Writer’s Note: Hey guys, I rewrote the prologue and scrapped the first chapter I was writing. I added more humor this time and fleshed out some details. I also made some things more vague to add something to anticipate. I’m still working on translating Spear Master and the Black Cat, but I’m having trouble focusing on it right now so I am working on this right now too.
When the world comes into focus, a sea of salt spreads out farther than the eye can see. I look around, but in every direction, there is nothing more than the never-ending expanse of salted earth. It reminds me of the salt beds in the south west, only on a much grander scale.
When I look around I can see the sun sitting on the horizon. Oranges and reds play across sky and dye the salted earth in their colors. There is no way for me tell east from west, to tell if the sun is rising or setting.
My inner voice is telling me I should be upset, confused, maybe scared. However, there is only a faint spark of curiosity. Other emotions feel… distant. Just out of grasp. I feel immaterial. Becoming aware of this causes another revelation; I cannot feel my body. I can move, I jump up and down to be certain, but I have no sense of weight, no tactile sense, neither cold nor hot. Nothing.
“What you’re experiencing is normal. Having feelings is difficult without a living body, especially in your case.”
There is a voice coming from behind me. I turn away from the sun sitting on the horizon. Only a few feet away from me is a pair crystalline green eyes. Light bounces around almost as if trapped inside them. I pull my attention back and observe the face the eyes belong to. It is the face of a young woman, appearing to be around twenty-years old. I look the newcomer up and down. Her silky hair is a light faded green, cascading around her face. Her well-proportioned body is wrapped in a simple forest-green dress, draping gracefully over the ground. Even her skin is tinged green. This woman is green.
“Yes, thank you for that wonderful introduction. It has always been my life’s dream to be summed up as green by a mortal.” She speaks again with a musical tone and an amused expression. Can this green woman green my mind?
“Okay, yes I can. And while we’re at it, please stop calling me green woman. My name is Verse.” She tells me. I think I upset the gree- Verse. Then,
“Yes, good job. I must say, it is quite impressive how composed you are. Most people spend a good hour curled up, panicking. Then again, with how fantastically you died, it shouldn’t be a surprise. You need a connection to a body to feel something, and there wasn’t much left of you that could be called a body.”
Died? No, wait. I remember, a little. I was walking along the train tracks, heading to the corner store. I heard crying, saw a child up ahead on the tracks. The train was coming, I ran to get to them, save them… I died. What about the kid?
“Rest assured, the child lived. You pushed them off the tracks at the last moment. Unfortunately, you were not so lucky. To say you died wouldn’t encompass what happened. Your body turned into a smoothie. Parts of your body got dragged across a mile of tracks before the train stopped. There wasn’t much left to bury, but it looks like that wasn’t a problem for you?”
She is right. I have no family left to bury me. I lost them all two years ago. I lost contact with most of my friends after that, kept to myself and lived of the life insurance payout while I figured things out. I wish I had never lost them, but I am glad they were spared seeing me die like that. Small blessings.
“Most people settle for a truck when it comes to a sudden death, but I guess you weren’t going to settle for that. Anyways, I like how composed you are, it makes this whole process easier.”
The green woman pulls herself together, adopting a regal air. Then, “Ahem, mortal,” she begins talking with a commanding voice. “You are dead. Where you stand in the border between worlds. All who die end up here, becoming dust on the wind, returning to the aether. However, by some quirk of fate, you have received another chance at life.” Verse is talking to me, saying things that I would normal dismiss as delusions.
“There are countless worlds in this universe, and your soul is resonating with a particular one, keeping you from fading. Soon, your soul will travel there, your body will be reconstructed, and your new life will begin. Before this happens, you will be granted the opportunity to choose your new form and abilities to help you survive.
“The world you are going to is not so forgiving as the one you know. Monsters roam the country side, magic is wielded by its people, and life is a constant struggle to survive. If you want your second life to last longer than your first you will need to adapt.”
What this lady is saying is overwhelming. This feels like a fantasy.
“Don’t be so easily impressed. You should adjust to this sort of thing. Now, it is time to choose your future. Turn around.” She has a slight smile when she tells me to not be impressed.
I turn around, back towards the sun. Several feet away from me is an empty white desk with a beaten wooden chair. Verse tells me, “Go sit down and the process with begin,” so I walk over and pull out the old chair, drawing lines in the salt, then sit down.
Once I sit, a holographic window appears, shimmering and indistinct at first, but quickly becoming very clear. I reach out my hand to touch it and…feel the screen. This is the first time I have felt a physical sensation since I opened my eyes. It does not feel like I am touching a solid surface. The screen creates a buzzing sensation at my finger tip, like an electric current.
At the top of the screen is written, “Place Hands Here.” Underneath is the outline of two hands. I guess I need to place my hands inside the outlines, so I raise them and press my palms against the holographic window and enjoy the tingling sensation. After a moment, the hand outlines turn green, a *ding* sound rings out, and the text changes. It now says, “Processing Soul Compatibility, Please Wait.”
A buffering icon appears on the screen, playing a broken animation. Really? Shouldn’t this be more… I don’t know, professional? The loading screen is ruining the atmosphere.
Then, as if hearing my complaints, the buffering icon stops and a new screen appears that further breaks my immersion. A character selection screen. For some reason, I feel oddly disappointed.
“You don’t have forever, so don’t waste your time.” Verse informs me. Is there a time limit? Sure enough, in the upper left corner of the screen is a count-down at 00:24:38. Oh, fuck this. I have less than twenty-five minutes to make decisions that will alter my future. This is like choosing my career in kindergarten, or only spending ten minutes to design my avatar in Skyrim. I want to complain more, but the timer is ticking down and I need to choose.
On the screen:
Welcome to your new life! Before your new life can begin, we need you to answer a couple basic questions:
I want my immersion back.
Question One: Would you like to be born as a human, or choose a different race? Human – Other
Question Two: Do you want to be reborn to new parents with your memory intact, or have a new body constructed with the base age of eighteen years old? Reborn – Reconstructed
For question one, I press ”Human” to see what happens and,
Thank you for choosing “Human!” You cannot change your response.
What the hell is this? I only get one shot? I only pressed “Human” to see what would happen. Then again, I have no idea what the other races are, none of them may have been humanoid, so this might be for the best. Still, what terrible design is this? I take a deep breath to calm myself and look at the next question.
I read novels in the past with settings like both options. I could choose reborn, that would give me a longer life, but it would also mean entrusting my safety to strangers for the first fifteen or so years. If I choose to have my body reconstructed my age will revert a few years, and I will have full control of my facilities. Choosing that may mean appearing in a weak body and needing to rely on myself, but if I die I would rather it be on my own terms.
Reaching a conclusion I can be satisfied with, I press “Reconstructed.” The text on the screen changes to say, “Thank you for your cooperation, please be patient while we process your form.” The timer on the screen stops a little above twenty minutes, so at least I have that going for me.
“I’ve been telling Greg to update this software, but he’s always too busy gaming to do anything.” Verse volunteers this information with a disgruntled tone. Greg? No, if I ignore her I may be able to find some of that emersion again.
The buffering icon on the screen stops again and a new screen appears. This time the screen has a column of six sliders with a plus sign at the end, each separately titled, strength, stamina, intelligence, wisdom, speed, and dexterity. Below the sliders is a box that says, “Spend 50 Points on Unique Ability?” Next the box are the symbols “Y / N”
My immersion may be gone, but I can live with this. I understand game mechanics, this might work. I lift my hand to start allocating points when are horrible thought occurs to me. What if this is designed as terribly as the last part? I look more closely at the screen and I realize there is only a way to add points to the different stats and no way to remove them. To be sure, I decide to sacrifice one point in an experiment and press the plus sign next to the “strength” slider. Once I do, nothing changes and no method appears for me to change how I allocated the points. That could have been bad.
I need to think about this carefully, plan how I want to allocate my points. After I placed one point under strength a new number appear on the screen, “Points: 99” So I had 100 points in total, but no way to know until I spent one. I really want to have words with this “Greg” guy. I put those feeling aside and commit myself to thinking about point allocation. One of the problems is, I have no idea how many points is considered average for any stat, or what some of the stats represent.
“I can help with that.” Verse speaks up and I turn around to look at her. Her head is cocked to the side and she has a slight smile. “Greg is a dick. He says we’re not supposed to help, but then makes the whole process impossible for someone who is uniformed. I don’t mind helping, do you mind?” Verse’s offer is tempting, I guess accepting help is okay. “Then, let’s get started, shall we?”
Verse walks to my side, and with a wave of her hand, summons a wooden chair that is just as beat up as mine. She pulls the chair next to me, and sits down gently. Verse plops her elbow on top of the white table and props her head up with her hand. She raises her other hand and points at the screen before she starts to talk.
“Okay, I can give you the basics. There isn’t much time though, so listen close. You seem to understand these stats correspond to your ability. Strength is your physical strength and how much health you have, stamina is your physical stamina and how quickly is recovers, intelligence is the power of your magic and the amount of mana you have. Wisdom, is how quickly your mana recovers and the higher this stat the less mana is needed to use a spell. Speed, is how fast you are, both your physical movements and reaction speed. Dexterity, is how controlled your finer movements are, this stat affects almost everything so it’s important.”
Verse talks fast, almost too fast for me to understand. Each time she mentions a stat she points her finger at it and makes sweeping gestures as she explains.
“The average physical stat for a healthy farmer is between eight and twelve. With that strength, anyone can easily kill a goblin single-handedly. The intelligence and wisdom stat tends to average between two and five for farmers, and slightly higher for those that receive an education. However, all these stats can be raised through training, so even if you start out will low stats you can raise them. What you want to do is choose a special ability.”
Verse points at the special ability box near the bottom and starts talking excitedly. “When you choose to spend these fifty points, the world analyzes your soul and chooses the ability that best compliments you. It is definitely worth spending half your points, and then you can spend the rest of your points to compliment your ability.” Verse turns and looks me in the eye, her face is tight as she tries to convey how serious she is. I choose to trust her. I would like to spend time thinking, but the timer is already below nine minutes.
Putting my faith in Verse, I reach out and spend fifty points to get a special ability. Then,
Congratulations! You have an affinity with the special ability “Dragon Heart”
There is no buffering screen, it appears almost immediately. As I wonder what this “Dragon Heart” ability is, Verse quickly chimes in, “Okay, I didn’t expect this, but it isn’t bad. This ability is focused around ‘adaptation.’ The world you’re heading to is full of dragons, but they’re extremely varied, in strength, ability, and temperament. This skill helps you adapt to your circumstance over time. It requires a lot of grinding, but if you’re patient your possibilities are endless. We’re almost out of time, so allocate your points the way I tell you to.”
Verse is right, there are only five minutes left, so I listen to her and allocate the rest of the forty-nine points the way she tells me to.
When I finish, a new screen shows up,
Thank you for using our service! Please be patient while we finish the process and choose your new name for you.
Before I can process what I read, Verse suddenly raises her voice. “Oh, fuck that. I’m not letting you give this kid some cringy-ass name, Greg. Override.” When Verse says the last word the air vibrates with the sound and the screen flickers. “Don’t worry, I’ll give you a good name, hun.”
Without waiting for me to respond, not that I could, Verse waves her hand and the screen settles.
Congratulations! Your new name is Jinn.
“It’s not the best name, but it doesn’t stand out. I hope it’s okay.” Verse apologizes. I would have like my original name, but this is fine too. New life, new name.
“You’ll be going now; I’ll try to make sure you appear somewhere without too many dangers. There’s a particular village I have in mind for you, you should appear down the road from it. You should have enough money for a few nights in an inn after you are reconstructed.” Verse begins seeing my off like a worried mother. My vision starts to turn blurry, the world shifts out of focus.
“Oh! One last thing, when you arrive say ‘Status’ and you will be able to see your stats and a few other things. Good luck, Jinn!”
As everything finally disappears, I feel someone squeeze my hand reassuringly.