“Kai? You have to tell that story again!” Clare proclaimed.
“Why?” I asked.
We were camping on a small hill with the campfire crackling between us as usual. Clare sat up in her sleeping bag while cuddling a tired Waon in her arms. We were only few miles from Reneste so Clare knew that the journey was almost over and was particularly insistent on hearing a story tonight.
“Waon wants to hear it again! Don’t you Waon?” she said, picking up the yawning purple furball and making it nod its head up and down.
Well, I guess it can’t be helped.
I smiled and started the story again, “A little girl was dragged to the countryside by her friend…”
Memories of that last night outside Reneste filled my head as blood streamed out of Clare’s lifeless body.
I remembered her bright smile and her infectious laughter. Then I saw its shadow on her pale, lifeless face. We’d only known each other for a few days, yet, I kept thinking back to when she was washing Waon, and fell into the river. I fished her out with a net, but left her dangling over the river to dry off.
I thought back to the time she burnt her tongue on soup even though I’d told her to be careful, and to the time she brought a tiny Waon out from under a purple wall.
And to the nights spent staring at the stars.
Why? Why does it hurt so much? Why do I feel so attached to her? Is it because she listened to my stories? Stories that nobody wanted to listen to for so long. What does she mean to me?
I always wondered what it would be like to have a sibling. For some reason, whenever I had the bittersweet dreams where my family was still alive, I always pictured a little sister swinging from my parents’ arms.
What would having a little sister feel like? What would I even do with her?
Would I comfort her when she was sad?
Laugh with her when she was happy?
And would I…
Tell her stories?
A terrifying pain tore through chest and a flash of red burst in my head.
I didn’t even use a code to help me focus.
I willed it.
And all the bandits vanished.
May Skye was not an emotional woman. Her position as the village chief required her to keep her emotions at bay. But when Clare came home, she couldn’t help but run over to hug her. Just the thought of the pain the little girl was enduring had filled her with guilt and grief.
May’s ability couldn’t tell the future, nor was it perfectly accurate. It only allowed her to vaguely sense whether her loved ones were in danger. Back when she’d felt an overwhelming sense of danger for her brother and his family a couple of days ago, she had instantly regretted letting them leave on their own, even though she’d known that a small group was their best chance at evading the bandits and contacting the Fire Goddess’ shrine for help.
At that moment, she had felt the irrational urge to set out to save them.
But then a sharp pain told her, her brother’s wife had died. Then another, sharper pain told her she’d lost her only brother. Their deaths filled her with pain and sorrow but she was also worried.
What of the child?
At that moment, she couldn’t help but curse the Fire Goddess. Why did she insist on only listening to children who came to her with their families? What kind of sick condition was that?
But all her emotions were soon drowned out by shock. Her Ability told her the child was safe; safer than the villagers in fact!
And now, when she saw what was happening in front of her, it happened again.
The helplessness she had felt as she saw the girl tumble to the ground, the sorrow that ripped through her soul when she met those lifeless eyes and the pain that pierced her chest as she saw the ghost of a smile on the child’s face, were all consumed by shock and disbelief as the bandits simply…vanished.
The boy’s face was hidden in shadows, as he walked up to the girl’s body, but as he picked her up and went inside the village chief’s house, May Skye felt something else light up in her heart.
She woke up feeling strange. She couldn’t quite understand what it was, but something felt different. Opening her eyes, she found herself in a familiar room but the uncomfortable feeling remained.
She realized where she was, but her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Why was she here? Her memories were a little fuzzy, but she slowly began to remember.
She remembered watching a purple robed boy fighting a ragged group of men and women. As she thought of the boy, she a warm feeling crept up her heart. But who was he? She remembered walking with the boy while holding a purple kitten in her hands. The memory was warm and fuzzy, just like…
She remembered picking up the Hell kitten from under a purple wall. She remembered sitting around a campfire with the boy. The boy told her stories while looking up at the sky. He made her feel warm and safe. He was…
She finally remembered the name. But then she felt a chill. She remembered a woman with an arrow through her head. A man whose head was rolling on the ground. She remembered the death of her parents. And then she felt pain, sorrow, helplessness, and despair. It consumed her. Tore into her heart. Mauled her soul.
Yet these emotions felt different. They were far stronger than she remembered. She screamed, groaned and whimpered. The agonizing pain in her chest was unlike anything she had ever experienced.
Her vision grew blurry as the door swung open and a hazy figure rushed over to her. The figure tried to say something but she couldn’t understand what it was saying. She closed her eyes as the pain finally overwhelmed her.
I looked at my hands. They were trembling uncontrollably, but my heart was trembling worse.
I… I did it. She was dead but then I brought her back like it was nothing.
I slammed my fists onto the ground but they kept trembling.
I should be happy, right? Even death can’t stop me anymore. I can do anything! I’m all powerful! It’s amazing Kai, it’s amazing! You’re amazing! But still, why was it so easy? Life doesn’t mean much after all. Just a thought and it’s over. Another thought, and it’s back. Like flicking a switch, no, easier than that.
The floodgates had opened and a storm raged inside my mind because I had let that thought loose. In fact, that thought had been in the back of my head for a long time.
It had been there when I came to this world and saw how easy everything was. It had been there when I was designing my ability back in my old world. It had been there since the night of the play. A burning desire deep inside my heart that I was too scared to confront.
I ignored it. No, I sealed it.
It was probably what pushed me over the edge in the first place. You have to be a special kind of crazy to be willing to burn yourself to death to activate an ancient spell you’d bought at a seedy old bookstore.
But it excited me like nothing else had in my life. Playing with life and death was exhilarating, but it also sent chills down my spine. And now, it made me nauseous.
As I’d laid the corpse on the bed, I’d hesitated. Even when sorrow and anger completely overwhelmed me; even when her blood covered face, empty eyes, lifeless smile and the hole in her head haunted me, I still wondered if it was worth opening the floodgates. If I did this for her, then there was nothing holding me back anymore.
But when I recalled the short time I’d spent with her, my hands started trembling and a storm kicked up in my mind. Waves crashed against my conscience as memories flashed in the turbulent sky about the storm.
Wiping her drooling face as she fantasized about expensive food, running after Waon, saving her from the bandits, consoling her for the loss of her parents and telling her stories under the stars; all of this flashed before my eyes.
I gritted my teeth and whispered: “Rewrite.”
Her chest rose up and down. There was no blood on her face, no hole in her head. Her cheeks were a healthy pink, and her smile no longer lifeless.
Then the floodgates opened and I left.
And now, on a hill outside Reneste, I screamed. I thrashed about, smashing craters into the ground with my incredible strength. Both of my hands were on my head as if trying to push that thought out of my mind. But it was futile.
I can bring them back. If I could bring her back, then I can bring back my…my…
I started crying.
Will I get to see their faces again? Will he be proud of me; of everything I’d done? Will he look at me and say that it came from his side of the family? Will she mercilessly cut him down with a retort?
I raised my trembling hands…
I can bring them back. I can bring them back!
My hands fell. My ragged breathing subsided.
But would it be the same? I can write them into existence but would they be my parents? Would they be copies based on my memories of them? Shadows of their real selves? Or worse, what if they were the real thing? What if I could bring them back as easily as snapping my fingers.
Are their lives so worthless? Was their death so worthless? Was my pain and suffering so worthless, so insignificant? Is life and death meaningless? Like flicking a switch or pushing a button?
Like pulling the trigger of a gun?
I took a deep breath and asked myself: Haven’t you always dreamed of seeing them again? Of him tousling your hair or her holding you in her arms?
I stood up and replied.
Of course, I have. But this, this is wrong. I don’t know if my ability is imperfect and only brings back a copy or if it is perfect and brings back the real thing, but I don’t want to know!
I made my decision. I turned around and looked at the little village in the distance and sighed.
Sorry Clare, but if I saw you, I’d probably know the answer. And I don’t think I’m ready to open the floodgates again, just yet.
Under the starry night sky, I walked away.
She woke up again. Her thoughts were a blur but she remembered pain. Intense, searing pain, unlike anything she had ever felt before.
But she stopped herself from thinking about it, almost by instinct. As the pain subsided and her vision grew clearer, she stopped to take a few breaths and then did what anyone, in a world where you can instantly check your mental and physical condition, would do; she checked her status.
Then her heart skipped a beat, twice.
First when she saw her title. It had changed from Reneste Village Chief’s Niece to One Who Defies Death. But what was truly surprising was that the title had an extra effect; one that made her mind go blank.
But she didn’t have the time to consider it, because when the second time her heart skipped a beat, she almost fell unconscious again. In the abilities section of her status screen wasn’t her old ability Sunshine but a new ability called Starry Skies.
Why had it changed? Titles can change but no one had ever heard of an ability changing.
Did it have something to do with the pain that tore through her when she woke up? Did something happen? Did someone do something to her? All she remembered was the boy fight the bandits and then darkness. No, it was more like emptiness. Did she die? No that didn’t make sense, she was alive right now, wasn’t she?
But there was something else too, something she could barely remember. A voice. It said something to her. A single word, but she couldn’t remember it. But she could remember who it sounded like.
And then she understood. He had saved her. But rather than shock or disbelief she felt something else: hope. Because if he could save her, couldn’t he also…
She jumped out of bed and ran outside, ignoring the shrieking purple ball behind the door. He wasn’t in the living room so she left the house. Her Aunt sat on a chair next to the well so she ran over to her, gasping and stumbling. Before her surprised Aunt could say anything, she asked her where Kai was.
Her Aunt replied, and she froze.
She looked up at the night sky.
There was no golden rain, so the stars weren’t crying. But for some reason, they didn’t seem to be smiling either.
“…they smile,” said the boy.
They were both silent for a few moments, quietly gazing at the stars.
“That was pretty lame you know?” The girl laughed.
“No it wasn’t! It was cool!” said the boy, pouting.
“Whatever you say,” teased the girl.
The boy stood up in indignation. “I’m leaving. It’s getting pretty late so I’ll let you follow me, but you better keep up!”
“Sure, sure.” The girl smiled, also standing up.
They started walking away from the hill but the girl stopped and turned around. She looked at the stars one last time and whispered: