"A goddess..." One from the front line said.
To everyone's shock, he really managed to speak. They all clamored to try their voices and none of them could contain their excitement and joy. It was like they finally regained something very precious, the feeling was so marvelous and indescribable.
They were finally no longer mute!
Meanwhile, the woman smiled at the man who spoke first.
"You are correct, young man. My name is Anda, one of the goddesses of this place. Please bear in mind that you are all now in the Underworld. This whole world is called that. This world is a never-ending wasteland. The only sanctuary for humans and all deceased beings is the sacred mountain behind me, Mount Balatukan."
The people expressed their confusion. They all inspected the mountain that stood tall after the forest. Then they began debating on what was currently happening and what the goddess meant when she said that. The young man from before kept frowning. He felt like he heard the name Mount Balatukan before, but it was that of a volcano… Wait, were his memories even reliable when he didn't know where he got them? He shook the thoughts out of his mind.
The goddess, Anda, merely smiled. One corner of mouth slowly turned up before she laughingly said, "Now, now, everyone please listen carefully. What lies in front of you is a sacred place. Of course, a test is a must to determine if you are worthy, don't you agree? After all, how could we call it sacred if all types of people could enter just like that? We must first see if everyone here fits the criteria. I'm sure you all understand what I mean."
Anda paused, watching everyone's reaction. The goddess's eyes twinkled in mischief before she continued, "I will now issue a simple task. Those who won't pass will be the proof why this world is called the Underworld. Look around, everyone. Carefully ponder what will happen once you fail the simple challenge."
Like magic, Anda's voice managed to make everybody inspect their surroundings. Earlier, they were all not able to see the place clearly due to the knee-high dust swirling about the whole area, thus they were only able to know the place was akin to a dead wasteland.
As they swept their gazes around… there seemed to be still nothing but dust? The people standing below the rock and the goddess did not shy away from expressing their confusion.
"Here!" The gentle and chime-like voice echoed.
After Anda's heavily adorned long sleeves swayed, the thick smog and dust around them suddenly and mysteriously vanished.
What came next was the shrieking and screaming from some weak-willed women.
Everyone's eyes, except Anda and the werehorses, widened their eyes in disbelief. Even the young man in the black jacket was badly startled… because what they saw was a never-ending carpet of bones and skeletons, all seemingly from humans!
"H-human skulls? Dearest heaven! It's really h-human skulls! Human skeletons!!!"
"W-where are we! I d-don't like this p-place! M-mooommmmmyyyyy!"
Everyone felt like their hearts jumped out of their throats. Fear reigned upon them as many even knelt on the spot and made a fuss.
The young man also felt cold sweat trickling down his back. His gaze went to the werehorses neighing and laughing wantonly at the reaction of the stupid humans near them. One of the horse-headed creatures looked at him, laughingly taunted him with a cutthroat.
"Son of a stray cat!" He cursed out. However, his hands move to clutch his neck as if protecting it from something.
"Damn it, where am I? What's going on? Did someone kidnap me or some aliens captured me together with everyone else here for experimentation? No no no, I definitely don't want to end up like those skeletons!"
***"Listen!"The voice came from the foot of the sacred mountain, Mount Balatukan, from the other side of the tall freestanding rock. Despite being confused about how the goddess' voice triumphed over the ten thousand voices of everybody else, they still did as told. They quieted down to listen, each pair of eyes directed to the person sitting on the branch. Everyone fought their unease and fright and did their best not to look at the skeletons and waited for Anda's next words.They fervently hoped it would be words of enlightenment and hope."In front of you is the monolith called Liyang! Prove you are worthy of entering the sacred mountain by overcoming this giant and tall wall! Those who can pass will be allowed sheltering by the sanctuary and saved from the treachery of the dead plains. Those who fail, stop denying you don't know what you'll end up with!"Everyone remained silent, and in utter disbelief.They would have to cross this rock to pass… Hoho, sounds easy. But was it rea
***A playful reply came. "Nope. Hey, the author seemed to know very little about us. His story stopped on the part where the Creator Bathala was said to disappear, leaving the whole Skyworld to be managed by the other deities. And. Well, that's it." She then rolled up the bamboo scrolls and left it on top of the small round table. "This should be a work of some mortals from thousands of years ago, correct? They are quite amazing to know a bit about us, don't you think so?"The man who yearned for some peace but couldn't find it due to the woman's presence signed and replied, "You are correct. That scroll was brought to this world by one of the priestesses of a human tribe from one thousand years ago. When I read that mortal's memories, it was still a time when tribes worship beings like us, calling us their gods and goddesses or anitos.""Oh," the woman responded before laughing. "Anitos… Really foolish mortals. How dare they say Gods and Goddess of the Skyworld are the same with the
***Anda remained sitting on the branch hanging above. She looked down on everybody with a beautiful smile on her lips.There were so many people jumping around the big rock. Quite a few tried out their parkour tricks and there were even some people conferencing near the challenge location, each participant with eagerness and seriousness on their faces.They looked like some earnest and dependable people and this prompted the young man in the black jacket to approach them."The test is so difficult. It's like the administrator is purposely eliminating the old and the weak." The old man following the young man made sobbing noises. "Wwuuuuu! This is unfair. Tell me, kiddo Ley! How do I survive!?""You think I know? I'm not even sure if I could make it through. And why the heck are you following me?" The young man called kiddo Ley didn't hide his displeasure through his tone."Even the seventy-seven years old me can't grasp the logic of this te
***The old man roared in anger. "Obviously! Can't you see how people are trampling the others just to make sure they don't become skeletons!? And you only said now that something is wrong! Everyone's moral character is wrong!"Actually, Leyte was also quite scared by what he was seeing. It was just that when he saw something that was not matching up with his common sense, he somehow calmed down and started to ponder.He once again said, "Something is really wrong.""You!" The old man next to him stared at Ley as if he was a hopeless nutcase."When that person was beaten up, there's no blood or bruise. However, she's one of the odds.""Huh?""There are also people in evens that got punched and beat up but they bled. And they are those who turned into skeletons.""Young kiddo, what are you saying?"Leyte shook his head in dismay. He also didn't get it.A thought crossed his mind, "Is ensuring you don't turn into a
***People's reaction to the revelation was normal. None of them were aware of their actual status at first.Majority cursed and made scenes, showing through their actions how hard it was to accept that they have already died. Some cried and once again, it was normal. No one would be able to easily accept the truth, even if it was true that time was always kind to people and could help heal the pain and confusion.One month passed since then. Everybody had gone through what Goddess Anda called Ritual of the Dead. They passed through a gigantic rock, etched their names on some trees, danced the day away to 'shake off their sins', and then underwent Anda's judgment. The judgment referred to the normal segregation of good and bad people.Leyte was neither a saint nor a criminal so he was quite conflicted as he waited for his turn. Fortunately, he was still sent to The Stairway to Heaven. The goddess termed it Dunkituhan but since the word is so foreign and t
***While the young man was lost in nostalgia, Kylie continued explaining to them. "Actually, not all people reincarnate on Earth. Apart from those who stay in the Underworld, there are actually some who become similar angels and are sent above. The village chief said it's because those people are like saints...""Angels exist?" The old man muttered internally, complaining, 'Why am I not selected?'The girl hesitated. "I'm not sure if they are really angels, but according to the souls I've talked to before, some souls did go above, to the heaven which our Goddess Anda called Skyworld."She paused and then acted as if she remembered something. "Among them, there are some popular people or devotees who ascended to that place. The village chief said they are Idols, Deities of The Land, or Anitos.""... I remember that one of the oldies here said President Marcos turned into an Anito and is now living in that world. Others were figures like Dr. Jose Ri
***When Ley said to his village chief that he wanted to get reincarnated, he expected the elder to ask a few questions about his request and then explain how it would be processed before sending him off. However, in reality, the other party only remained silent. After a while, Leyte was feeling a little bit uncomfortable."Village Chief," he called out.No one answer came. The older guy was only giving him a weird look."Kiddo Ley..." It was the old man who suddenly appeared behind the young man.Leyte Baler stayed on the spot, frowning at the chief's lack of response. From outside, consecutive bell tolls suddenly rang and the people inside the two-story stone house rushed out to see what was going on.Although puzzled, Leyte Baler and the old man followed the chief outside. What greeted them was still the never-changing gloomy skies, with the addition of the bell tolls which heightened the eeriness of the place."Is there any event?
***Within a village nearest to the peak, two women faced off. An encirclement of curious villagers and gossipmongers watched them with unblinking eyes, some of them discussing why a confrontation arose while others marveled at their beauty. Yes, both women dressed in long skirts and traditional shirts were beauties rarely seen in the Underworld. Many curious boys even said that they were not in any way inferior to Goddess Anda in terms of beauty."Ay, the two argued about who is more beautiful,” speculated a bystander."No, I think I heard them quarreling for a guy. Maybe they know each other from the other world and are in love with the same man. However, one of them ended up the real lover while the other one became the trying-hard mistress.""Wrong. The other one is not even a mistress. She is a mere villainess getting in the way of two lovebirds. I think the reason they are both dead and transported into our current world is that the mist