Chapter 1: I Promise
A certain feeling of sorrow deep within…
A bitter aftertaste of… death? Eh?
As I opened my eyes… I saw…
Everything seemed dark.
Where am I?
A question… a question that seemed to reverberate in my mind.
I tried to move but… somehow, I couldn’t feel my body.
A feeling of unease unconsciously engulfed me…
“Greetings, mortal soul.”
I suddenly heard a voice, it was calm… like a sea without waves– like a radiant and cloudless morning sky.
I hurriedly turned my head, attempting to find where the voice came from…
A blinding light suddenly engulfed everything.
For a few moments, my eyes were unconsciously shut, and once opened, a silhouette of a young man appeared before me.
“Hmmm… not bad. Not bad at all.” The young man said, as he fluttered his sleeves.
I cautiously watched him as he slowly tread his way towards my direction. Once he was directly in front of me, he smiled as he said, “You and I… we both share the same cruel fate… One where we died without having reached any of our goals and… it isn’t something that I can just accept. On the path I once tread, there lay a goal waiting for me, but since I died… it will never reach fruition.”
He turned around as a flicker of light suddenly burst forth from his body. He lifted his hands as he spoke, “And so I wished for another chance from the heavens. Even at the cost of my soul… even at the cost of my very existence… I willed it. And because of that wish, you…” He looked back at me and continued, “You are here.”
Ideas, thoughts, and questions appeared in my mind… Astonishment and bewilderment, what the hell is this guy saying?
And then it came to me…
I died… I really died!
A surge of memories surged in my mind.
I recalled a certain day when I went to the mall to watch a new movie. And then when I was about to go home, I… I remembered that certain event that had perhaps brought me… death.
While I was walking my way home, I saw some criminals robbing one of the neighborhood stores. At that moment, I instinctively hid out of fear.
My mind was telling me to run away, to ignore what I had just seen and live my life as if nothing special had happened.
However, something, perhaps stupidity, held me back from running away, compelling me to watch the series of events that were unfolding before me.
And then it happened…
While the criminals were about to escape, a young girl blocked their path and said, “What you guys are doing is bad! God will get angry at you!”
Looking over at this brave little girl, the criminals decided to just brush her aside.
But what the young girl did next astounded me. She bit the arm of one of the robbers, but regrettably, the little girl only made things worse for herself. What could she possibly do against multiple adult males with her small stature?
She was flung in the air and fell a few meters away from the robbers. And then… one of the robbers pointed his gun towards the girl.
Before the robber pulled the trigger, my legs suddenly moved. And what happened next is perhaps the most vivid memory that exists in my mind. That certain memory of a bullet passing through my chest as I shielded the young girl.
Just now, it occurred to me, was I a hero or a fool?
I held my chest before smiling wryly. That vivid memory stuck to me like a song on continuous replay.
What would’ve been if I had just ran away? What would’ve been if I hadn’t tried to protect her? Just why did I do that?
I asked myself again and again as a deep feeling of regret slowly engulfed my very existence.
‘What could’ve been…’ is perhaps nothing but a curious thought fated to never see fulfillment.
“Perhaps… I really was a fool.” I unconsciously muttered. At that moment, my gaze suddenly fell on the young man in front of me.
After collecting my thoughts for a bit, I could somehow observe this young man a little bit more carefully.
This young man was neither tall nor short, neither handsome nor ugly… his physical appearance could be described as something average. Put him in a group and he would never be that conspicuous.
However, there’s still something about him that… is different. With his slow and continuous approach, feelings of overwhelming fear, terror and inferiority welled up in my heart. I felt like a bug, perhaps an ant or a mosquito that would be squashed to death with a flick of his finger.
I don’t know why I felt that way, but something deep inside my mind, was telling me that my existence was extremely insignificant compared to the young man before me.
While looming over these feelings, a realization suddenly dawned upon me.
The words he had just spoken once again reverberated in my mind…
“And so I wished for another chance from the heavens. Even at the cost of my soul… even at the cost of my very existence… I willed it. And because of that certain wish, you… you are here.”
Questions, yet another burst of questions exploded in my mind. Knowing that I wouldn’t get any answers just by thinking about it, I mustered up my courage and asked, “Where am I? Why am I here? If I… or rather we… died. Then why are we here? Is this what they call the afterlife?”
I knew nothing about what was happening, however, the memories that appeared inside my mind told me that it was certain that I had already met the end of my life.
But then, I was still here. I didn’t believe in the afterlife; I wanted to, but during the entirety of my life, all the research and the time I spent on uncovering the truth in regards to what happened after death, only gave me a vague understanding about God or the afterlife.
Assessing all the data I had gathered, my only conclusion was that neither God nor the afterlife existed.
But… right now, after understanding that I had died, I was still here… perhaps, my conclusion was wrong, and evidently, even though there were lots of questions still dwelling inside my mind, the afterlife did exist.
Because I was deep in thought, I failed to realize that the young man was already directly in front of me. He sat on the ground and raised his hand towards… my face.
Instinctively, I pulled my head back. Afterwards, the young man suddenly let out a boisterous laugh that seemed to tell me that he was very amused by my actions.
After a few seconds of laughing heartily, the young man smiled at me and said, “Do not be afraid, our existence will become one; however, because it was my very wish that lead you to this place, soon, I will disappear from this world. All my memories will be given to you. Everything that I am, will also become you. My emotions and my dreams, every single part of my mind will fuse with your soul.”
As he finished his words, a jolt of shock coursed its way through each and every part of my body. His words were spoken as if they were nothing but mere trifles, but in truth, the words he had spoken had already flooded my mind, lending rise to another surge of questions.
It took me a few minutes to digest his words, however, there were still a lot of things I didn’t understand. Confused, I muttered, “I… I can’t seem to understand what you had just said…”
The young man just stared at me with a smile on his face. Suddenly, he waved his hands and a blinding light was released from his body.
I closed my eyes, but after a few moments, he spoke, “You can open your eyes now.”
My eyes slowly opened and what I saw utterly shocked me. In front of us was a large white screen that was similar to that of a theater’s.
On the screen there was a young man. The same young man as the one before me. Shifting my gaze to the young man before me, I suddenly realized… is this his memories?
Fixing my gaze on the screen, I saw the young man standing on the peak of a large mountain. A scenery of nature where miles and miles of greenery could be seen below him.
Beside him, there appeared a muscular man almost twice as tall as the young man. He was clad in a golden armor that seemed to radiate a soothing warm light. Looking at it made me feel as though nothing could ever harm me. He was just like… a knight in shining armor, with the exception that his face was a bit…
“You, hahahaha, I didn’t expect you to die so early. You were tricked by those stupid Empyrean kids into fight against an overlord. Hahahaha! How naive of you to believe that they needed your help when all they wanted was to see you die! Hahahaha!”
Like a clap of thunder, the man’s voice resounded throughout the surroundings. It was the axe-wielding man speaking in a mocking tone while laughing. However, after a moment or two of laughter, he suddenly let out a sigh, his distant eyes fixed upon the sky.
After a few moments of eerie silence, the young man spoke, “I… I have so much more to do in this world. You probably know what I mean, right?”
The expression of the axe-wielding man increasingly turned sour; he shifted his gaze towards the young man, then spoke, “You do know that I can’t do anything about it and…”
But before the axe-wielding man could finish his words, the young man suddenly kneeled before him and begged, “Master, please… I just want to continue my dreams. I do not wish to lose my memories and my dreams…”
“There might be a way.” The axe-wielding man interrupted the young man as he turned around. He walked a few steps away from the young man before he suddenly stopped. Looking at his figure, a grave emotion filled my heart. It was as though this axe-wielding man was the embodiment of sadness itself.
“Once an entity dies, they will enter the Cycle of Reincarnation as long as their soul isn’t destroyed. However, once they enter the Cycle of Reincarnation, their memory would be wiped; they would never be the same person they were in their past life. Unless… they have sufficient strength before they passed away.”
The axe-wielding man turned around and faced the young man. Right now, his expression was grotesque, in addition to his… gruesome face, he was extremely terrifying.
“But you… you are weak!” The axe-wielding man suddenly vanished, but in the next moment, he appeared directly in front of the young man, holding the young man’s chin in his hand, he spoke in a hushed tone, “You are too weak. The only fate that awaits you is either the Cycle of Reincarnation or… the end of your very existence.”
“Do you understand what I’m saying? You, do you understand?! Your petty little self is at wit’s end, begging on your knees before me, but even I can’t do anything about it! Even if I did, that would result in the complete extermination of your soul!” The axe-wielding man sighed, seemingly distraught by his emotions.
“A soul about to enter the Cycle of Reincarnation… A soul similar to yours or one that has suffered the same fate as you. I’ll take it and then… the remnants of your existence will fuse with his soul. But…” The axe-wielding man sucked in a deep breath before he continued, “But the soul I will take shall take control of your fate. You, of course, will cease to exist, and only your memories and dreams will remain with the new soul.”
A bitter smile appeared on the young man’s face as he spoke, “Is it the only way, master?”
“It is the only way.”
As soon as the words of the axe-wielding man left his mouth, the screen suddenly turned black. Realizing that ‘it’ has already ended, I shifted my gaze towards the young man beside me who was already looking at me with an expression that was both bitter and astringent.
“Do you understand now?” The young man asked.
Unknowingly, the pieces of information I’ve gathered from the screen were like a puzzle. After a few moments of pondering, it formed a whole, giving me an ambiguous understanding of the situation.
Simply put, the soul about to enter the Cycle of Reincarnation, one with a similar fate to that of the young man’s, the one that the axe-wielding man spoke of… is probably me.
Realizing this, complicated feelings welled up in my heart. I was about to speak, however, the young man raised his hand, interrupting me from speaking the words I wanted to say, saying, “It doesn’t matter. my end is drawing near. In this world, your soul will be born anew. But because I have fused my memories within your soul, it is now fortified. Everything in your past life and everything in my past life will remain even if you became a newborn child. Everything depends on fate. But seeing that I did this much just to talk to you, I only wish one thing from you…”
Before he could finish his words, cracking sounds echoed from the surroundings. Looking around, I realized that the place where we were… was slowly crumbling to pieces.
In front of me, the young man’s body began to fade away, becoming more and more transparent as time went on. Without any hesitation, I hurriedly spoke, “What is it?”
“Please avenge my soul, please fulfill my dreams, and deep inside my memory, there is one more. When you reach the peak, a memory will be unsealed… I want you…protect…lia.”
The young man dissipated, and before I knew it, two words escaped from my lips, “I promise.”
A wave of intense exhaustion washed over me, and before I knew it, my eyes were already shut, while I… began drifting away to that starry place.