A/N: It took me two weeks to get this done. But, that’s a 92% improvement over six months, so that’s good, right? Right?
When I post chapter 5, I’ll also post a synopsis on the TOC page, so people will be able to tell what the story is actually about. Hm? Why not post it now? I just want to reveal it in the chapters first.
In case I change my mind .
-And greetings to you as well, Metricarisenikai. But it’s unusual,- I said, casting my words in the current tongue, rather than the ancient language that Metria had greeted me with. -You are not generally given to formality. Is something wrong?-
He smoothly switched languages and said, “I merely wished to give you a proper greeting. It has been many years since we last spoke, after all.”
-Not so many as that. It has been less than a century, by my reckoning.-
This elicited a slightly bemused smile from Metria. “I believe even for the dead, a century should be considered a long time. And truthfully,” he said, as his gentle face returned to it’s former serious expression, “much has changed since you…slept.”
-I highly doubt that. In my eyes, humans do not change. Much of what the mortal world considers change, is merely a different form of the same condition.-
“I’m fairly certain that’s what ‘change’ means, though…” Metria gave a wry smile as he spoke. This was an argument we had exchanged many times in the past, to the point that it was a small tradition all on its own. To those of us who have died, but remain, these little habits are a comfort; since I had cancelled my little trick, I could no longer feel Metria’s feelings directly, but I could tell that he had calmed down from earlier.
Which was good. I didn’t want to be put in the position of having to send him to the Prime, while he still had information I might need. His mental state still seemed unstable, however, so I decided to get right to the point before he admitted to something unfortunate.
-There is no need to discuss this trivial topic. Why have you called me, Metricarisenikai? Has one of our brethren exceeded his writ? Or have the humans begun making prohibited bargains again? Truly, they never learn.-
Anyone less familiar with Metria would probably have missed his flinch at the mention of our brethren. Nevertheless, he tried to evade the topic. “Perhaps I merely wanted to see you? It has been long time, after all…since the incident with Serpha Aivon.”
-We will not speak of that.- Nope, definitely don’t want to discuss Serpha right now. Back to the problem at hand. -For what reason have you called me forth, young one? If it is not relevant, I shall return to my office. I am not so free as to wait on your beck and call.-
Of course, I had no actual intention of returning to my office; in the short time since I had returned to the city, I had already discovered several things that deserved closer attention. None of them were as urgent, however, as discovering why Metricarisenikai would dare call me forth once more. The more he evaded the issue, the more worried I secretly became.
My words seemed to agitate the young bartender, who had been glaring at me this entire time. Around the bar, surreptitious gazes were being shot at Metria and I, while some number of customers had paid their bills and hurriedly left the bar. I felt slightly regretful for driving Metria’s clientele away, but of course, it was no business of mine.
Metria sighed. “That’s not my intention at all, Zedda. I only wanted to…” He trailed off, and bit his lip. It was a bit strange, but his unconscious gestures seemed to have become even more feminine since I last conversed with him. For the most part, the behavior of beings such as he and I becomes less human as the years pass by; I, for example, have no human behavioral tics at all anymore, and can easily pass for a statue, or a corpse, at any given moment.
To have become more human, instead of less… As usual, Baera’s Chosen are all weird people.
Metria seemed to shake off his hesitation, and spoke more boldly. “Zedda, I wanted to request for you to help that girl.”
Oh, really? -What girl?-
“The one I sent to your office, Zedda. Miss Irine Bellvaunt.”
So that was her name. -I have neither time nor interest to meddle the affairs of mortal humans, Metricarisenikai.- Besides, I completely missed everything she said earlier.
“But you used to take on cases that interested you. Surely that hasn’t changed.” Metria seemed a little sad as he responded.
-You say they interested me? I merely aided the humans in small matters, in exchange for paltry sums that I could then return to them in the form of rent. However, that contract is ended, for no one owns my building now, and I pay no rent. There is no reason for me to move, except in Jurisanti’s service.-
“I…see.” It was a mystery how Metria could project sorrow through his dead eyes, but he managed it. “But I think that her problem may be closely related to your calling. You see…” He hesitated again, but quickly continued, “…she is a failed Cultivation.”
It was fortunate that I lacked a human’s body language, or Metria would have noticed how quickly I froze. If this Irine Bellvaunt was indeed a Cultivation, that was definitely my business indeed.
Humans fear death. They do not know its shape, or its depth. They do not know its purpose, or its mercy. They do not know the true face of the Prime Death, from whom the Reaper Lords are mere offshoots. They only see cessation, and they fear it like nothing else.
I can offer them no comfort. Though I am dead, I cannot explain to them the importance of death, and how it is actually their priceless advantage. It is the one failing that haunts me.
And so, humans fear death. Thus, in order to eliminate their fear, they turn to the beings which are naturally free from death: the gods. To these ancient, eternal powers, humans will reach out, begging for eternity. And sometimes, because the gods love humans, they will reach back.
A Cultivation is a deliberate attempt by humans to attract a god. A person will be selected, and carefully trained to emulate the god in question. As the chosen human’s nature becomes closer to that of the god, that god may begin to express its power through the human. There are many advantages to this relationship, but the ultimate goal is for the human to receive the inherent nature of a god; that is to say, a god’s immortality.
This would be bad enough, but once a human gains immortality, it can spread like a disease to others close to them. This is why humans would spend all the time and effort into producing a Cultivation: it is not merely the cultivated one who will reap the rewards of success.
What the humans do not realize, is how this behavior will hasten the destruction of the world itself. It is not the humans’ fault, really; they are simply incapable of understanding. Nor is it the fault of the gods; they are simply being taken advantage of. Nevertheless, it can not be allowed; the cycle of death must continue, or this world’s very existence will be at risk.
And so, my lord Jurisanti, first among the Reaper Lords, was given the task of seeking out these Cultivations, and severing the connection between mortal and deity. And since he cannot directly touch the human world, he selects from among the dead certain individuals, men and women whom he entrusts with the duty of seeking out and destroying those Cultivations.
Just as he entrusted that duty to me, all those centuries ago. And I have kept that pact, hunting down individuals, tracing groups, eliminating societies, all in an effort to keep the wheels of death turning. It is my pride that I have never made exceptions, and treated all equally; all who abuse the power of a god to evade death, shall be made to face the Prime.
-That is indeed serious news. A new Cultivation… Truly, they never learn.-
“She is not a true Cultivation, though. In the end, she failed to synchronize with the god.”
-Are you certain?- Metria didn’t respond. -No matter; I will examine the matter closely. Should I require assistance, which of our brethren are available to assist my investigation?-
Metricarisenikai remained silent. He seemed unable to meet my blind gaze, and kept shifting his eyes around his bar as if searching for something. The bar was quiet, with the remaining patrons apparently hanging off our every word.
Strange, the subtle man is missing again…no, don’t get distracted.
-Metricarisenikai. Who is available?-
He took an unnecessary deep breath, and seemed to force himself to look directly at me. “No one.”
-No one? They are all busy?-
“No.” His androgynous voice was quiet and sad. “They are all gone. We are the only ones left.”