It's as if the universe has teamed up against me. Mecha Truck killing me, being transported to this world, and now I'm trapped in that kid's body with that weird red orb thingy that has wrapped itself around me for some unknown reason.
I know I just went along with what life offered me and got stuck in that dead-end job, I was obedient to my seniors, I did as I was instructed. What did I do to deserve this horrible luck?!
Anyway, let's analyze the situation at hand, shall we?
Firstly, there's Mecha Truck-kun. Was that someone in a cosplay outfit, or did that really just happen? I thought robotics weren't up to that level of technology yet. We have another 50 years or so until we start seeing Gundams rolling in the street. Is this some crazy government conspiracy I'm unaware of?
Secondly, this world seems to be one where people can use elemental bending. Is this an alternate reality? A parallel universe? How do these powers work? Those flashbacks I saw had images of Julian fighting against these elemental benders of sorts. Who will I be fighting up against?
And thirdly, am I stuck here forever with no way back home? How does this reincarnation thing work? I've read a few fantasy light novels here and there in my time, so I somewhat get the gist of how things normally play out. Does the same thing apply here? Is there some sort of god pulling the strings of fate and using me to change the destiny of this world? I don't think I'm the right guy for the job to be doing that, you know?
And now I have to live this life as a 14-year-old boy.
I'm somewhat glad that I inherited his memories, that makes living here easier for me.
Or was it the other way round? Who knows?
All I care about now is finding my footing and sorting out my life, now that I've been given this second chance.
I opened my eyes.
It's like a repeat of when I got beaten up by those thieves - I'm tucked in bed staring up at the ceiling.
However, this room looks unfamiliar. It's made up of brick walls and a stone ceiling. And in front of me there's a reinforced wooden door with a small gap at the top to peak through.
The only light coming in is through some metal bars in the wall behind me. Beams of light shine in and bounce off the floor, and dust particles float around as they're being illuminated by the light. It must be around midday.
Just where the hell am I? A prison?
Nah, it couldn't be. This place is too neat to be a prison. What prison in the capital has a proper bed in it? All the prisons that I know of are basically rat-infested pig styes full to the brim with convicts and criminals alike.
I can't climb up to peek out the window, it's too high up for me to reach, even standing on the bed frame. So I can't tell where I'm roughly at.
I pulled myself upwards and slowly got out of bed.
I looked down at my body and legs. My clothes are still intact without any burn marks on them, my arms and legs are perfectly fine as well.
Did they not burn when I burst into flames? I would assume that I'd be wrapped in bandages given the extreme pain I endured.
And the injuries I got when I encountered those thieves early are also gone.
The door to the room opened. A man wearing a white and purple robe entered.
He pulled his hood back to reveal his face - he sported an almost bowl-shaped-like haircut with his light brown hair, and his complexion was pale with his cheek bones protruding out from his face. He smiled like a kid receiving a present for his birthday.
The door closed behind him.
His eyes became fixated with mine as he continued to smile. His smile felt like it was puncturing into my soul.
"You must be Julian, am I right?"
"Who are you? Where the hell am I exactly?"
I'll try to get some answers out of him. I'm backed off against the wall to try and keep some distance between us. He exudes this feeling that he's about to pounce on me.
"Firstly, allow me to introduce myself."
He bows down with his arm going across his body in a noble manner.
"My name is Gilbert, a servant of His Holiness, and the key to your path to repent for your sins."
"What sins? Last time I checked, I got none."
What the hell is he on about?
His Holiness? Am I in the church near the royal castle? Am I really in the central district? That explains the bed I guess.
Gilbert dramatically exclaimed. His voice began to rise louder and more intense as he continued.
"Oh but you're wrong, young boy. The devil has left his mark on you. You exude a potent curse that those close to god can see emanating from your soul. If you keep living as normal, that curse will continue to grow and grow and grow until you have been consumed by the devil and sentenced to the deserts of burning sand in the seventh circle of hell for all of eternity!"
His breathing was fast and heavy. He pretty much said all of that in one go.
"Is that what you want, huh!? To be stuck in an endless loop of burning and torture until you reach the center of hell to confront the devil himself and share the same fate as all the sinners in this world!?"
This guy is a fucking nutcase I tell you what. I've lived through hell in my previous life, I don't need you to tell me what I should be afraid of.
"Because if you don't confront your sins and pray to God for his blessings upon you, you will never live a normal life again."
Gilbert is seen fiddling around with his golden necklace. It had the symbol of the church dangling from where it connects to the chain. He stares at it for a couple of seconds as he contemplates to himself in thought. Is this his way of cooling off?
"Do you know about what the church does to better society as a whole?"
"Not really, besides those orphanages you set up around the city."
From what I recall from Julian's memories, the church takes in and cares for children throughout the outer district. Poverty is very much an issue and abandonment is quite common to see if you've made your way through the back alleys. And a lot of children end up in gangs or criminal organizations.
"Hmm, that's one thing the church does, but what we really give people in need in return for their dedication and effort is their salvation. By bringing in people and providing the necessary support and treatment, we provide a pathway for enlightenment and a better life than what they would have experienced otherwise. We've dealt with similar people like you that have received the devil's mark, and they've all turned their lives around, some have even volunteer to join us to continue their journeys. We're the only ones who can help your kind."
He glanced up and down at my body, his expression was that of sadness, regret, and remorse.
"Given the severity of your case, the only way you'll ever see your family is by joining us."
"And if I say no?"
"Like you have any choice! You receiving the devil's mark means that it is our duty to free you from his chains binding to you from hell. If you don't get the right treatment, you can cause untold misfortune to your loved ones and your surroundings. In the eyes of the church, leaving you unguided and without practice will undo our efforts of maintaining peace and order inside the city walls.
How do you think the city guards or the twelve squadrons are going to react when they see a random nobody in the slums go berserk in an uncontrollable fit of rage with their newfound abilities?!"
That might be true. I've never heard of or seen anyone who has experienced what I have been through, compared to those who were born with the gift of elemental bending.
"By joining the church, what will happen is you will be staying in our quarters as you train your abilities until you've gotten them under full control. And as you train, you'll be handed tasks to be completed, as a means of letting you stay here. This includes religious ceremonies, assignments, and getting educated by our theologists."
"If I can train and work, why can't I see my parents as well?"
"Don't you understand the risk you pose just by existing!? You need to go through all your training before being allowed to re-enter into society."
"Who gave you the right to do so?"
"Since the city guards decided to consign this matter over to us, you are in our custody now. Until we deem you fit enough to re-enter society, you will stay within the parameters of the church and work towards repenting and mastering control over this wicked curse called firebending. Do you not understand the power the church has in this Kingdom?"
So not only will I not be allowed to see my friends and family again, I'll be made to do the church's bidding?
I'm sure a little sarcasm and some witty comebacks won't hurt, hopefully this works.
"That sounds a lot like indoctrination to me."
I can see Gilbert grinding his teeth as a vein in his forehead starts to protrude. I think the more I tell him no, the more frustrated he's becoming.
"But it isn't, we're only doing this to help you get on the right track again."
"That's what people who usually try to indoctrinate others usually say."
"How many times do I need to repeat myself!? It's not indoctrination, we're providing you support and care!"
I stuck two fingers next to my ear and put on a presenter's voice.
"Breaking news! Weird-looking sex offender attempts to convince child to join his cult. Police are still on the hunt for this psychotic man, they have yet to find any leads."
"NNNGGH! You're such a fucking pain in the ass! Why don't you just do as I tell you!?"
Gilbert grunts out in anger. It's like he's talking to a brick wall.
His bloodshot eyes bulged outwards as the number of veins sticking out of his head multiplied. He clenched his fists in anger whilst his breathing is deep and heavy.
I stood there with a big smirk on my face. I never thought I'd get this kind of reaction out of him. His fuse must be short.
A few seconds passed by as Gilbert calmed down back to normal... somewhat.
"I see... that we'll have to continue this conversation... at a different date, preferably when you think about what I've said and understand the situation you're in right now!"
Gilbert stormed out of the room.
Great, I've bought myself some time for now, though I expect him to push even harder the next time he comes in.
I'm still in doubt if I can make it out of here, preferably alive if possible.
I might as well relax whilst I got the chance.