Chapter 68 – Interlude: Tiamat.

“It’s certainly an interesting power, and I do see the similarities as skin deep as they are,” The figure said. “If I’m honest, I am far more interested in the other one they brought in to assist them—both Julian’s durability and Mara’s impervious nature have succumbed to it in the past.”

Morgan hummed, Haunt and Threadbreaker were both unexpected choices to bring in.

“Yes, I recall it caused quite a stir when he broke Julian’s arm,” Morgan nodded, “Mara being injured, on the other hand, was completely unexpected—I’m sure the mechanism by which it works would be fascinating to dissect.”

“No doubt,” The figure agreed, apparently amused, “Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to possess any natural physical augmentations to assist with his combat abilities besides that strange probability field—he’d most likely end up becoming a serious threat.”

Morgan sighed.

Threadbreaker would have made a good member of Epilogue, he was young enough that it wouldn’t take much to grind him down, and his power was useful. It would have been far too much work to build him back up again—Taker had been far too time-consuming as it was.

It was hypothetical, however, as, in the end, he boiled down to a baseline human with an unblockable punch, and almost anyone capable of high-speed movement would destroy him. There were more effective and more interesting ones running around—that man with the sword in Cinematic, for instance.

“It’s unfortunate that Julian’s reputation remains unmarred, but I suppose I should be happy with winning in the end.” The hooded figure said, smiling. “What was that saying you told me back when we first met? A body for a body?”

“An eye for an eye, I believe, but the meaning is rather universal,” Morgan said smiling, “It must be satisfying to finally put a pin in this page of your life.”

“It is—this planet was not the one I expected to give me so much trouble,” The figure stretched languidly, “I must admit, though, things seem to be quickly going awry as of late—this Loren Parker is infuriatingly persistent.”

“He does possess an incredibly troubling ability, and I can finally see what Mara meant when she said he was immortal,” Morgan frowned, “Looking at it from an objective standpoint, I think we may be playing a losing game.”

“Yes, but that is the reality of this situation,” The figure sighed. “Acting to destroy his body will simply remove the knowledge we’ve gained about him—how frustrating.”

Morgan considered the problem that Loren Parker’s ability brought on them.

They couldn’t just kill him because he would return to the past, even more prepared than before, and unless they managed to assassinate him unseen, he would know who killed him, outing each piece they had on the board one after another.

Essentially, they were increasing the difficulty of the scenario every single time he died.

He’d already ferreted out the explosives in both cities, and worse than that, he’d discovered Illustrious. Then he had somehow managed to organize the capture of both Taker and Deceitful.

Morgan couldn’t fault him on that last point, as he’d unknowingly saved everyone from the threat of a Naomi with Julian’s abilities—that had been entirely unexpected. They had made sure to keep her away from the original for exactly that reason.

She shook her head—Loren had even spent some of that time unknowingly interfering with the main part of the plan, actively slowing the rate at which the awakened died. Cinematic, for instance, who’d put their names down on a significant amount of assassinations in Setalite, had failed to take down a single target.

The worst part was that he’d somehow manage to do all of this over the course of three days—it was perhaps the most frustrating thing she’d ever experienced—and Morgan had experienced a lot.

That perspective disparity made it look worse until you realized that Loren Parker had been working at this for a significant period of time. It hadn’t been three days to him; he’d apparently spent—at a minimum—weeks trying to stop them, and by all sense of reasoning, he was getting more effective every time.

It was only a matter of time before this Loren followed the threads all the way back to the source, and then, once they were discovered, he would begin to strike at them directly—That wasn’t really a problem to them now because he’d absolutely fail with his current level of power.

From what they’d managed to gather, he was at most a C-rank combat threat, with baseline physicals and no potent attack methods. The problem was that while they could easily kill him now, he would be coming back with an unknown level of power.

Even besides the power he gained, the world would reset, and they would forget all about him once more. How many reset’s would it take before he gained a power that allowed him to cut them down? How many times until the Epilogue fell before him?

“At first glance, it is an unwinnable scenario,” Morgan frowned, breaking herself out of her thoughts. “However, if we were to approach this from a more meta standpoint, we may be able to change the rules enough to make it winnable.”

“Oh?” The figure said curiously, “Do tell.”

“We know that we cannot kill him outright, so we must aim to impair him in some manner, trap him so that his movements are restricted.” Morgan said thoughtfully, “If we were to place him in a situation where he cannot easily escape, or where escape would result in consequences that he would find difficult to live with.”

“He is far too versatile for a static trap to work for long,” The figure said thoughtfully. “He’s shown himself able to overcome a multitude of situations already, a situation that never changed would eventually become trivial to him—foreknowledge is a powerful tool.”

Cinematic’s failed attempts to kill the capes of Setalite City was an example of this; they were competent assassins, and yet they had failed to kill any of their selected targets in the time frames they usually worked within.

They hadn’t failed because they were incompetent; they had failed because Loren Parker had moved the pieces on the board around enough to mess up all of their attempts, forcing them to fail by discovering each of their targets in advance and then feeding that information to the heroes.

“From his own perspective, he likely considers his own situation as something of a trap—but it is one that is naturally occurring and isn’t targeted at him specifically,” Morgan said easily, “He exists within our scenario, but he was never the intended target—there are a million gaps where he can slip through, cracks where a well-placed strike destabilizes everything.”

“Hmm.” The figure said, considering, “You’re suggesting a more targeted type of trap, one that is tailored to him in particular—If we were to restrict his ability to interact with others, force him to rely solely on his own ability to act.”

Morgan smiled.

“Placing him a location designed to be hard to escape would reduce his versatility significantly,” Morgan nodded, “For instance, a room invulnerable to physical damage would force him to disregard every loop that gave him a physical ability because it would be useless. If we were to trap him underwater, he would be forced to only keep abilities that had mobility or spatial displacement aspects.”

The figure sat up, far more interested than they had been at first.

“You’re suggesting we lock him inside Antaeus?” The figure said, intrigued.

Morgan couldn’t help but smile.

“It certainly kept Julian trapped for a long while—more than long enough for even the strongest hero to exhaust himself,” Morgan said, savoring the memory, “It should be far more effective on Loren.”

“Artificially restricting his choice of abilities, and thus reducing his effectiveness in other ways,” The figure said, smiling. “Such an interesting mind you possess.”

Morgan smiled brilliantly at the praise.

“We must still contend with the other problems that exist,” Morgan admitted, “From Loren’s perspective, Antaeus would force him to reset until he discovered an appropriate ability, and while it might take him two attempts, five attempts, or even a thousand—he would eventually land a power that enables him to escape.”

“From our perspective, however, he would escape immediately,” The figure said in understanding, “I see.”

Morgan nodded.

“We can reduce his effectiveness in other areas, as well,” Morgan said lightly, “Consider what his experience would be, should we leave him in Antaeus for a week, long enough for him to die of thirst perhaps, or a month of starvation if we were so inclined.”

The figure raised an eyebrow, clearly interested in where she was going.

“If Loren were to experience death by starvation several hundred times, while stuck all alone in a room—well, I can’t imagine he would be in the right frame of mind.” Morgan continued, smiling. “Isolation has been known to have severe effects on the human mind, and such a scenario would invariably lead to a loss of sanity, erratic behavior or even render him catatonic.”

“He could resort to killing himself to avoid a longer period of isolation and more frequently change abilities. Although I doubt that would do much for his mental state either.” The figure said, for the sake of argument. “It also doesn’t solve the issue of the world reverting to its previous state every time he perishes—we would be trapping ourselves in a neverending loop.”

“From our perspective, we would simply place him in Antaeus and then check back in on him daily. He would die eventually, and then the world will revert once more.” Morgan smiled brightly, “From his perspective, he will have spent an unknown amount of time in an empty room, waiting to die. This will repeat until he no longer responds to any form of outside stimulus; we will know that his mind has been ground down to nothing. We may then remove him from Antaeus and place him on long-term life support to avoid any further world revisions.”

The figure started laughing, unable to help themselves, curling forward in mirth and sending the hood swaying.

“Ah—I sometimes forget just how absolutely ruthless you can be,” The figure managed through laughter, “We are so very alike, you and I.”

Morgan flashed her perfect teeth in another brilliant smile, content to wait for them to fully gather themself.

“You know, Morgan, the very first time I first saw you, I was genuinely shocked—I simply couldn’t understand how such a pleasant young creature could have such a high number.” The figure said, shaking its head. “It’s why I approached you—I’m curious by nature, you see? I just can’t leave a mystery unsolved—and certainly not one so interesting.”

Morgan pressed a hand to her flushed cheeks, feeling a bit bashful.

“I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to so many places and, I’ve experienced a million different worlds, each with their own distinct culture.” The figure smiled, “Each with their own structure—I’ve seen warlords with numbers in the thousands, and King’s with a hundred times that—the influence doesn’t need to be as direct as killing them by hand, you see?”

Morgan nodded, already well aware.

“I remember killing a being once—not that unlike myself—with a number barely half as large as your own,” The figure shook its head again, “To think I would find someone like you on this little blue planet—I glad I got the chance to meet you.”

“I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, and I’d like to think of myself as something of a hard worker,” Morgan said, feeling her cheeks redden further, “I can’t imagine my number compares much to your own, though.”

“I can’t imagine many that would,” The figure smiled before returning to the focus of their discussion. “Have you considered how to go about entrapping him in the first place?”

“From the conversations he’s overheard, Illustrious seems to believe that Loren’s power works on something of a weekly timeline,” Morgan said, “The most likely starting point for that would be Tuesday morning, as that is when he first noticed something strange occur at the Hero HQ.”

“So we need to ensure he’s inside Antaeus by Monday at least,” The figure hummed, “It’s a shame that Taker was captured; she would have been perfect for this—it can’t be helped, I suppose.”

“I may have to undertake this part myself,” Morgan admitted, “Depending on how the situation tomorrow plays out.”

“Yes,” The figure sighed, “I’m afraid Hannah will most likely be captured as well, give the current plan they’ve come up with—and interfering now would only tip our hand, ensuring that Loren doesn’t learn anything new is our current priority.”

“It’s unfortunate, but Reset and Monstrous should be able to free Taker and Hannah once we’ve dealt with Loren.” Morgan said easily, before sighing, “Deceitful, however, is becoming more of a liability every day—it may be time to terminate her. How on earth she managed to seduce the clone, I have no idea.”

“She is marvelously resourceful at times, isn’t she?” The figure said, amused, “Was Joseph working with her, or did she indeed steal the bomb from him?”

“He continues to insist it was stolen, but I cannot be sure without Hannah’s presence,” Morgan sighed, “I’m inclined to believe him, however—to think we were so close to having another Paragon on our hands, however temporary it may have been.”

That was the only saving grace—Deceitful would have had an hour in her stolen body at most before she started to rapidly deteriorate, given the modifications they’d made to the clone’s body.

“Have you discovered the mechanism that prevented me from taking Julian’s body?” The figure wondered.

“I’m almost completely certain it is a result of his calming aura,” Morgan said, narrowing her eyes together in concentration. “It must be an outwards projection of his soul given what you’ve told me about your own ability.”

“I already assumed as much,” The figure admitted, “Can you interfere with it somehow? Shut the projection down?”

“Not in his original body—we could grow another variant, attempt to remove the parts in question,” Morgan said, humming. “I do, however, have a suspicion that his physical abilities come from the same place, and by stopping the aura, we’d most likely end up with a body without any tangible power.”

“It may be time to give up on taking Julian’s power for myself entirely then.” The figure sighed, “This world has been a most frustrating experience, truly. I honestly didn’t expect to encounter so many expressions of power in one place.”

“Is it unusual?” Morgan wondered. “For this many to be in one place?”

“It’s uncommon, power usually leads to conflict, and conflicts that involve large amounts of power have a tendency to wipe out civilizations,” The figure said wryly, “When I first arrived here, I expected a handful at most, not an army with Julian at its forefront—It’s my own fault for attempting a frontal assault, I suppose I’ve become overconfident after so much time uncontested.”

Morgan didn’t comment further on what was obviously a touchy subject—that would just be rude.

“If you’ve given up on Julian, perhaps you could take Loren’s power instead?” Morgan suggested. “That would be one way to remove him from the situation.”

“I was considering it, given how rare his ability is.” The figure confessed. “Expressions of power are far more likely to be direct, an exchange of energy for augmentation, for physical force, or elemental—it could be a hundred different things, but they commonly work in that kind of direct manner.”

Morgan nodded, easily following along—she had something of a knack in this area, in large part because of the being sprawled in the throne in front of her.

“Expressions like my own, ones that are able to grow, change or absorb others, are much rarer but still relatively common—Deceitful is an example of that type, albeit far more limited compared to my own, or even others I’ve seen.” The figure said lightly; the tone was empty of pride. “Loren’s power, however, is the first I’ve seen of its kind—well, the second given the variant you helped create, but Reset’spower is far less useful—thirty seconds is nowhere near long enough to master a power.”

Morgan sighed—when Mara had first joined them, it had been entirely surprising, and the arm of a self-proclaimed immortal man that she’d brought with her had been doubly so. She’d done her best to regrow the sample, making sure that he’d be easily terminated once he awakened—but the end result had been far from a success.

The variant’s randomly changing powers had him fluctuating between uselessness and being an unstoppable force—he’d been angry, confused, and completely without socialization. No memories of his past existence and kept in line only by the threat of his power failing him as he dissolved into a puddle of useless meat should he turn against them.

“The power needed for Loren’s expression to function is almost unfathomable, and from what Illustrious has overheard, he actually claims to possess a link to countless other expressions as well, an endless field of stars where each is its own distinct power.” The figure hummed again, “The variant’s expression is far more lackluster—the power required to revert his body is orders of magnitudeless than his counterpart reverting everything else.

Morgan nodded; it was a pale shadow of its origin, but it certainly could be powerful at times.

“The correct combination of expressions could allow you to reach the source of that link,” Morgan said thoughtfully. “You may even be able to accomplish it with the ones you’ve taken already.”

The figure hummed thoughtfully.

“I must admit the allure of his power is incredibly strong.” The figure confessed, “But to once more subject myself to the climb back to power…. I had not intended to die on earth to begin with, but to do so a second time on the same planet? The population here does make it far faster to recover than some places I’ve been to….”

The figure frowned in consideration, but Morgan smiled.

“My world has spent thousands of years under siege of the parasites that roam its surface, raping its bounty without reverence, care, or concern, but… if I have to wait another decade to see it healed, so be it,” Morgan said lightly, “I certainly wouldn’t mind spending that time by your side; to see you leave so soon would be far too sad, I think.”

“Truly?” The figure said, seemingly surprised.

Morgan just smiled.

“I must also admit that Epilogue has been a fun distraction, albeit I was far more fond of Meteor,” Morgan admitted, allowing herself a moment of nostalgia. “This little saga was almost like reliving my youth.”

The figure watched her for a long moment, considering.

“Thank you for the discussion, Morgan—it has been enlightening.” The figure said pleased, “I will think on what we’ve discussed—for now, I must ask you to rouse the Researcher and have him start preparing Antaeus. Use your own discretion on when to act in regards to Loren; I do believe that Illustrious is on hand to assist you if you find yourself in need of aid.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Morgan smiled, “I shouldn’t need any help—good luck for tomorrow, although I have my doubts that you will need it, Starsealer.”

Starsealer’s amused eyes, set in a face she knew very well, followed Morgan as she left, closing the door quietly behind her. The walk back to the research wing was peaceful, and she wondered if Joseph Holis had come around yet.

The discovery of Decietful’s plan had required a rapid response—thankfully, their enemy had taken care of it for them before it could really become a problem. Morgan’s first act had been to question Joseph and establish whether he had actively aided the attempt—but he wasn’t exactly a strong-willed man by any means, and she was pretty certain he hadn’t participated in anything like that.

He hadn’t needed that kind of will to be useful besides; his intelligence was where he’d shown his worth—Insoluble had been an incredibly fruitful tool over the last decade.

Double Interlude power. This is the last chapter of Season 2, but worry not, we’re barrelling head first into Season 3, the final season of Reroll.

Thank you to all the supporters, on Patreon, on here, and everywhere else, you guys are what is making it possible to keep improving on my passion, and I really appreciate all of you. If you’d like to help support my mission to snap as many elbows as I can get my greasy little mitts on, but aren’t in a place to chip in–you can support me for free as well! Leaving a comment, or a review on any of the other fiction websites I post my content on helps out more than you know. 

Keep on keeping on!

Reroll – Season 3, Chapter 70 – Live.
Ameliorate – Chapter 9(NSFW)

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