Reborn... as a God of Rebirth?
“So, this is how it ends.”
The man smiled weakly, suppressing an uncomfortable laughter from within his gut as he held his eyes shut, not wanting to acknowledge the world around him as it rushed by him. The wind caught hold of his once baggy clothes and pressed them against his body while he cut through the sky in his free fall. He felt an unbearable heat from behind him as the explosions continued to chase him as he plummeted towards the earth.
Tears began to squeeze themselves between his pressed eyelids as his lips twitched in pain at hearing his own name. He turned himself over quickly, the wind now buffeting his back as he slowly peeled his eyes open to look at the woman who was now plummeting down after him.
“I’m sorry, Aiya.” He reached up towards the woman’s face, focusing as best as he could on her hazel eyes and silvery hair as he shakily tried to grasp at her visage. Towering buildings began to creep up around them, as Aiya tilted further towards him, closing the distance between them slowly as her own eyes began to fill with tears of fear, and regret. “I loved you.”
No sooner had the words escaped his lips than he felt himself bounce against something hard, causing his vision to go black as everything else around him faded away. The last thing that burned itself into his sights had been the shape of Aiya’s lips as they desperately peeled open, mouthing something to him that he’d never have the chance to hear.
“I’m sorry, Aiya. I shouldn’t have… I shouldn’t have made you come with me.”
Hiroshi felt the darkness closing in around him as he whispered to the void. It embraced him, swaddling him like a babe. He felt himself being lifted up, floating almost as the dark passed around his body freely, eating away at what fleeting sensation of a physical body he still had in those final seconds.
“I lived a good life, didn’t I? I didn’t accomplish anywhere near everything I would have hoped to in the end - but it was a life worth living.” He continued to whisper to the void, feeling a cool sensation on his face as he found himself slowly spinning in place, feeling the warmth of the blackness consume him as his voice and thoughts slowed. “I worked, and I loved; and I loved the work that I did. It was never anything spectacular, or entirely rewarding for that matter, but every day that I came home was a night that I could spend with her - with Aiya. My only regret is that I couldn’t save her from this… that I was perhaps too selfish in my love.”
Hiroshi felt himself being pulled off somewhere by the etching dullness of the dark, not roughly as if by a person or some other creature, but instead gently - as if he’d been left to float along a river and had been taken by its current.
“Ah… but this doesn’t feel too bad.” The man let out a short sigh, shrugging off the last of what he could have considered ‘himself’. The darkness which had covered him now began to seep inside, no longer etching away at the vessel but instead trickling into the essence of his soul itself. “It’s gentle. Comforting, even. I’ve always been somewhat afraid of death, though admittedly it was more-so being afraid of what would happen after rather than the process itself. But this isn’t so bad.”
The foreign words echoed from further down the current, alerting the man to the presence of someone, or something at the end of this path.
“See caw? What is - I don’t understand.” Hiroshi felt his essence begin to dance with the darkness which had begun to seep into it; the two entities twirled around each other, wrapping themselves in the fabric of the other before pulling back apart.
The foreign words rang out again, though louder this time than the last. Whatever was waiting at the end of this river seemed to be calling out for him.
“No, no… I just want to rest. Everything here just feels so... comfortable. I don’t want to go anywhere, I don’t want to start again. Just let me float along this way a little more.”
You are their Si Kaa. There can be no rest for you yet. There are still things which you alone can accomplish.
“Who? Who’s there?” Hiroshi questioned, feeling the darkness pull away from him as another entity scooped up what remained of his essence.
You have been undone - picked away at by the flow of Qyr. You have been made fragmented, yet pure as can be in the eyes of rebirth. Ay, your essence is unwhole, yet can still be reformed as with your body. There is yet still time.
“I don’t want that. You’ve… you’ve been listening to me, haven’t you? My life is done - I had only a singular regret, one with which I couldn’t do anything to change even if I wanted to. Don’t make me go back, I beg of you.”
Interesting. There are not many who would deny themselves a second chance, and yet even with your convictions, this is not your choice alone to make. I have a use for you yet - and you have a regret which must be rectified.
Hiroshi scoffed as he felt the embrace of this second entity beginning to entangle itself in his own essence as the darkness had before. “There’s no way to rectify my regret as you say. Rebirth isn’t something I’ve ever considered - especially not now. We have one life, and it’s our job to make that one life worth living. I did that. To the best of my ability, I did that. Please, I beg of you, do not tarnish the beauty of that experience.”
Hmm. You and I shall be made one. This has been promised not to you, but to another who came before. Thus I shall say once more - this is not your choice alone to make. I have decided that we shall be their Si Kaa. And so it shall be.
Hiroshi felt a new shell beginning to form around his reformed essence as tears began to form anew on fresh eyes. “You’re evil… a terrible, terrible god of rebirth. Why can’t you just let one person slip between your fingers? Just let me… just let me…”
No, Hiro. We, are a terrible, terrible God of Rebirth.
“Si Kaa! Si Kaa! Si Kaa!”
The light blinded Hiroshi as he neared the end of the river, his thoughts lingering on that second presence’s final words as he found himself being grasped by several hands.
That was his only thought as he reached out towards the light. The chanting continued as he braced himself against the brightly lit room. His eyes took several seconds to adjust to his surroundings as he began to glance around, finding himself in an ornamented and very important looking but stone room, surrounded by what seemed like a sea of people.
“Si Kaa! Si Kaa! Si Kaa!”
Hiroshi shook his head, trying to look first at the rest of his body which was being held up by four sets of hands, each of which were belonging to a person in strange ceremonial looking garbs made of what seemed to be fine silks, precious jewels, and a number of strangely formed symbols. The walls around him were covered in a series of banners which bore symbols matching those which had been on the strangers' garbs, and the room was filled with floating lights which trailed aimlessly around the room with tails of flowers following them about. He tried to take in everything around him as best as he could; between the differently shaped and sized people that were chanting for him, the tantalizing aroma of freshly cooked meats, and the style of clothes that they wore which were altogether foreign to him he knew that whatever this place was, it wasn’t anything like what he’d come from. Alas, try as he might there was simply too much to take in so suddenly, especially having just come out of that void and only having been brought back seemingly moments after he - he still remembered dying. Even though he was clearly in a new body - and seemingly one of a particularly important baby at that - he still remembered everything from his past life, up until its final moments.
“Aiya.” The name escaped his trembling lips, only just barely forming as he fought to control this newborn body.
“Aiya!” Aiya Si Kaa! Aiya Si Kaa!”
The room erupted into a roar of cheers and applause as everyone continued to chant these words over and over again. Hiroshi pushed back slightly against the hands that were embracing him, finally being able to move his head just enough to see from what he’d been pulled from. If he was a baby, shouldn’t there be a mother there to have given birth to him? Shouldn’t he have a father somewhere in this sea of people that was overly excited to greet him as he made his grand entrance into this world?
No. What he saw when he turned his head was an old, decrepit body which seemed to be withering away as the seconds ticked by. Whatever life had been in those old bones was gone, and the husk that was left behind was rapidly deteriorating. But… a smile slowly crept across the husk’s face as it very slowly and weakly tilted its head back, facing him with hollow eyes.
Si Kaa. Lead your people well, God of Rebirth.
* * *
“My Lord, it is time for your bath.”
“Ugh,” Hiroshi groaned, pushing himself up from the tiny table he’d been seated at. The flower garden that surrounded him had been his personal escape from the world and role which he’d found himself shunted into. With the various flowers which surrounded him, and his newfound ability to conjure basic elemental magics it was a simple task to create a number of interestingly flavored teas - a hobby which he’d found out over time relieved much of the stress of readjusting to this new world. “Even after two years, you still don’t trust me to bathe myself. For a man of my age, that’s quite embarrassing y’know?”
“My apologies, your holiness.” The man’s voice was soft and sweet, though you wouldn’t have expected such a sound if you were to simply look at him. The man towered over the boy, and he was made even more imposing by the scales which snaked across his body with a seemingly random pattern. His face was hard and grey, as if chiseled from stone and accentuated with ruby-like eyes. His head was bald, save for a tuft of black hair which sprouted from the back of his scalp, which was accompanied by two slender black horns which formed just above his ears and encircled his head. “You are simply too precious for us to risk losing over something so mundane. At least until the time at which you’re able to sit in solus upon the steps of the bath without being pulled away by the will of the Ryn, I’m afraid that you’ll have to bear with my presence during your daily wash.”
Hiroshi sighed, shaking his head. “I’m thirty-seven years old dammit… I think I know how to wipe my own ass.” He grumbled, begrudgingly reaching his hand up for his retainer to hold. “Very well. If I must, then let us go to the bath - together.”
“Of course, my Lord. If it would please you, would you like a story during your daily wash?”
Hiroshi paused for a moment, pondering the question. “A story could be good to keep my mind occupied as you set about your primary task. Perhaps… yes, it has been a while since I’ve heard the story of The Eight.”
“Of course, my Lord,” the retainer replied, taking the young Hiroshi by the hand as they made their way to the bathhouse. “Long ago, before man, beast, or devil roamed these lands; there existed eight Gods in this world.”
Hiroshi walked enthusiastically, stepping over the cracks in the pavement as his ears perked up at his retainer’s story. He’d tried picking up the basics of the language naturally as a baby should, but it seemed that every time he found himself with time to observe these people over the last two years he’d let his mind wander, and failed to truly pick up anything as he should. However, this particular retainer had taken to telling him stories at night, and had proved far more helpful in his progress than anyone, or any other method, before. Perhaps it helped that he felt an uncertain familiarity with the content of the stories the man would tell - most likely due to the effect of the second soul which co-inhabited this vessel.
“For years, these Gods roamed the lands and searched the seas, completely alone on this planet with only the company of one another. The earth became their sandbox, where they frolicked and played, enjoying the life that they had together. However, as time went on, they began to grow discontent with this barren world - and so they came to an agreement. Seven of these Gods would create something of their own likeness - a race of beings each to inhabit the earth that they’d found themselves in charge of.”
Hiroshi started to undress as they came within sight of the bathhouse, prompting his retainer to assist in pulling the young boy’s ornate gown from over his head. The boy tugged lightly at the pendant around his neck, glancing up at the ring on his retainer’s hand which bore the same symbol. It almost looked to be a simple ‘S’, but the curve at the bottom had closed back in on itself and struck through the loop at the bottom; a holy symbol - his holy symbol.
“Though their true names have been forgotten to time, we yet remember them by their defining aspects which their followers worship them for. To the lands of the North, the Lizardmen and Beastmen were granted life in an environment which was most hospitable to their kinds by the Gods of Harvest and Peace, respectively. To the East were born the Elves, protectors of the foliage rich mountains by the Goddess of Wealth. To the Southern Isles, the Dracons were placed by the God of Loyalty so that they might spread their wings without worry. To the Western Seas, were the aquatically bound race of Seafolk born by the Goddess of Freedom. And finally, to the floating islands above were the Devilmen granted life by the Goddess of Love. It is said that after each of these races had been born and given their lots of land, the God of War grew frustrated that he was made to wait til last and so gifted his creation the earth as a whole - ignoring the boundaries that the others had put into place and allowing the Humes, which he’d created, to sow their seeds as they pleased. Thus, was the first act of indignation by the treacherous God of War.”
Hiroshi settled into the open bath, having fully stripped himself of his garments. He felt his retainer take his seat just above him, wetting his hands in the warmed water before grabbing a bar of soap. The boy closed his eyes, shifting slightly forward so that he could sink into a deeper part of the water, wetting his hair before pulling himself back up with a cough and a sniffle. “I’m ready.” He said softly, peeling one eye open to look into the face of his retainer. The man nodded with a smile, preparing to continue on with his story as he lathered up his hands before sinking them into the boy’s golden locks.
“You may notice that in this story, the God of Rebirth was without his own creation. This too was part of The Eight’s agreement. The God of Rebirth was revered among his celestial peers, and so was placed in a special position above each of the rest of them - for it was his duty to maintain the flow of life. The other Gods had created vessels, but they could not yet breathe life into their bodies. That responsibility had alone fallen to you, My Lord. And so it was that when each race was born, the God of Rebirth made his rounds, offering his blessing in the form of a holy symbol unto each of them, leading a new soul to that body and binding the breath of life to their vessels. And again, so it was that when their lives were coming to an end that they would avail of this God who was revered above all else and ask for their life to be moved on to a new vessel which could live happily once more. And again, would the God of Rebirth offer them his blessing, sealing the future that he created for them so that their breath could follow the path of his holy symbol, finding their way unto a new vessel with which to journey through this world.”
“I still don’t understand though.” Hiroshi began, closing his eyes and plugging his nose as his retainer dunked him under the water, scrubbing the suds from his hair before pulling him back up a few seconds later. “If the God of Rebirth was so powerful at controlling the breath of life as you call it, then why am I here? Why am I the God of Rebirth, and not him?”
The boy’s retainer’s gaze saddened as he ran his fingers through Hiroshi’s hair. “I’m afraid that nobody knows. If at once there was an explanation for why even the God of Rebirth must be reincarnated, it has long since been forgotten. If anyone were to know, it would be the long-lived Devilmen. Alas… though every race worships and reveres the God of Rebirth equally, the Devilmen themselves haven’t been seen for thousands of years.” The boy’s retainer continued to stroke his hair as he seemed to be lost in thought, not meeting the gaze of his charge despite staring at Hiroshi’s face.
“Lena,” Hiroshi whispered, holding the man’s hand and pulling him back into the present. “I’m sorry that I asked.”
Lena smiled and shook his head. “My Lord, please, you do not have to call me by name. I am simply your tool to be used. I will instill into you every ounce of my own knowledge if you would allow me, yet I cannot help but be saddened when I find myself unable to sate your curiosity.”
Hiroshi frowned, shaking his head. “Lena, it’s fine. Nobody knows all the answers all the time. Look at me; I’m supposedly this great God of Rebirth that everyone hopes to one day see, yet I still don’t even fully know the story of my own life. You’re amazing. If it weren’t for you, I’m afraid I never would have been able to pick up on your language, and yet you stuck through it with me. You’re special to me. You deserve to be recognized as more than just…”
Lena smiled weakly and shook his head. “It is too much for someone like me to ask for that. I am a simple retainer, and a follower of your light. To ask for more would be selfish of me.”
“And yet I am constantly asking you for things, so what does that make me?” Hiroshi snapped back, twisting the ring of the man’s hand as Lena slowly pulled back, rising to his feet.
“A child, My Lord.” He smiled, holding out his hand towards the boy. “But given how quickly you age from the soul of our God which is entwined with your own, I may not be able to say that for much longer.”
Hiroshi stifled a laugh as he grabbed the man’s hand with both of his own before quickly being lifted out of the pool. “I hope I do not age too quickly at least. If I’m to live this life, I would hope to have you by my side until my final breath, Lena. If not as a friend, then at the very least as my trusted retainer.”
Lena nodded. “If My Lord wishes it, I would stay mine own rebirth if only to spend a few more days at your side with this vessel.”