“Her heartbeat’s stable, at least –”
You flutter your lashes as your eyes open.
Why are you lying on the ground?
“Looks like she’s regaining consciousness.”
Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel…
Why is the sun so bright?
“Oh god, I didn’t, I’m so –”
Stay strong, do not lose hope.
“Sir, it’s okay. Look, barely a scratch on her.”
Why is everything so loud?
O flora, of the moon, of the dream…
“That brake failure was one-in-a-million. Black box is fried, too.”
Why are there people standing over you?
Then touch the darkness within me.
“Can you hear us, ma’am?”
What will become of us now, at the end of love?
“She might have a concussion. You’ve checked her head?”
“No injuries. Not even mild abrasions. More like she bumped into a parked truck and fell over, really.”
You’re pretty scary, you know that?
“I was – I was speeding, and –”
“Sir, there’s no way you could’ve been speeding. You’re in shock. The girl’s hardly injured.”
This is the only test we give to those who wish to become a Goddess.
What’s…what’s going on?
“Just give her a minute. She’ll be able to speak soon.”
“Hey, can you hear me?”
You look over at one of the…paramedics? There’s…a truck, an ambulance, a police car…what looks to be a couple of cops, and two paramedics hovering over you…
“Y-yeah,” you mutter. Were you…hit by the truck?
“Can you tell us your name?” the other paramedic asks.
You blink a few times, seeing something strange at the edge of your vision.
“Can you tell us if anything’s wrong? Does anything hurt?”
“I – no, not a thing.”
That’s not right, is it?
That truck, did it hit you? You didn’t even notice, so stuck in your music and your troubled thoughts…
Shouldn’t something hurt?
“You’re a very lucky girl, Cibele. But we’re going to need to take you to the hospital, okay? We just need to make sure you’re alright.”
You nod weakly. You’re certain something’s wrong now. Like…something hovering in front of your eyes, are those…
Welcome to your battlefield. 🤍
Gamer System engaged. Rebooting…
You only have time to stare at the hovering window and words before you in blank confusion before you pass out once again.
You stare up again at the ceiling, and reach out, the menu floating above your face the moment you call for it again.
…it wasn’t a dream, was it?
Unable to answer your troubled heart, yet unable to go back to sleep, you find yourself in front of a bathroom mirror late at night, gazing at your own reflection. At the reflection of the young girl named…
Cibele Epeli Imanis.
‘Cibele’, after the goddess Cybele. The mother goddess of Anatolia, and Rome’s Magna Mater. It’s an old family tradition that happens every now and again, to name girls after goddesses – like your mother Rheia, your aunt Vesta, your cousin Junon, the list goes on.
In your case, you’re not really sure you live up to your name.
Your face is more like your mother’s. Softer, gentler. Kind, perhaps. You can’t really complain about it. But the rest of you takes more after your father; you have his black hair, poking through the roots of your blue dye. You have his brown eyes, his darker skin. You kind of like the way you look; certainly, if you cloned yourself, you’d…
Wait. Bad thought to be having when another you is taunting you!
Anyway. You’re not tall, but you’re not really short, either. You work out, of course, but your dessert habits keep you from having the kind of abs you’d drool over. You’ve got a decent amount of curves, but you wouldn’t say you’ve got a knockout figure.
Your face is cute…so you’ve heard, anyway. That’s what your family has said, and Korri as well. But that doesn’t really translate into being attractive to other women, it seems.
(Maybe it’s a matter of being ‘cute’, but not being ‘sexy’?)
Plus, it doesn’t stand out much. Somehow.
“Mouuu…” you mutter to yourself, reaching up and tying your hair back into their usual pigtails. But, maybe that’s part of the problem – do they look childish? Then again, you think a ponytail would look worse, and it gets in the way too much when you wear it down…
All of this is to say, well:
are you really the kind of person who needs to brainwash someone to be loved?
You don’t really think so, but. Future-past-you is annoying that way. It’s an academic question in any case; even if you weren’t that kind of person, your powers shouldn’t be used for such a purpose, right?
Sighing again, you splash water on your face, and let the status screen come up.
Cibele Epeli Imanis
???: The Hypnogamer (Brilliant Star)
Skill Points: 1
Gamer System v1.0, all rights reserved
Missing modules: Observe, Level, Skill, Book, Quest, Experience
All fairly self-explanatory; skimming the stats suggest they do what you’d expect, with the sole exception being Charisma covering physical attractiveness as well. That being said, having all your stats at 1 is kind of annoying! (You’re just skimming the tutorial info for now, but apparently a score of 2 is human peak, while a score of 3 or more is outright supernatural.) You don’t even have peak human-level cuteness? Total bull-plop!
‘Adaptability’ is a bit of a weird pick, but you’re guessing you made this based off of Dark Souls stats. A bit odd that ‘Faith’ is missing, but it probably wouldn’t be very useful in the real world anyway without miracles to cast, so it’s just as well.
The only real issue is that you’re required to buy a skill to unlock the ability to increase your attributes, let alone get more skills. (Each skill you have costs a single point, it looks like, but the tree has various requirements.) So from the look of it, no matter what you do, you’re eventually going to have to buy skills that you can use for less than noble purposes.
And future-past-you is keen to remind you.
Welcome to the Hypnogamer system, which I’ve designed especially to fulfill all your wildest fantasies. It’s not as full-featured as you might be familiar with – there are no quests, no experience points, simply ability grinding and a skill tree (although this is more accurately a ‘Perk’ tree). But, it’ll be more than enough to have all the brainwashed cuties you could ever want…
At least that keeps things simple. You can’t imagine what it’d be like to have future-past-you giving you quests about how cute girls are, and how wonderful it’d be to have them dancing in the palm of your hand…
(Okay, maybe you can imagine it. Being given targets, girls to use your powers on…no, bad thoughts, bad thoughts!)
You’ve got a couple of basic abilities, too, beyond the attributes. Although one is hidden right now. Honestly, just the first one seems really useful (if, um, worrying).
Gamer’s Body: Recover from most ailments or flesh wounds with 8 hours’ rest. Removal of limbs or organs or the like cannot be healed. In addition, your appearance is always flawless.
That would explain why you survived, maybe. If your jumbled memories are right, the cameras didn’t catch the truck, and the black box on it fried out too, right? Otherwise, a truck traveling that fast – there’s no way you don’t get seriously injured.
(You mutter another little ‘mouu’ to cutely chastise yourself.)
Unfortunately, future-past-you always has something to add.
Everyone in games is always so lovely, right? So beautiful. Able to wear such ridiculous clothes with no discomfort…all that is yours now. And with all the power you gain, girls will want you more and more.
Really, this is just unfair. She keeps pushing your buttons, and you can’t do anything to stop her because she’s in a future which is now the past! Even so, it feels like ‘girls will think you’re hot’ is the least interesting thing here…
Even so, you’re pretty worried. You’re being told you have to ‘save the world’, and you have this ability, but…why aren’t you being told anything more? What kind of person is this future-past-you, that she’s so interested in cuties, and everything else is an afterthought?
You’d love to just ignore her, but…
Gamer’s Mind: Increase attributes through activities. Using your powers will cause much faster progress; you cannot increase your attributes without investing at least 1 skill point in a tree.
Yeah, that rule complicates things quite a lot, doesn’t it? You have to pick one of these powers to even start, so the temptation is there from the very beginning. Unavoidable.
Grinding is easy, Cibele. All you need to do is pick one of those lovely opening skills, and you’ll be able to become stronger, smarter, and prettier than anyone else in Southern Sun.
Oh, it does help if you have some lovely pets, and bringing them on your side will enhance your power…but, I’d also suggest doing some extra-curricular activities to increase your abilities more effectively. Grinding alone isn’t very fun, you know? And who knows who you’ll meet…such cuties there are~
You quietly ‘mouuu’ to yourself. This is going to be hard…
But, it’s like this, right? You have to do something. You’ll just have to be the good person, with no bad thoughts.
Mama and papa forgive you for saying this, but…
How hard can it be?
Thinking about it, in stories like these – your brother’s read quite a few, and shared them too – people end up grinding for months on their own, or just go through all kinds of activities again and again and again to gain power. Right now, you’re not so sure that’ll help, especially since future-past-you hasn’t told you much; maybe it’d be better to follow her advice, minus the ‘pets’ bit?
???: Unlocks under conditions where this ability may be used.
Ugh. That sounds ominous, doesn’t it? She’s giving you so little to go on…really, trying to meet people might be your best shot at figuring out what’s going on. Before it’s too late…
It’s entirely possible that this future-past-you isn’t the real you, or she’s been compromised somehow, manipulating you to fall into someone else’s hands. But somehow, it doesn’t sit right. It’s still you, just looking at it, easily seeing yourself in those words.
While you obviously see what your other self is saying as immoral, warping girls’ minds to your will and all that, it’s still unambitious. Right? It’s not exactly world-ending supervillain material, is it? No, it seems more likely that she’s saying, ‘it’s okay to be a hypnotic supervillain if I also help people’, which isn’t really inspiring confidence.
(…it comes to mind you don’t even know if these superpowers work, actually. You don’t know how to make a Gamer System like this, so how is it that you’d be sure everything came back alright? Hopefully there aren’t any weird bugs…)
So…yeah. You could just deny everything, but you want to trust yourself, even if yourself is so weird. If this is what she decided to do with her power, then you’ll just have to be a better person than her. And hopefully…
I’m sorry to hide things from you right now, but…it’s necessary. When the time comes, I’ll tell you everything – for now, focus on gaining power. You know, you’ll never meet the Queen with a soul so frail and pallid…
Without becoming an evil villain as bad as the so-called Queen – you’ll gain the power you need to face her, deep within your soul.
Someday, you think, as you finally walk out of the bathroom and back toward your hospital bed, future-past-you will tell you about the Queen, and what it is you need to do. And if she’s right about all this, you will need to gain strength, so you can save Southern Sun, and the world, from her.
With this power of yours, tempting as a sundae it might be, you’ll need to become a heroine worthy of a goddess’ name.
You’ll just have to do it without indulging in that fetish.
(…which you, of course, resume ‘not fantasizing’ about the moment dreams cling to you.)
(You dream not of what you are, but of what you wish to be. Bathed in golden light.)
(You dream of being able to be taken seriously, rather than dismissed as ‘cute’. You dream of being able to express your own feelings, and understand those of others. You dream of being seen as desirable, even sexy, and worthy of serving, living up to the name ‘Cybele’. You dream of challenging your future, with all of your strength, and those who follow you beyond the darkness.)
(and most of all…)
(you dream of love, just as you’re meant to.)
(What will become of you now, Cibele Epeli Imanis, at the end of time?)