The End

...But what of souls? she asked, trembling. Ash knew the robot's creators were trying to give souls, not just autonomy. He looked down on her with condescending red eyes but an otherwise calm face. Of all the questions she could have asked, she chose the most stupid one.
There's no such thing as souls. Consciousness is achieved by a combination of everything in your system working together. He paused for dramatic effect, and then decided to alert his butler he had to escape soon. It was weird, but Ash felt like he was in immediate danger, even though there was just a helpless robot in his presence.

Ange stepped closer to his throne, eyes watering (but how? he wondered, admiring the scientists' work). Nevertheless, he planned to continue his speech as it bought time for him. His butler was timing outside: three more seconds until he opened the door. But then Ange exploded.

Unknown to both Ange and Ash, there was a bug on the robot's back, which was timed to explode when they were in closest enough proximity. But Ash had no more time to think, no more time to do anything more. Ash was dead.

About Ash

Name: Ash
Meaning: The meaning of Ashvik is blessed and victorious
Age: since Alsatia was in existence
Build: musclular, tall, ruggedly handsome
Appearance: large purple eyes, smiles crookedly and rarely, stance of an alpha male, sometimes radiant, moves gracefully.
Personality: selfish, assertive, clever

In life, Ash had one purpose: to rule over Alsatia. Alsatia was an utopia, with leaves made of pure gold and the sky was bluer. Was. Apparently, the amount of greed Ash had was linked to his eye colour and the sky of his world. In the earlier years, Ash was perfect. He was both just and merciful (despite the fact the two ideals contradicted) and everyone praised him. The moment he discovered how in demand gold was in Neopia, however, it all went downhill.

His control of Alsatia snowballed, increasing exponentially, as did the irritation of his citizens. Eventually, their slavery was something they couldn't bear and they acted upon their dislike.

Luckily for him, he was given a second chance.

Blue

There were no laws in Alsatia, and there was only two ways to keep people from causing destruction: to make the disobedience of principles absolutely punishable or to give the citizens so much nobody is in need. Ash chose the latter.

Items were so plentiful they were worthless, and so nobody coveted. It was easy enough to find exactly what you wanted in the wild, so why steal? Very seldom do financial qualms occur. As the saying goes, money was the root of all evil, so there was no evil in Alsatia. Everybody was born with an island, all of which were equal in size. What people did with their islands were up to them. Some people made a comfortable, cozy house. Others made mansions. A rare few cared for nothing and made tents. Quality was proportional with effort, as the way it should be.

It was a utopia.

Friends weren't made out of greed, like some were in Neopia. Everybody was equal, so friendships were made out of a mutual liking, and nothing else. Every single relationship was pure. Everything was pure. It was a utopia.

The angel lived in the biggest land in all of Alsatia, but everybody accepted the fact that he had a larger responsibility than everybody else. But that wasn't the truth. The petty disputes he had faced were solved almost instantly, and Ash, like his citizens, lived lavishly. His day to day activities consisted mostly of fine art and obscure hobbies, anything to occupy his time with.

Everything changed in one seemingly ordinary night. Once a month, a fair few residents in Alsatia would see a legendary sight. Stars that don't belong in the sky travel there, but those few know those weren't really stars. They were souls, on a journey to discover things while the bodies were asleep.

Ignorance consumed a faerie who was called Sui. She had no regard for politics, wisdom or knowledge. All she lived for was these once a month occurrences, because put simply, they tasted good. Armed with a celestially themed butterfly net, she caught plenty of these souls and stored them for later meals. Sui looked radiant for the reason that souls were radiant.

It was purely unfortunate she had caught Ash's soul that night. But it was more beautiful than anything else she had seen, Sui couldn't bear to eat it. Deciding to see where the soul wanted to return to, she waited until morning and it led her to the biggest island of the entire kingdom.

He was so weak. He felt... so weak. There was something inside him that was missing. Something that made Ash real. And then she entered. Her eyes instantly revealed the shock she didn't conceal and her lips wobbled. It was the first time she saw the aftereffects of her dinner.

G-give it back. P... please he said with as much force as possible. Consenting, she placed it on Ash's chest. The two watched the star glow brightly and then it sunk back into his chest. He felt stronger instantly, and suppressed a smile. Sui was still so close to him. He could see twigs in her hair, and dirt under her nails. Did she even have a home?

He hoped she hadn't.
You should have died for what you've done, but I'll give you a chance. You'll be sent to Neopia, and there will be a mark on you so you will not fit in. His voice was harsh but not cruel, and his tone was strict; there was no room for negotiations. His butler nodded as she curtseyed. Ash wondered if she even knew what Alsatia was.

He had chosen something fair, but merciful. A punishment for taking so many lost souls is to lose hers, too. She doesn't even know what she's doing, he sighed, in solitude. He lied back down and stared at the ceiling. No, something still felt wrong. Her dirty hands tarnished his soul, he knew it. But, how does one go about cleansing a soul? He needed to know. He called for a messenger, to invite Shira to his castle.

Shira arrived as quickly as she could, but nothing about her looked rushed. Her pose and appearance were always so picturesque he wondered if she was the real angel. She smoothed her skirt out as she sat down on his plush blue seat, padded with velvet.
Well? she asked, wasting no time.
Shira, how do you clean a soul?
You said souls don't exist. She frowned and wondered what made him turn one hundred and eighty degrees.
They do, we just don't notice them except for one night.
She laughed, realising what he was thinking. Souls? she giggled in between some words, nobody knows what those stars are, darling. They could be hopes or dreams or something. Maybe they're your feelings. Why do they have to be souls if there's no evidence of them being anything?
Ash wondered if it was the placebo effect that made him feel better, but something inside him believed it wasn't. Then, how do you cleanse your star.
Shira shrugged and grinned. Who knows, was her answer. How helpful. Ash frowned, and Shira's grin widened as she saw.

Well, since the "urgent" business is over, I best be going. She leaned towards Ash and kissed him on the cheek, as she always did. Her perfume smelled fruity today. She paused a while before she stood straight again. The two were friends for a long time. Maybe since the beginning of time. Their sources of youth were completely different, but it all worked out. She turned and left, waving at the butler as he closed the door.

Is there any business that needs to be done today? Ash asked, now they were completely alone. He received a blank stare, and laughed. Of course not, how foolish to ask. There were always no problems. Ash fancied a trip to Neopia today, and not just to check on Sui. Walking back into his bedroom, he closed the door and his wings spread. Time to see how everything is, he thought as he faded into nothingness.

If Ash did not enter through the conventional portal, he was invisible. He was nothing inside everything. He was the spare space between every molecule of air, and sometimes this is exactly what he needed. This was one of the times. He felt Sui's presence near Neopia Central. The butler had been kind, he would have wished her to be in someplace awful like Moltara. Ash hated the heat.

Sui seemed indifferent as always. Some punishment. But his attentions were immediately drawn elsewhere. A factory, in his despised Moltara. They were creating expensive items out of a substance like the leaves of Alsatia. (Who's the ignorant one? is what Shira would wonder if she knew what he was doing at that moment). Something that grew on trees was so in demand in Neopia? He would have laughed if he could.

He reappeared in his room with a wide smile. Walking past his butler without even acknowledging him, Ash felt different yet again. Is it a good different? he wondered as he reached his nearest tree and started pulling off the leaves.
I wonder...

Red

Shira parted her hair so Ash could put her necklace on. It was white gold, with a large white diamond which looked perfect on her.
How did you get such a thing? she asked. Shira was always aware of how Ash cared little for Neopian currency or items. He had everything he needed at home.
I sold a few things. Ash hoped she didn't look out the window to see an embarrassed tree with bare branches.

He wanted more of the worthless Neopian riches. He wanted to adorn Shira with more jewelry, he wanted more furniture for his home, he wanted more clothes for himself. But picking leaves was tedious.

He ordered his butler to do the unthinkable. Within a week, everybody except for his best friend and sister were chained to their home and ordered to collect leaves. Part of him wanted Sui back here, so she would suffer. Sui was doing absolutely nothing in Neopia except surviving. Maybe he made the wrong choice after all.

It was foolproof. Nobody who hated him would be able to reach him, especially with a few guards flying around. Shira wouldn't dare do anything to her best friend and his sister was too shy to, even if she wanted. Nobody could defy him and his riches increased tenfold.

Ash always reasoned he'll stop once he has enough. He'll share everything with the people, to pay them for their hard work. But there was no such thing as enough for him. He needed to expand his castle soon, to have more rooms to put more things in. Fine wood carvings from Shenkuu, the highest developments from Virtupets Space Station, the most exquisite stained glass windows from Brightvale. It was going to be glorious.

One day, his guards reported there was suspicious activity going around. Murmurs of a revolution. Ash shivered in their presence before he ordered to keep a tighter watch. On the same day, Shira arrived at his castle.
My, it's changed so much, was her first comment. And it had. He opted for a red and gold color scheme in his favourite lounge room, instead of the previous blue and gold. It had matched his eyes, which had somehow turned red.

The sky's red too, you know, she said as she sat down. Shakily, she said I think I destroyed a universe. Shira suddenly began sobbing. What do I do? she asked desperately.

What can you do? What's done is done. Keep it if you'd like. Throw it away. It doesn't matter, because there's no way to reverse it, was Ash's advice. But Ash's problem was in the future.
More importantly, I think I'm going to die, he said abruptly. She looked up at him and wiped her tears on a tissue.
What makes you think that?
Ash described everything to her, from the suspicion of the guards, to realising there were some people he neglected to imprison because they weren't fully functional.

Just be cautious, was all she said, but maybe you're just paranoid. Ash agreed, he was overly suspicious ever since his possessions increased. She left later, and Ash, tired, went to bed without dinner.

Project Cupid. Ash was aware of it. The immediate past consisted of him accommodating these failed robots. Am I to accommodate one more? he wondered as he remembered the two scientists' new creation. He thought she was cute, with her bubblegum pink hair and light red eyes. They matched his eyes in shade, but not intensity. Ash wondered if this was going to be a success.
Seventh time lucky, maybe? he murmured as he drifted off.

It was a classic speak of the devil moment: as Project Cupid entered his thoughts, she was awakened. As Ash awoke, two scientists were permanently put to sleep. Ange was on a mission, to find who she was. Of course, that meant she had to pay a little visit to the ruler of Alsatia. Grinning, he was curious to see how the events unfolded. Certainly, her Robot Peadackle was a useful resource to Ange and upon hearing his description in a recording, he was filled with hate. Evil? Ash was far from it.

In an attempt to prove them all wrong, he sent out a decree throughout all of Alsatia: everybody was freed and if desired, fruits of their labour would be on the small island south of his castle. As long as nobody leaked the fact that was only twenty five percent of what was truly earned, nothing would harm him.

And once again, Alsatia was a land of freedom.

Ange was finally in Alsatia. Buying some time, he remotely ordered the Peadackle to send her to the first project's island. He had so many thorns stuck in his flesh. When had this happened? Every movement was agony, but he had to pick them all up. Even his castle had thorns growing rapidly, everywhere. Gardeners were ordered to clean up the mess before Ange arrived.

You wouldn't have noticed, Shira thought as she was sent to fetch Ange, but those thorns were in you ever since your eyes turned red.
Ash kept track of her thoroughly, but in an instant, her presence disappeared along with Shira's. How could this be? But there was no time to think, he had to clean everything up.

Ange was so important to Ash. He was the sole sponsor of Project Cupid; the scientists had a mutual agreement for Ash. They get everything paid, and their names on all the papers in exchange for their first successful robot. It was a good deal on both sides: the scientists could create a second with their blueprints, achieve fame and fortunes, while Ash could have a companion to rule with him, forever.

What could have more perfect judgement than a robot?

She finally found her way to the castle. Under some pretense of paying her respects or something foolish. He had to tell her the truth before anything else, though. The door opened to his throne room and Ange stood there, in all her beauty.

Number seven, his tenor voice boomed, or as everyone calls you, Ange. Ange's eyes widened and she turned around. The door was closed and the butler was not present. There was no escape, and she was afraid.
His wings spread. You know your purpose, to find who you are and to be autonomous. But don't you see? You have done everything from your own free will. You have autonomy.

...But what of souls? she asked, trembling. Ash knew the robot's creators were trying to give souls, not just autonomy. He looked down on her with condescending red eyes but an otherwise calm face. Of all the questions she could have asked, she chose the most stupid one.
There's no such thing as souls. Consciousness is achieved by a combination of everything in your system working together. He paused for dramatic effect, and then decided to alert his butler he had to escape soon. It was weird, but Ash felt like he was in immediate danger, even though there was just a helpless robot in his presence.

Ange stepped closer to his throne, eyes watering (but how? he wondered, admiring the scientists' work). Nevertheless, he planned to continue his speech as it bought time for him. His butler was timing outside: three more seconds until he opened the door. But then Ange exploded.

Unknown to both Ange and Ash, there was a bug on the robot's back, which was timed to explode when they were in closest enough proximity. But Ash had no more time to think, no more time to do anything more. Ash was dead.

Purple

Ash felt water ebb and flow tickling his toes and a salty scent in the air. If he had never been to Neopia, he would be astounded by the scenery: a lush, sandy beach with a flawless view of the infinite ocean. He was in a land that wasn't Neopia or Alsatia.

The sky was blue and endless. Ash stared at it with admiration, there were no clouds today and the sun was beating down on him. He didn't want to sit up and examine his surroundings at all; it was comfortable and warm where he lay.

This is where the dying meet the dead, he heard a figure beyond his grasp whisper. He lazily sat up to face his greeter. She was a tanned beauty with royal blue hair and golden eyes. Her eyes reminded him of his life until this point. Golden.

There were millions of sailboats behind her. They all had the same basic shape, but different sail designs. Some were simple: just plain colors. Some were less simple, with hearts and stars drawn in various ways. The most complex one he could see had a picture of a supermodel's face on it. Additionally, each of these sailboats varied in size (and in mass, as she would later mention casually) which made it harder for the girl to release into the ocean.

I'm Audrey, she said as her hair fluttered in the breeze. It had a strange cut to it.
You like? It's called the hime cut. Princesses in Shenkuu used to have hair like this. Most of her hair reached the back, but her fringe was straight and the hair that framed her face was by her jaw. Ash gave no response.
Well anyway, you're here because you're dead. Yeah? Ash nodded so she continued. You did a few bad things in your life. But those few ruined a lot of people. You need to go back and apologise.
Ash stood up. How am I supposed to do that now?
You know, Hubrid Nox asked me the same thing. So I'll tell you the same thing I told him. All you have to do is to go back among the living.

This confused Ash greatly. It was an impossibility. Once you were dead, you were no longer living, right? Life is the absence of death, or death is the absence of life. Either explained the world. Audrey disagreed.
Stop talking and just let me do this. Just... give me a second. She turned and started looking for a specific sailboat. He decided to sit back down and wait, idly digging in the sand. After a long time, she yelled in excitement as she dragged a large sailboat to where he was.

It was a simple enough design, a gradient which started with red, which eased into blue, which then eased into purple. It was a rather literal design. Ash's boat was large - large enough for two people to fit, but Audrey made it clear she was not going to accompany him. She wished him a safe trip and returned to her job of returning the sailboats to the ocean.

It was a pleasant day, and the sun was now directly above him. He couldn't see anything in the distance anymore, and he allowed the tide to do what it wanted. Eventually, he decided to drift off. If a storm approached, Ash would feel it. Somehow.

When Ash woke up, he wasn't on the boat anymore. In fact, there was no trace of it anywhere! He noticed the sky was blue again. It wasn't the same shade as the light blue of Neopia, so he was sure he was back in Alsatia. But blue?

He heard the door open. He was in front of Shira's home, a decent two-story house. Architecturally, she played by the rules. When she saw Ash, her eyes opened wide and tears started spilling out.
H-how? was all she could manage to whimper. She stood by the side of her door, letting him in.

Ash didn't quite know either. But she told him of the new situation of Alsatia: his sister Faye stepped in as the new ruler. even though a few people were clamouring over the position. She said she met Sui a while ago, and she is still oblivious, but happy. He requested Shira to allow Sui to regain her memories. She consented. Then the conversation went onto Ash's situation.

After careful thought, he said I lost my ability to rule over Alsatia. It's fairer this way. But I have to apologise, don't I?
Shira nodded in agreement, and simply said Tell Faye Ash stood up. He knew what he had to do - ask for Faye to make a public service announcement opportunity. He thanked her once again as he left, spreading his wings which he was surprised he still had.

The castle. For the first time in his life, he was on the outside looking in. It towered over him, and he could already see his sister's touches to the outside decor. Forget-me-nots grew everywhere, and there was not a thorn to be seen. He wasn't altogether annoyed by the change. Knock. Knock. Two sharp raps on the door was all he gave before it opened. His sister, like Shira, was surprised to see him alive.

Faye couldn't let go. She just clung onto him, sobbing pitifully. Ash decided to break the 'silence'.
This is a great way for the ruler of Alsatia to act, he said grinning. She let out a shaky laugh as well. She looked adoringly into his face.
Your eyes? They're purple. Ash asked to see a mirror, and she led him into her bathroom. It was as she said: his eyes were a shade of purple now. They both wondered what the meaning of this was.

Oh. Faye, can you hold an announcement? I... want to apologise to Alsatia.
Do you think that's such a good idea?
she asked. I'd wait until your reputation dies down. People would want you dead twice. There was logic to her argument, but he was worried everybody would be confused if he suddenly came back to life.
Then never mind. I'll find a way to forgiveness.
Best of luck,
she said a bit too politely.

He gathered his belongings and decided to live outside of the castle, despite Faye's protest. It was the right thing to do - he was in no way related to the politics of his nation anymore. He'll live with Shira for a while, until his own house is completed. His personal island was the one he had placed a quarter of his treasure on before his demise.

And his final act of giving up the throne: he removed his robes and wore jeans and a jumper. It felt so peculiar, after centuries of wearing the same thing day in and day out, he was wearing something far more comfortable. He only regretted not changing earlier.

His island was... still filled with the same furniture he chose to donate. He was so stupid! Faye thought. Nobody wanted such wealth. They just wanted entertainment, to enjoy their entire existence before it was taken away from them. That was the entire purpose of Alsatia.
Inconveniencing them by even a day was unforgivable, she concluded.

And that was it, the first chapter to his new life. Filled with experiences which would over-write his old life, he was going to start all over again - a blank purple slate.

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