“Litvir, may I ask a personal question?”
The shadowy Decayling sat up and glanced at Retvik. They were both essentially naked, having enjoyed a little private time together. Nothing too serious, just some mutual playing around. All things considered, this made Retvik’s question seemed rather weird.
“You know we are lying here, naked and uncleaned, yes?”
“Yes, I know, but sometimes a question can delve deeper than any sort of intercourse can. And intercourse is far deeper than the shallow playtime we just had.”
Litvir shrugged, distracted by Retvik’s body. He actually knew Retvik rather intimately already, but now they were both essentially deities, Retvik somehow seemed even more perfect than before.
“What do you want to ask?”
“Simply put, how did you choose your moral compass?”
“How do you mean?”
Retvik grunted as he rolled over rather cautiously, careful of his exposed body. Again, Litvir noticed something odd about Retvik. His old injuries, the cuts and scars, the broken plating on his arms, the chunk missing from his tail, they were all still there. As if Retvik was perfectly fine with them.
“I cannot help but ask how you came to the conclusion that it is fine to experiment on your fellow Rethavok, how you originally attacked me, altered the minds of others and fed off them. The idea of harming my fellow beings is almost inconceivable to me, but you have no such worries.”
“Ooh, digging up the past, are we?” Litvir frowned. “That is a genuinely interesting question, especially from someone who has killed plenty. After all, you killed me…” Litvir paused. “I take that back. Trismit and Kuta killed me. You were just the side show.”
“There is a vast difference between killing for survival and doing what you did. And somehow managed to do while General Elkay was in power.”
“Actually, I ceased all operations while Elkay was in power. I always considered him too dangerous to mess with. I had actually considered waiting until Rethais fell out of power too, but, well, how could I resist him handing you to me? But let us go back to that mention of survival. Really, when you peel off the layers, that is all it is. Survival of the fittest. Survival of me over you.”
“You are perfectly healthy though.”
“I was not always healthy. I never had anyone to help me control my powers. All I could do was desperately try to survive when I was young. During the times of Photeianos, I did whatever I could to survive. And that included taking over the one legion that would let me fulfil my plans. After that though? The desperation to not die clings to the mind. I learned that no one else matters aside from me, because no one else cared about me. It was do or die, Retvik. Still is.”
“Yes, but surely we can avoid do or die by working together? Had you-”
Litvir tutted. “You are the lucky one, Retvik. Born with genetic purity and at the very least a bronze spoon in your mouth. You had the opportunity to learn and grow and realise that yes, deep down, we are all equal. The poor and desperate have no such chance, and the work to push an intelligent society into actually believing that is insanely difficult. The Rethavok managed it because we were essentially a two-caste system, a lower hive mind manipulated by a more intelligent queen caste. Few others manage such paradise, and even then, plenty slip through the cracks, as I originally did. When the choice boils down to me feeding off someone’s emotions or starving, what do you think I will pick?”
“True, true…” Retvik frowned, reluctantly agreeing with Litvir.
“But I actually have a follow up question!” Litvir suddenly smiled. “You ask me of my moral compass and we both agree that these are learned beliefs due to our pasts. But what of Arkadin’s moral compass? What about the Decay Lords?”
“That is a very valid question…” Retvik shrugged. “It does seem though that most mortal thoughts come from the self and the environment…”
“Mhm…” Litvir was still smiling. “But I think this is enough philosophical pondering for one day. We should get ourselves cleaned up.”
Retvik paused, glanced down at himself, then nodded. “Yes, we should…”