"For the last time Aki," Yukio cried. "I'm sincerely sorry from the bottom of my heart. I'll do anything, anything to prove my sincerity. Just turn me back to my original self please!"

Aki mulled over his proposal.

"I honestly like this R better," Aki sighed. "But okay, I'll change you back on one condition."

Yukio's face brightened with the eagerness of an excited puppy.

"What is it, Aki? Say it, say it!"

"You are to address me by my long name from now on."

"Sure, sure! Anything you say!" Yukio said, and then grimaced when the hidden thorn in the request pricked him. He struggled to get the next few words out.

"What's… your long name again?"

He thought he saw a shadow of a smile on her lips.

"You failed." Aki turned and walked off.

"No! No! That was a joke! Wait, Aki… Akineisopipalobge?"

"Wrong."

"Akihuthajanjonpop?"

"Wrong."

"Aki…" Yukio swallowed down his newest guess and cringed under the brandishing of Aki's wand.

"One more time you make fun of my name, your voice will become ultrasound and your breasts will put the woman holding the world record to shame."

"Yes, A…" Yukio began, and mercifully cut himself off.

"You wanted to say something?"

"Nothing."

"Sure?"

"Sure."

"Good." Aki returned the wand into her pockets and continued searching for a way out of the dungeon. A few steps ahead, she clapped her hands and said aloud, "For once I am not the tortured but the torturer. This is worth the price that I have to pay."

Yukio cursed inside his mind.

You vile genie. How dare you taint the the might and prowess of R! I swear that once I become powerful enough you'll be the next one to cry uncle after the dark lord! I'll make sure you come to me dressed in a nurse outfit and (censored due to its obscene nature)

He felt slightly better. He made sure not to look down and speak in order to destroy his improving mood. It was getting increasingly hard though. His breasts bounced and swung with every step he took, straining against the fabric which was clearly not tailored for such voluptuous proportions; an itch built up in his throat, forcing him to clear it with sounds that raised goosebumps on his skin.

I'm like a freak model on a catwalk.

Aki suddenly stopped.

"Yukio?"

"Yes A…"

"You may address me using the shorter form. You programmed this game right?"

Yes Captain obvious. It is indeed yours truly.

"Yes Aki." He replied dutifully.

"You designed the layout of the dungeon right?"

"Yes Aki."

"THEN WHY ON EARTH ARE WE WALKING AROUND IN CIRCLES!"

That's because you traumatized me so much that I lost my sense of my direction!

"It is my fault Aki," Yukio replied, and then added a poetic touch. "The fault is mine and mine alone."

"Then stop your nonsense and get us out of here!"

"Yes Aki, I will get us out of here."

Aki nodded in satisfaction. They continued walking through the labyrinthine identical passageways. Once in a while, they would encounter a treasure chest that revealed a vial of potion or a trinket that raised character stats. Other times they would encountered skeletons wielding sword and armor or wrinkly tree monsters. Yukio fell these monsters with increasing ease; his current level was actually a few higher than the necessary required (he did a lot of unnecessary grinding earlier), and he started to get use to the programming anomalies that occurred. (Modifications were made to the mechanical commentary: "Skeleton attacks a genderly confused R for 1 damage.")

After Yukio felled another skeleton and did his obligatory celebration, he announced.

"We'll reach the exit once we make a right turn over there."

"About time," Aki started wiping beads of perspiration from her neck. "I thought dungeons are meant to be cold, how come this one is so hot? Make sure you program in an air conditioner when you get back."

"What are you…" Yukio forced his snarl into a cheshire cat grin. "Of course, I will do just that. Any more requests, my dear Aki?"

"Not at the moment," Aki missed his sarcasm. "What's after the dungeon?"

"A forest. We just follow the path and we'll end up at Narwhal Town."

"What's so special about it?"

"Now we are talking," Yukio said excitedly. "Narwhal Town is a typical merchant district specializing in trade of wool and salt, but there are rumors that one of the traders who live there, actually it's true since I programmed it, but anyway…"

They took the right corner.

"Anyway what?" Aki said. "Don't leave me hanging there."

"Hold on," Yukio walked up to the troll guarding the exit of the dungeon and slashed it down with a whirlwind cut. The first miniboss didn't even have the chance to launch into his programmed speech which threatened a painful death for the challenger. The words and holograms disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.

Yukio's level increased to ten. Cue special celebration.

"Like I said," Yukio continued, ignoring the troll's cries of "you vermin" as it disintegrated. "One of the traders who lived there is actually a reclusive Reversist in disguise."

"Reversist?"

They emerged from the dungeon into a heavily canopied forest. Flanked by pine needles, a mud road carved a straight path ahead. They could see the town in the distance, a squat collection of quaint shophouses arranged in a spiral circle.

"Yukio, you still haven't answered my question. What's a reversist?"

"Well," Yukio sensed that he held a potential trump card. "I can tell you the full details if you would kindly change me back to nor... areversistissomeonewhoturnba cktheflowofthetimebutitsnote xactlythatSTOPSTOPSTOP!"

Aki lowered her wand.

"No more dirty tricks Yukio."

Who's the one playing the dirty tricks here?

"Yes Aki," Yukio said. He now sounded worse than a humanized chipmunk. "As I saying, a reversist is someone who has the ability to seemingly turn back the flow of time. But it's not exactly that. Time is like an unstoppable waterfall, plunging everything it swallows to the bottom. What a reversist can do, is to reverse a state of the object to an earlier one. It'll still end up at the bottom of the waterfall anyway."

"You are being too abstract. Example?"

Yukio picked up a yellowed leaf from the side of the road.

"What do you see?"

"A leaf?" Aki cocked her head.

"Specifically?"

"A withered leaf?"

"What would be its previous state?"

"A green leaf which is still on the tree," Aki replied with a growing exaltation. "So that means…"

"A reversist would be able to reverse it back to a tree. A more powerful one would be able to reverse the tree back into the seed from which it had sprouted from. But time doesn't stop." Yukio's voice softened. The leaf reminded him of autumn, and a few autumns ago under a cherry blossom tree, he… "No one can ever reverse time, even the most powerful of reversists."

"What's that got to do with your RPG?"

Yukio shook off his melancholic thoughts. "Apply this concept to warfare. A soldier gets injured; a reversist could easily reverse that injury. A trebuchet runs out of ammunition; a reversist could reverse the previously fired ammunition back into the sling while leaving the damaged castle walls as they are. And the possibilities continue."

"Isn't this equivalent to cheating already? I mean, the side that has more of the reversists would practically be winners!"

"No," Yukio shook his head. "You forgot the principle of equivalent exchange. If you reverse ammunition, someone in the enemy camp might receive the same benefit. If you reverse an injury, someone else in your troops might get injured."

"If you reverse death…"

"Someone might die."

A wind whistled across the forest, tossing and tumbling the pine needles and fallen leaves around the duo. It headed to the east, leaving behind a silence even more pronounced than before.

Yukio brushed off a few needles from his tunic.

"What the most powerful and experienced of reversists can do is try to make use of the side effects to their advantage. If they reverse a soldier's injury, they'll try to ensure that the cost is borne by the enemy instead. But it doesn't work every single time, that's why no one ever tries to reverse death."

The town entrance was in sight. A merchant left with a horse and a cart in tow. Sacks of salt piled in the cart.

"I don't get it," Aki said. "What's an ordinary town like this got to do with that concept that you have just explained?"

"Have you forgotten? I just said that a reclusive reversist lives here."

"So?"

"He is the last of the reversists."

"And I presume that someone powerful wants him under his command?" Aki rolled her eyes. "Someone… like the dark lord for instance?"

"Yes."

"How original."

"Of co…" Yukio smiled that cheshire cat grin. He was becoming a natural at it already. "Thanks Aki."

"And I presume he is not coming himself but sending his underlings over to do the job?"

"Yes."

"And you'll stop them and save the reversist?"

"Ha!" Yukio said triumphantly. "This is where you are wrong here! Stop thinking that my RPG storyline is that predictable and WOULD YOU STOP THAT PREDICTABLE MOVE EVERY TIME YOU HAVE NOTHING TO COUNTER AGAINST MY ARGUMENT?"

Aki lowered her wand.

"Being predictable is fun."

"For goodness sake Aki, at this rate I'll have to communicate to you in sign language! And I don't know how!"

"Start learning then." Aki smiled. She headed over to the departing merchant and greeted him.

"Hi, do you know if the dark lord's underlings are going to arrive anytime soon? I want them to (gestures to the sulking Yukio) see that person over there? It is the chosen one who is going to save the world! I want them to meet and see an epic battle unfold on a turn by turn basis. So?"

The merchant walked past her, treating her presence like air.

"Hey! That ain't very nice. Something tells me that you need a lesson or two," Aki unleashed a rainbow burst of magic from her wand, which bounced off yet another invisible forcefield surrounding him.

"Not another one?"

"I didn't program a magical girl into the game," Yukio smirked. "Remember the battle in the dungeon just now? Your attempts to intervene are rendered useless. Your input doesn't have any effect on the game elements."

"But it does on you."

"Whatever," Yukio waved a hand and approached the merchant. "I am ready to accept programming anomalies as long as ultimately, R is control of the destiny of the story! Listen closely Aki, when I talk to him, he's going to lament about the state of the economy, the rapidly increasing prices of salt, and his family situation. You just watch."

Yukio stopped in front of the merchant. The latter, a forlorn stubbled man in his middle years, looked up from the ground and stared at Yukio.

"Good day my humble merchant, what brings such sorrow features on your countenance?"

"Good day young one," the merchant replied. "Alas, the economy these days leave no room for joy. The prices of salt are increasing with the speed of…"

Yukio stuck out his tongue at Aki. He could act childish once in a while. Small victories like these were hard to come by these days.

When he returned his attention back to the merchant, he could sense that something was wrong. The merchant was still repeating the lines from the script, but his facial expression didn't match at all. His eyes widened to the size of saucers. His mouth dropped open to form an O.

"… my family is starving at home because I can't bring home…" The merchant's throat croaked.

"Are you alright?" Yukio asked. It couldn't have been a programming error? He did a lot of playtesting for the earlier stages of the game, and they had come out fine.

The answer came in a scream.

"YOOOUU FFRRREEEAAAKK!"

The merchant fled in a dust of smoke, leaving the horse and cart behind. The abandoned animal looked as though it might flee any moment as well.

Aki mimicked Hujk's deadpan, "I'm watching."