Daz awoke and looked around. He saw that he was now standing in a very misty and nearly endless graveyard. "What the hell? I had only closed my eyes for a minute and... where the fuck is this?" Daz said as he looked around in a flurried panic of sorts.
He tried to run, but no matter how far his legs took him, he always ended up next to the exact same tombstone where he first appeared. He tried to ignore this and continued to run, to see if he could find an escape of some kind. 'I have to get out of wherever this is! I need to protect my people and get more points to get stronger! Why am I here in this fucking Graveyard?!' Daz screamed in his mind as the sweat from his constant sprinting starting to ooze out of him.
Daz ran for what felt like an eternity and eventually, he collapsed onto the ground. "There... there's no way I can leave... is there? This place... why do I keep coming back to this same spot?!... Why... why was I brought here?!" Daz roared between his ragged breathing.
"That's cuz you've embarked on the path of the Shovel, buddy," a clear and defined voice said with a short cackle in a clearly southern-American accent.
"Wha... who?!" Daz responded with a shaken tone, clearly startled by the sudden and unfamiliar voice. He weakly raised his exhausted body up and he could see, sitting on the tombstone that he kept being brought back to over and over again, was an elderly man.
This man looked to be in his late sixties, maybe early seventies. He had thin grey hair that was hidden under a straw hat and his frail looking body was covered up by a set of light blue overalls. He was perched on the headstone rather lazily and a very simple shovel was leaning against his shoulder, supported by one arm.
"I'm pretty surprised how you got sucked in here so soon. Normally it takes at least one four-day cycles before 'he' gives you permission to enter," the elder said with an amused grin before he carefully got down from the uncomfortable looking grave.
He grasped his back and hunched down rapidly as he placed a hand on his lower spine. "Atchacha! Backaches will be the death of me," he winced in pain.
"Are you okay?" Daz asked. He slowly stood up and observed the old carefully. 'I have no idea where I am nor who this is. I'd better be friendly since he seems to know what's going on,' he thought coldly, trying his best to assess the situation's value to him.
"I'll be fine, thanks, buddy," the elder replied as he feebly walked towards Daz, making him enter an alert state. "Woah, bit jumpy are we? Now that I get a better look at ya, ain'tcha a Reaper?" he said with a heavy interest in his tone.
"... Yes, I am. I'm Daz. Who, or what, are you?" Daz carefully replied.
"I'm Cecil, and I'm a Gravedigger. I'm surprised you ain't a Gravedigger yaself, buddy. How'd ya absorb a soul so early on? That's a tough requirement to fill for us shovel bearers. Yer world built on the concept of Soul Magic or something?" Cecil asked a bit invasively while he gently stretched out his back. After clenching his teeth through the pain, a very satisfying 'pop' could be heard as something clicked back into place. "Ahhhh, that hit the spot."
'Don't go sitting on tombstones if you have back issues,' Daz retorted in his mind. "I don't know. It just happened when I was enraged and about to die," was Daz's honest response.
Cecil stuck one of his pinky fingers in his ear and scraped out some earwax before he flung it away into the mist. "That's weird. Maybe yer world has hidden espers and you're one of 'em? There's about a million different possible explanations, anyway, ya've been patient enough and I wanna get this over with, so go ahead and ask all yer questions at once. I'll answer them quickly. I'm not overly fond of this place if I'm being truthful," Cecil said much to Daz's pleasure.
"Who is 'he'? Where are we? Why am I here? What's a 'four-day-cycle'? What's the 'path of the Shovel'? Why are you here too? Why can I understand you since you're obviously from a different planet?" Daz asked in rapid succession which almost made him run out of breath once again.
"'He' is the God of Shovels. We're in the dreamscape which is a visual representation of yer God's attribute. Yer here because the God of Shovels let ya in. I can't tell ya about cycles yet, it's against the system's rules, see? Each path of the Shovel is unique to each person, so I can't answer that one too. I'm here to mentor ya or something, I'm a first timer, so it's new to me. Ya can understand me because the dreamscape is letting ya understand me, and vice versa," Cecil responding perfectly.
'Seems he's the lazy type so he doesn't want to beat around the bush. Good, I can use that,' Daz gleefully thought, happy at the situation being at least somewhat clearer now.
"Oh, wait, I forgot one question, Mr Cecil," Daz said politely. 'Should be nice to him since he's probably stronger than me right? He seems to know a lot about the system so I bet he's powerful despite his appearance,' he added in thought.
"Tch, I thought step one was finished. Go for it, buddy. Also, drop the 'Mr'. I'm not that old," Cecil replied as he stroked his chin almost as if he were trying to make himself look more dashing.
'Don't... laugh...' Daz struggled the hardest he had been ever forced to since the apocalypse had started, but thankfully, he managed to overcome his personal challenge.
"Well, two things really. One, how did I get here? My physical body, or is this something else? And two, you introduced yourself as a 'Gravedigger'. Is that different from a Human?" Daz asked the final things itching away at his mind.
"Ah, great questions. I didn't think ya were smart enough to ask about the first one, by the way, the answer to that is your dreams. The God of Shovels only brings ya here when he feels fit to durin' yer sleep," Cecil explained before he sat on the ground and crossed his legs.
"Sit down, buddy. No point tiring out those wobbly legs of yers any more than ya already did before I got here," Cecil happily stated.
"Sure..." Daz responded, still slightly weary. He sat down and asked, "And about the whole 'Gravedigger' thing?"
"Heh heh, well in actuality, ya see, Gravediggers ar-" Abruptly, Daz was no longer in the misty graveyard and was now back in the cabin with the sleeping Richie twins cuddled up on the couch opposite him.
"What the fuck? I'm back to reality? That was so fucking weird... was that real? And if it was, why'd it get cut off so quickly?" Daz whispered, so as to not wake the two girls up. His rhetorical question was quickly answered by a dim and grey screen.
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