Chapter 1:

Sudden Death

Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

I’d like to think I lived a good life.

I’d like to think I lived a righteous life.

I’d like to believe I always did the right thing.

I’d like to believe I made the right choice even in situations where others did not.

And I’d like to curse whatever gods took it all away from me before I could reap the rewards.

I had lived my life the way I was taught to. The way my parents, my family, my friends, had wanted me to. At the forefront of all that was a single commandment: be kind.

Be honest. Help people when you can. Be loyal, towards your family and the people around you. Prioritize others at every opportunity, as far as was reasonable.

That was how I lived.

And I always strived for excellence. It wasn’t enough to just be kind. I needed to be smart, intelligent, fit. The whole package.

I had gotten top grades, gotten into one of the most prestigious programs at the local university, and even among much fiercer competition I had at the very least managed to maintain results that were a fair amount above average. Of course there was also how maintaining that level cost me any free time I otherwise may have had, and how it was making me stress out almost every waking moment.

I had made friends, I had gotten as many people as possible to like me. On the other hand, I avoided conflicts, no matter how much something was worth fighting for, and never once asked for what I personally desired.

I had gotten not just fit, but extremely so. Far more than any reasonable person would have deemed necessary, and if not quite at the level of a professional athlete, then at least enough so that I would have liked to believe I could have reached that kind of potential with a year or two of dedicated training. This, of course, took an awfully large amount of time to maintain, less I stagnate or worse… regress.

To that effort, I needed to train both extensively and intensively. A huge amount of running, as well as some lighter strength training.

As one aspect of that, and as part of my usual morning routine, I always went for a jog. It had taken quite a bit of effort to push myself to the point where I actually could manage to wake up early enough to have time for both a moderately long jog and a shower afterwards, not to mention all the other things I’d still need to do afterwards — have breakfast, get dressed, makeup, unmess my hair as well as I could.

Then came the morning jog. It felt great, a chance to wake up fully as I was exposed to the cold morning air. An opportunity to forget other things, to forget all the hard work that was always looming in the distance waiting to be done.

A chance to relax my mind by exerting my body. It was never more than a brief reprieve, but one I gratefully accepted.

I mindlessly ran along, pushing myself as much as I could, steadily trying to go faster and further.

Normally I would have finished the run without problems, taken a shower, and gotten ready to face the day.

This time I did not. It happened when I was about halfway through my planned route.

There was a pain in my chest. A sensation I was used to, normally brought about by reflux, something I experienced all too often. If I had any flaw that others would notice, that was more than my own regret, then that was certainly it: my own body.

Experiencing somewhat large amounts of reflux was, of course, one of the least significant maladies that ailed me.

Perhaps I was fairly fit, and perhaps my body had allowed me to get that far. But I also got sick easily, had suffered from my fair share of injuries, and was often in pain. It was not much more than a minor gripe compared to all the luxury I otherwise had bestowed upon me, but without all the effort I was putting in, I would not have ended up with an outcome superior to what the average person may expect, but rather one far inferior.

The only reason I even had been able to do all I had, to be able to try as hard as I had. Was that I had slowly gotten better in recent years, enough so that enough of my own effort was enough to bridge that last remaining gap.

It had been over a year since the last time anything serious had happened.

But now it was time again. Not just for the next time, but… for the last.

It started as no more than an innocent pain in my chest. I had to stop and cough, but it wasn’t like that kind of thing hadn’t happened before. I would usually be fine after resting for a few seconds.

So, not that big a deal. The only real problem was that it didn’t stop this time. The pain grew stronger, and my breath grew heavier and slowed down along with it.

I barely even had time to process what may have happened before I fell over.

Fell over, and never opened my eyes again.

I didn't know exactly why I died. Perhaps I had pushed myself too hard, neglected to stop and think and actually consider how much my frail body could handle. Or perhaps it was just an accident, something that I could have no means of knowing about at the time. I could just have been severely unlucky and hit my head really badly when I fell. Or maybe I had some undiagnosed condition which brought about my demise.

Suffice to say, there were a lot of possibilities. It was likely I would never find out the truth, but that was fine.

Perhaps someone else did get to find out, if someone discovered my body. However, I had been running on a small and unpopular trail. Chances were it would have taken hours for anyone to find my body. It wasn’t even entirely unrealistic that no one would ever find my corpse.

That was the much too short tale of how I lived doing what others told me to, and how I died having accomplished nothing of my own volition.

I didn’t know what happened after that. I was dead, and dead people don’t tend to know much, as a rule.

Perhaps people missed me, perhaps they were sad. Perhaps no one cared, and perhaps they would only miss what I could have done for them. The endless favours I kept giving even with no reward to myself, and even though I could feel how living my life for other people kept sucking my soul away one piece at a time.

To be honest, I didn’t really care any more. I was dead. Passed away. Whichever way you put it, I was gone, no longer part of that world.

I had worked hard to please other people all my life, and only in death was I granted a chance to be selfish and rest.

But my diligence was rewarded. Death was the end for most people.

For me it was not.

I awoke in another world mere moments after my departure from the first.

Greeted by darkness, which eventually faded to make way for some rather unfortunate surroundings.

I may have reawakened in another world, and been granted the gift of new life. A second chance to do what I truly wanted to.

But I was also strung up in chains, unable to move a muscle.

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