It took that one well timed word from Welfin to make my chaotic spinning world right again. One beautiful little world that opened up a well of memories which filled my soul with unearthly joy. One word that solved the mystery troubling me, one whispered word that gave back a piece of me I never knew I was missing.
I remember the sound of her cane when she entered my court for the first time, the steady knocking as she felt her way towards me, disturbing my thoughts as I was reading the Gungi rulebook. I looked up at her curiously, Gungi was three dimensional, unlike other games I have played and she was a champion for five times continuously! I was disappointed with her appearance. A slip of a girl, whose nostrils were blocked so badly she could hardly breathe without sniffing, with an irritating submissive manner. I remember snapping at her.
"You don't sound like the Supreme Leader," she observed quietly.
I looked up. No other person had dared to say that before. I decided to dignify that with an answer.
"He's dead. Now I am the Supreme Leader."
More blubbering. Honestly, can't the girl stay quiet! I yelled at her to shut up.
I finally read through the rules to find she has passed out because she had obeyed my command to the letter and couldn't breathe.
"Uncommonly stupid girl," I muttered to Shaiapouf. She woke up, blubbered some more and then finished it with, "I'm honoured to play against you." I chose that moment to look up to see she had opened her eyes. And all the breath was knocked out from me as I stared into it. They were…. remarkable, beautiful, a rare shade of jade green I had never seen before…mesmerising, distracting!
"You can see with your eyes?" I exclaimed and then cringed. Why would she bother with the cane if she can see clearly?
She told me she could not and therefore, I must call my moves out loud. She also offered to close her eyes if I found them offending. Yes, I must tell her to close them, I did find them distracting, alluring… I managed to say, "I don't care". I was thrilled when she kept them open and annoyed with myself that I was obsessed with such a silly thing.
Disappointing. Pathetic for the King of the Chimera ants. She managed to defeat me at the beginner level with textbook moves! She seemed so out of place when she entered the room, but while playing Gungi, she's like a different person entirely; one who is ruthless, calculative, unyielding, strong. I was confident things would change in a few games but alas! I couldn't even make her exhibit moves that were out of the book.
Strangely, her enthusiasm was infectious. No other player, encouraged me, offered me useful tips to improve my strategy. She lived Gungi and it showed. This was a worthy player, one I won't be able to defeat unless I put all my effort into it. Then suddenly, I remembered the Go champion. I couldn't devote myself to Gungi if I still had to remember the rules of Go, could I? I dismissed her to take care of him. Unlike her, the Go champion was a pushover. Who won't be living for long.
Each and every game was over in a predefined number of moves. It was appalling; I was so predictable she hardly broke a sweat! I was the King! I should have broken her rhythm by now! Yet, I was the one getting flustered after every match and for the first time in my life, I felt challenged. I had someone who was better than me in some aspect, however temporary it may be. And instead of it being a humiliating experience, it thrilled me to the core. What's going on with me? The fact that I do not understand my own mind upsets me more than words.
I cudgeled my wits and came up with the 'remote concealment' strategy. And she paused, for the first time ever, but doused my enthusiasm in cold water by effectively defeating the strategy in a single move. How dare she pause and give me false hope!
"Seeing you use the same strategy I came up with, Supreme Leader, was like seeing my child come back to life."
What a foolish, sentimental reply! I wanted to kill her. I did. But her eyes were full of pride and sorrow and nostalgia and I couldn't bear to look at them, didn't like the way my heart lurched when I looked at those eyes that I left the board after warning her there would be no more breaks. She was….dangerous. Made me feel things I have never felt before. I must kill her. Soon. After I defeat her at Gungi.
Fear and desire hold the power to disrupt one's rhythm. I therefore proposed a wager, one I thought was guaranteed to upset her. I offered to grant any wish of hers if she won, but I would take her left arm if she loses. As I expected, she was flustered, kept muttering "Left arm, left arm..." I smirked.
Her voice suddenly interrupted my inner gloating. "Instead of my left arm, can I bet the one thing I usually do?"
She bet something usually? For every match? I was beyond curious.
"Can I bet my life?"
The blood rushed into my ears and my heart started pounding harder. She didn't see how horrified, how ashamed I was that one moment, I couldn't bear to look at her innocent face as she rambled on about her family situation. I was the King! The supreme being! Yet, I cheated, trying to beat her with unsportsmanlike strategies. The more and more I heard her sweet voice, the more guilty I felt. She knew. She knew I was going to kill her after I won. And that did not concern her at all!
"When I lose, I would become garbage and that would be your reward! So, it would be better if you would kill me now, while I'm still a Gungi champion..."
No more! I couldn't bear to hear one more word from her mouth. What is it that I am feeling that makes me feel so…inadequate? I must find a way to get rid of it…
I asked her what she wanted as a reward. She told me she would tell me that after she won.
And then it struck me. She had no fear or desire. And my well thought out strategy blew in my face when I realized something. She would win. And she could ask for anything at all…. Even my life. How stupid would it be if the King died because he lost a Gungi match? Because that is what I was, stupid. I couldn't bear it, this turmoil. I laughed out loud.
But I still couldn't play. Even though she assured me she wouldn't ask for my life… I was planning to take hers. How was that fair? How was that right? Guilt coursed through my veins, thick as tar and just as heavy. No, I couldn't play feeling like this. I had to do something, I had to even the balance, I had to offer my apology to this quiet little girl who had no idea how I was feeling. I felt my left arm. Yes, this was right. I ripped it off and offered it to her. And I realized that I was finally free from those uncomfortable feelings. Yes, I can play now.
But Shaiapouf, well meaning idiot that he is, interrupted us. I thrashed him aside. It was between me and that girl; he had no right to interfere! I don't want the arm to be reattached, it was hers!
But she refused to play! The gall, the utter gall! I saw red. Wanted to kill her then and there. I just ripped off my arm so we could play, yet she refused to humour me! I was the one who insisted that there would be no breaks, how can I go back on my word! But then I saw her, trembling with anger and fear, yet refusing to back down. For me. For my health.
Shaiapouf came up with a suitable compromise and we began playing while Pitou fitted my arm.
I remember she once told me how she could play Gungi for three days and nights nonstop. And that was exactly how long she lasted without rest. By the end of the third night, she was unfocussed, her pretty eyes grew glassy, she kept yawning and rubbing her eyes, it was adorable!
Where the hell did that thought come from? Anyway, she needed rest. There is no sense of victory if I defeat her while she is asleep. That's right. Besides, I didn't want her to lose just yet. Not now that I am enjoying myself.
Shaiapouf once interrupted our game with some silly little matter regarding the post selection schedule. Honestly, did he have no brains? Can't he decide for himself? I yelled at him without looking once in his direction and let a sigh of relief when I could no longer detect his Nen. Finally, finally, I was alone with her!
She was now playing to her full potential at last and she kept improving with each game, it was astounding! Moves and formations I would never have considered, she used with ease. I was trembling with wonder, with joy, with a bliss I even now do not know how to explain. How much more would she grow? To what new heights of intellect would she take me to?
I got my answer after a while when I saw her Nen awakening. Her body was enveloped in an ethereal glow while her lovely eyes shone with infectious excitement. She was trembling with eagerness and so so happy, how could I deny her first request for a break?
She left so eagerly and I was eager too, to see what moves she could come up with, how much more I could learn from her.
She, she, I kept calling her she…
My Royal guards are named Shaiapouf, Neferpitou and Menthuthuyoupi. Everyone has a name.
I suddenly didn't want to let her leave without knowing her
name. How could I have played with her for so long without even knowing that?
Her name was Komugi.
Komugi, Komugi, Komugi…
And then she sent my world into chaos with one line: "What is your name?"
I…I did not know my own name?!
How could I not? Me, the King, not knowing his own name? What a joke.
That was when I realised; there were so many things I did not know, so many things I lack, even though I was told I was the Supreme Being…
How many humans like Komugi were out there in East Gorteau, whom I have sentenced to death just because they couldn't be good soldiers?
Was I doing the right thing, condemning my citizens?
And then I saw where my train of thought had taken me and immediately grew angry at myself.
I was the King! I had the right to do what I please! No one can question my decision! No one can make me doubt myself! Especially a slip of a girl, whose neck I could snap when I'm in a bad mood and who couldn't even fight me back!
By the way, what is she still doing here? The Selection is tomorrow, I've had my fun…
I should kill her. I should kill her right now. I will. I decided to walk to her room and do it immediately. While I still had the resolve…
And saw her whimpering quietly while an eagle was pecking her mercilessly. Rage I have never felt before overcame me; I killed that pesky bird in one strike and looked at Komugi. She was so …fragile! There were scratches all over her skin! Before I knew it, I was on my knees in front of her. Why didn't she call for me?
"I didn't want to be a bother!"
Oh my lovely girl, how can you think that! You are infinitely important to me, precious to me…
I tentatively touched her bruised cheeks and felt an electric shock throughout my body. And I wanted to keep touching her; I couldn't stop myself and did not wish to, I was drawn towards her like a moth to a flame…
I held her hand while I whispered comforts; it was so warm to the touch, so soft, so gentle, so fragile…I couldn't let go.
"No one has ever been this good to me!" she sobbed. Please don't cry my beautiful creature for I cannot bear it…
Seeing her burst into tears made me recall why I came here in the first place and I let go of her hand in shock.
K..Ki..Kill her? NOOO! I cannot, I will not, I must not kill her!
What would I do without her?
The first thing in my mind when I felt those dragons descending from the sky was "Komugi!" She was alone, asleep, blind, defenceless against those sharp projectiles raining down from the sky. What if they hit her? I rushed to her room as fast as possible. And my heart shattered, when I saw her, unconscious and covered in blood. Noooo! Komugi, please, you cannot leave me! Please wake up! Look at me! You must hold on! I'll heal you! Why are you so still? Please breathe, please move, please show me you're alive!
I have never felt happier when I saw Neferpitou on the windowsill. I ordered her to heal Komugi, whatever the cost. I was dimly aware of two humans standing behind me, but I paid them no mind. I gently laid Komugi's head on her pillow, brushed the blood aside from her mouth. Her skin was still as warm as when I touched her before. How long ago it seemed? But it had only been a few hours. I arranged her into a comfortable position, so that she will not feel any pain when she wakes up. I touched her skin one last time and left only when I heard the one phrase that gave me some relief: "Doctor Blythe."
That one word whispered like a breath, a prayer, was my salvation and my undoing. Memories assaulted me and I felt whole, complete at last. I saw her face, her beautiful expressions and her alluring jade green eyes…and I realised the truth at last.
I, Meruem, King of the Chimera ants, did not want to conquer the world and rule it, even though it was my birthright.
All I ever wanted was to play Gungi with her, learn from her, live with her, be with her … like a human. Just the two of us.
Palm. The most beautiful Chimera ant I have ever laid my eyes upon. Shaiapouf had high hopes for her. He worked on her, hoped I would take her as my mate. Indeed, she was beautiful; tall, curvy, her long black hair flowing around her and her eyes twinkling like gems. Yet I only saw a human, whose humanity I had so cruelly stolen because I could. Before I knew how precious being human was. I did not deserve her forgiveness. Nor the forgiveness of Welfin, the chameleon, the octopus… whose lives I had destroyed. It was fitting, that she be the one who is between Komugi and me.
A King must accept his mistakes.
And therefore, I knelt at her feet and begged for forgiveness I did not deserve.
I was the most selfish creature on Earth.
Every breath I drew would mean her death too.
Yet I couldn't leave her when I knew where she was, couldn't bear the thought of not being able to see her again, one last time.
I convinced myself that the poison would take some time before it became fatal and I would send her away before that happens. I must send her away.
She was snug and warm and safe, bundled up inside a crate, snoring and mumbling Gungi moves in her sleep. I chuckled softly to myself. What wouldn't I give to see her like this everyday?
"Wake up Komugi."
She hummed softly as she arranged the pieces and this last time, she played black. And as she chatted, I told her my name.
Tch, I didn't want the honorific marring my name from her mouth. She refused, why was I not surprised? Then I made a wager. I told her she would have to call me by my name after she lost.
"Do I die after addressing you without the honorific?"
My dear, darling Komugi, you knew? All this time? And yet, you continued playing with me! I told her that death wasn't necessary anymore. That I was not the same person I was before.
She said she wanted another match if she wins.
I smiled. This wager …felt right.
I watched her greedily even as I lost myself in the game, took in every little detail and memorized her every move, every single expression flitting across her face, her eyes, her voice… I was in heaven. In ecstasy so pure it was painful. It was so right, so perfect, It felt like…
"…I was born to be in this moment."
I can't! I cannot condemn this beautiful, lovely girl anymore! I wrenched the ugly secret from my heart and laid it at her feet. And felt my heart breaking all over again.
"I have been poisoned and I have little time. Komugi, I wanted to spend my final moments playing against you. But this poison is contagious. If you stay near me too long, you will also…"
I looked up. She wasn't leaving! She was going to stay with me! Even though…I look at the board.
She reversed my reversal!
Komugi, Komugi, Komugi…
Why was she so quiet when I wanted to hear her voice?
I placed my head on her soft lap, trembled as her warm hands caressed every inch of my face and her delicate fingers burnt my cold skin…
I held her hand in mine and wished she would never leave me, that we could stay like this forever.
"Good night, Meruem."