A flash of death.
Eryn thought it was over once that final blade came down upon her neck. For a while, it seemed like everything was silent and dark, the end of suffering. But then, a glow of purple still illuminated the world, broken as ever. She was conscious, but not fully so.
There were no eyes to see, no ears to hear, nor hands to reach out and touch. And whoever was around her seemed not to notice her presence, even when she bumped right into them. In fact, there was no weight behind the impacts, like a ghost passing through a wall.
Perhaps, she was one. After all, death had already claimed her. She looked back, seeing the headless corpse that was hers. No remorse could be felt. Not when she no longer had a body to shed tears. But seeing that this was what came after death made her wonder.
‘What purpose does this serve me?’
She could still think and dwell and recall every bad moment of her life. Every regret and sadness. But without a body, she was even more alone, isolated from the entire world. Just when she resigned herself to the notion that this was penitence for her sins, she collided into the core of some person.
With a jolt, Eryn suddenly had eyes again. Memories that weren’t hers zipped through her mind, causing a bit of disorientation. She looked down at something to regain her bearings, seeing a sword and shield in her hand. The clothing of a soldier of SIstina wrapped around her… or rather, the body of a man. Shocked that she had ended up in another’s body, a feeling of rage enveloped her. She immediately lashed out at the nearest person, striking him dead in an instant.
Before long, others pounced on her, attempting to pin her down. But she kept fighting. She didn’t want to live like this. Seeing that reason wouldn’t work, one man plunged a knife into her chest.
Another flash of death, and once again, she was thrown into the isolated, broken world she saw before. Reeling from the experience, she collided into another core soon after, waking up as that person. More memories flooded her mind, but she disregarded them for the time being. They were not important.
She drew the sword resting upon the belt and cut down the nearest person. And once again, she was swarmed by foes attacking the ‘traitor’. After this second trip, Eryn began to understand this cycle. She could possess another and control his or her actions. Perhaps, the voice had not lied to her. She had been given another chance, or rather, as many chances as possible to make up for the terrible life she had.
This time, she floated around for a few minutes, tempted by a stronger mana signature to bump into. Her mind awakened to that of a well-rounded magician, a member of nobility who was the eighth son of some viscount.
Perhaps, she could hide within this body and live out a normal, steady life. No expectations and at the furthest rungs from responsibility unless she desired for more. But that thought was soon discarded when she caught a glance of someone carrying Claude’s body. She waltzed over to see what they planned to do with him.
“Sucks that you have to carry him. I wouldn’t want to touch a demon’s body even knowing that he’s dead.”
“Chancellor’s orders. Something about dissecting him to see if we can figure out his power. Somebody’s gotta do it.”
That was all Eryn needed to hear. Invoking the current body’s memories, she chanted a spell familiar to it.
The ground instantly split apart and swallowed the men, including Claude. He would have wanted to be buried anyway, not turned into a guinea pig of sorts. But soon, the strain of mana drain swept over her.
“Gah, this body has far less mana than I’m used to. I put too much into-”
At that moment, magic spells collided into her, the remaining mana in this body not enough to guard against them. The entire army was starting to wise up after several attacks brought them back to a defensive. It was time to find the next host. It didn’t take much longer for them to realize what was happening.
“They are being possessed somehow!”
Eryn had to choose better targets, ones that she could savor as she wreaked havoc. Scanning the area for the strongest aura in proximity, she hopped through the ranks, exploiting the most powerful men. But even those were outmatched by numbers. They were not men fearsome enough to pause the march of a determined army.
Eryn pondered. ‘Who would shake their morale most?’
Then, she caught sight of one mana signature, fierce and imposing, the aura of someone indomitable and regal. The brightness of its glow was like a beacon for others to follow. Immediately, Eryn knew who it was: the warrior prince, Oswald.
Eryn figuratively licked her lips. Her new ability allowed her to take revenge upon the man responsible for this whole ordeal, for Claude’s death. If only he had left them alone, if only he didn’t chase after them… she wouldn’t have the desire to destroy everything. Now, no one could impede her whims as she dove right into his core.
More memories, that of a prideful man who wouldn’t back down in his beliefs. By now, the different people she had possessed all started to blend together. All she needed to know was that Oswald was determined to be rid of both Claude and her from the very start.
As she clenched a gauntleted fist, a feeling of strength emboldened her. This was a great body. The feel of Oswald’s sword as she drew it from its scabbard gave a tingle of rapture. With an almost playful strike to test out her new body, she slew ten men in a single swing. That was when all those around her backed away quickly in fear. After realizing her newfound capability, they were too slow to prevent the possession of someone who they couldn’t afford to lose.
With her vision, she could see the mana signatures of everyone flicker in fear. The mana around them receded, revealing how fragile their bodies were. The sight of Oswald with flaming eyes brought chills to their knees. She felt like a single breath in their direction would topple them into statues smashed upon the earth. Those that managed to will their feet to move certainly fled like they would. Others that were too frozen to, they were cleaved in half upon her approach, slow and sauntering. Eryn emitted a hearty cackle as the army fell into chaos, surrendering completely. The sensation of dominating her fate was near euphoric.
But then, it was interrupted by the sight of a lone man standing firm before her. Lamps Magellan, the genius inventor from another world. His right-hand man was the very reason that Oswald became so strong. Eryn aimed her sword at him as she dashed forward, the sole remaining threat, but then, a trembling rippled through the arm holding it.
Oswald was trying to regain control of his body; she could feel it. Her steps slowed. Her arms felt heavy. It was like weights were suddenly attached to them. Her control over him wasn’t strong enough. Before she could take down Lamps, Oswald’s final strength rooted in place.
She stared forward, seeing the blind man pull out some contraption, a weapon of sorts. From her view, the amount of energy charging from it grew to an awe-inspiring amount, surely enough to kill even the strongest warrior in the kingdom. She scoffed.
But would he actually do it? A man that intelligent surely realized that simply killing the host would just yield the next victim. Did that mean Lamps wielded a power strong enough to take out everything, her included? Eryn struggled to wrangle control back from the prince, but before she could, the very lips that were once in her control yelled out.
“D-Do it! Y-You have to!”
The shot fired. A light enveloped everything within her blinded vision. Mana swept over her entire existence before her surroundings turned into a horrifying sear of pain. She could no longer sense whether she was up or down. It was like the body simply drifted through space.
But unlike the quick flash of death, pain continued to flare up across Oswald’s entire body. Like every part of him was being slowly torn to shreds and caught aflame at the same time. She could sense this body being shaved away until only the core was left, and then, even that crumbled to dust, leaving Eryn’s existence alone to suffer.
But with no body, she shouldn’t have felt pain. And yet, it continued. Even worse than before.
Like nerves that were peeled bare just so the full brunt of pain could be transmitted. She wondered how that was even possible with no physical form. How she wished that the rest of her would burn to nothing, so that no more could be felt. Yet, it kept going and going… until she could hardly think about anything else.
Until her very thoughts could no longer stay coherent.
Until her existence became a muddled mess of memories disconnected from her consciousness.
And even then, it didn’t stop. No sense of time could be tracked, so there was no telling how long she was stuck like that. But eventually, it did end. The cloud of miasma that defined her remaining existence was spit out onto some grassy field. The lack of pain felt almost foreign by this point, disorienting even. It took quite some time to even put together that it had survived somehow.
Unknown to Lamps, the effects of the spell had run its course in a rather unpredictable way. The existence could no longer recall what it was trying to do. It couldn’t even recall its own name or what it was doing before arriving here. The immeasurable time that it spent stuck in torture had scrambled its memory.
All it could recall was a single hunger pervading the entire time in isolation – an empty loneliness.
It floated around, looking for someone, anyone. After a few days, it came across a traveler. Instinctively, it knew to invade the man’s body, to take over him and become the very person himself. And so, the existence tried to live as him, learning once again what it was like to exist among others.
Though he tried to experience a normal life, the feeling of loneliness only grew as he looked upon other humans, interacted with them, and tried to connect with them.
‘It feels like such a lie.’
After all, he was different. And that difference made him feel isolated no matter what he did.
And even when that man passed away, the existence merely floated out of his body. Decades of experiences should have sated it, but not when the inkling of a previous life turned that into an extraneous morsel. Its undying form made it clear that even that wasn’t enough. Its loneliness wouldn’t go away from something so basic.
So it possessed another. Someone of higher position. A noble with opportunity. That made it easier to search for something to quench its thirst. But a series of disappointments soon turned that desire into an obsession – to discover someone else out in this world that resonated with it. Only then, it would stop being lonely.
After all, it had all the time in the world. The curse of eternal life gave it plenty of time to find that answer.
Numerous decades passed, and then more than a century. The answer continued to elude it. There was no other existence like it, that possessed eternal life. But it had found a seed of possibility.
It discovered that it could infect others with its miasma. Darkness drove the target mad. But in the brief moments prior to it devolving into a deranged beast, it could feel something resonating. The existence of these so-called ‘demons’ unleashed upon the world, they were a curse much like itself.
It looked for ways to experiment, to discover the possibilities that no one dared to touch. And of course, humanity soon chased after it for those acts. Creating demons in their governed realms was just asking for trouble. The rise of anti-demon warriors certainly gave it a fierce unwelcome, destroying its current host in the process.
‘If I am to continue, then the support of a nation would be necessary,’ the fleeting existence pondered as it fled the borders of Sanshiro, a country of people that evolved in response to its growing threat. Regardless of the infinite retries, it couldn’t make any more progress unless it had equal manpower on its side.
Weeks later, it found a promising new host.
The man held a budding magic potential, strong enough to become a great spellcaster in a short time. With the knowledge that it had gained from over a century of jumping between people, this body could be tutored to the fullest extent.
Controlling a maid in his residence, it waited until nighttime to approach the sleeping man. Pulling a knife out, the maid quickly stabbed him in the chest, before slitting her own throat. The existence waited until the man was near-death to infect his core. A dying host resisted less, allowing for complete integration into what others called ‘demons’. If it was to play the part of someone critical to a kingdom, then it couldn’t take any chances of someone fighting back.
Moments later, the man’s eyes popped open. Miasma coursed through his cold body, instantly healing the wound that was in his chest. He rose from the bed and walked over to the mirror, taking note that his eyes shone purple and his ears became slightly pointed, the effects of that transformation.
He chuckled as he examined himself in the mirror, the face of a debonair gentleman smiling back at him. He reviewed the man’s memories to create some scenario to cover up the maid’s murder. And then, he ran through the preparations needed before he could step upon the stage of the upper echelon.
“Well, well. The name, David Willingham, doesn’t sound too bad. I better get used to being called that.”