“I really died, huh?”
Ellis bitterly thought to himself.
Even now, he still couldn’t quite believe it. Although he had been wishing for death, a part of him didn’t actually want to die. Everybody was like that. People overreact to things all the time. It was like telling yourself to never eat chocolate ever again after it gave you a stomach ache that one time, but eating it immediately afterward when you see another piece the next day. It was like that. Life was a piece of chocolate. Ellis didn’t actually want to die.
At least, now he didn’t. It was unfortunate, but death wasn’t something so easy to take back.
Well, now that he was dead, he did have to wonder, “Where the hell am I?”
He looked around his surroundings. There was nothing. Like literally nothing.
An endless void. It was a black that wasn’t exactly black. An emptiness that didn’t quite feel hollow. All around him, space (or maybe it was a lack of space) stretched on for what felt like forever.
As for himself, Ellis realized that he couldn’t quite move. His body, or rather, he didn’t have a body anymore. The action of shaking his head, even the words that he once thought came out from his lips, they were nothing more than the wandering words of a lost soul.
Ellis was keenly aware of his surroundings. After a while, he gradually realized that there was something else within this infinite void. A glowing mass of light. It was weak and feeble and looked as if it would go out at any second. That light was what replaced his body.
Was it his soul or something else? He felt like that was probably the correct train of thought.
Is this what comes after death? He wondered to himself. An endless void with nothing in sight?
A part of him felt underwhelmed, while another part of him felt overwhelmed. If it was going to be like this for all eternity, then why was he still conscious?
No matter how much he grumbled to himself, there was nothing he could do to change his situation.
After a while, he suddenly noticed something.
Although the surroundings never outwardly changed, he was vaguely aware of movement. His body, the light that composed of his existence, it was moving. It was a similar experience to riding a bus. He was keenly aware of the movement, but he neither had the ability to change nor control it. As to how or where, that he did not know.
An indiscernible amount of time passed.
Eventually, something else finally happened.
Within the seemingly never-ending blackness, he saw a flickering light in the distance. Like him, it was also moving. From its vague trajectory, it was moving towards the same destination as him.
Is it another dead soul or something else? Ellis did not know, but he felt that the likelihood of it being another soul was high. He wanted to move towards it, but again, he found that he couldn’t. He kept moving in the same direction, as if there was something there drawing him in.
More time passed. The number of lights increased. They were all like him, faintly glowing blobs of white. They streaked through the darkness, hurtling towards a place still distant and unknown.
Ellis counted the lights. Including him, there were nine lights in total. Nine souls. Nine like him. They moved silently through the void.
It was after the ninth light came into view that it suddenly happened.
For the first time, Ellis heard a voice. It was an ambiguous voice that echoed through the surrounding space. If he still had ears, then no doubt its words would have reverberated through his eardrums.
“Children,” It spoke. “Some of you may have already realized this, while some of you may still be unaware, but you all have died.”
All the lights around him shook, seemingly in reaction not with the content of its words, but with the voice itself. Ellis was no exception.
“I do not know what sort of life you may have all lived in the past, but know this: death is not always the end. For some, it can also be the start of a new beginning… I am here to grant you that new beginning.”
“You may have all died in your old world, but I will allow you to live a new life in another world. In that world, you will become something far greater than your previous selves.”
“Children gifted by God. Those destined to walk the path of glory and greatness. I will transform you into such an existence. I will transform you into heroes.”
With no one to interrupt him, the voice rambled on. For the most part, Ellis felt as if he was hearing a sales pitch for a car dealership, but he did have to admit, there was something in the voice’s words that compelled him.
Heroes… His mind clung to that one word.
It was that, right? That popular trope that was all the rage online. Transmigrating to another world and starting over. Living life as a super successful person with power, money, and women. A blatant wish fulfillment type story.
Ellis did not know whether he felt excited about that sudden prospect or scared.
“Normally, departed souls such as yourselves would never get the chance to even encounter such an opportunity.” The voice continued. “At the moment of death, all the things that once constituted as you would cease to exist. Your soul disintegrates, shattering into tiny, featureless particles. And in the end, those baptized particles come together once more, this time, to form a completely new soul with none of the memories, personality, or ego that was once you. Even for a god, it is a frightening prospect.”
“I am allowing you to live a second life with the same ego and memories that you possessed in the past. What’s more, you will live a far more fulfilling life than before! So come, heroes, save my worl—”
Just then, a loud sound resembling shattering glass reverberated through the void.
The voice stopped and within the darkness, a crack appeared. It was located at a distance that couldn’t be considered far, but neither could it be considered close. Still, it felt as if something was suddenly breathing down the back of Ellis’s neck. For a moment, indescribable fear engulfed him.
From within the crack, a single entity walked out.
It was dark, darker than even the blackness of eternity. Its fluidity stood out like a sore thumb amidst the static nature of the void. Its body, if you could really call it that, constantly morphed and changed, splitting into a hundred thousand wriggling tendrils one second and turning into a gelatinous blob the next.
It gave off a clear malevolent atmosphere. It was to the point where Ellis began fearing for a life that he no longer possessed.
Within the ever-changing mass, two red orbs glowed brightly. They mimicked the appearance of eyes.
“You, what are you doing here?!” The voice from before called out. Space shook. Anger and shock were clearly laced into his words.
“I am here to take a peek at your little ‘operation’ and to establish a lineage for myself.” The malevolent entity calmly responded.
“What?” Suddenly, a white figure appeared. It was a being resembling a person. Everything about him was ambiguous, but Ellis could vaguely tell that the thing before him was a man. The new figure furrowed his brow. “Whatever it is you're planning, don’t think I’ll just let you.”
“I never counted on you to be lenient in the first place.” The malevolent entity lightly responded before he ignored the white figure and turned towards the glowing orbs. The moment he felt those red eyes glaze over him, Ellis shivered. His light flickered as if it were about to go out.
Everyone else was like that too. For some reason, his body, no, his soul, it was instinctively afraid.
“Let’s see… I don’t really want anyone too outstanding, but they can’t be a pushover either.” The malevolent entity muttered to itself. “Good or evil? Well, it shouldn’t really matter.”
After a few seconds, the malevolent entity suddenly turned to Ellis. He felt as if they had locked eyes, but he wasn’t quite sure. In that moment, all he felt was fear.
The red orbs curved into two thin crescents. It was an action resembling a smile. “You. I’ve decided. I’ll go with you.”
It stretched a hand out towards him. Ellis was powerless to do anything.
“Alma! Don’t go too far!” Suddenly, the white figure moved. He dashed forward and swiped his hand out. A blinding light shot forth.
The malevolent entity avoided the light. Its now gaseous figure dissipated before it reformed completely anew. “Whoops, you almost got me. You should really be careful, you wouldn’t want any of your precious heroes to be damaged, would you?” It taunted.
“You…” The white figure gnashed his teeth. He took a step forward, but just before he could do anything else, the malevolent entity continued.
“Too bad for you, but I’m not the type to give second chances. It’s far too late now.” A black hand suddenly swept Ellis up. The nine lights that floated amidst the endless void suddenly decreased to eight. “With this, mission complete.” Its red eyes once again curved into thin crescents.
The malevolent entity transformed into a viscous liquid and rapidly disappeared back into the crack. A half second later and the crack vanished.
A deafening silence. None of the remaining lights dared to move. In the first place, they couldn’t.
The white figure stared at the spot where the crack had been for a long time before it abruptly turned away. He looked over at the glowing white lights. Souls, eight of them left.
As for the group of eight spheres, they felt equal parts shocked and afraid. There was a being out there strong enough to tear through void. Just that prospect alone gave them a fright. What sort of concept was breaking the void? It was a feat far beyond their current understanding, but nevertheless, they were vaguely aware of its difficulty.
When the white figure’s gaze landed on them, the group of lights froze.
“Come, let’s move along.” Without saying much, the white figure swept his hands forward and all the lights suddenly gathered within his palm. He then rushed off into the darkness, towards a destination still unknown.
Unbeknownst of anyone, on that day, the fate of the nine, no, the fate of the eight heroes began to turn.