Once again Crule woke up on the slab. He wishes he had lost count of how many times he have died…but the marks on the hands keeps reminding him.
“15…Where did I mess up this time?”
As he tried to recall what went wrong, his memory slowly came back like a video. What ever happened after his 3rd death allowed him to remember what happened. Perhaps it was supposed to happen, perhaps it wasn’t.
“It seems I was eaten again…”
The Antlion was far too strong for anyone to escape from once they have entered its nest.
Once again, Crule explored around his surroundings. He didn’t know how many chances he gets, he didn’t know how many times he could die…but so far it seemed endless.
Time pass on without notice. Honestly, without a day-night cycle, Crule couldn’t even keep track of time as he keeps dying and waking up what seems like hours later.
Soon the number of marks on Crule’s hand had filled it completely…the marks were now starting to show on his forearm.
More deaths…over…and over…and over.
Death by dehydration. Death from heatstroke. Death from being eaten. Death from suffocating in the sand rivers. Death from committing suicide.
Crule tried everything. Literally everything he could think of. But nothing changed. He would wake up again, dehydrated, on his slab of stone. The same blistering sun, the same stone steles, the same sand whirlpools, and the same god damn Antlion.
Soon the number of marks had covered his entire forearm and was working up to his shoulder.
Crule lost count…but he knew it was definitely over 100 deaths by now.
It was an unending nightmare. He nearly forgotten the last time he had ate, drank, or even had a moment’s respite.
Finally, something changed when the marks had covered his entire shoulder.
A faint image appeared this time when he woke up. It was being projected by one of the stone stele.
“I see you’re having fun.”
Famina said with a sadistic smile.
Crule didn’t know what to think. Honestly, he had gone numb from the sheer number of times he had died. He haven’t had any social interactions in such a long time as well.
“I assume you are trying to talk back right now, maybe even cursing me.”
Famina said with a smile.
“Sadly, this is just a recording. Something I left just in case my idiot of a disciple can’t pass this relatively easy trial.”
The sun made the image difficult to see, but Crule could see her smile still.
“Honestly, I didn’t even think I had to make this recording but knowing just how dense my disciple is, I had no choice. He might be smart to others, but to me, he’s always an idiot.”
Crule didn’t know what to say. So he just continued listening.
“Have you wondered why you have marks on your body?”
Famina finally asked.
“Those are the marks of the fallen. Each time you die, a little bit of yourself remains with each incarnation. The reason you had two to start with, was because you have already technically died twice.”
Famina revealed her pale arms under her sleeve. Suddenly, numerous markings that looked like the ones on Crule appeared.
“This is the true state of our immortality. We die, but we always come back. Each time we come back, we bring a little bit of ourselves with us. Crule, my boy, you have to learn how to be an immortal. Dying is painful, it is horrible and a nightmare each and every time. But you have to accept that it will happen to you as long as you are a horseman. You can’t escape the pain. You might as well embrace it, learn from it. Become something in-human.”
Rolling her sleeves back down, Famina sighed.
“The only way to pass the trial, is to accept it. Go on my child, go kill yourself a few hundred thousand more time. Enjoy the pain, the thought of dying, and just accept it’s something that happens eventually. Use it as your strength.”
Famina smiled one last time before the image vanished. For some reason Crule, could see a tear in her eye.
He didn’t understand. He had never seen his master cry before, no matter what had happened. Even when people she had known for years start to die all around her, her nerves of steel allow her to stay calm. It was now he knew that she had accept death as something that’s just a part of life. But at the same time, that single tear created many questions in his mind.
Crule looked down at the marks on his body. His entire right arm up to his shoulder was now covered in the marks. He no longer viewed them as something foreign. Each and every one of them represent himself. Each one was a life he had given up…and to continue this trial and to finish, he knew what he must do. Fill his entire body with marks and use its power.
But how? Crule had no idea how to access the power of the marks. Famina said they are the proof of immortality but how does it apply to his own power? What ties are there?
Just so many question that he needed answers to…
So Crule once again got up from the slab but with renewed determination in his eyes.
“Let’s keep dying then.”
He said with a smile as he embraced death.
“You were a fool…But I can’t stop you when you are like this…I just can’t.”
The horseman of death looked at the scene in front of him. A single throne made of darkness. The beautiful pale women sitting on it, unconscious. Slowly, one by one, the marks on her body vanishes.
“You truly loved that kid huh? I guess you thought of him as your own son…you raised him…and yet he doesn’t identify you as his mother…”
The horseman sighed. With his arms folded across his chest, he sat cross legged next to the throne.
“Let me accompany you till it’s over.”
The horseman said with the most endearing tone he could muster.
This was the woman he loved but could never have…she was his treasure, the jewel in his eyes, perhaps the only reason for him allowing every horseman to have immortality…Because he couldn’t bear to part with her.
But at the same time, he could never deny her…They had grown up together, spent countless centuries together…yet she never recognized his love. Perhaps she was too dense, perhaps he was too subtle…sadly none of that matters now. She is passing on…and her child…will carry on her will.
He promised himself he wouldn’t cry…But promises are meant to be broken.
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