hands. It took a little getting used to
14:37 – It really doesn’t matter what I say. They’ll find literally anything charming
15:18 – Please let that be a joke, master. Do not force me to do anything terrible
15:38 – I rise from my bed, my thoughts turning from the strange Spriggan boy to my own life. Is Onii-chan alright? Should I check on him? He seemed distant yesterday, while we were sparring. His perfectly placed strikes betrayed a pain at the center of his being, a pain he holds close and protects me from, but reveals just enough to demonstrate he is sensitive and nurturing in addition to strong and mysterious. A pain that marks him as deeply, almost uniquely human, like he is the only man that feels and cares and understands in a world of silly boys
Oh right, I was supposed to check with whatshisface
15:54 – His voice annoys me instantly. It’s thin and grating, nothing like Onii-chan’s soft, rueful voice, which reveals his boyish sense of humor while also containing all the gruffness that marks him as a man of depth and conviction. A voice like a big comforting chair I just want to curl up in, that makes me feel calm and safe and warm and provided for. A voice like a old familiar blanket that tucks me in at night, promising both reliable comfort and alluring secrets hidden in the darkness
17:16 – I only half-listen to Recon’s tedious and only vaguely relevant story, thinking instead of that strange Spriggan boy I should probably be getting back to. Who is he, with his perfectly tufted hair, deep, soulful eyes, and effortless way with words? Who does his well-earned confidence and endless charm remind me of? Why do I sense something so familiar in his broad shoulders, delicate fingers, and laughter like chimes on a summer’s day?
Such questions are perhaps beyond solving for an imouto such as I.
18:24 – It somewhat astonishes me to see a member of my entourage expressing independent goals, but perhaps this too will turn out to be a chance for the universe to demonstrate my hideous power
18:34 – The whims of the curse steer me towards her problem, the urgency of my original woman-saving mission forgotten. There’s always time for another notch on the hero belt, apparently
19:12 – I listen to her words with vague disinterest, silently chastising the universe for setting up such a tedious hoop for me to jump through. Is arbitrary videogame politics really the best way to make me dance for the crowd? Surely there are greater dragons I could be slaying for its pleasure
Not that it truly matters. A pawn is a pawn, and I’ve committed enough forced heroics to be equally unimpressed by any new challenges. Just tell me where to fetch and roll over, curse
19:40 – I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard those words. I suppose sidekicks have a big book of vocabulary, too
20:12 – The first time a woman said “I would happily die for you,” it shocked me. Now, all I can do is marvel at our capacity to become accustomed to anything
20:53 – This is one of “my” better speeches. You could almost learn something from me!
21:09 – A memory of chewing on soldiers briefly flashes through my mind, but the curse stifles my chuckle
21:20 – I have to remember it’s not their fault. I have to believe they’re still human. It’s me, it’s my curse, it’s not them at all. I am not better than them, I am just poisoned. If I weren’t here, they wouldn’t be like this. I have to believe that – have to believe we are all human. I am not a god. I will not let this damnable aura change me
It’s the loneliness that gets to me. The tedium, the sad ironies, the imprisonment – all that I could take. But I am alone in this world, and it wears on me. I feel that loneliness when they say they love me. I shiver from it as they vow to curse me for eternity. Whatever they see, I cannot share their vision – I am but a man, and they see some cruel, ever-changing mirage. Perhaps this is hell, and I am being punished for some worldly hubris. Perhaps this is all there is.
Forward, then. I will keep my dignity, even if the world sees only their favorite jester. This curse can steal my agency, but it cannot steal my pride.
Even this I will endure.