In the middle of the night, along with the chirping of crickets and the hooting of owls, a gentle gust of wind moves across the night sky as it whips the sparse leaves of the trees. Of those magnificent monuments buried in the dark depths of the forest, those whose branches allow the passage to the faint moonlight, to that tireless traveler who marches until she reaches a small pond, where she is reflected, illuminating her surroundings.
Near the site, as always, frogs and insects enjoy their lives as they fight each other for survival. But this time, there is something extra.
In the distance, a strange figure stands out that is not in keeping with the wild nature of the area. A man who, seen from afar, seems to be asleep at the foot of a tree.
Perhaps he arrived here while looking for shelter from the cold fall winds. Maybe, after finding it, he went to sleep without worrying about the dangers that it involved.
Yes, at some point, that may have happened. But now the situation is not the same as before.
When approaching him, the results stipulated above change in their entirety.
A sleeping person? No, a corpse. That’s the most appropriate way to describe him.
He is wearing dirty, torn, and faded clothes, garments that even have patches of different colors. In addition, he wears only a pair of torn socks on his feet to protect them from the cold. Perhaps he removed his shoes before lying down, but now they are gone. The wind or some animal has carried them farther than the eyes can see.
However, the deceased still keeps his possessions by his side.
A few meters away, a large blanket, made up of several shirts tied together, is lying on the muddy ground, and on its lower back, a small but bulky sack is placed as a support or pillow.
The man’s appearance betrays his origin as a vagabond, but everything already discovered becomes insignificant when contrasted with the dark color of the blood that bathes him.
The red covering his inert body even overshadows the horrible stench of filth and filth emanating from him.
He is covered from chest to toe. But time has passed, days in which the sun and wind have dried him out, and though the blood no longer drips, the marks are still plain on the ground beneath his buttocks.
The scene shows the corpse of a wretched man who has died with no one around him; his fate has come, and all that remains is to wait for the rapacious beasts to come and feast on him.
This is nature’s way, the endless cycle of dying, changing, and birthing… or this is how it should have been.
The sound of a thump echoed loudly, frightening the frogs in the pond and waking the sleeping birds in the treetops, who, startled by the unexpected event, turned to see the damn man who had ended the quiet of the forest.
The homeless man, against all odds, had woken up.
Shaky eyes, struggling to stay open, move frantically from side to side, unable to focus.
He tried; the man with his emaciated body tried to get up.
The result? A disastrous failure.
This painful struggle did not last long. He woke up and, in the same much the same way, collapsed again against the hundred-year-old tree that has sustained him until now.
As the minutes passed, after seeing the unwanted visitor return to his usual silence, the animals in the forest went on with their lives, that immutable routine they perform night after night.
Meanwhile, on the branches of the trees, the leaves bathed in the sky’s light dance with the wind threatening to blow them to the ground, a passionate push that seeks to declare the beginning of the white winter.
‘… damn it’
I knew it. Assassinating a famous heir was a mission beyond my capabilities.
In the end, that damn bastard, after discovering us, treated us like a couple of brats. He played with us until he got bored and ended it all in one attack.
I shouldn’t have given in to temptation. Of course, the reward was worth it, or so I thought… greed broke the sack.
You are mistaken. I’m not upset about it. I have, after all, been prepared for decades, but… wow, there’s still something I regret.
‘How many years has it been since I met her?’
I don’t know. It is difficult for me to remember the exact time, but over two centuries have passed since then.
So many years of knowing each other, times when I left colleagues behind or even saw them die, yet she was still there.
Decades after decades of planning every detail and because of one poor decision, all that effort was wasted.
No matter how much I regret it, I can never do it.
‘I only needed one… no, two would be enough.’
If I could go back in time, I would be sure to slap that old hag’s ugly face twice, and even if she killed me afterward, I would have died without remorse.
Unfortunately, that is now impossible.
All the time I spent as his slave has gone unpunished… how fucking unlucky I am.
Anyway, that’s enough whining that can’t solve anything, so…
‘Where am I?’
Well, that’s a question I ask only out of habit, as that’s how I organize my thoughts when I’m in an unfamiliar place.
In fact, I have no difficulty finding the answer just by thinking back to that moment.
‘Wow, wow, wow, so this is death, huh?’
Unexpected. Very different from what I ever imagined…
No doubt he should have died, but this is a strange situation.
I cannot see, smell, hear, or feel, as I do not have a body that allows me to do so. But I can still think and remember.
I could hardly explain this. Not that I feel like my mind is floating in a dark void. It’s… different.
It’s not black that I see, is nothing. Literally.
I see you can’t understand me. Well, try to close one eye and focus on the other one that is still open. Now, what does your eye see even closed? Nothing.
‘… What am I doing talking to the void about something I read when I was young? What a shitty way to waste time’
Many of my current thoughts originate from the sudden nostalgia that comes over me.
Although anyone would be mad to know that their future is to be locked up for eternity, I am not.
It’s not out of vain arrogance, for despite my age, I can’t endure such torture, but at least for the moment, I don’t feel so bad.
It’s like I’ve been through something like this before… oh wait, I have.
‘Hahaha! Who would have thought? Here, in the depths of hell or limbo, an idiot is reminiscing about the time he was born’
Well, it is inevitable to do so. After all, both situations are very similar, almost as if I had returned to the past, but it is impos-… no, it is not.
‘… mad bastard’
I’ve noticed it before, but this proves it. I’m going crazy. After all, a sane person wouldn’t think like that.
That world is insane, so much so that, throughout my life, I have witnessed many strange situations. So, is time travel possible? I don’t know, maybe, and even if it were, the sacrifices required would be immense.
It would take too many coincidences, people, and power for that to happen. Therefore, it is impossible for me to be the protagonist of such a story.
Again, you are mistaken. I am not in the same situation as before. I don’t need to wait for months to check it out. If I want to, I can do it right now.
‘The aura is the power that only I possess, a power that manifested even before I was born. If I have returned to the past, I should be able to use it. If not…’
And if I can’t, that’s all right. At least I’ve lived a long life.
Slowly, calmly and with concentration, remember that sensation you have always used. Extend yourself far away, like a tentacle, like an arm, caress the walls, and feel them…
. . . . .
The test concluded with partial success.
In short, I can’t use the aura, but I have not died.
I felt it as I struggled to verify my silly fantasy. From one moment to the next, a slight sensation flashed through my mind, although when it appeared, I ignored it so as not to lose my concentration. In the end, after taking my time to remember, I understood.
‘I have a body… I’m still alive…’
The news was shocking, but unlike how good this may sound, the situation is problematic.
There is no way we could have stopped that attack and then escaped him. Too strong, his power was disgustingly great. The instant he showed up, I understood why some term them, gods.
So, if I am here, it is only because he has spared my life.
‘Why? What does that son of a bitch want from me?’
I am the one who knows best how unique my existence in this world is. However, that should not be enough reason for him to capture me. After all, that guy exists without needing to possess any body at all.
But there’s no other possibility. Also, that would explain the stupid things I’ve been thinking so far.
A wounded body breeds a dull and weak mind.
‘… don’t keep thinking about it’
That is not important now.
It will be difficult to escape as their territory is too big.
Besides, I do not know where I’m locked up, and with the current condition of my body, I can’t even open my eyes to determine that.
It will take time, but I must wait long enough before making a move.
There’s no way he could have left me a clear path. He must have slowed down my regeneration. But, as I have been able to feel my body, it means I am healing. He could not stop it completely. Then all that remains is to wait in silence, with a blank mind, so that the energy that will soon be needed is not wasted.
. . . . .
As always, pain is the first thing to appear.
Unexpectedly, the magnitude was much less than I expected. The parts? Well, only my head and joints hurt, with no cuts or missing limbs.
Strange, since considering the wounds I sustained in that battle even before the last attack, it is impossible for me to be fully cured unless I am in total freedom.
But as time went on, I began to doubt my earlier assumptions, and it was not until a familiar sensation appeared that I was reassured…
I may have been thrown into a dungeon, for apart from the cold, damp air entering the cell’s grilles, the dried blood from my wounds still covers me.
You’ve pissed me off, you bastard. A deal like this is a heavy blow to my pride.
Although I lack power, dozens of kingdoms recognize my existence: the ogre, the faceless beast, the king-killer, and many other nicknames attributed to me.
It’s right for you to kill or capture me, after all. You are much stronger than me. But this…
‘Damn it, I swear when I get out of here, I won’t rest until I get your head under my feet… Did you really expect me to think of something like that? I won’t. I’m not that naïve or stupid’
If I wish to commit suicide, there are other less painful methods. Anyway, it is all part of the unbreakable law of life.
Therefore, if I escape from here and ensure he never finds me, I will have completed my revenge.
. . . . .
If I get impatient, I will die…
While I was waiting, other sensations also returned. I felt my body sitting on the floor with my back against a wall or something similar. Also, the black of my eyelids became visible through my eyes.
I’m annoyed that the idiot didn’t even bother to put me in chains. He’s still underestimating me, but that’s OK. It’ll make my job easier.
I already have almost everything I need. I only need to wait for a little…
Close, so close…
I didn’t think of any complex plan. Hit, scare, and lunge. That’s all I’m going to do.
A solid blow to the ground to break the runes around me and, if there is anyone nearby, scare them off with the impact. In the meantime, I will open my eyes to quickly observe my surroundings and decide who or what to attack.
I don’t want to worry so much about how to act, as keeping it simple will allow me to adapt to the variables that arise.
At the time, I thought it was the best choice, but I didn’t know it was bound to fail from the start.
The blow with which I hoped to destroy rocks and walls was extremely weak. I couldn’t even kill a homeless man with such force, even if I hit him full in the face.
Besides, opening my eyes was just as useless. At first, they refused to listen to my orders, but I insisted, and when I succeeded… I couldn’t see anything. Dark and blurry, my eyes burned, and I couldn’t focus, no matter how hard I tried. All I could get was dizziness and an intense desire to vomit.
‘G-Get up… I can’t… I… I… I’m not… I’m not so weak’
Hahaha, so absurd. I was still thinking about getting up and running to the front.
I was no longer fully sane. I started a futile struggle that I would never win. I denied something impossible to deny.
‘I… I’m n-…’
Dumbfounded, with confused and choppy thoughts, I fainted after expending all my energy in a few useless movements.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The second time I woke up, I was much calmer.
It has been a while since then, but I don’t know exactly how long. Being immersed in my thoughts has prevented me from feeling the passing of the minutes.
Well, two or three hours, sure.
I haven’t got up yet. Being quiet, still, and with my eyes closed has allowed me to sort out the mess inside my head.
Thanks to my new memo-… no, after recovering some memories, I have found out where I am.
But that was not enough to clear all the doubts in my head. On the contrary, questions that I had ignored before began to appear.
Why? When? How? Who?
An endless questioning that made me doubt everything I have experienced so far. But I refuse to believe that those memories were nothing more than a fleeting dream.
However, denial is not enough. After all, common sense dictates I treat them in such a way.
This fight against myself is one of the most challenging battles I have ever engaged in. If I let myself get carried away by what I feel, I could lose my sanity in the blink of an eye.
Fortunately, there is something that prevents my descent into madness.
”The world has changed”
After speaking out loud, I opened my eyes for the first time to witness the landscape unfolding before me.
Deep in the forest, surrounded by trees as I lean against one of them, I watch, shivering with cold, as the blanket of night retreats and is replaced by the warm sunlight that illuminates the withered foliage that covers the ground.
When looking up, the scenery changes. On the heights, a few firmly rooted leaves protect them from the dew and the wind the birds, which, under the orange sky, sing incessantly, announcing the beginning of the new day.
Although for a few minutes, I stopped to appreciate such beauty. Actually, I’m not sure how to feel about it.
My day as a vagabond starts before the sun rises, so I’m used to seeing the sunrise every day from the city streets, but… well, it’s also true that I haven’t seen this for ages.
Oscillating between boredom and nostalgia, I decided it was time to move. Sitting around like a fool would not fill my empty stomach.
Then, using the meager strength of this body and the trunk support, I got up from my seat.
Of course, such a sensation is incomparable to the pain coming from battle wounds. However, now it is unnecessary to endure the moaning and groaning.
Pride? Dignity? Worthiness? How absurd. It is stupid to put up with such a thing when there is no reason to do so.
Anyway, the pain subsided somewhat after some stretching exercises.
Now, with more comfort. I rubbed my sore neck while lowering my head to observe the condition of my body.
That was all I could say.
I knew it. This amount of blood is beyond what any human being in this world could bear.
”Haha, so I have a superpower, eh?”
Of course, that was just a joke. However, it is not too far from the truth. Since I don’t feel any wounds on me, then it means that I am completely healed.
It is disturbing to know that an impossible act has occurred in a world I thought was perfectly logical, but it is not good to waste any more time here.
”Yaaawn…! Damn, I’ve been sleeping like a corpse for days, but I’m still so sleepy. Without a doubt staying awake right after waking up is hard”
Yawning every few steps, I made my way to the nearby pond walking as if intoxicated by alcohol.
Well, that’s normal. After all, it is tough to move correctly when two completely different beings exist in my head.
Unfortunately, unification is only possible over time, and I can’t wait that long. My throat is crying out for water.
I must thank my past self for choosing this location to rest. Otherwise, it would have been a hassle to find another water source.
Arriving at my destination, after scratching the numerous mosquito bites on my arms, I succeeded in observing its appearance in detail.
A small pond no more than ten meters in diameter is filled with green waters hidden by warmly colored leaves that have fallen from nearby trees, while inside, a group of frogs has become the owners of the place.
Beautiful? No, it’s not. Maybe it would be if those green skins would disappear from my sight.
”This is a bit… forget it”
In fact, I don’t care how dirty it is, as I’ve drunk worse in both my lives. However, if I can avoid it, I prefer not to drink from the water near the frog family, so I kept moving away from them.
After arriving at a suitable place, I sat comfortably on the muddy ground. Then washed my hands and used them to bring the water to my mouth.
”Gulp; Gulp; Gulp…”
An indescribable pleasure that made me shudder ran through every inch of my body. The cold sensation going down my throat and into my stomach will become a memorable memory… of course, that’s only possible if I ignore the dirt and grime that comes with every gulp.
A short time later, I filled my stomach with water. But it was not enough to satiate me as the other deficiency made itself feel immediately.
Hungry, very hungry, so hungry that…
”Those little bastards don’t look so nasty”
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the frogs with desire as they returned my gaze with suspicion. Unlike before, these guys look a bit tasty.
”I’m tempted, I’m tempted, but I won’t do it”
I would eat them if I knew if they had poison or not. But I don’t know, and before doing something like that, I prefer to look for some fallen fruits in the forest.
Even though I thought about that, I continued to sit in the same place.
I still had to take a bath.
I have long believed that showering is nothing more than a luxury that cannot always be taken. However, this time that is a necessity.
I don’t dislike walking around covered in mud or dirt. Even dried blood doesn’t bother me. But… wow, three or four days of biological processes going on unchecked is too much for me.
After undressing completely, I took the garment that seemed the cleanest and later dipped it in the water to clean the dirtiest corners of my body.
Although I really wanted to dive headfirst into the pond, as a precaution, I avoided it. I wouldn’t want to disturb any animals hiding in its muddy waters.
While my bathing progressed, as a means of distraction, I observed the frogs who, frightened by my actions, fled from the pond.
I’m not surprised. A strange giant monster has appeared out of nowhere to invade their precious home. I understand that, but…
”Little friends, today I come to give you the most valuable lesson of your life. Everything you are going through is merely the most basic execution of the law of life. In this world or any other, the strong rule over the weak and you fuckers are no exception”
As small and ugly as they are, frogs are also voracious predators, which prey on the naïve insects that come to the pond to lay their eggs.
These sons of bitches have nothing to recriminate me for when they act in such a way.
”Ribbit; Ribbit; Ribbit; Ribbit; Ribbit; Ribbit…”
… for my sake, I will forget that I was talking to a group of stupid animals…
This is worse than I imagined. I know I’m stressed out, but enough to make me act like this… I must hurry before the worst happens.
”Hum-Hum-Hum-Hum Hum-Hum Hum-Hum…”
I began to hum an old song from my memories.
It’s not a good idea for me to get carried away by the urgency. I don’t even have the energy to do it in the first place, so I’d better enjoy this little moment to the fullest.
If I really need to do something useful, then I will think about my future.
‘Okay… I remembered; I thought; I opened my eyes and got up; I stretched before walking to the pond; when I got there, I took water, and now I am bathing. I’ve already taken the first step. What I must do next is to find food and return to civilization. Then… wow, should I find a job? I don’t know. It wouldn’t be so bad to continue living this way. Although in the past I regretted ending up like this, I prefer this to living as a slave. Besides, what work can I do? The truth is that I have lived longer than any other human being on this planet, but that does not make me the wisest or the most intelligent. After all, my specialty lies in robbery, murder, kidnapping, and other clandestine trades… no, it would be hypocritical of me to be ashamed of it, but that’s not the fucking problem, this body is…’
Thanks to the sunlight streaming down from high in the sky, that man’s features appeared visible in the water, an emaciated body with a face hidden by grey hair and a naked torso bearing evident signs of malnutrition.
The reflection before me denotes the appearance of a pathetic old man who has reached the last years of his life.
Unpleasant and irritating.
‘When I think about it, it’s absurd. It hasn’t even been that long since I started my life as a vagabond, but I’m already like this…. impossible, completely impossible, with a body that struggles to breathe. Any physical work would kill me’
It is easy for me to imagine a future in my life in which I collapse after running a few blocks after stealing a wallet.
‘Money, money, money…’
I don’t need much, just enough to recover. But I don’t have it.
With a bit of money, I could buy food, lots of food, and exercise to regain my powerful physique, but unfortunately, that’s something I can only dream of.
What a disgrace. If I had known this would happen, I would have read some of Rimim’s books… no, I would have asked her directly. After all, there is nothing that living fossil didn’t know.
‘…right, now that I remember she was with me back then… how stupid, I shouldn’t have tried to help her. If she also died, then I was only doing a ridiculous act’
Worse, perhaps she didn’t need my help. After all, she was stronger than me.
”… and… ready!”
I’ve finished my bath. Now, it’s time for action.
With what little energy the water gave me, I picked myself up off the ground before continuing to speak to anyone.
”I’ll regret it later. It’s more important to calm this damned hunger that’s killing me… literally”
”Preferably, I will look for something that is not green”
As a method of calming my mood, I continued to say all kinds of nonsense out loud.
Then, after returning to the tree where I slept, I took the cleanest clothes from the small sack on the ground and, after dressing, I began my adventure.
However, I didn’t get very far before a sudden thought that flashed inside my head stopped me.
”True… it might be a little late, but… wow, I guess I should check in on them. A hello and cleaning are the least I owe them… and perhaps, I could tell them a little about what I experienced…”
After muttering those few words in an almost inaudible voice, I continued my journey…
”Hum-Hum Hum-Hum Hum-Hum…”
Humming off-key a song I heard in my childhood.