Luca watched with disappointment as the Wheel slowed its pace. The speed slowed down so much that a broad red sector took up his entire field of view for several seconds.
Both the boy and Esk’Onegut, the traveler in his head, prayed to the Wheel to move beyond the cursed red zone. Luca no longer even thought of superpowers or talents. He wanted just one thing: to remain healthy. With any other segment, he had a chance of over ninety seven percent to remain as he was. But the red segment could bring him something worse than paralysis.
The traveler himself grinned with irony; this was how Tsoui worked. If the carrier’s body was cursed, then the recent healing would turn into something similar — red. The sector was too wide. Any other would have already passed by.
The edge of the sector hove into view somewhere at the edge of vision. Come on, come on, Luca begged. Please! Curse you in the name of all the gods! Esk growled inwardly, furious at the possibility of spending his final reincarnation in the body of a twice cursed boy. How could it be otherwise, if he was born a cripple and would become one again now?
The border between the sectors almost stopped in front of Luca’s face. The next sector after the red one was purple, and this was the first time the traveler had seen that color in all his ninety nine lives.
“Impossible! Seriously? Are you serious, gods?” The irony of the situation drove Esk, and Luca with him, to hysterics. The results hadn’t yet been declared, which meant the Wheel was still turning.
Esk began to personally address every god with whom he’d aligned himself in his previous lives.
“Cruel Horvac, Timeless Akatosh, Faceless Veridic, Almighty God, K’Tun the Defiler...”
He had time to address them all and start from the beginning again before the Wheel stopped. It seemed to Luca as if the line between the sectors was precisely between his eyes, but Esk’Onegut exulted. The difference must have been in microns, but the Wheel had stopped in the purple sector!
One-time Wheel spin token used.
Spin outcome: purple sector.
Rewards: Reminiscent title.
Esk’Onegut is freed from the effect of the Waning, and shall keep all the accumulated experience of his mortal years, beginning with the current reincarnation;
Esl’Onegut shall keep all positive talents, superpowers and effects, beginning with the current reincarnation;
if the purple sector falls again, Esk’Onegut gains the right to choose one lost superpower from a previous reincarnation.
The noise of the street descended on Luca. He was back in control of his body, and the world came alive. The boy frowned, reading the strange text again and again.
The traveler burst into laughter through his mouth. The Wheel had settled on the purple sector—the mythical purple sector!—at the very time when none of its rewards could have any effect on him. Even the weakest talent would have been better, even the skill of playing any musical instrument! At least he could have made a living in the inns that way.
Esk’Onegut found himself in the position of a billionaire whose entire fortune was being kept safe and sound away from him right up until the day the final nail was hammered into his coffin. What was the point of removing his Waning if this was his last life? Among other things, it was impossible to earn back his almost a thousand minus Tsoui points in the body of a beggar boy. In his best reincarnations, Esk had managed to earn several hundred, but never more than five hundred.
That meant there was no point in even thinking about any new talents that might stay with him in future lives if he got the purple sector again. Because he would have no future lives, and he had no Tsoui points with which to spin the Wheel again. All he needed was ten measly points—the cost of a single spin—and he didn’t have them!
While Esk was busy going insane, Luca enjoyed scratching the back of his head—not out of habit, but because his dirty hair was greasy—then picked up the bucket, tightened his grip on it and carried it to a nearby drain. Although really, the entire road had turned into a drain. It flowed not only with the recent floods and spring rains, but also the day-to-day refuse of the people of their entire destitute district.
The boy added the dirty water to the flow, then took his bearings and wandered toward the local well.
In the meantime, Esk thought over his options, calculated probabilities, decided what to do. Nothing he came up with gave him even the smallest chance. The weight of his sins in the life before his last pulled him down into a chasm. In that life he had burned everything he had and gone into minus points, and in the one following, his idleness only sent his balance deeper into the red.
He was doomed to eke out an existence in an unfriendly and underdeveloped world, and with no talents or abilities to speak of. At the end of that woeful journey of life, the traveler’s existence would end once and for all. His would. But what about Luca?
Understanding began to dawn in his consciousness, burning stronger and stronger, giving Esk—no, not hope, but a sense of the right path. The already unfortunate boy wasn’t guilty of his — Esk’Onegut’s! — past sins. And that meant...
He had to decide now, before it got too scary! And then a particle of his soul would go on to live many, he hoped, new lives. As long as the boy lived up to his expectations and didn’t let him down.
Esk sighed deeply and reflexively closed his eyes. Through the beating of his heart, he activated the Exodus.
Esk’Onegut, life ninety nine.
Reminiscent (immune to effect of the Waning).
Influence level: 9.
Tsoui points: -971 (negative value).
Excarnation selected with subsequent merging with individual Luca Dezisimu (life one), resident of zone Orion Arm, Milky Way, Solar System, Planet Earth. Universe variation: #ES-252210-0273-4707.
Luca Dezisimu will receive Esk’Onegut’s positive legacy.
The eyes that Esk had closed led to Luca tripping, losing his balance and falling. He tried to pick himself up, but fell again into the mud. A sharp pain pierced his head, then immediately disappeared, only to reappear in another part of his skull. The flashes of pain bounced around his head for several minutes, and just when Luca finally thought he’d rather die than continue the hellish punishment, it all stopped.
The boy’s hands dropped from his head. He cringed in anticipation of more pain, but none came. He sat down haltingly and saw a block of text before him. The text repeated in his head in his own clear thoughts, the whisper of his own voice.
Luca Dezisimu, from this day forth, you are a traveler.
Live a life worthy of Tsoui, observe the balance and harmony of life, and after death you will revive in another world of the infinite universe.
Luca’Onegut, life one.
Reminiscent (immune to effect of the Waning). Successor to Esk’Onegut.
Influence level: 0.
Tsoui points: 0.
Orion Arm, Milky Way, Solar System, Planet Earth.
Universe variation: #ES-252210-0273-4707.
One-time Wheel spin privilege: available.
The inheritance from Esk, including the rewards of the purple sector, became Luca’s personal experience and knowledge, so this time he didn’t need to reread the text to understand it.
Luca smiled. Now he would bring his mother water, then get Kora out of jail, and then...
Then he would spin the Wheel again.
Alex (Aleksei) Bobl is a literary agent and a science fiction writer, author of 13 novels. An ex-paratrooper, he used his military knowledge and experience to write his debut novels for S.T.A.L.K.E.R., a bestselling science fiction action adventure series set in a post-apocalyptic Chernobyl.
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