Randidly frowned. “What?”
“Through your actions, you have become more than yourself, you have become a symbol,” Neveah said patiently. “You are not just a person, but you are proof of a concept; you are proof that humanity can stand up against the System. But your legend is more than that as well. Because it is every story from the lives you have touched. It is every way that you existing rippled outward, changing the course of history.
“You are upset because you see yourself, and some part of you says ‘that’s not me’. Even if those actions are good, you have that instinctual reaction. In the nicest way, you are naive, Randidly.
“Do you think that some others have not also have had the ideas to impersonate you? You are the most powerful human I know of, both in terms of individual might and in terms of renown. In both Zones, you are known. If I was not acting as you, there is no doubt in my mind others would attempt to do the same, either for good or for ill. Your legend would grow piecemeal from the tales of these impersonators. At some point, it is possible that the fakes proliferate to such a degree that your own actions can do little to sway the course of your legend. But that is okay because you are not the type of person to care about such things.”
“That… that’s not…” Randidly said, grasping to find exactly why he disagreed so strongly with what Neveah was saying. He could understand that some people might try and use his identity to their advantage, but to actually pass themselves off as him…
“You are self-absorbed. If you were not, you would have been crushed by the details of what you have been doing.” Neveah said matter of factly. “I have watched many people. I started thinking that people were like you, but you are atypical in so many ways… I would not have become the Soulbond of most people. But with you, it was the most natural thing in the world. Most other people do not like themselves. They clothe themselves in status, distract themselves with pleasures, hide within righteous emotions and religion. You have become such a thing that you are a piece of clothing these people can wear.
“You are an icon.”
Randidly just stared at Neveah. When they were bound, Neveah could barely speak. She wasn’t even gendered at that point. Now, she seemed to be lecturing Randidly on his own existence. And honestly… her words rung true. There was a lot here that Randidly hadn’t thought about simply because he was too close to the issue. He should have understood that people would use his identity at some point. Neveah’s actions here did have a sizable anchoring effect on that.
People being what they were if there was no news to talk about they would make news on their own. Usually, by imitating the past news. But as long as Neveah was the face of Randidly Ghosthound, they wouldn’t act out as him. Or at least, that was what Neveah was claiming.
However, Randidly could see now how it was all of those things. It was her being the Randidly people could see, it was her helping people, it was her enjoying this life, it was her making a good name for him. But it was also…
Neveah waved her hand, and suddenly she was him. “Before we continue, there’s something that I need to take care of. Can I have a minute.”
For a second Randidly was confused, but then he heard something and nodded. He stepped into the shadows just as Tia stomped forward. Her face was scrunched up into a scowl and she glared at Neveah, who simply smiled affably back.
“You left the party. The ENTIRE party.” Tia huffed. There were tears in her eyes, Randidly saw. Abruptly, he felt guilty that he had assumed that she would be glad to have him gone so she could take the limelight. Although Randidly wasn’t sure how superficial the relationship between Neveah and Tia was, it was still a relationship. Both of them needed to be a part of it.
Perhaps that’s why his own relationships were so sporadic and short-lived.
“I know. I’m sorry. I was helping a friend.” Neveah said simply.
Tia shook her head. “Today of all days? You spend every day helping people! You are obsessed with helping people! Can’t I have a SINGLE day where you are just mine?”
With a sigh, Neveah shook her head and said, “No.”
Abruptly, Tia burst into tears and threw herself into Neveah’s arms. The two embraced, and Randidly was a little afraid that Tia would be scared off by the feel of Neveah’s true body. But if she noticed it, she gave no sign. Then two of them held each other for several minutes, the only sounds between them Tia’s sniffles.
“This is the way I am. In a way, I am blessed that I have many soul mates.” Neveah said, some of her cheer restored.
Tia snorted. “When my next tour starts, I’ll be even busier. I probably won’t even take your calls. And god help you when I finally am ready to record another album…. Oh! There’s even been talk of me acting in a movie-”
“We will always find time for each other, even if it makes us uncomfortable,” Neveah announced. “That is what a soulmate is.”
After a while, the two took a step back from each other. Tia’s eyes roamed the dark alcoves of the half-constructed building behind Neveah, where Randidly was standing. “…She’s here, isn’t she.”
Neveah nodded. “I must finish talking to her.”
“I would like to face her,” Tia said, but as she said that she reached up with one hand and fluffed her hair.
Neveah chuckled but beckoned. As he stood there, Randidly felt the air around him adjust as Neveah’s illusion settled around him. Annoyed that Neveah could do this so easily, and he couldn’t do it well at all even when borrowing her Skill, Randidly stepped forward.
When Tia looked at him, she looked at a spot that was on his chest, because the form Neveah had given him was much smaller than he actually was.
“What’s your name?” Tia asked.
For a second, Randidly froze. What name should he say? Don’t save Valkyrie, don’t say Valkyrie….
But then abruptly, a word came to his mouth, because he suddenly knew who Neveah had made him look like. “Lyra. My name’s Lyra.”
Tia gave a small nod, looking Randidly up and down. And as Tia looked, Randidly saw Lyra too. Her sharp features, her tawny hair, her wicked smile. And ultimately, Tia seemed satisfied and turned to go. Randidly wanted to roll his eyes.
Really, all you wanted to check was that your fiance’s ex was attractive?
After she had gone, the joy left Randidly, and he felt tired. There were two things he wanted to do before he left because today had proven to him that taking back his name and face would be more trouble than it was worth. First because of the engagement, then because of the work, and finally because of Ghost’s watchful eye. Senator Firefly might be a good source of information, but he was a fool in some ways, and just as likely to tip the Creature and its servants off to his goals.
The first thing he wanted to do was look at his reflection. Although Randidly’s attempts at illusion were clumsy, he could still manage to create the illusion of a mirror, and he looked at himself.
“Maybe the real reason that I was so furious…” Randidly said slowly, “Was because, with her, it was never about trust; Lyra only cared about results. And she believed that you should be the same. The… thing she shared her secrets with was the Creature, not me. And she wanted me to accept that.”
Then Randidly shook his head. There was a knot here, inside of himself, due to her involvement with the Creature. It was something he didn’t understand on so many levels. But his gut just kept repeating the same thing, over and over.
Why didn’t you pick me?
Maybe Lyra thought she had. But her way of picking was not something Randidly was willing to put up with. Shaking his head, Randidly turned to the issue at hand. He looked at Neveah.
“You actually care for her. When I heard how you came to be engaged, I thought it was a misunderstanding. Did you truly know what you were doing the whole time?” Randidly asked.
“Well no,” said Neveah, her Randidly-smile sheepish. “But does anyone? The more time I spent with her… It made me happy.”
Randidly regarded Neveah skeptically. “This will not end well. Do you think that Tia would really want to marry you if she knew… what you were?”
Neveah shrugged. It was oddly infuriating to watch his own body perform gestures, thought Randidly as he gritted his teeth.
“More than that, she is shallow and self-centered. She can’t see past what is put in front of her! She’s basically nothing more than a child-”
“Am I not the same?”
Neveah’s words stopped Randidly dead in his tracks.
“Perhaps not shallow… but I play games. I don’t do things I don’t want to do. I don’t worry about responsibility, I just act. That is the freedom that you gave me. I understand that in your mind this is a stage I will grow out of… but what if it is not? It’s true we might decide not to get married, or we might get married, then end things… but do not most humans do this?
“Also… Randidly…” Neveah gazed at him with soft eyes. “Do you realize why she infuriates you so much? It’s true she has her own shallowness and vanity she is very different… but I think if you look closely about how eclectic her attention is and how much her world is centered around herself…. How kind she is without thinking, and how she would act without asking for anything in return… you can see just how similar you two are at your core. And why I will marry her.”