Chapter 8: The Stairway


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 tongue-twisting for him, he just called it 'The Stairway'.

While he was being escorted towards the mountainsides where The Stairway was, he watched as those people deemed wicked got sentence to fetch waters somewhere in the forest. They were barefooted and clothed in rags but they would have to take the ragged and perilous trails while carrying gigantic jars bigger than them.

The goddess said they would have to water the trees of life within the forest until they bleed all the sins out of their bodies, something which would never happen unless there was a miracle. They were not allowed to rest, meaning they would have to toil nonstop, fall into despair and hopelessness until they become puppet-like beings that have lost even their senses.

Apparently, according to the goddess those people were so wicked that their sins run deep in their bones and blood. In order for them to repent, they would have to water the Trees of Life until the unlikely miracle happens and relieves them of this duty.

It was a weird explanation but the rest did not question her for they could never contend against Anda's aura.

This all happened a month ago. Leyte had already settled somewhere in The Stairway.

He discovered the sun had never shone in this world. All they would see above was the gloomy skies. The clouds were so grey it seemed it would rain soon. Yet, in actuality, rain would never come.

Despite the pervading gloominess and aura of decay in this world, life was actually not hard in The Stairway. People, or rather, the souls formed villages that stood on every level of the staircase. Ley was assigned to one of the villages near the peak and was given a small wooden house there.

Coincidentally, the old man who kept on pestering him before got assigned to the same village as him. That time, when he saw another wooden house next to his with the village head personally bestowing it to the old man, he frowned and looked weirdly at the old man who never stopped smiling at him.

"I sincerely believe that the goddess is very merciful. This is fate. Now I have a grandson who will take care of me in the afterlife. Haha, I'm so happy," said the old man.

Ley, that time, was outside of his house talking, to another villager so he ignored the old man. Unfortunately, the girl minded him and asked, "Your grandpa?"

"No. He's babbling nonsense." Leyte kneaded his aching forehead. "Go ahead and continue. You're saying something about reincarnation to keep some worlds in check."

The girl next door named Kylie nodded, "Ah, yes, that's correct. You know, the Underworld is huge but the only soul-friendly place here is our mountain, Mount Balatukan. It could only support about a hundred billion tenants. A hundred billion sounds a lot but actually the souls going to Kasakitan are not only that of humans but also of other species and races. So the habitable space is gradually running out."

When Ley heard this, he abruptly thought of those goddesses and werehorse. So does it mean there were more weird creatures on Earth? Do dwarfs, vampires, werewolves and other mythical species exist?

The freckled beauty continued, "For this reason, the chief god of this world, His Highness Sitan decided to use a merit system. Normal souls can just stay here and never leave."

"As for those with attachment to Earth, they could choose to reincarnate. If you will choose this option, of course, you have to note in mind that the way you live your past life decides your next reincarnation."

"In case you sinned greatly, only a thread away from being punished to fetch water forever, but want to secure a better life in your reincarnation, you can contribute to The Stairway to improve your merit or karma. You can do all sorts of chores and missions which are mostly about managing the souls in the mountain. For example, being a village chief, or a caretaker of some ghostly plants."

'To be honest, while it's easy to understand... It's still unbelievable... If I were still on Earth, I might refer whoever will tell these to me to a psychiatrist.' The young man thought, almost shaking his head.

"That makes sense. That's the reason why there are some of us disappearing every day, right? They went to reincarnate?" He asked.

The girl confirmed, "Indeed. Once people regain their memories, it's hard to resist the urge to go back to Earth. Maybe they are finding this place suffocating."

'... Who won't? It's the land of the Dead... If one can revive himself, who would want to remain as a ghost?' he lampooned.

"How about you? Are you going back on Earth anytime soon?" asked the old man who had been listening to them.

The girl flashed a smile but shook her head. "No, I'm already contented with how my last life played."

Leyte creased his forehead. "You are? Are you sure? But you appeared quite young?"

The girl looked like fifteen years in age. She was way younger than Leyte who was already nineteen years old when he passed away.

"I died because I'm ill."

The young man's brow furrowed in confusion. "Shouldn't you be more eager to go reincarnate in order to experience a healthier life?"

She just laughed. "Not really. I won't be the daughter of the same parents, so why bother?'' The girl continued. She said she would first wait for her parents to arrive and then attempt to reincarnate with them. "I love them very much. So if there's a chance, I want to be their daughter forever."

Upon hearing that, Leyte couldn't help recall his own parents, reminiscing his experiences on Earth, including his last moments before he got thrown in this world.

He was a normal Engineering student and was already about to graduate in college when he and his parents met some accidents on the road to his grandmother's birthday celebration. He already confirmed that only he had died since when he looked around, he didn't see his parents. This should mean they were still alive on Earth.

His chest tightened.

His parents had always been the best in the world. Their only flaw was that they loved each other more than their son. If in other people's eyes, they were spoiling him too much, in reality, they were pampering each other more.

He laughed inwardly. It was quite funny but it was the truth. His parents married and got together because they were in love. When Leyte was born, they treated him as a treasure, but as he grew older, he saw them paying more attention to each other. He loved them nonetheless though.

Now those two fools would be growing old without a son like him to take care of them.

Whenever he thought of this, he always wanted to cry.

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