Chapter 1:

The Worst Day of My Life

The Grim Reaper of Chaos and Destruction is Real and Can Hurt Me!


I couldn’t believe my ears.

My boss simply gave me her most sympathetic voice as she spoke.

“I’m so, so sorry, Leo. I really wish I had better news for you, but as you know, we’re downsizing, and there’s simply no way we can finance your position in the foreseeable future…”

“B-But…” My voice was trembling - I was so shocked I didn’t realize how close to tears I sounded. “I’ve been here for almost five years…”

“I know, that’s why this is especially hard to bring up. I’m just as bummed as you are.”

Just as bummed???

There’s no way in hell she knows how I feel right now!

No way!

I meekly opened my mouth again, clenching my fists over my knees.

“Isn’t there anything else I can do… anything at all, I—”

“There isn’t.”

Her reply was curt - a hint of annoyance colored her tone as she drummed her long nails on her wooden desk.

That’s when I realized it was fake.

All of it.

Her concern, her apology…

Hell, even her desk wasn’t made of real wood.

More importantly…

She couldn’t care less about whatever happened to me now.

It felt like a bucket of cold water had been dumped over my head.

I gritted my teeth in frustration.

“I-I’m sorry, Boss, but I need the money…”

“I imagine you do, honey,” she nodded along condescendingly. “That’s what jobs are for.”

She stood up from her seat and checked the time on her smartphone.

I knew it was around lunchtime so she was probably in a hurry, and to her, I was only wasting her precious time with my moping.

She shrugged and looked at me again.

“But hey, you’re only 28, Leo. Just go back to your parents for a bit, reconnect with your family, maybe marry that girlfriend of yours, yeah?”

She walked over to me, leaning down to place a hand on my shoulder.

“I mean, isn’t that what life is truly about? Like, honestly, I’m a little jealous! I wish I were as young as you with no job or husband to hold me back and the entire world ahead of me. You’re like, really lucky, y’know?”


She just fired me, and immediately after called me lucky.

I wanted to scream.


I was meeting my girlfriend at our usual weekly hangout bar that night, and for the first time in months, I was actually looking forward to seeing her.

We’ve been drifting apart lately, but at times like this, where the world feels like it's collapsing on top of me, having someone to vent to was a blessing.

On my way over, the overcast sky felt like a threat, so I made a quick stop at a convenience store.

I was having a bad enough day as it was, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let it rain on me without an umbrella to top it all.

As I leaned down to pick one, my eyes came across something I hadn’t seen in a long time.

It was an ad on the back of a magazine for a manga contest.

I picked up the magazine and started reading the full advertisement, snorting.

“Hah… This brings back memories…”

When I was in middle school, I wanted to draw manga for a living.

I would draw day in and day out, hand out my comics to my friends who would pass them around and read them, and at that time, I truly thought I could make a living out of it.

I was a weird kid, but my comics helped me befriend all sorts of people.

There was one comic in particular that I drew the longest, and thinking back on it, it was nothing short of a cringe-fest.

First of all, it was called The Grim Reaper of Chaos and Destruction.


But wait, it gets worse!

The main character was a boy called Sinful Shadow - a grim reaper with a cursed arm, a cursed eye, a myriad of magical abilities and a scythe as a weapon.

He was cool and mysterious, serious but funny, aloof but approachable… all at the same time! He was popular with girls, of course, but he never gave any of them the time of day, as he was ultimately only interested in defeating NEMESIS, the evil organization that destroyed his hometown.

Aaah, just thinking back on it makes me want to die.

I was in middle school or so when I created him, and despite the countless chapters I drew, I had all but forgotten about it into adulthood.

Rather, I forced myself to forget, after I entered my story to a manga competition and didn’t make it in.

My friends always said they liked my manga, so it made me doubt them.

Maybe they were just encouraging me to continue to be nice, you know?

That’s what I thought.

I had drawn other stories before but in my head none of them were as good as The Grim Reaper of Chaos and Destruction, so if that didn’t even make the cut, it could only mean everything I came up with was garbage.

So, I gave up on that dream.

Soon enough, I grew out of my edgy phase, hit the books, and eventually I was hired… by some generic office as a regular old salaryman.

Until now, I guess.

I sighed.

Things were easier when I had dreams.

When I had something to look forward to - when I foolishly thought I was blessed with talent.

I put the magazine back on the shelf and paid for my umbrella.

But just as the automatic door opened…


I was suddenly standing face to face with my girlfriend.

“M-Mary? What are you doing here?”

Her hair was wet. The rain had started already.

“Ah, did you need to buy an umbrella, too?”

She looked pale for a few seconds, then she turned away, playing with the tips of her hair, looking almost… guilty.

“Oh, Leo. Did you not… get my text messages?”

“Huh? No, I ran over here before the rain caught me so I hadn’t had time to—”

I was reaching into my coat pocket to take out my phone as I said that, but she immediately stopped me.



“I- I mean…” she lowered her voice again. “Don’t… check them here.”

I was confused.

More than that, I had a very bad feeling.

“...What’s… going on, Mary? You’re scaring me.”

I tried to laugh it off awkwardly, but she avoided eye contact at all costs.

“....I’m… I’m sorry.”

Another apology.

That was the second one I heard today, counting my boss.

“What are you sorry for?”

I tried to hold her shoulders but instead of answering, she avoided my touch and spun around, quickly sprinting outside the store into the rain.

I was left there with my arm reaching for her for a few seconds.

Fearfully, I looked at my phone in my hand.

One text that said we needed to talk— great start.

One long voice memo followed it.

My heart was beating out of my chest.

I moved away from the door and popped one of my earphones in.

I pressed play.

After a few seconds of nothing but anxiety-inducing static, I could hear Mary’s voice.

“[.......Hey, Leo.]”


That was not her happy voice.

[Listen, I don’t… really know how to say this, but I want you to know that, as much of a cliche as it is, I have to make one thing clear, okay? it’s… not you, it’s me…]

My mind went blank for the next five minutes of her speech.


I ended up drinking by myself at our usual bar that night.

I had been coming here weekly with Mary for as long as we were together, so almost six months.

This was the first time I’d ever come here alone.

Instead of our usual booth, I sat on a stool at the bar with no one but the bartender to keep me company.

I probably looked like a zombie with my dead, unemployed, and now girlfriendless eyes sunk to the back of my skull as I drank from my glass in pathetic little sips.

“...Alone today?”

I heard someone speak, but it wasn’t until the bartender slid a snack my way that I realized he was talking to me.

“Ah… yeah. And forever, probably.”

I said dramatically before forcing myself to down what was left of my drink.

He understood what I meant immediately, then he laughed.

“Hey, man. It happens. Don’t let it get you so down.”

I scowled at him.

Aaron was a handsome twenty-something bartender with an athletic body that Mary and I had sort of established a friendship with.

At one point he told us that he was working part-time to put himself through medical school.

That meant this guy was going to be someone’s doctor.

He would probably make more money than I’ll ever see in my life.


“What do you know? No girl would ever break up with you. If you got fired, you’d be fine. You’re cool and smart and I should probably thank you for talking to me, huh? Well, right now you’re my bartender, so you gotta be nice to me or else.”

He laughed at my tipsy, sulky words.

“I have feelings too, y’know? But you’re right, if I got fired, I’d be fine.”

“Wow. Don’t add salt to my wound, jerk. What, are you some rich guy’s kid who bartends for fun or something?”

He made an exaggerated thinking noise as he masterfully cleaned a shot glass.

“Hmm. Or something, I suppose!”

I groaned, slowly pressing the side of my head against the bar.

“You’re an idiot. But I bet if you died, a lot of people would come to your funeral.”

“Now that’s a dark thought.”

“It’s true, though. Sometimes I think about it. If I died, who’d come to my funeral? My mom, my sister, maybe? …I used to think the people at my office would hold some sort of service, but now that I don’t work there anymore, fat chance any of them would give a fuck about me.”

“...Don’t say that, sir.”

“Don’t call me sir. I hate it.”

I could hear him gently pour something into a glass as he spoke his next words.

“Losing a job and getting your heart broken is only part of life. That it happened all on the same day is an unfortunate coincidence, but… I think there’s always something to be grateful for.”

There it was. Unsolicited wisdom.

I huffed.

“...Easy for you to say. You pretty much have everything.”

I heard him laugh under his breath as he gently pushed a drink over to me.

“Here. On the house.”

Those words made me slowly lift my head to look at whatever he had poured for me.

It was a purple-red liquid that shone like the sea under a full moon.

“...What is this?”

“It’s called Joie de Vivre.”

“Juwa the what?”

“Haha. You need it, trust me. You’re one of the lucky few that’s ever gotten to taste it.”

There it is again!



“...........You have no idea how much I hate that word.”

He laughed again.

As cheeky as I sounded, I honestly did have some pretty dark thoughts going on in my head.

No girlfriend.

No job.

No passion or talent.

No one would come to my funeral...

…What else did I have to lose, really?

I downed the drink wishing it was poison.

That was the last thing I remember before my senses came back to me.


I don’t know how I got there or when, but I found myself standing outside in the pouring rain in the dark, under a lamp post, right in front of an empty crosswalk waiting for the light to change.

I completely forgot to get the umbrella from the store after the voicemail incident, so I was soaking wet.

My head was pulsing and I grimaced, rubbing my temple with one hand.

I couldn’t remember leaving the bar at all.

Whatever Aaron gave me had been potent as fuck, but he didn’t even have the decency to call me a cab.

“Son of a bitch… if you were trying to kill me, at least finish the job, asshole…”

I groaned under my breath, sobering up with the help of the cold rain.

Then I heard a snap.


Someone shouted from the other side of the road with horror in their voice.

It startled me, and I immediately turned to look at the source.

A little scared dog with a raincoat had broken free from its owner - a woman wearing a matching raincoat - and was running directly into the street.

At this point the dog was closer to me than it was to that lady, who was looking at me full of panic from the other side of the road.

On the street, I could see the headlights of a speeding car heading our way.

Then, it was as if time had stopped.

I should hurry and save that dog, I thought.

But at the same time, I had to be realistic.

I was probably piss drunk.

If I slipped and fell, the car would hit me instead.

Despite my sad, sad life, I didn’t want to die.

No matter how miserable I am, I want to live.

I want to know what happens next.

I still have things I haven’t done— things I want to do!

Sorry, little dog, but there’s no way I could…


No way that I…


No possible way…………….



“.......Aw, fuck this!”

I clicked my tongue and shed my heavy coat, running straight into the street past the red light.

I made it to the dog right on time, scooping him up into my arms, quickly turning around to sprint forward and take it away from the street…

…But I slipped.

I slipped while holding the dog in my arms.

This was it.

I tried to be a hero for the first time ever - probably just to give my life a little meaning, and now I was going to end up killing an innocent creature along with me.

Sorry, Mimi.

I could hear the breaks on the car screeching madly, but it was obviously too close to stop at that point.

Very quickly, everything went bright.

I held the dog tight and shut my eyes.



A gust of air suddenly hit me from every angle with a sharp, metallic noise.

For a second, it was as if the rain had stopped altogether.

But then I felt it fall on my face again, so I knew I was still alive.

I heard two crashes - one on each side of the road.

I fearfully opened my eyes, holding onto Mimi for dear life.

It took me a sobering second to register exactly what I was looking at.

The car that almost killed us was sliced neatly in two, each half crashed past us against the pavement.

The driver seemed unharmed - at least that’s what I induced from his angry yelling about the impossible state of his car.

But I still couldn’t move.

I couldn’t move because standing in front of me and the dog was the reason the car split in two.

A short kid wearing a black cape with a hood.

His hair was black, covering one of his eyes - an eye that was already covered by an eyepatch, at that. He was wearing a long red scarf and boots with countless belts on them. His arm had bandages all over, but he didn’t look hurt at all.

However, the real show-stopper was in his hands.

Despite his small frame, he was effortlessly holding a scythe bigger than he was.

He turned to look at us with a smirk, and my heart stopped.

I recognized him immediately - even before he opened his mouth.

“Are you guys hurt?”


My voice wouldn’t come out.

I couldn’t answer.

I couldn’t fucking answer.

It had to be the alcohol, right?

It had to be, because…

Because there’s no way the cringe OC I created as a tween just saved my fucking life!

Steward McOy
Nika Zimt
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