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.
***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
***"P-please help me." cried the girl he remembered to be the first to arrive in Mount Balatukan. She was the schoolgirl from before who was pushed to the rock by her friend.Ley only blanked out for a few seconds before he decided to help. He was neither a saint nor a lawbreaker. However, he was not that heartless to ignore a helpless girl's plea and let her fend by herself.He squatted down to carry the girl, then he asked, "Would it be alright if we jump down the cliff? I'm afraid it’s the only way to reach the forest faster."He saw the little girl hesitated. It was a normal reaction considering that most people hate the pain and fear heights. Ley tried to explain further. "Don't worry, I won't abandon you. If we jump, we would surely get hurt. But at least we would be able to escape from here. The goddesses are both fierce and merciless. They don't care how many people will be caught in their battle. We have no time to dilly-dally. I'll carry
***Skyworld. In a brightly lit palace on one of the highest mountain peaks of the Great West Empire.A woman whose head was adorned with an exaggeratedly decorated crown gazed at the person who requested an audience with her."Your Highness," greeted the man whose features resembled an elf. In the Skyworld, people like him were called Forest Fairies. He had a natural good-looking face and tall built, his ears long and pointed. The visit of this forest fairy happened a day after the battle between Mayari of the Skyworld and Anda of the Underworld."You came to remind me of your goddess' condition?" The beautiful, ethereal-looking woman seated on the throne had an intelligent pair of eyes that could glimpse into a person's intention before they could even voice out.Watching the slight shock on the visitor's face, she indifferently said, "Just a reminder. I've already won the bet so the Authority of Light is now mine.
***Leyte could still remember the uncomfortable feeling and the suffocating fear that swallowed his whole person as he fell from a high place. It was simply awful. Terrible…. For he knew not if there was something to fall to… or if he would still be in one piece once he landed at the bottom.Now he wanted to question his decision, whether jumping off a cliff was really a good idea. It was simply one of the most horrific experiences he had had where he could not even control his own imagination. Never did he expect that closing his eyes would not help at all.The most damnable part was how his imagination almost never left the negative side!‘I’m in a soul state, I won’t die…. Right?’ Even he had begun to doubt his own survival due to the unending jump.Then when he felt like his body would be finally reaching the ground, his consciousness suddenly slipped into the darkness… as if he was being forced to sleep or fall into brief oblivion. This seemed to be proving his conjecture about h
***Several minutes later, Hana returned and stood in front of him with her hands behind her back. "Grandpa Fernando is right next door. And I have many more things to explain to the two of you. Since he had also woken up and it would be more convenient if you two are in the same space when I explained, can you please come with me to his quarters?"Leyte nodded his head gently and said, "No objections here. I had many questions in my mind that need to be clarified.”He first drank the glass of water to quench his thirst. Then he finally agreed to her request and let Hana support him as they walked next door. During the short but laborious walk, he tried to ask some stuff, “Earlier, you mentioned Earth. I just would like to know, you mean our Earth, right?"“Yes.” She nodded and glanced at him. “It’s the one we are more used to.”“I see,” he said.‘So from spirits briefly staying in the Underworld, we got upgraded to Earth’s wandering ghost.’He went quiet for a moment as he contempla
...To be honest, while he seemed like he believed everything Hana said, the opposite was actually true. Not knowing that his intellectual abilities improved greatly, he subconsciously noted the several dubious points that he picked up from Hana's words. There was the unanswered question, why turned them into whatever Anitos? Why not humans?The other souls were escorted into Great Underworld Chief Deity Sitan’s dwelling place. Why were the three of them turned away?The matter about the internet and the language of the human villagers which she said they would have no problem understanding could be excused somewhat. It was not as important. But Hanan?The suspicion only turned stronger when he heard the name. The girl was correct. In the records, ‘Hanan’ was the Goddess of the Sun, eldest daughter of the Great Creator Bathala, said to be one of the most powerful second-generation gods.Ley who had even known about the nearly lost knowledge of the local ancient Underworld rituals co