Somewhere at the end of a universe, there is a bar.
In this bar is a pretty brunette staring intently at a laptop, humming idly to herself and occasionally scribbling on an attached tablet.
"I'm very appreciative! And I'm sorry for the exposition not being fun to read, it had not occurred to me that that would be the case, I might have asked for some adventuring in between if it had."
"I think I hyperfocused on The One Singular Possible Solution, to the exclusion of all else. And Tyria's super fucking complicated and that makes it hard to do anything on the macro level to it without it seeming nonsensical to denizens and readers and this was a slow slide into illegibility and it's not clear where exactly things went wrong, and." She sighs heavily, and pinches the bridge of her nose. "It's a mess, and I don't know how to fix it, because it's hard to fix. It's not even clear where to add skip links because it's not clear where it started going wrong."
She considers her options.
"Fuck it, I'm shooting something. I am shooting Bubbles the evil deep sea dragon, and then maybe Joko, because fuck them both. I'll catch and contain the power so it won't cause a mess and wake up any sleeping dragons. I can hand it off to a replacement dragon when we're ready to do that. There, solved, now everything is very simple and some big monsters are gonna die." Aestrix snaps her fingers, and a rectangular portal appears. On the other side is what looks to be open ocean.
"Who wants to come watch me kill a dragon," she asks, standing.
"I think my purpose here has been used up," Pedro says.
"What if I like your company?"
"James, do not flirt with me, I can give you some steamy scenes in my imagination that you'll remember later but the readers probably did not sign up for that."
"Good memories, I hope."
"Wouldn't dream otherwise."
"I absolutely do. And I absolutely will not write this thread, it's weird enough to have this self-insert, doing self-insert porn would be -" He pauses. "Kind of hot, actually, I'll think about it. Either way, you and I gon' fuck, friendo," Pedro tells James.
"I'll hold you to it."
Pedro hugs her right back. "Bye, then! Have fun!" And now he's gone, not with a bang, but with a disconcerting sort of unfocused disappearance that makes it look like he was never there in the first place.
"- okay, then, let's take on a dragon!" James reaches inside a pocket to grab his breather.
"Yep, let's!" she agrees, brightly. She looks at his breather. "You don't need that, I'm going for cool factor. Obviously we're walking on water, because literally why wouldn't we do that."
She traipses through the portal and onto the surface of the ocean demonstrably. The water holds her up, and the ocean waves calm to gentle ripples around her feet so as not to disturb her balance. She beams at James, smugly.
...alright, then. Cool factor it is. He steps through the portal.
The ocean is calm around their feet, but not precisely friendly. There is an ominous feeling of great power far below them, as if they stand over the lair of some great terror that could (and would) casually swallow them both whole without noticing their existence, like dust motes.
"So by the almighty power of narrative convenience," explains Aestrix brightly, "we are right over the dragon's lair. Normally I assume there would be some kind of undersea adventure to actually get to it properly, but I have a magic gun, so we're skipping that." She summons the aforementioned magic gun. It... is actually not all that visually impressive. Just a small, simple and sleek looking pistol with bits that glow a brilliant blue.
"You unfortunately also can't really help with the dragonslaying, because we don't know anything about Bubbles. So anything that we described would inevitably turn out to be wrong. Therefore, the dragon needs to die offscreen, so as not to contradict the way your world is going to turn out to work."
"That makes sense. And I suppose I could make your job easier by not looking."
"Nah, it's fine. Won't help or hurt either way." She shrugs. "I'm killing an Elder Dragon, not picking up groceries. There's going to be a spectacle regardless. It'd be a shame to not describe it at least a little."
She looks down at the water and raises her visually not-that-impressive gun, then clears her throat. "Oh Bubbles?" she singsongs cheerfully. "Your mystery shtick got old years ago and water levels are near universally reviled, so kindly die in ignobility."
With that, she shoots a single brilliant blue bolt of energy into the water below.
... Nothing immediately happens.
Oh, now that he's aware of the narrative nature of his life, he's quite sure something pretty incredible is about to happen.
That is a pretty safe bet, yep.
After a couple heartbeats, the depths begin begin to glow with a bright azure light, same brilliant shade as the bolt. The ocean begins churning and swirling, spinning into a shallow whirlpool beneath their feet that grows steadily deeper with each passing moment. Small motes of light rise from the sea-foam, glittering and faintly iridescent.
Then, there is a scream. It's not a sound that could come from a man or a beast, but something more primal. Deep, bubbling from the waters beneath them and the fabric of the world itself, raw with surprise and pain and most of all rage. To say it is loud would be an understatement. James might remember something like it, from the last time he witnessed a dragon's death. This time, there is no great undead magical construct falling from the sky; there is no ritual to rip the dragon away from its power source; there is no alliance of races and organizations working to do the impossible. There is just an ocean, a writer, and the death of great and terrible pillar of the world. For a second, it's like reality will fall with it. Like the hole in the sea will open to the Mists themselves, and Tyria will unravel like sundered and flimsy fabric.
The moment passes, and the scream fades off into a dull, pained hiss, then to silence. A tide of powerful magic swirls up and out of the whirlpool, shepherded by the little motes of light out of the water and spinning up into a large ball of magical energy. The air around such power twists as if from heat, and the trails of magic pulse and ripple in strange ways. The strands of power shifting through spectrums of color, twisting and forking and reforming, playing tricks on the eye that shift from moment to moment. It's a little uncomfortable to look directly at. Like brilliant and pulsing rainbow soup, if one were also on acid at the time of viewing.
"Right, so, once I've caught this all, we should go find Vlast and ask if he'd like it as a snack. This was not a stealth kill, to be clear. This spot is going to be swarming with confused asuran scientists and bewildered members of the Pact complaining about kill stealing, in, uh, however long it takes for them to get here."
He applauds quietly. "What explanation will they find?"
"That Bubbles died and the burst of power from his death got very quickly absorbed into a suitable vessel. That vessel presumably being another dragon that was present for the killing, but actually it's going into a bubble of plot convenience that we then feed to a dragon later." The multicolored well of power is enclosed in a shiny iridescent bubble accordingly. The bubble then begins shrinking so it can be a bit more easily carried. "That will probably be Vlast, but if he doesn't want the job I'll figure something else out."
James grins. "'Bubble of plot convenience'," he repeats. "I like it."
"Thanks!" she says brightly, petting the little bubble. "Iiiiii should probably hide this so Vlast doesn't immediately zero in on it and very sensibly try to eat it immediately because I'm a stranger with an Elder Dragon's power and that is kind of worthy of jumping to some hand-biting conclusions." The bubble shrinks until it can fit inside the tiny, tiny pockets that girl jeans are burdened with, and then she casually pockets it.
"So do you want to come with and tag along for talking to Vlast, or run off to immediately adventure while I go talk to a dragon? Either's fine, I get if you're getting bored just following me around and want to go be The Commander at things. I will definitely find you meaningful things to do, to be clear, you wouldn't just be getting busy work."
"I'm finding this pretty incredible, but you can get rid of me if you want."
She snorts. "Nah, just checking that you were having fun. Being bored is the worst. Also, it would have been convenient if you wanted to disappear for a bit and come back later so the time difference between us wouldn't be so instant and jarring. Like, for example, I gotta do this so I don't feel like I'm lying to the world about my looks." She fluffs her hair, and it goes from light brown to auburn. "There, all better."
"How long has it been, for you?"
"Oh, Hell, now I have to count. Months. Uh, since the start of the thread, liiiiiike... oh, wow, like long enough to have a literal kid. Nine months. That's not weird at all. And then there was a span of like, four months where Pedro and I played the worst game of catch with the depression ball, so."
"...the depression ball?"