Regulation is the seventeenth chapter of Lissa's Game High fanfic, Pixels and Polygons. It can be read below.
Debugging rooms had their own strange little idiosyncrasies to them. Even though the testing room was incredibly basic, very few fully-made characters--Students and teachers alike--Could fully function with such broken coding and textures in the environment. Characters would start to unravel into a more basic state. Lighting was broken. Textures were all but nonexistent. But there was one other very specific thing debugging rooms, such as this one, could not handle.
Two clashing character models on one character.
Takashi was leaving footprints of dark magic behind him, mostly to siphon off some of the Darkling magic that was building up inside, but also to mark where he’s been, so he could escape. Sometimes, he would pulse some magic out at the walls, hoping he would find a door. He never did. The evil prince rubbed his hands together, trying to dispel the feeling of numbness his fingertips held.
Let’s spread our wings now, do anything now, somehow we came this far…
He mumbled the lyrics to keep himself focused. With every pulse of magic, with every dark magic footprint, it was becoming harder and harder to keep up his illusionary self. It hurt his head to even try. He knew he couldn’t be out of magic, he had more then enough, so why...Oof. Another pulse, some more footprints, let’s reach up to the sun, and the headache was not ebbing whatsoever. No doors, just the vast expanse ahead, and some invisible walls for company. Great.
He couldn’t see anyone around. He doubted anyone around could see him. Once or twice he might have seen something, ink, petals, something white and purple, Simon? But it was always nothing. Takashi glanced behind him, suddenly catching an eyeful of his tail. He gasped, quickly covering it again, but that just made this headache throb more. Whispers of dark revenge, Weber had called them. But what was he supposed to be getting revenge on? He’d get revenge on anything if it meant getting rid of...Of all this. His whispers were getting just a bit louder, just a tad bit harder to ignore…
Takashi let go.
He cancelled the illusionary magic. In one fell swoop the illusion of normalcy was broken, and the Darkling fluttered his wings. The headache was gone, and...And Takashi felt alive.
Of course you do. This is how it’s meant to be.
Keeping up the magical footprints (though even they changed into something leaner, sharper), Takashi hovered above the floor and began to fly through the hallways.
“Simon, I swear to L.O.G., I ain’t fake! I’m still good ‘ole Honey T. Syrup--See?” Honey slowly put a hand out to touch Simon’s shoulder, but the fellow pirate jerked back violently. She sighed. “C’mon, pretty boy, gonna take ‘ya upstairs--”
“There’s an upstairs?” Simon pulled his finger out of his mouth, then used both of his arms to paw for invisible walls. Honey drew attention to the one to the right of herself by tapping it with a knuckle, and Simon put his hand on the wall again. “No, no upstairs. There’s only here. Time is money--I-I’m wasting time.”
“You’re certainly wasting mine,” She grumbled off to the side, only to note that Simon was lightly stroking at the wall. He gave a shiver. Honey cocked an eyebrow. “...What are you doin’?”
He didn’t answer at first, busy gently moving his fingertips against the invisible wall. Then he looked up. Honey followed his eyes, but saw nothing. Finally he spoke, voice trembling: “Magic.”
“Magic. Can’t you feel it? Lots.”
Slowly, Honey reached a hand out to touch the invisible wall. There was no buzzing, no shivering sensation. Nothing. She exhaled slowly, peeling her hand off the wall--But as she did she caught another flicker of a footprint in dark magic against the floor. “Takashi!” She broke out into a giant grin, head whipping towards Simon. “Look, if I take ‘ya out to see Takashi, that’ll prove I’m real, won’t it?”
He looked hesitant, biting at another already-bitten nail, drawing a little more blood. “Sh-shouldn’t trust ‘maginary friends, it--I can’t--” But another chill seemed to rush up his spine, causing him to whimper. He looked beyond the imaginary wall. He rubbed an eye. “...Magic.”
She nodded, looking as cheerful as she could possibly muster.
With a shaky breath, Simon nodded at Honey, and began walking towards his feeling of magic. Honey followed behind Simon, keeping close, crossing her fingers that finding Takashi would fix Simon for good.
“Esto no tiene remedio!”
Sofia has lost all of her former gusto. Black rose petals made a pathway over to the Spaniard, who gave a loud groan and sat on the cold floor. It was quiet here, too quiet, and she couldn’t stand it. She couldn’t see Harold or Takashi or Honey anywhere--And unlike the latter two, she didn’t have any headaches or jitters. She just had herself. “Odio esto,” Sofia murmured under her breath, ready to give up on looking for anyone.
This slump didn’t last too long, for she heard a noise.
It made her jump, staggering slightly until she regained her balance. Sofia hurriedly hopped to her feet. It was a weird, fractured sort of noise; a sound made up to broken bytes and weird glitchy...Sounds. Quite honestly, it had scared her--And it sounded close by.
“Hola?” She asked, looking around her for anything that could have made that sound. “Mi nombre es Sofia, estoy tratando de encontrar a mis amigos…” But then she had to hesitate, hoping her Spanish wasn’t being alienating. “...Two of them are pirates, one’s a fox, the other’s a knight. Have you seen anything like that?”
At first, there was silence. But then there seemed to be a crackle of electricity in the air, one that made her hair frizz up. She patted it back down, but it seemed to be no use. Two little, purple-black boxes were floating around her in a circle, as though checking her out. Sometimes, a small bolt of red electricity would pop between one and another, which made her jump. “Hello!? What’s with all this here!?”
“Hey, kid...Wanna see some magic?”
Sofia tilted her head back and groaned the most dramatic groan she could possibly muster. Of all people she’d rather not see! “Weber…” She began, but a thought crossed her mind. “Wait--You’re alright?”
“Of course I’m alright! I can survive anything, dearie!” The wizard was grinning wide, seeming proud of this fact. “Oh, but what are you doing here? Little girls shouldn’t be playing in these rooms…”
She sputtered a bit. “Well--I--Honey and Harold and Takashi and I are lookin’ for Vanessa--And Simon too! See? We’re all trying to find them--”
“Oh, you needn’t bother at all, silly. They’re both already very much dead.” Weber’s eyes wandered up to Sofia’s face, which seemed to have paled slightly. He chuckled. “Let’s go back upstairs, so maybe you can mourn a bit, and punch something too. Follow me…” The wizard began to leave, boxes following behind.
Sofia, however, seemed hesitant.
“Aren’t you coming?” Weber asked, but Sofia only retreated a bit, rubbing her hands together. Weber gave a sharp exhale, putting his hands on his hips. “You’re not gonna find them down here, sweetie. You should probably just go to your room.”
She looked at Weber again. Something felt...Off about him. She’d passed by this wizard many times in the hallway, even had his class right after lunch; and while she wouldn’t say she knew him better than anyone else, she at least knew his vocal quirks. This felt...Wrong. A hand began to twirl a lock of her hair idly. “...No.”
Weber blinked in surprise. “No?”
“I’m not...I’m not just gonna go punch something. I...I have to find them. All of them.”
His smile faltered, then fell entirely. He forced out another chuckle. “Ohohoho...I told you, sweetie, they’re dead. Trying to find them is just going to lead to your own...Gory demise. It’s best to not even try, and just go back upstairs!”
Sofia straightened her posture, hands curling into fists. “You’re a teacher,” She said, her jaw setting, “You should care about your missing students. I don’t care if--If everything’s going to go to Infierno. I wanna s-see Simon.”
There was silence for a while. Weber stared Sofia hard in the eyes, and Sofia stared Weber right back. But the wizard was the first to break the staring match, letting out an exhale. “Fine, fine. I get it. I want to see Simon too. Let’s see him together! I’ll work some magic…”
Then his body began to ripple with code.
Sofia took a hurried step backwards, Weber’s body first turning completely into red and black coding, and then morphing and distorting into someone else. Coding began to solidify, then recolor itself. A pristine white coat. A spotless purple bandanna with a stylized skull on it. Boots so shiny you could practically see a reflection in them.
White hair. Hazel eyes.
“Simon…” Sofia breathed, her voice wavering.
“Okay, we’ve both seen Simon now! He’s looking great, don’t you think?” Simon (if you could call this ‘Simon’) pulled on his coat, smiling with pride. “Simon Centifolia, puzzle master extraordinaire, the finest pirate, nonpareil.” He took a step closer to Sofia, and the Spaniard took a long step backwards. “Great, we’ve both seen him. He’s doing fine. So let’s go back upstairs now.”
She couldn’t find the words to express the horror going through her. She backed up farther, shaking her head.
He rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “What’s it going to take…?” He grumbled, then turned back into the red and black coding. When it reformed, it was a taller man. Broad-shouldered, handsome, strong. A rose in one hand. “Si amas a tu padre, que te vas a tu habitación.”
A hand covered her mouth. Her pupils shrunk. “Papá?”
Don Flamenco. He was standing tall, above the scared Sofia, leering down at her with that disapproving look of his. “Usted no está siendo la hija perfecta,” He said, voice lacking that floaty, almost romantic edge he had in the boxing ring. “Ve a tu habitación si quieres mi respeto.”
Sofia Flamenco knew better than to ever disobey her father. She knew she always had to be her father’s perfect daughter. She knew that she had to be, if she ever wanted papa’s respect. Don Flamenco was a hard man to argue with. She would never disobey her father.
“Pero tú no eres mi padre!” She spat at him, done with such a flagrant disservice to her own papa.
“Of course I’m not!” The imitator barked back, dropping the vocal facade. It’s voice had a slight note of reverberation to it, a weird almost glitchy quality in it. “Neither is he, for that matter! You’re clearly based on Don’s two thousand and nine model, when he was twenty-three!” It gritted it’s teeth, and suddenly Sofia didn’t feel so brave, backing up. “Connect the dots. None of the answers explain you. A fifteen-year-old girl. He couldn’t have possibly birthed you. He’d never have such a scandal on the record.”
The Spaniard--The real Spaniard, not the imitation of her father--Was shaking. She took a short scurry backwards. “Wh-what are you--”
“You weren’t born. You were made. You all were made. So if I were you, I’d go back upstairs and do what you were made to do. Before I lose you.”
The imposter turned back into coding. The coding slid through an invisible wall.
Sofia crumpled to the ground and began to cry.
“Did--You heard that too, right? Not the ringing, but--”
Harold’s head twitched up. He did hear something. It was muffled, and sounded rather distant, but...Someone was crying. He couldn’t quite tell who just by the sound of the crying, but if it was someone lost in here...Well, he did want to be a hero, after all. He paused to tighten the magical scarf, tapping left on the watch’s spider control.
“Oh. Okay.” A pause. “I-I was scared I’m starting to hear things! I--Really, I don’t like it here, y’know? Makes me nervous.” Another pause, then Vanessa sighed from the other end of the watch. “...I’m scared, Harold. I’m really scared. I...I hope you guys find me soon.”
Harold made the bug skitter back and forth, dragging the Aerospray behind him. Sometimes he’d tap a finger on the trigger, and a glob of ink would mark where he was. He hoped one of them found Vanessa soon, too. Oh, and Simon. And if it wasn’t too much trouble afterward, whatever became of Ambros? He’d like to know. He shifted his scarf again--
There was a sound.
It was a loud sound, abrupt and...Glitchy? Harold had never actually seen any glitches in the school--None that Master Hand hadn’t cleared as ‘not really being a glitch’. His head twitched around to try and find the source of the noise, but couldn’t see anything. A shrug. Harold walked on.
A strange figure made of red-and-black coding lingered behind him.
Harold didn’t see the creature. But it studied him as he walked off. It stared, making sense of the boy, disregarding the conflicting information the scarf and the Areospray was giving it. Dragon’s Lair. There was a low hum, like that of an old computer. “What to do…” It murmured, which Harold almost heard. He paused in his stride, looking around. The coding dissolved as Harold looked behind him, then reformed when Harold shrugged and walked on. “...Served me well in re-releases...Goodness knows nostalgia will bring people back to anything,” The coding mused, giving a laugh under it’s breath. “Keeping you could have it’s advantages…”
The coding vanished with another glitchy sort of noise.
Takashi let out another burst of magic, stretching his wings. He watched the dark magic skirt down the halls, wrap around the corners, and suddenly clap like magnificent thunder. The sound was exhilarating. Why shouldn’t it be? You’ve put this off for so long…
The Darkling went down the hallway, following where the trail of magic went. To his surprise, he found something--A door. He blinked. Then, with a smile, he unleashed some more dark magic to uncover the other doors in this debugging room. He owed it to his friends to find these doors, if only magic could produce them. Another burst of magic was sent down Takashi’s hallway. Another. Another.
Slowly, doors were uncovered.
Simon jumped when he saw a bolt of dark magic skirt right by him. Honey, however, smiled. “That idiot!” She said in a tone that couldn’t decide if it was condemning her roommate or praising him. She grabbed onto Simon, rushing down the hall to follow the magic bolt. Simon stumbled over his own feet, struggling to follow behind.
The bolt snaked up the wall, coiling and twisting around a rectangular shape. The rectangle was shown to be a magnificent purple double-door (though it was likely embellished by the Darkling magic) which broke the barrier caused by the invisible wall. Simon was quivering just looking at it. Honey laughed, pulling her friend a little closer as she pushed the door open.
She almost tripped over something.
“Triste!” The someone yelped, sniffling something back. But then they stopped, looking back up at the two. “Honey? Si-Simon!?”
“Sofia!” Honey gave a quick and excited laugh, helping the Spaniard to her feet. “We’re tryin’ to find Takashi, have you seen ‘im?”
“I--” Sofia didn’t quite know how to reply, still a bit choked from her experience with that...Whatever it was. “Simon? Is it...Really Simon?” She held out a hand to her roommate, and he shrunk back, twitching.
Honey made a ‘so-so’ gesture with her hand. “Little nutso from this place. But that’s why we’re gettin’ Takashi. He’ll magic ‘im up and we’ll be outta’ ‘ere.” The pirate grabbed Sofia by the hand and she dragged both of her companions back through the magic door. “...Okay, that ain’t the right door, so we’d better find…”
Another bolt of magic whooshed on by. Simon followed it greedily with his eyes; Honey giving a giant grin and running after it. Down straight--The bolt turned a corner and so did they--Eventually the bolt hit a hitch and spread across the invisible wall, turning into another magnificent purple double-door. Honey stopped, and both Simon and Sofia teetered on their feet to regain their balance. The pirate girl let go of Sofia’s hand, and she pushed the door open.
This room was different. The walls weren’t entirely invisible, instead bearing a slight bit of a shimmer to them. Upon entering the room, Simon had begun pawing at the walls to try and get some of that shimmer. The room was circular, and far larger than the maze of invisible hallways had been. It was still silent, still missing shadows, and textures still seemed a little off. But it felt more complete than any other place in this debugging chamber.
“Takashi!” Honey called, letting go of Simon to walk around the chamber. “Takashi, where is your little magical behind? Takashi…!” She cupped her hands around her mouth for one more shout. “TAKASHI!” Yet still, the wizard gave no indication that he was there too. She huffed, placing her hands on her hips. “...Harold ‘n Nessa, too, ain’t leavin’ without them…”
Sofia gave a sigh, rubbing her bare arms. She looked back at the strange, jittery Simon. He was pawing at the wall, resting his forehead on it, almost looking like he wanted to dissolve into the wall itself. The Spaniard frowned. She tore her eyes away from her former roommate, slowly looking around the chamber. Left, right. Down, up.
She gave a squeak.
Honey turned her head at the sound. Quirking an eyebrow, she looked up as well. Her jaw dropped.
Suspended from the ceiling was a hand. A gloved hand. White. Golden shiny chains were holding it to the ceiling, speared through every knuckle to keep it affixed there. Blood could be seen.
Honey slowly held up her hands, palms facing herself. The hand on the ceiling had it’s fingers facing her--She looked at her hands, then the one on the ceiling--Thumb on the left. Left. “Crazy Hand?” She said slowly, sounding confused and scared at the same time.
Sofia did the same observation with her hands, reaching the same conclusion. “But--How!? He brought us in here, and, well, it’s s’not like he--He wouldn’t get taken while we were down here! It--It doesn’t make any sense!”
There was a noise. A loud, glitchy sort of noise.
And then there was a voice, a voice with a slight reverberation that made Sofia choke a little and made Simon devolve into helpless quivers.
“Who’s the little maggot who keeps making these horrible doors!?”
First Chapter: We Begin by Entering
Previous Chapter: Curtain Call
Next Chapter: Worth in Gold