Chapter 2:

First Sight

Reborn... as a God of Rebirth?

“My Lord,” Lena peered into Hiroshi’s room, surveying first the shelves of books which lined the walls before finding their mark on the lump hidden beneath the safety of bed sheets. With a small but stifled giggle, the man made his way over to the edge of the bed before resting his hand upon the arched back which flinched at his touch. “You are far too old to believe that the linens hold any power over the things which you fear, are you not?”

Hiroshi sighed, letting his body fall flat against the bed as he continued to press his eyes shut. Lena was right, but at the same time… he couldn’t help but be fearful of what it was he’d just seen.

“A-all around us… when I open my eyes, I see it…” Hiroshi whispered, whimpering softly as he spoke but maintaining his steadied breaths so that the heat of his breath did not make this childish comfort in any way uncomfortable.

“You can see it?” Lena tapped his finger against his lips as he started to look around the room, confused as to what the boy was talking about. “Ah, I see. Yes, given the rate at which you age, it could be just about that time for you.”

“Th-that time?” The boy slowly pulled the sheet from over his head before opening his eyes, fixing them as solely as he could on the man in front of him. But try as he might to focus, the world around him continued to stir. “What are they? These - creatures?” He stumbled on his tongue, not sure how exactly to describe the things which plagued his vision.

Lena slowly raised a hand to one of these beings just in front of him, letting the fluorescent green being rest on his outstretched hand. Its form slowly shifted as it explored the man’s skin, feeding on the short follicles of hair which covered his knuckles.

“These are the beings which help us to utilize our magicks.” The man whispered, tilting his head to watch the creature which found itself grazing upon his body as its form shifted to accommodate that which it was in the process of consuming. “Tell me, My Lord, what do you know of our magicks?”

“These things help in that?” Hiroshi tilted his head, also fixing his gaze on the creature which had stopped flitting about. “I know that magic can be used for any number of things, and that when the various races were created the Gods used their magic to create vessels and the souls to inhabit them as well. But that was all told to me in stories or read in books… I stumbled upon how to use some general elemental magics like heating up a kettle or creating a bit of mist to water the flowers in the garden.”

Lena laughed lightly, startling away the being which had eased itself onto him. “I see. You may consider these elemental magicks to be simplistic in nature, but for some that is more than even they can manage.” The man glanced over at his charge before tilting his head back towards the door. “I think a bit more space would do well for a demonstration. As long as you don’t mind losing your-” he winked at the boy and nodded towards the sheet which was still grasped tightly between Hiroshi’s hands.

The boy quickly shook his head, throwing himself up out of the bed. “N-no! Of course not.”

Lena nodded and then rose from the bed as well, making his way towards the door. “I do hope you don’t mind a bit of a prerequisite lesson as we walk? For most children, they start learning the basics of magic long before they’re ever able to actually see the Ryn. But, in your case… I suppose there might have been more important things to cover in the short time you’ve been with us.”

Hiroshi shook his head. “No, I don’t mind at all. I haven’t really been told anything since I came to this world… just the stories that you’ve told me mostly. Everyone else seems too scared to approach me for some reason.”

Lena nodded, holding out his hand for the boy to take. “That is understandable. Whether you believe it at the moment or not, you are an indescribably powerful being. You control the very fates of the people of this world, and if you were to become powerful enough and felt so inclined…” Lena’s face turned dark as he wetted his lips, turning his head to lock gazes with Hiroshi. “You very well could unmake their souls, thus dashing any hopes for a future at all. Especially for one so young as you, the fear that they might make a bad impression and put their future into jeopardy is not baseless.”

Hiroshi started to slow his pace, being left with his first real taste of what it meant to be in his position. “Up until now I’ve been allowed to do just about whatever I wanted on a daily basis… Is that-”

“Because they’re afraid. Because they are afraid, they will not tell you no, nor would they even deign to attempt to instruct you out of fear. Because your soul is made of another who yet retains their memories of a prior life, it can be dangerous to try and impose upon you whether it’s something you need or not. That is why they designate retainers to the newborn Gods.”

Lena continued to walk, guiding Hiroshi towards an open courtyard within the confines of the castle which they’d both come to call home over the past few years. The retainer took a second to look down at his free right hand, glancing at the ring which adorned it before reaching it across his body for Hiroshi to look at as well.

“We who are to be retainers are given this holy symbol, that we might look to it in comfort and know that we are safe and blessed. It is… customary for the last God to choose the one who will be the new incarnation’s retainer. In times long since passed, the God of Rebirth would create the soul of this new retainer himself. Alas… such practices have fallen out for various reasons.”

‘Various reasons?’ Hiroshi stared at the ring and then looked up into Lena’s face, catching the man looking unusually uncomfortable. ‘Perhaps it’ll be something to push on another day then.’

“Well then, I suppose we’ve arrived. If you’d be so kind as to take a seat, I would bequeath unto you your first practical explanation of magicks.” Lena gestured towards the ground a few feet ahead of him.

Hiroshi nodded, swatting away at the Ryn which surrounded him as he made his way over. “Ryn… that’s the second time I remember him saying that a few times before, but never thought to ask what it actually was. In the end I guess I didn’t have to though,” the boy whispered as he sat down.

“Since it has been the topic of discussion as of late, I suppose the best place to start would be with the soul. In the beginning, the God of Rebirth formed a soul for every vessel that his fellows had created. He made this soul of various Ryn which had been present in the world since even before his own time. He gathered these beings which flitted about in the Air, crawled in the Earth, swam in the Waters, danced in flames of Fires, and finally - those which existed in nonexistence.”

Hiroshi cocked his head at Lena’s explanation of the composition of a soul. “How does something exist in nonexistence? Isn’t that technically impossible? If it exists, then it exists, but nonexistence is…” the boy quickly shook his head, waving his hands in front of him. “No, go on. I can already see this is going to be too confusing for me.”

Lena laughed lightly, nodding with a smile as he reached out and touched four different Ryn which filled the space around him. “Existence in nonexistence is complicated… but that is the reason that the other Gods went to you for help. With just these four basic elements a soul cannot be made. If it were so easy to create souls, then our world would likely be flooded with people. Alas, we can only exist because the form of our life was sought from the seas of that which does not.”

As the retainer spoke, the four Ryn which he’d touched began to glow brighter and reshaped themselves into basic forms resembling the four elements of which he’d spoken; a droplet of water, a small flame, a small cyclone, and a pebble. The four elements began to dance around the man, making as if they were being juggled as he continued to speak.

“And because we are made from both that which exists and that which does not, we too bear a certain amount of will over the elements which make up the rest of our being. Our souls fill out our vessels, creating first our eyes which are said to be windows into the soul, and then the hair across our body and atop our heads. In simple terms, your hair itself is magical. It is the essence of our soul which is radiated outwards and been replaced with that same Ryn which permeates existence - Ryn, which is drawn to the nonexistence which remains part of our composition.”

Hiroshi watched as the Ryn began to dance around, taking on some small characteristics of the elements which they’d been told to become. Smoke began to rise from fire, the droplet of water began to sweat, the air snaked its way around the others pulling bits of them along with it as it went, and the earth began to crumble to dust and mix in with the wind and water. His retainer’s explanation of magic was certainly entertaining, but as far as what he would be capable of once he started playing with magic...

“Of course, on a lighter note, it is because our souls create our eyes and the hair upon our body that these things follow us from vessel to vessel. Fair few people are lucky enough to find a loved one after they’ve reincarnated by recognizing these features.” Lena smiled weakly as he dismissed the Ryn which he’d previously touched. “By extending the soul beyond the vessel, we are able to touch these Ryn and enact our will upon them. Some are able to stretch their soul far beyond the bounds of its vessel, while others are held tightly by this gift of their creators.”

“You make it sound like our bodies are almost curses? If we weren’t bound by these vessels, then wouldn’t we be able to touch all of the Ryn and enact our will on it at once?”

Lena pursed his lips and then shook his head. “Not any of us, at least. If the Gods chose to abandon the forms that they’ve limited themselves to then perhaps their souls would be strong enough to exist amongst the Ryn… but for regular people such as myself, we would be quickly devoured by them if we weren’t protected by these bodies. And even if we were able to exert our will over them before that time, we would simply spread too thin to hold any conscious thought and eventually meet the same end.”

“But you spread your soul out of your body to touch the Ryn in the first place but they don’t devour you, so then what’s the difference?”

“If I had to guess, I would say it has to deal with existence and nonexistence. Wiser men than me have theorized in the past at the nature of the soul. We can push out the existence of our soul to touch those other things which exist around us, but we are inevitably anchored to our vessel by some nonexistent factor. The Ryn do enjoy a small feast of our hair from time to time, but even when we reach out to enforce our will on them they fail to recognize us as the massive force of energy and therein potential nourishment that we are.”

“I-I see,” Hiroshi muttered, massaging his temples as he let his gaze fall to his lap where one of the nearby Ryn had found a suitable napping place amongst the folds of his robes. “Then it really must have been an incredible feat for the God of Rebirth to fashion so many souls. To be able to touch existence and nonexistence with his own soul without being eaten by the Ryn…”

“We’re still not sure if that even was the case, however.” Lena cut in, overhearing the boy’s musing. “Being a God, there’s nothing to say he even originally had to use his own soul to enact his will on the Ryn. It has been so long in fact, that we’re not sure what the Gods’ original forms even looked like. Much of our history was at once passed down verbally, and it wasn’t until the second incarnation of the God of Rebirth that we actually began to record these teachings on magicks and the means of our creation.”

“So you’re saying there might be another way then? Another way to touch the Ryn that we don’t know or maybe forgot? A way to touch the nonexistence…” the boy slowly began to recall that feeling of drifting along a river, his being eaten away at by some unknown force as he started to fade. And then he was lifted up, plucked gently from its unseen flow before being told of what was to become of him. “Maybe she’s still in that river…”

“We’ve tried. Many, have tried. Healing magicks have long since been the driving force for expanding our knowledge on the way that this world works. And yet even after all these years, the most we can manage is an exchange. Whereas the God of Rebirth could create souls time and time again, the most practiced medical magician can only manage an exchange. A life for a life - the transference of all the Ryn which makes up their existence is pushed forcibly into another to fill the cracks…”

Lena slowly took a seat on the ground across from Hiroshi, his gaze hung heavy on the grass as he breathed. The retainer took a sharp breath, opening his mouth to speak… but not before slowly closing it again. The two sat in silence for several minutes as Lena had some sort of internal struggle, evidenced by the contrasting looks which fought for a time upon his face.

“Are you alright?” Hiroshi finally asked, having sat up on his knees and inched closer every few seconds until finally he was just in front of the man.

Lena breathed in deep and then slowly exhaled, before fixing his gaze on his charge. “I’m sorry, My Lord. I fear I may have started to let my emotions get the better of me there at the end. If you’d like, I could make up for it by showing you the best of what I’m currently capable?”

“A magick show? Oh by all means, I’m all too excited to see what I might be able to aspire to do in time.” Hiroshi leaned back, falling onto his rear before pushing himself across the grass back to where he’d first sat. “I’ll give you some space.”

Lena nodded, smiling as he held out his hand. “Instead of touching each Ryn individually, you want to extend your soul, calling out to and grasping clusters of them at once. A good way to think of it is as if your soul were a third arm, extending out from some point in your body - though it is easier to visualize by channeling it through a limb which already exists. At the start, it’ll be easier to imagine that arm as only consisting of a single element, but as time goes on you’ll be able to imagine each finger imparting the will of a different element onto the Ryn that they touch.”

Hiroshi watched Lena’s arm rise, and witnessed as almost immediately a second hand began to extend out from his palm. The hand continued to pull free from his body, creating an entire arm along with it as his fingers began to wriggle outwards in an unnatural way, reaching desperately for the Ryn which surrounded each digit. In fact, the entire arm seemed to be… pulsating, as if the arm itself were alive. A fact which wasn’t wholly untrue, as upon closer inspection Hiroshi noted that the arm itself was an extremely dense formation of five bands which seemed to each be colored for a different aspect and extended out into this arm’s fingertips.

“For example, in combination magicks such as this one you bring together Ryn of Fire and Earth simultaneously to create a source for glass. After which, you chill it with Ice which is an advanced form of Water. The Ice adheres to and cools the source from a liquid into a solid at which point you can form it into whatever shape you wish. And then you grab a bit of Wind Ryn to guide or push these shaped bits in whatever direction you desire.”

Lena looked around the courtyard, searching for a suitable target as the glistening shards of frosted glass circled around him. Finally he shrugged, lifting his hand up to the sky before looking behind him.

“Or, if you’re against a foe you cannot see,” the man swung his hand towards the ground, winking at the boy as he fell to a knee. “Simply let it rain down.”

The shards followed, raining down in a conical shape around the retainer. The pieces of glass tore deep into the earth, leaving an icy trail in their wake.

“And that’s your demonstration for the day, My Lord.” Lena rose to his feet, recalling the portion of his soul that he’d forced out through his hand. “I hope you were not disappointed? There are ways to delay certain effects with magic by playing with the idea of the existence of the Ryn itself, but it’s definitely something that’s easier in practice than explanation. For instance, though these shards seem to have played their part already, if I were a better magician I could have imparted on them a delayed effect to cause them to grow or to explode after a set time.”

“A better magician?” Hiroshi cut in quickly, rising to his feet before rushing over to the man. “What do you mean? That was amazing! I’ve never seen something so cool! And the way that arm extended out from her hand was-”

“Ah, so you can see that too.” Lena smiled, placing his hand on the boy’s head. “It seems you’ll soon be ready for your first judgement then.”

“My first judgement?” Hiroshi questioned, ignoring the first part of the retainer’s statement. It seemed somewhat obvious given the rest of the man’s explanation that he’d be able to see the soul in action, but what he was more concerned with was these judgement things he’d brought up. “What do you mean by judgement?”

“It is your main duty as the God of Rebirth, of course. You’re to meet with those that have yet to receive the blessing of your predecessor and to judge whether or not they’re worthy of receiving one from you. The Church chooses who’s allowed to meet you, and then they’re granted an audience. During this time, it’s your right to give your blessing on the future which you see for them or to condemn them to live in uncertainty.”

“I’m sorry, I feel like we might have skipped a few steps in there somewhere? What do you mean by condemning them? And am I truly supposed to be able to see people’s futures, or is that like a special magick I have to learn or something?” Hiroshi furrowed his brow, certain that he’d never seen anyone’s future. And given that this was his first real experience with the Ryn and anything that resembled an explanation on how magic itself worked in this world, he doubted he’d be ready in any amount of time for such a responsibility.

“Do not worry, it is no magick nor does it require any special training. It is something which you have always been able to do, alas all those who are accepted into the Church already bear your blessing. Once someone has been blessed by the God of Rebirth, their future is secured and hidden from any who might seek to alter its course - including the God himself.”

“So I offer people blessings to protect them from myself? And the reason I’ve never seen someone’s future thus far is because everyone around me is already protected from me. And the first time I’ll be allowed to see someone’s future, will be in a room full of people in front of someone who I know absolutely nothing about. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Absolutely nothing can go wrong there.”

Lena pursed his lips, fighting a smirk which had crept onto his face. “It was the decision of a past life which had a particularly harsh upbringing. The young reincarnation was constantly surrounded by others who bore no blessing due to a decision by the prior God of Rebirth. After he came of age, it was his decision to change the way that reincarnations were to be welcomed into the world.”

“I see… so I made a decision I can’t remember, to protect myself from something I don’t know. That doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a recurring factor either.” Hiroshi smirked, catching Lena in the process of trying to hide his own smile.

“It’s not the place of us creations to question the will of God. But, if a God were to make a request of the Church, they would have no reason to refuse you.” Lena dropped his hand from his face, having regained his composure. The man looked slowly up towards the sky and then back down at the boy. “It should only be a few more days now. Once I escort you back to your room, I’ll make my report to the Cardinal that you’ve awakened to your Sight. Once they realize you can see the Ryn, it should be only a matter of time. I’m sure there’s already a long list of people waiting to receive a blessing from you, My Lord.”

“Well, I’m not sure how I feel about thrusting these burdens on a child, but I suppose it’ll liven up the place.”

“My Lord, I’m sorry to interject but I thought you were thirty-seven years old?”

Hiroshi narrowed his eyes and cocked his eyes at his retainer. “Funny funny. You caught me. Alright, I suppose there’s no fighting it then. I’ll even be kind enough to let you hold my hand on the way back to my room.”

“Of course, My Lord.”