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A throne room without an actual throne. What an odd sight, although when compared to the other areas inside his Topsy Turver, it was definitely one of the most unremarkable ones. But what would have been the lair of Uproar, if not chaotic?

Vex didn’t need a throne, anyway. He certainly wouldn’t be the kind of ruler who just sat still and let his minions do all the fun work for him. No, Vex wanted to be right there where it happened.

That’s why now both he and his Topsy Turver were headed for the Centre of Craftworld, the place where the Tree of Imagination resided.

 

In all honesty, the Centre of Craftworld wasn’t exactly a sight to behold. Nothing in this ridiculous cosmos of “hopes and dreams” was, really. Vex had seen it all even before ripping open the skies above. The purity of the world had always amused him; How foolishly innocent were the creatures that roamed the land, so painfully oblivious to the fact of just how frail their little bubble of safety was.

 

And Vex had desperately wanted to be the one to break that bubble.

 

There had been scheming, various preparations and the waiting that had felt never-ending. But it all had paid off in the end:

Now, the world was a wonderful place of nightmares and dread, all thanks to the Uproar that now filled the landscape with the most exciting things one could ever imagine. And soon even the Tree of Imagination would succumb under it. The mere thought of it made Vex grin gleefully. That wide grin soon turned into short chuckles, and not long after that a hysterical, uncontrolled burst of laughter erupted from him, thundering deep beneath his textile. Vex felt lightheaded, like nothing mattered anymore since he was above it all now.

 

Of course, the tremendous power boost that came from his finished Topsy Turver had made Vex feel a bit... deranged, yes, he acknowledged that. But did he care? No. And there was no reason for him to: He was the god of nightmares and Uproar, and soon everyone would bow to his superiority! There was no power in the whole Imagisphere that could match him anymore.

 

Even after his mirth had died down, the sound of Vex’s joy echoed through the walls of his now empty Topsy Turver, previously filled with delightfully hardworking sackfolk. Vex, obviously, had discarded them as soon as they weren’t useful to him anymore, although he would admit that there had been a tempting thought to keep them as an audience to witness his victory from the first row. (Those frightened expressions would have been so lovely to see…)

Oh, the sackfolk! What charming little things they were; creative, upbeat, determined, stupid. It had been far too easy to... employ them to work at his Topsy Turver, and even easier to trick one of them to do his bidding for him. That one would be Sackboy. (...or Sackgirl. Perhaps even just Sackthing, if the concept of gender mattered little to them. In any case, Vex just hadn’t been particularly interested in the sackling’s identity the first time they met, so he had just decided to address the child as “Sackboy”.)

 

Sackboy had, in Vex’s humble opinion, swallowed the bait perhaps a bit too easily.

 

Vex crouched next to the tiny sackling, materializing his “plans” in his palm.

“I already have the plans.” He made sure to wiggle the paper scroll before the sackling, just to emphasize just how important these plans were to him. The child just stared at him and the plans in suspicion, obviously filled with confusion caused by the sudden invasion of their dear hometown. Good, this one wasn’t panicking senselessly... just yet, anyway. Vex needed someone brave and “heroic” for his plans to succeed. Could this one be it?

 

Even while collecting his newfound workers to his factory, Vex found himself doubting his brilliant, seemingly flawless scheme. Well, yes, technically his plan was flawless, but it depended on a sackling for it to prevail, which was concerning. Would the sackling he chose have enough willpower to stand up against him, to play “the part of the hero”? And even if they had, would they be smart enough, skilled enough to survive the dangers of the path before them?

 

Right now it didn’t look promising at all. The sackling he had previously thought “heroic” - to at least some degree - was currently panicking and running around, just like all the other sackfolk out there. Vex had even dropped his “plans” already, and the child had definitely seen that.

Disappointing, really. The sackling could have at least tried something... Maybe they just had enough sense of self preservation to not throw themselves into a battle they obviously would not win.

 

Fortunately, Vex’s doubts were all but vanished when the sackling finally took a risky dive across the town square, towards the plans that were - conveniently for them - laying just next to the rocket that would carry the sackling away from their now ruined haven of safety. He made no move when the child snatched the scroll and climbed into the rocket, and even as the spacecraft rose high above the buildings there were no attempts from Vex to stop it.

Really, would the child even realize how oddly convenient the whole situation had been for them? The rocket being still intact and fully functional, the “sloppiness” of Vex and the absence of his efforts to stop the sackling’s escape, the exact size of the scroll containing the plans…

 

Any being as perceptive as Vex himself would have immediately realized that something didn’t add up.

 

And speaking of Sackboy, it was about time for Vex to finally snuff out the last trace of resistance that the sackling (and their elderly friend, Scarlet) still posed. After the child had fulfilled their role as the “retriever of the Dreamer Orbs”, Vex had thought that he could completely forget about them and focus on other things, such as spreading the Uproar and being a nightmare-god. But as the sackling still continued to show up, it was only appropriate of him to play with them a little. For a while, at least...

 

So Vex had watched Sackboy struggle their way through the now transformed land, and had sometimes even half-heartedly toyed with them through his delightfully twisted ways.

But despite all his lovely games and the obstacles he had thrown on the path the child was following, they were still chasing after him.

It was almost astonishing, really, for the sackling to show such determination even after everything that had happened on their journey. Why hadn’t they just done the most reasonable thing and simply given up?

 

Because they were a hero, that’s why.

 

Well, Vex was about to show the sackling what being a hero really meant.

 

---

 

Vex landed softly on a piece of ground sticking out of the glowing, probably corrosive mudwater of the swamp. According to his very precise calculations, Sackboy should reach this part of the swamp any minute now.

Vex tried to be as quiet as possible, as the element of surprise was pleasant, although not essential in terms of intimidating uneasy sackfolk. However, being a rather huge jester with loud footsteps and noisy parts wasn’t exactly the definition of stealth. So he simply caught his bells in his palms in hopes of silencing them, then beginning his search for the - hopefully unsuspecting - sackling. He could feel them somewhere nearby.

 

Tap tap tap, little footsteps against the ground.

“Well, that didn’t take too long…” Vex whispered to himself as the almost too familiar sight of brown fabric caught his eyes far in the woods. Quickly elevating into the air before Sackboy could have the chance to see him, Vex found himself now floating over the treetops.

The atmosphere there was serene, as the air was much cooler and clearer than beneath the leaves. A gentle wind caressed Vex’s figure with it’s soft touch.

Disgusting. When I’m done terraforming this land, it will be thunderstorms and blizzards all around!

Descending delicately onto the top of the tree closest to the sackling, Vex kept still and quiet in order to observe the child for a short while. Even through the fog of the swamp, Sackboy’s recognizable button-eyes could be examined with great care: For two simple pieces of plastic, those eyes did say a lot. Probably a good thing for the child, since talking wasn’t exactly one of the strengths they possessed.

Right now those particular eyes were squinting with suspicion and alarm. The otherwise tense and battle-ready form of Sackboy also showed some hesitance in the form of trembling in their cautious steps. Vex could practically read the child’s mind: “Was that a jingle of a bell or just my own delusion? Am I being watched right now? Is he somewhere out there, waiting to drop on me?”

 

How right they were.

 

Vex let go of the branch he had been holding onto, dropping down from the treetops right on top of the sackling, who yelped sharply in surprise.

“So you made it to the Centre of Craftworld!” Vex exclaimed. As Sackboy tried to scramble away from him, he just crouched and crabbed the tiny figure before it could properly escape his reach. Sackboy trashed in his crasp, short limbs flailing in a desperate attempt to release themselves.

Vex chuckled, continuing: “And for what? To save your poor, helpless friends?” Upon the mention of their friends, Sackboy avoided Vex’s gaze and looked as shameful as a sackling probably could. They felt responsible for the absence of their friends? How delicious. Vex brought the sackling closer to his face, just so he could revel in that guilty expression even more.

“You won’t be finding them, I’m afraid... It’s too late!” There was another yelp from the child, though this time probably from pain; Vex had squeezed them roughly.

Such a fragile creature; easy to break like a toy you don’t want to play with anymore!

“See, it’s too late to “fix” anything!” Without a warning, Vex hurled Sackboy across the clearing, leaving them laying on the ground in a daze.

“Remember, you are the reason all of this-'' he spread his hands wide “-even happened. Our little hero.”

 

As he began to approach Sackboy again, the child was still collecting themselves on the ground. Vex purposefully kept his steps short, giving the sackling the time they needed to pick themselves up again. After all, it would be boring if his only audience was too dizzy to hear what he was saying.

“Look! The Imagisphere has already been cast into darkness. This is the land of Uproar now!-” Vex dropped down on all fours, his face so close that it could practically touch the sackling now. Sackboy was shaking with their back turned, probably in hopes of that so Vex couldn’t see their turmoil (which he did).

“...And I am the god of nightmares who rules it!” Vex hissed joyfully.

 

It was done! He had won, the world belonged to-

 

Out of nowhere, a vicious slap. Vex reeled back, instinctively bringing a hand on his stinging cheek. It had hurt.

And there Sackboy was, standing firmly with a sour expression on their face. In the clutch of their hands was the fake plans that they had recieved from Vex himself at the beginning of their quest. And they had hit him with those plans. They had slashed him with it’s sharp wooden parts right across his face.

 

Vex growled in momentary annoyance. “That was rather unpleasant. And not that wise of you, either.” He stood up, towering once again over Sackboy, who was now beginning to realize that slapping a near-omnipotent jester hadn’t probably been a good idea. Yet, they stood unyielding.

“Ohh, you want to play the role of the valiant hero, still? Well-” Vex grinned, bringing up his hands “-let me help you with that.”

A cackling lightning of Uproar sparked at his fingertips, and a heartbeat later that energy was unleashed on the poor sackling. As it hit them, they screamed .

“Now THAT sounded like it hurt! A small step up from the bombs and flames, hmm?” Vex laughed, hurling yet another bolt of lightning. It got the same, no, maybe even louder vocal response from the child. “Those were just children’s toys, anyway... I’m sure our mighty hero can take more than that.”

He struck Sackboy two more times, and a fourth time just for the fun of it. The sackling was just laying there, immobilized from the pain or fear (you name it) that they didn’t even try to dodge the following attacks.

 

Vex’s temporary anger had now faded away, and the only thing left was the pure joy of seeing another soul suffer. And lucky him, that such a fun playmate had presented themselves! Sackboy was, without a doubt, the best pick he ever could have chosen from the vast selection of the different weaklings, also known as sacklings.

Snatching the (now scorched) child once more, Vex took a few giddy steps and danced around the clearing. It was his little waltz of joy. Sackboy, on the other hand, looked dizzy, scared and STILL determined, all at the same time.

 

“Do you understand it now?” Vex suddenly questioned, stopping dead in his graceful tracks. “A hero’s story needs it’s villain. That would be me.” He briefly flipped his bell, causing it to chime cheerfully.

“And see, villains do evil deeds. And then heroes suffer from those actions! How simple yet so enchanting!”

Sackboy was left a bit unimpressed by his speech, judging from the fact that they were currently busy trying to pry his fingers open.

“Oh, you want down! Why didn’t you just say so?!” Vex laughed, slamming the child on the ground beneath his feet. A muffled grunt could be heard as the wind was knocked out of Sackboy by the impact. Almost immediately, though, they were back to the squirming and trying to get back on their feet.

“Haha, your determination is almost admirable! Did I already mention that there is no way for you to come out of this as a winner?” Vex’s words didn’t seem to stop the child, but his feet descending on top of them surely did.

Vex took a moment to cherish his handiwork that was currently being squashed beneath his sole. Sackboy had certainly taken some damage from the electricity, the burnt spots of cloth were a clear giveaway for that... And the rough handling had given them a few bruises, for sure. Other than that, the child seemed okay.

 

“I’ve got to admit, Sackers, you are surprisingly resilient! At least for a sackling, that is.”

There was no response from Sackboy, other than some vague sounds of struggle.

“Didn’t you hear me? That was a compliment, you know. How rude of you...” Vex lifted his foot, allowing the child to get some precious air into their system. A second later, though, he brought his hand down on the sackling, effectively trapping them. Sackboy peered through his fingers like a prisoner from their cell, face presenting that same sour look from before.

“This would be a lot easier if you would just talk to me...” Vex frowned in false sadness. Sackboy just squinted their eyes, not falling for his crocodile tears. “Why aren’t you talking, anyway? Let me guess: You are a mute one, since I know for a fact that sackfolk can speak. Just look at your chatty friend, Scarlet.”

As the child flashed a vivid face of worry for the old hag, Vex couldn’t help but to add: “Ahh, don’t you worry! I have grand plans for her after we’re through!”

 

Vex released the sackling from their “cage”, now crawling around them in all fours. Sackboy stood unmoving, their worried gaze following Vex as he circled around them.

“In fact, I have some ideas regarding all your friends: That melon-like researcher, the mother of those pesky monkeys, that greedy shopkeeper-grab, the artificial lady...'' he spat the words like acid, his finger poking the sackling violently with every name mentioned. “Just think of what fun times I’ll be spending with them! Maybe I should find and take all the monkeys in the Colossal Canopy? Their mother would be devastatingly heartbroken, though…”

 

Sackboy looked now absolutely terrified. Vex was sure they wanted to beg for mercy, to pray him to spare their innocent little friends. That’s how pathetic the child looked by now. Too bad they didn’t have a voice to carry that message through. He would have loved to hear some feeble pleads from the sackling...

 

“Or do you think I’d find more entertainment from the Interstellar Junction with N.A.O.M.I? I wonder what kind of virus should I inject her next...? The first one wasn’t that creative, I’ll admit!” Vex laughed. Sackboy covered their ears and shut their eyes, whimpering, apparently not wanting to hear these threats about their friends anymore.

 

“Did I upset you? You didn’t even hear the best part yet!”

Sackboy opened their eyes, a wary gaze focusing on him again.

“That is, what I’m planning to do with you,” Vex sneered, flashing a sinister smile to the child. Sackboy’s last shreds of confidence seemed to evaporate into thin air, their posture collapsing into an anxious mess. Apparently, this was the thing they had been fearing to hear.

Stopping still, Vex leaned his head on his hands nonchalantly, his expression morphing into a false thoughtfulness.

“See, there really is no use keeping you around anymore. You’re done helping me with my Topsy Turver...” Vex saw Sackboy cringe after being reminded of their part in the construction of his device.

“And I gave you even a reward for that: A chance to run, to hide, to spend the rest of your days cowering somewhere far away like the pathetic little creature you are.” Snickering, Vex extended his hand to nudge the sackling gently, although the gesture may have come off as threatening since it knocked them off their feet.

“But you didn’t. And here we are now; at the end of your world, and the beginning of MY world!” Vex stood up, momentarily caught up in the bliss of his victory. “Everything and everyone shall be- Huh?”

 

Tap tap tap, little footsteps against the ground. Sackboy was RUNNING AWAY?

Vex felt staggered for a moment. Of all the things he had expected from the child, this hadn’t been one of them. For the foolishly brave and noble “hero” to show this amount of cowardiance was... completely unexpected.

After recovering from his stasis a heartbeat later, Vex quickly caught up with the sackling, stomping down on their path.

Sackboy winced, backing instantly away from him a few steps in a frantic demeanor.

“Really, Sackers? Really?? I told you, your time to run has already passed. You should have taken that opportunity when you had the chance.”

The child sobbed in terror, trying to stumble towards the opposite direction. Vex blocked that way, too, by stepping over the sackling. Were those tears he saw twinkle in their dark eyes? Yes, they were.

 

As Sackboy turned to run for the third time, Vex’s patience finally wore out.

“Stop that, will you?!” he hissed, drawing back his boot and kicking the small figure in a cruel manner. Their body crashed on the other side of the clearing, a weak, tired cry of pain following just after. But Vex wasn’t done.

“It’s rather disappointing to see you crumble down like this. All this time you’ve believed yourself to be the hero this world needs. That’s the nonsense that the foolish elder kept feeding you, isn’t it? She made you think you were special.” He caught up with the child, picking them up and hurling them again mercilessly.

“But as it turns out, you’re just a little nobody like everyone else!”

Sackboy wailed in horror as Vex got closer again. He didn’t care.

“You are no hero! You can’t save the world, you can’t save your friends and you can’t save yourself!” Vex jeered maliciously with a twisted smile on his face. Then he raised his boot and violently brought it down, crushing the poor child under it. He rubbed it in, all while laughing over the sounds of Sackboy’s anguish. For a blissful moment, nothing else mattered than finally giving that bothersome little brat what they deserved.

 

Sackboy’s pathetic cries became gradually less loud and less frequent, until at some point they stopped altogether. At that point, Vex stopped and picked up the child in his iron crip, raising them on his eye level.

What a glorious mess the sackling now was: Their textile was fraying near the burnt spots, and the stitches holding them together were heavily loosened on various seams, allowing the cream-colored filling to almost gush out of their fabric shell. Sackboy’s limbs hung limp, their other arm dangling on with just a few undamaged stitches. In their previously oh-so-expressive-eyes was now a surprisingly empty stare, as if the child was unconscious or near it.

 

“Well, LOOK at you now, dear Sackers. All messy and mangled!” Vex laughed in amusement and turned the sackling upside-down, making their slack limbs now dangle straight. He reached for Sackboy’s broken limb. “Haha, this one seems to be almost FALLING OFF!” As he tugged at it, the child didn’t even whimper. They actually had no reaction besides twitching sharply when their seams stretched. How unsatisfying!

“Going to pass out on me now? Well, that simply won’t do. It would be too easy for you!” Vex shook the delicate thing violently in his hands, a fool-proof effort to wake up even the sleepiest of sacklings.

“Wakey wakey, Sackers... After this jolly maneuver, you should be back on your feet in no-”

 

A sickening sound of cloth tearing filled the air. It lasted for less than a heartbeat and wasn’t even that particularly loud, but Vex was still startled by it.

Something fell on the ground with a vague thud. At the same time, the little weight he had been holding felt now even lighter.

“Oh…” A small breath of baffle could be heard as Vex’s eyes darted from the pair of legs connected by a waist in his grasp to the upper body laying on the ground. 

 

He had broken the child in two.

 

Vex tried to comprehend the situation. Everything about it was actually quite simple, really, but he just didn’t manage to fully wrap his head around it just yet.

Of course, he had threatened to dispose of the child and hadn’t been particularly gentle in his words, either. He had been planning to throw them into the deepest pits of his Topsy Turver and leave them there to rot. Maybe he would have checked up on them every time he felt like it, and maybe at some point, after he’d grown bored of them, he would have discarded the child without any second thoughts.

Vex hadn’t been planning to do this. Even though he had gotten a little rough in his games, there had never been a clear intention to kill the frail sackling.

 

Change of plans, I guess…

 

He sat down on the ground, letting the lower half of the brown body fall from his hand. He brought the two pieces of the child back together, arranging them on the ground and stuffing them back full of the pale filling that had escaped in the split. 

Now Sackboy was back in shape, although their obvious lifelessness was still very much visible. They were dead, and nothing would change that. Their facial features would be forever frozen on the expression of fatigue mixed with fear. Vex frowned slightly; the thought of never seeing those delightful eyes lit up with rage, sadness or fear made him feel almost somber. Almost.

 

Vex was already getting over the initial shock caused by this more or less accidental murder. Well, he certainly hadn’t grown attached to the child despite the merry journey they had gone through together. A little ball hanging from his ankle that kept bothering him against all common sense; who would miss a thing like that?

Some last logical part of Vex’s mind told him that he should feel at least SOME sense of shame, regret or even concern about the thing he’d done. But in all honesty, he didn’t. If nothing, he felt glad. The termination of this little troublemaker would be a moment he’d recall with joy. 

 

“Well, well, well. This is quite the situation we have ended up in, now isn’t it Sackers?” There was, of course, no response. Vex sighed dramatically, scooping up the remains of the child in his hands, then standing up. “Always with the silent treatment. Well, no matter! I wouldn’t want-”

Tap tap tap, little footsteps against the ground. It sounded like someone was running towards him. Vex turned his head to glance over his shoulder, eyes landing on this new guest. It was yet another sackling, although this one was a lot older and sturdier, and actually had some clothes on unlike Sackboy.

She was none other than that irritating old hag Scarlet. And she looked infuriated.

The woman came to a stop behind Vex, drawing her cane like a sword which she used to point at him accusingly. Like that could ever even scrape me.

 

Vex was the first one to open his mouth; “Ahh, how marvellous of you to finally join-”

“Do not play your games with me, jester. I know just what you are and what you are trying to do,” Scarlet interrupted sharply, her eyes narrowed into slits. 

Vex chucked in amusement. “Do tell me! It’s always fun to hear those exciting stories about me. You sackfolk are such storytellers.” He turned around, now facing the sacklady fully. He had hidden Sackboy -or what remained them, anyway- into his closed fist. It would be boring to ruin the surprise just yet.

Scarlet took a step forward, her cane still pointing at him unyieldingly. “No, I will not. I’m not here for your amusement. I’m here for Sackboy. Where are they?”

“Straight to the point, apparently. You’re boring, Scarlet, you know that? Boring and stale. That’s why I prefer to play with your little friend! They sure know how to keep things interesting.”

Where. Are. They?” the hag repeated with an icy tone in her voice.

“Nuh-uh-uh, now telling yet! Have some patience, little one!” Vex extended his unoccupied hand in an attempt to snatch the elder, but Scarlet was prepared. She struck his fingers with a surprisingly nasty hit, making him nearly yelp out in pain. Scarlet huffed, wearing an annoyingly smug smile on her face for a brief moment. Apparently, he had yelped out loud. How embarrassing.

 

“That hurt, didn’t it? Don’t try to touch me again, you- GAH!” Scarlet was knocked out of her feet when Vex, without a warning, backhanded her swiftly. He then picked up the cane that had fallen from her hands in the impact, inspecting the tiny wooden thing between his fingers.

“Oh, I certainly felt that. A word of advice for you, though:” Vex snapped the cane, letting the pieces clatter on the ground in front of the elder. “Don’t try a stunt like that again, little lady. The next time it’ll be something else than your cane that breaks.”

Scarlet grimaced, but apparently bit her tongue as there was no snappy comeback from her. Instead she just stood up again, her posture still defiant as ever.

 

Vex shook his head slowly, sighing: “Look at you, clutching onto the last shreds of your pride. It must be tough knowing that despite your valor, you’ll forever be trapped in a fragile shell of a sackling, never able to accomplish anything... It’s just sad, really.”

“Look at you, trying to manipulate an old lady into doubting herself. If that’s not pathetic, I don’t know what is. Are you sure you’re not the one grasping at straws here?” Scarlet struck back using a patronizing tone that somehow got under Vex’s fabrics, bugging him immensely. Before he could deliver his response, though, the elder cut him off by opening her mouth again: “You’re attacking innocent, defenceless sackfolk, stealing resources from those poors who need them, manipulating others to do your dirty work for you…! Everything about you is just pitiful.”

“Me? Pitiful?!” Vex took off, floating now in the air, his cape billowing around him menacingly. “Don’t you get it? I am the new god of this world! I shall reign over Craftworld and soon even the whole Imagisphere!”

“You won’t and you never will. Sackboy will stop you, and then it’s final curtains for you, Vex.”

 

Sackboy?!” Vex laughed. He howled out a maddening laughter, doubling over himself in the air. Scarlet’s previously confident demeanor seemed to waver, her face morphing into an amalgamation of confusion and realization.

“Ahaha... I’m afraid Sackboy isn't going to stop me. Actually, they aren’t going to be doing anything, anymore,” Vex purred in an unusually low and silky tone. A sinister grin spread on his features.

Finally Scarlet looked truly horrified, her pupils shrunk and her hands trembling. “What... did you do...? WHAT DID YOU DO?!” she demanded with her voice cracking mid-sentence.

 

Vex tilted his head, smiled, and let his fingers curl open. Pieces of fabric and stuffing fell down like the rain, piling up on the ground in front of Scarlet. She did nothing but stare at it for a while with a bewildered expression, her quivering mouth forming unheard whispers. Then, the elder let out a heart-wrenching cry that sliced through the air, collapsing on her knees next to the pile of cloth. She sobbed uglily, covering her face with her hands in a vain attempt to stop the flood of tears streaming down.

In just a few seconds, the defiant sackling had been reduced into a pathetic, weeping mess.

 

“What’s the matter? I thought you wanted to know where they were… Now you do! What luck!” Vex jeered, descending onto the ground behind Scarlet. “Come on, don’t look so sad. You surely knew the risks when sending that poor child into their pilgrimage.”

Scarlet didn’t answer him, her focus still on the fabric mess that once used to be Sackboy. Her hands were stuck midair, as if she was contemplating whether she should touch the “body” or not. Vex knew she was still listening to him, though, as her shoulders slumped even more as he went on with his speech.

“This is your fault, isn’t it? Maybe if you hadn’t encouraged them as much as you did, maybe if you had stuck with them more, if you had even tried to protect them… they could still be alive.”

Face covered in her hands again, Scarlet shook her head vigorously in denial. She seemed to not even want to consider the fact that she might be the one to blame for this.

 

“Oh well, it’s not like you’re the only one at fault. The sackling I chose wasn’t anything special, either.” Vex clapped his hands together a few times, cleaning them from the last remains of stuffing and fabric. “Sure, they did manage to collect all the Dreamer Orbs for me, but I’m now guessing that any sackling would have been capable of doing so. The journey wasn’t even that hard…”

 

Scarlet was now sitting motionless, silent tears still making their way across her face as an never-ending stream. Her gaze was fixated on the ground, as if she no longer bore to watch the pile.

She shuddered slightly when Vex lowered himself behind her, his words brushing at the back of her head: “You should have seen Sackboy’s last moments: They were trying to run, to save themselves instead of this world.” Vex sighed gleefully, continuing: “A shame that they didn’t manage to be the hero Craftworld needed.”

“They were just a CHILD,” Scarlet suddenly spoke in heated whispers, her voice sounding like it could fail her any second now. “An innocent, loving, wonderful CHILD, who just wanted to save their friends and return to home.”

Vex was a little taken aback by this sudden outburst, so he just remained in curious silence and let her speak.

“No matter how brave or how heroic they were, no matter what great things they accomplished, no matter how many Dreamer Orbs-” Scarlet spit out that word like it was toxic “-they collected… None of that would have ever changed the fact that they were just a young CHILD thrown into this dangerous world, tasked to save it.”

 

Vex flicked his hand dismissively at Scarlet’s words, although the grin he wore on his face was starting to feel a little uncomfortable. “You think that affects me even the slightest, old hag?”

Yes, I thought so! I thought that even you would have a tiny sense of compassion, a quiet voice of reason, anything, inside your evil core! Something that would have made you... not... not...” Scarlet’s voice faded away as her stare lingered back to the remains of Sackboy, and she lost her composure and buried her face in her hands again as the constant sobbing grew louder.

 

Vex stood up straight and took a few steps back, growling in frustration. Whenever he was frustrated because of the sacklady’s over-sentimentality or because of the odd, bitter feeling that had suddenly spread all across him, he didn’t know. Maybe he didn’t even want to.

“Nonsense! You’re badly mistaken, little lady. There is certainly nothing good or “compassionate” inside of me,” he claimed and laughed at the end of it, although the chuckle he produced sounded a bit... hollow.

Scarlet didn’t seem to care nor even notice. She was curled in on herself, occasional whispers sometimes making their way out of her mouth: “...You were probably so scared... ...I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there... ...This is my fault…” 

Vex had the intense urge to just kick Scarlet into the corrosive mudwaters, finally ridding himself from his last hindrance. However, that’s a thing he didn’t do, as it was much more fitting to just leave the elder mourn there. It was a fair punishment for all the headache she had caused. Disintegration in those deadly waters would have been just too gentle way out, anyway.

 

“Seeing it as how fun you’re having here, I think it’s best for me to leave. After all, I’ve got a certain tree waiting for demolition.”

No answer, as usual. Vex had already gotten used to that by now.

“You’re pardoned for now, but bear in mind: If our paths cross again…” He gestured blatantly towards the pile that used to be a sackling once. “Just make sure I won’t ever have to see you again. Well, toodles!”

 

With those words, Vex took off, ascending above the green leaf-ceiling into the fresh air and open skies, leaving the heavy scenery beneath him. The night was still perfectly calm and peaceful, an ironic contrast to the darker turn that the events had taken just now.

Focusing his powers fairly easily, Vex snapped his fingers as a sign for a swirling portal to open up in front of him. Before stepping into it, though, he snuck one more glance towards the ground. Sadly, Scarlet and the sack-pile were both already obscured by the treetops, denying him the final sight of the defeat of his enemies. Disappointing.

The portal absorbed Vex as soon as he entered it, transporting him back to his Topsy Turver in the matter of seconds. It was about time, too, to leave that swamp behind.

 

---

 

Vex was once again in his throneless throne room, sitting on the floor in the very spot where one would assume a throne to be. (He was, in all honesty, starting to have some second thoughts about that particular design choice by now.)

He was currently leaning onto the wall, inspecting his hands carefully. Every time he thought he had gotten all the traces of Sackboy from his gloves, a new speck of wool or fabric would present itself. And just like he couldn’t get those pieces off of his hands, the persistent thoughts about the child wouldn’t leave him, either: The sackling was etched to his mind like a parasite.

 

Vex could have blamed these feelings to be caused by the things Scarlet had blurted out in her heartache, although that would have most likely been a lie.

He had pondered Scarlet’s words through: It was true that Sackboy had, in fact, been just a child who was easily frightened, manipulated and killed, and because of that Vex’s actions with them would be considered something he should “regret”. But the thing was, he didn’t. At least not anymore. Earlier at the swamp, a vague, disgusting feeling of remorse had tried to take over him. Vex hadn’t let it to, having assured himself that the emotion was just a temporary trace of weakness in him, caused by Scarlet’s sentimental sob story.

And he had been right; the false regret had disappeared a short while after he had returned back to the Topsy Turver. What Vex hadn’t expected, though, was that the memory of Sackboy would stick inside his head, haunting every thought that dared to cross his mind.

 

Was this... longing? Did he miss the little brat?

 

As soon as Vex formed that thought, he knew it to be true; there was no denying it. He missed the excitement of watching the child stumble forward, the thrill of battling against them, the tiniest threat that they had posed on his plans, all those little things. Now that they were gone, Vex was sure that everything would go precisely according to his plans. Although that was the desirable thing, it was still boring. Vex hated it when things got too boring.

 

But there was no undoing what was done; he’d never get to see the child again. And even though Vex could pick another sackling from the vast selection of those who had survived the construction work of his Topsy Turver, it just wouldn’t be the same. Not any of those others would have quite the same sour look Sackboy had presented when offended, nor would they have those brilliant, expressive eyes that Vex had read like a book.

Maybe it was for the best, anyway. No matter how strong this longing was now, vex doubted it would last forever. It was just a simple feeling, a tiny remnant of his former attachment to the sackling.

 

That feeling would vanish, sooner or later.

Vex would get over it. 

And everything would be

just

fine.