Side Story: Fulfillment Only In Death
Editor(s): Joker, Speedphoenix
I know. I know that this is just a dream, a hallucination, a fabrication of the mind.
Because he is already dead. Here, no one knows him. No one has ever met him—or even thought about him.
And there, it’s no different. They’ve already stopped thinking about the impact he had on their everyday lives. Their activities no longer reminded them of him. Because they’ve already moved on.
He doesn’t matter anymore.
It’s like he never existed to begin with.
But still, from time to time, I dream of him.
Because I am his reflection.
That’s why I will—can—not forget him.
Because I am all that’s left to prove that he had lived.
He was normal. Average. He had both parents, and just as many friends as anyone else. As he was still young, he had yet to amass much in the way of savings, but he never hurt for money. He had enough to get by.
Elsewhere, people suffered. People around the world were subject to civil wars, international conflicts, terrorists, pandemics, and many other acts of unfairness outside their control. And each day, some would die. Unlike them, he was blessed enough not to know death. He never lived in fear of it. Nor had he ever considered courting it.
Still, he felt his life was meaningless.
I knew my life was meaningless.
I didn’t know why I bothered going through all the motions. I didn’t feel like there was any point in existing. Or that my life held any value, intrinsic or otherwise.
But that was it.
I knew from the start that I was self-centred. That, as far as I was concerned, everything was about me.
But that was why.
That was exactly why it felt as if I was all alone in the world.
My solitude was deep-seated.
I knew that there were many other people out there.
But it never really felt like I truly connected to them.
I was all alone.
The world itself was vast.
But mine wasn’t.
So little of it seemed to matter. The few parts that did were so bland that they may as well have been colourless, faded to nothing but shades of black and white.
My days repeated themselves.
It was the same seven-day cycle.
Over and over.
And I wanted out.
But I didn’t know how I was supposed to escape. There was nothing I could do to struggle against the current. Not without goals, dreams, or aspirations. The world was too dry, too monochrome for me to recognize that there was hope to begin with.
I always asked myself whether it was just me. Or if everyone else felt the same. Had all the others simply accepted that this was just what life was? And that they had no choice but to wade their way through it?
I suspect so.
But if that is truly the case, then this world is nothing if not cruel.
That was how I felt.
How he felt.
It was with that thought, that mentality, that he greeted the reaper’s scythe.
It was outside of his control.
A stupid, unjustifiable accident outside his control.
But it cut him short nonetheless.
In the end, he amounted to nothing.
Nothing but another insignificant pebble by the side of the road.
My cheek was enveloped by a gentle warmth, one that thawed my frozen mind and guided it back it from the abyss.
Slowly, slowly, I opened my eyes.
Lefi was there.
She greeted me with a soothing, affectionate gaze, a caring smile so loving it was almost motherly. Her position atop my knees allowed her to keep one arm around my trunk as she used the other to slowly run her fingers through my hair.
“Relax, Yuki. Relax,” she whispered into my ears. “I am right here. You need not be sad.” Her grip around my torso tightened as she used both arms to pull me into an embrace.
“H-Huh? W-what’s going on?” Awakening to the unexpected situation had me taken aback. I was so confused that I started to flub my words.
“So you have finally awakened?” Lefi loosened her arms and backed off just enough to look me in the face. “Well, uhm…” she paused for a moment, as if to find the right words. “How do you feel?”
“Same as usual, wh—” I moved my hands to my face in order to rub my eyes and clear up my vision, only to freeze as I touched my cheeks. They were moist. It was then that I realized that the nap I had taken atop the throne had left me stricken with tears. And that Lefi had been treating me with all the care she had because she’d caught onto the fact that I’d had a nightmare. Oof. That’s embarrassing.
Realizing that she’d been comforting me in my sleep led me to cringe. It was a blow to my pride, and a serious one at that. I wasn’t a kid anymore. Crying because of some dumb dream was unacceptable.
“…Sorry for making you worry,” I said, “But I’m fine. I’m probably just really tired or something.”
“Then you must take extra care to recuperate.” No additional prompting was needed for Lefi to catch onto and play along with my ruse. “It would not do for you to collapse from exhaustion, for the duty of hunting and procuring our meals would then fall to me.”
“Really? That’s what you’re worried about?”
“Naturally,” she chuckled. “Did you not consider that sustenance is of utmost importance?”
She began to stand up and get off my lap. But I grabbed her by the wrist before she could.
Her eyes opened wide.
And so did mine.
“What is it…?” She asked.
“Er, uh… I don’t know…” The action had been entirely involuntary. My body had moved on its own. So I had nothing to say. I ended up tripping over my own words, but in the end, I wasn’t able to come up with any sort of reasonable excuse.
My fidgeting led Lefi to cast her surprise aside. She seemed to think up some sort of idea. Her face twisted into a smile as she sat back down and rested her back against my chest.
“I must say, I am rather exhausted myself. Entertaining the children was quite the endeavour,” she said. “You are as functional a chair as any other. So as I am already here, I suppose I may as well take the opportunity to sit myself down for a moment of rest.”
“Well… have a seat then. No harm in a bit of rest, right?”
“Precisely. If you truly understand, then you would do best to sit still and play the part of a chair until I find myself satisfied.” She bent her head just enough to gaze up at me as she spoke.
Knowing that she was right there by my side calmed me. Her presence was all it took for me to start fighting off my apparent sense of insecurity. It was a winning battle. But I felt as if victory still felt too far away, so I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into a tight hug.
Having her so close, basking in her warmth, was all the evidence I needed to know that I was really here. That I wasn’t just some random corpse kicked to the side of the road.
“I see no reason why you should be thanking me,” she giggled.
I knew. I knew that, ultimately speaking, my past life, his life, had amounted to nothing. He was so pathetic that he had even failed to do his duty as a living organism; he had failed to pass on his genes.
But still, his life had meaning.
I didn’t know if he’d been reborn as a result of some sort of karma, or perhaps a bizarre stroke of luck. But whatever the case, he had failed at one more thing. He had failed to bring his story to a close.
From death came life. And from life, fulfillment.
Because the life that followed his rebirth was not the same as his first. Gone was the monochrome filter. His world had been filled with an incomparable amount of colour. So much that it left him appalled. The chore that was going through the motions of life had transformed, evolved, into something he anticipated. Every day he lived was one that would leave him hungering for the next.
And that was what had allowed him to finally set a goal: to live by her side. Their sides.
Everyone that lived here knew me, Yuki, the demon lord. But none knew him, the lonely soul who had spent even his final days in isolation.
And they would never truly come to know him.
That was why I resolved myself never to forget. Never to forget who—or why—he was. You know, maybe I should make him a grave. Just as an extra bit of material evidence.
“What is it?”
“I know I never told you much about me. But I think I probably should,” I said, slowly. “The truth is, this isn’t my first life. I’ve already died, once.”
“You certainly have not told me any of the details,” she said. “I had always assumed that you merely never wished to speak of it. Why the sudden change of heart?”
“It’s just, you know, one of those things. I kinda happened to be in the mood is all.”
“Then I suppose I would love to listen,” she chuckled. “An opportunity as rare as this is not to be missed.”
“Hmmm… Alright. Now where do I start…? Oh, I know. How about I tell you a story about a little blue planet at the centre of the universe?”