Chapter 3: A Reincarnated Person
If you asked Yoshio Itsuki if he had any regrets, his immediate reply would be,
“The way I died was certainly regrettable.”
That morning, he had left his home normally, just like he had every work day morning for the past forty years.
Although many people told him that it was already past the time that he should retire, he would openly laugh at them. Why should he? He was still fit, had most of his hair, was sound of mind, and single …
… He would get depressed on the last bit, but the sentiment was still there.
Wasn’t he basically the same as a young man fresh out of higher education?
Thinking like that, like he had every morning when he left his apartment, Yoshio Itsuki headed off to work.
And then suddenly he woke up.
… Uh… huh? That’s strange. He should have been on the way to the office.
Did he fall asleep on the subway?
If he did, where … exactly was he right now?
Everywhere he looked, darkness stared back at him.
There was nothing around that could tell him where “up” was.
A strange environment of nothing but starry skies was wrapped about him, but instead of be worried, strangely, he didn’t care.
It was enough to lie here, floating peacefully on his back.
His eyelids slowly closed.
Whether they were open or not, it didn’t really matter since everything was darkness.
“Yoshio Itsuki. Surname ‘Yoshio’. Given name ‘Itsuki’. Male.”
Yoshio Itsuki’s eyebrow twitched in irritation.
Exactly who is it that’s interrupting his wonderfully peaceful time by disclosing his personal information?
Unfortunately, the mysterious, low female voice continued its monotone recital.
“A 64-year-old systems engineer – Ah, I’m sorry. WAS a 64-year-old systems engineer. Abandoned by his wife at the age of -.”
“Oooookay! That’s enough of that!”
Yoshio Itsuki bolted upright as best as his (somewhat roundish) belly could let him, yelling in order to stop the painful revelations of his personal life.
Ah. Although it felt like he had been floating on top of water, it seems he could sit up with no problems. What a mysterious substance this ‘ground’ is – no, that’s not what he should be noting right now.
Right now, right before him, there was a woman lounging in front of him on an ivory-colored settee.
Yoshio Itsuki was 100% certain that there was nothing in front of him before.
The woman was a mysterious looking woman.
She was young but old feeling, or old but young feeling and clad only in what looked like a loosely wound bed sheet. But that wasn’t the strangest thing about her.
Peeking out from under the sheet was a pair of two-jointed legs, like the hind legs of a goat, complete with cloven hooves. However, instead of fur, they were scaled like a snake.
… Yoshio Itsuki was 100% certain that this woman wasn’t human.
“Yoshio Itsuki, you have died.”
Quite understandably, Yoshio Itsuki was suspicious.
This woman; she’s too suspicious.
Yoshio Itsuki cleared his throat.
“Ahem. And who might you be?”
The woman heaved a dismal, bored sounding sigh before she muttered,
“Hmm… No reaction to the announcement of his death, eh? Well well, let’s see. Who am I? I’m a god. Kind of.”
‘Kind of’, she says… Yoshio Itsuki’s face was the perfect expression of suspicion.
“Anyway, enough of that.”
The strange woman waved her hand, as if brushing the topic aside.
“Yoshio Itsuki, you have died. Do you recollect how that came about?”
How did he die…
Yoshio Itsuki put a hand to his chin, thinking deeply.
He … died?
Hm… He had been standing at the train station in morning rush hour.
“A woman was falling off the train platform, and I …”
His eyes widened.
Ah, when I pulled her back, I lost my balance and fell onto the tracks … Then I …
“No, it was a little different than you remember. You didn’t lose your balance when you pulled her back, but the edge of the platform crumbled a little so that both you and her lost your footings. You then fell forwards as you pushed the woman backwards onto the platform while you fell onto the tracks. In the nick of time, before it was too late, you rolled against the wall of the platform off the rails as the train went by. Then an earthquake happened, and you were killed as the train derailed, pinning you to the wall.”
Yoshio Itsuki was shocked into momentary speechlessness.
That is … that’s something …
“… You’re kidding me, right? A 64-year-old man who sits in an office every day can’t possibly be that agile.”
“That’s what you find fault with? Well, adrenaline is a powerful thing.”
Yoshio Itsuki scratched the back of his head and sighed.
There’s nothing to be gained by freaking out over something that’s already happened, and now that he’s thinking through it all again, he was beginning to remember bits and pieces of the situation.
Okay… so then, he’s really, truly, absolutely dead.
Yoshio Itsuki quickly and calmly accepted that fact, enough to quip,
“It looks like the afterlife was very eager to recruit me, if all that happened for me to end up dead.”
“Ah. That is also a little different. It wasn’t you, but that woman who was supposed to die,” the ‘god’ returned.
“By the way, that woman, her death was fated due to the accumulation of bad karma she had accumulated. Well, I can’t tell you the details, but the lives of others were involved. The reason she almost fell onto the tracks was because she has been tormented with her guilt, and she was agonizing whether to put an end to the things she did. Well, anyway, with her bad karma, even though you helped her avoid her fate this time, it’s only a matter of time before she dies.”
Then won’t I have wasted my life?!
That kind of thought crossed his mind.
The ‘god’ suddenly looked up, directly in his eyes, a slow, sly smile forming on her lips.
“Want to save her?”
[“Oh, you’re thinking about something quite interesting. If it’s that smile on the Arbitrator’s face, that’s the one she uses when she’s about to trick someone.”]
Laurie broke out of his reverie as Jastin, God of Expression, Merriment, and Inquisitiveness, spoke.
The Arbitrator. That strange god with the horns and scaly, backwards legs.
“Yeah, and she got me good. I really thought I was just going to go *poof* and disappear.”
The proposal that she gave wasn’t one that could be taken lightly.
You, give up your karma. If you do so, you will lose your place on your Earth’s cycle of life, death, and rebirth, but that girl will be saved until she dies a normal death.
“Normally you’d disclose the ‘and then you’d go and get reincarnated in another world’ bit…”
Laurie grumbled his complaints.
At that, Dione, Goddess of Cultivation, Wisdom, and Prudence, shook her head in disbelief.
[“No, normally would one instantly go, ‘OK’ without asking any further questions? Even if the Arbitrator is like that, you’re abnormal as well, you know?”]
“No, well, because, see, in the end, even if I went and got reincarnated back on Earth, I wouldn’t be Yoshio Itsuki anymore? How to say it … I thought that it didn’t matter if I disappeared or was reincarnated. Either way, I thought me, as Yoshio Itsuki would disappear. Then, for my last moments as Yoshio Itsuki, shouldn’t I do something that would make it count the most for me?”
[“… A surprisingly selfish way of reaching that decision. But how should I say it … as expected of Laurie – ah, Itsuki, I mean.”]
[“Tis strange, though, for thee to remember the Arbitrator. Thy memories of that time in the World between Worlds should have been erased.”]
[“Jeez, Dragon King, you really don’t pay attention. When mortals enter the World between Worlds, they have their karma and their soul removed and are only spirits.”]
Fierla, Goddess of Beauty, Love, and Eroticism, chided the Dragon King God, God of War, Strength, and Dominance.
[“I understand how mortals are brought into the World between Worlds. And? What is thy point?”]
Fierla gave an exaggerated sigh.
[“Aaaand, when they are reunited with their karma and soul, they lose their memories of the time when they were separated. But in Laurie, no, Itsuki’s case, what happened?”]
[“His karma was used to supplement someone else’s karma and his soul was lost. Hm? So in this case, if thou leaves the World between Worlds as only a spirit, thy memories remain intact?”]
[“That’s basically the idea.”]
[“I don’t think I should be berated for not knowing such a thing. I don’t think that situation occurs often enough for it to be considered common knowledge.”]
Laurie smirked, somewhat amused, as he said,
“I think you can’t blame the Dragon King God, Fierla. Even the Arbitrator forgot, and when her assistant reminded her, she stared at him with dead eyes for a little bit before transforming her bedsheets into some regal-looking clothes.”
[“Uwaa… That’s what she gets for being too lazy to create anything in her subspace unless she absolutely needs it.”] Jastin said.
Seriously. Just because all the mortals will forget after they leave, that’s no excuse to appear before them practically naked. And even if she tried to salvage her image at the end, it was already far too late to make a good impression on Laurie.
“Come to think of it, I’ve wondered this many times, but are you guys okay with receiving someone who’s just a spirit? All the other gods of other worlds lost interest when they realized my karma and soul were going to be gone.”
According to what Laurie understood, gods of other worlds strongly desired to reincarnate people from the god of Earth’s worlds. Because his worlds were the oldest, and because he created many, many variations, the people from earth were desirable resources to bring into their own world.
Their souls brought high-grade magic that surpassed what has been cultivated in the world, their karma brought change beyond what the gods could manufacture, their spirits brought in new ideas unseen before, and if the other gods were lucky enough to be able to get the reincarnated person’s original body … well, the god of Earth made them solidly and less susceptible to becoming corrupted by magic.
But Laurie, that is, Itsuki, was a rare occurrence. A reincarnated person that was only a collection of his memories.
He sacrificed much of his advantages in reincarnation to save the life of a stranger.
Not only would another world’s god be left without most of the advantages of a reincarnated person would normally bring, they would have to construct a soul and body completely from scratch.
Itsuki’s reincarnation would be nothing more than someone who had memories of being Yoshio Itsuki.
For the gods of other worlds who were hoping to bring more resources or changes into their world, the demerits of taking in Yoshio Itsuki were much greater than the merits.
The gods who were still slightly interested in taking him in had all sorts of demands, like “defeat the demon king” or “further the sciences and politics in our world” or all sorts of troublesome things.
In the end, it was only the Holy Pantheon that said, “We will take him in and give him the ability to live as freely as he wants. We only ask that he not trash the place.”
Dione tilted her head.
[“Well, we weren’t really in dire need for something like drastic changes or added magic or anything…”]
[“It’s just, we imitated the god of the Earth series and our world can propagate in a mostly hands-off manner.To tell the truth, we just kind of wanted to build something from scratch. It’s been a while, see.”]
When he heard Jastin’s remark, Laurie couldn’t help but think, “So I really was their project car or something…”
They really went overboard with this body… even though he really was the biological son of his mother and father in this world, even he would shake his head in disbelief if he looked at the three of them.
His mother was certainly pretty, and his father somewhat noble-looking, but he himself…
No matter how he looked, he couldn’t see any resemblance. Fierla definitely lost any semblance of restraint she might have had when they were forming him.
Even though she had no problems transforming into any mortal’s preference (which is why she always appeared as an Asian beauty with a supermodel figure in front of Laurie), Fierla still had her own preferences.
Laurie bemoaned his fate that showed off Fierla’s love for pretty boys.
All of a sudden, Inoel, God of Dignity, Justice, and Compassion, who had remained silent through the recent conversation, spoke up.
[“It appears that our time is running out”]
Although his consciousness was in the realm of the Holy Pantheon, since Laurie’s body was still in the real world, just by straining a little bit, he could hear the chapel bells being rung.
“I see. Then… Until next time.”
As he said that, Laurie could feel his consciousness returning to the real world.
He stood up, bowed at a 30 degree angle while he touched his forehead and then his lips, and turned to leave.
“My, you took a long time today. Perhaps you reached the realm of the gods today?”
Sister Mary was sweeping the foyer as Laurie walked out. She was laughing a little as she said that, and Laurie knew she didn’t really believe what she said.
He smiled, a little half-heartedly, and said, “It felt like I was closer than ever before.”
When Laurie walked out of the chapel, the sun was just beginning to set.
There was only one outdoor light in the little town, but it was in the square. Since the town was so small, it was enough for people who were going to be out and about at night.
The Holy Pantheon didn’t always explore his past. In fact, there was usually only a few gods that showed up, and they would talk about inane things for a little while, mostly grumbling complaints to each other.
Today, after talking about so many nostalgic things, Laurie felt a little disoriented.
Most days, ever since he learned to walk, talk, read, and write, he had always felt that he was more Laurie than Itsuki. It might be due to the fact that the soul he had was new, and not left over from Yoshio Itsuki.
But today the personalities of Laurie and Itsuki hung in a balance.
Laurie quietly walked into the small boarding house that he and his sister have been sharing for the past five years.
He said. His tone was a little more tired than usual.
Emi emerged from within.
“Welcome home. You took a long time today.”
She pouted a little, although her face would appear to be expressionless to anyone but the ones who knew her best.
“Sorry, sorry. Were you hungry?”
“Not that much, but my braid fell out…”
Laurie stifled a small laugh.
Emi must have attempted to fix it herself but it was very lopsided, and hair stuck out at odd angles from between the braided parts.
“Okay, okay. Come here.”
If he was Itsuki from his past life, Laurie wondered if he could have predicted that he would have gotten so good at doing girls’ hair.
Emi sat motionlessly on one of the stools in the room as Laurie loosened her hair and picked up a comb.
If you asked Yoshio Itsuki if he had any regrets, his immediate reply would be,
“The way I died was certainly regrettable. Other than that, I accept that the results of the decisions I made shaped the life that I led.”
But was that really, truly all?
As Laurie combed his sister’s hair, the previous discussion about nostalgic things with the gods caused his eyes to dim a little, as if he was looking at something far away.
He was thinking things like,
If Yuriko hadn’t miscarried … If that child had survived, would Yuriko have left? Could our marriage have survived? If I had had a daughter back then, would I be sitting there, putting up her hair? Would she be a good girl like this?
A solemn, almost gloomy atmosphere filled the small room.
Although it wasn’t common, it was an atmosphere that Emi was no stranger to.
A gloomy atmosphere and those distant eyes… Emi was certain her brother was making that kind of face again. Like he was stepping out of reality for a moment.
That bell-like voice shook Laurie back from his melancholy.
That’s right. The regrets Yoshio Itsuki had were Yoshio Itsuki’s.
The him right now is no longer Yoshio Itsuki, but a man who had dream-like memories of being Yoshio Itsuki.
Right now, he is Laurie.
<A/n: And the last prelude chapter. The story begins next time.
Whether it can be considered slice of life or not… well, it has more direction and deliberate pacing than my other slice of lifes, but in the end it’s still a dude doing whatever he wants.
Ah yes, the Arbitrator is a character from a short story series that I’ve been piddling around with, God of Reincarnation, but somehow, this story ended up coming out first. How. >