Chapter 1: The Day Time Began Again
Lee Siyeon had been a Reaper, one of many harvesters of souls into the netherworld, for a very long time. It was impossible to say how long, the years bleeding into each other, blending into a tangle of events that held little meaning to her. Once life had left her body and her soul gained this new form, time itself held no meaning for her. What was ten or a hundred years when you didn’t age, when you didn’t even exist on the mortal plane?
The first time in a very long time that time gained any importance to Siyeon was the first time she set eyes on HER. In all, the event itself was incredibly mundane, nothing she hadn’t been dealing with for decades. Each death scroll Siyeon had ever been given consisted of 4 lines of information; a name, a picture of the target, a time of death, and a cause. This particular scroll was in no way different from the others. Her target, Kim Bora, was perhaps prettier then she was used to but that wasn’t really much of anything, was it? Physical appearance was nothing in the eyes of death. Tearing her eyes away from the picture, Siyeon read the rest of her scroll. Ah, a head injury at exactly 10:17 at night. Not exactly an exciting death to cover but it wasn’t like she got to pick the assignments. Death just didn’t work that way.
When she tracked down her mark, Bora was in the empty cafe, mop in hand and soapy water streaked across the floor. Sunset facing the cafe, streaks of gold and pink light played in every strand of the woman’s hair. In a pair of headphones blared a song that she could barely make out as the woman danced with the mop, twirling and swaying to the beat pumping into her ears. Eyes, a clear, deep brown, caught the light with a playful gleam and an unrestrained laugh burst from perfectly formed lips. If Siyeon had the need to breathe, her breath would have caught in her chest at the stunning sight in front of her. Cursing silently to herself, Siyeon was annoyed at how little justice the scroll’s picture had done in capturing Bora’s essence, No, in readying Siyeon for what was to meet her. That was her real problem. Such an unassuming picture did nothing in preparing her for the task of actually taking this soul and she was finding it hard to focus on the task.
Thoughts scattered, she could faintly remember the reason she was there, that Bora’s soul would be departing with her soon, but more prominent thoughts overpowered her agenda. Siyeon didn’t WANT to take Bora’s soul. Instead, she wanted to sit and observe her, to take in every beautiful movement and sounds coming from this human goddess. Relieved that this human couldn’t see her spectral form, Siyeon waved her hand holding her scythe and it disappeared in curls of blue smoke, making it much more convenient to lean against the wall beside the front door and simply watch the dance in progress. She didn’t need to hear the song on the headphones because each step of Bora’s resounded in her soul like music.
For the first time in a very long time, Siyeon was suddenly and very painfully aware of time, or more importantly, how quickly it actually moved. Every painstaking second she watched Bora was a second closer to a time where the world would be without such a bright soul lighting up those around it. For some reason, those thoughts made Siyeon very, incredibly, heart-breakingly sad. Checking the hour glass hanging around her own neck, Siyeon could see the minutes tick by, nearing ever closer to Bora’s expiration date.
As the sands ran out and the clock hit 10:17, Bora did a rather enthusiastic spin with her mop, slipping on the soapy wet floor. As the woman fell toward a table, Siyeon reacted without even thinking about it. With a wave of her hand, time stopped and Bora remained suspended in air, a look of shock and confusion on her beautiful face. Hands shaking, Siyeon stepped forward, surveying the other female for a moment longer before safely positioning a chair to catch her fall. Biting her lip, she was still concerned the woman may sustain injury and gently held her, barely allowing her hands to ghost over Bora’s rips before she started tie again and easily guided her target safely to the chair. Moments after Bora was safely seated, her death scroll appeared in front of Siyeon, burning into nothingness in a fleeting mass of black flames. Any successful reaping, the scroll would be handed to the new soul to be used as a sort of ticket into the the other-world. This was Siyeon’s first time seeing the angry dark fire and it stuck a certain level of fear in her.
“Wh-what?” Bora caught her attention as the woman looked around the room in uncertainty, hands sliding slowly over the arms of the chair in a way that made Siyeon shiver for a reason even she wasn’t sure of. “Is someone here? Please don’t be a ghost. Ghosts are terrifying.” Her voice got quieter as she seemed to mumble to herself. “I don’t know if a demon or other invisible creatures would be better though…” Contemplating that thought a moment longer, Bora’s voice rose again. “What… Whatever you are, thank you.”
Siyeon wished more than anything that she could reply, ease the woman’s worries, but she had already broken one rule. You never, ever saved someone meant to die. The butterfly effect was real and it could be catastrophic but a deep feeling inside of her cried out, said that it didn’t matter what Bora’s life altered, a world without her in it, this bright, human flame, would always be more of a tragedy. Siyeon would stand by this theory no matter what was to come from her action.
After a long moment of silence, Bora rose to her feet, perhaps a little shakier and more careful than before, and continued her cleaning duties. With a smile, Siyeon followed after her, using her limited powers to ensure that no other mishaps befell upon the woman before she was called back to the spirit plane. The longer she spent time with Bora, the more she liked her. Bora had a beautiful voice, one that could portray emotions without even trying, and she was kind. Whatever was leftover from her cafe, pastries, cakes, muffins, ect., she gave them away to hungry children with parents that couldn’t be bothered to care for them properly. She loved to dance and any sound that was even slightly rhythmic could move her to do so.
As Bora shut down the cafe lights and locked the door behind her, Siyeon felt a familiar pull inside of her, the calling of the reaper realm to return. Though SIyeon had spent over an hour of time watching her, it didn’t feel like enough but she didn’t have a chance. Bora began walking down the street, most likely to go home, and Siyeon could feel herself begin her transition between dimensions, unable to follow her. First her body felt strange, insubstantial and floating, then the world around her seemed to turn to mist, the colors changing and rearranging before solidifying again. A bright room materialized around her, lit thoroughly from a light she had never exactly been able to identify the location of. She was in trouble.
In the center of the room stood a throne, huge and grand, intricately carved to look like two wings holding up their resident. The woman sitting upon the throne was beautiful, her entire demeanour so radiating such warmth and serenity that it was almost unnerving. Swallowing hard, Siyeon bowed before approaching her boss. Letting Bora live wasn’t something that the Reapers would let slightly. This was an important job and to falter on her responsibilities… Well, being fired as a reaper wasn’t exactly as easy as it was for a human and Siyeon was suddenly very concerned that her immortal soul was in danger.
“I’m sorry, Minji.” Bowing again as she reached the base of the podium for the throne, Siyeon couldn’t bring herself to meet her boss’s eyes. Lady Death was the epitome of peacefulness but something about her had always terrified Siyeon.
“What went wrong with the reaping of Kim Bora?” Minji questioned, her voice sticky and sweet as she smiled down at Siyeon. It was all the reaper could do to keep herself from losing her nerve. She couldn’t allow herself to regret what she’d done.
“Extra circumstances negated her contract.” Doing her best not to lie, Siyeon looked up at the woman. Smile, kind and soft, remained on Minji’s lips, but her eyes began to glow a faint pink color and Siyeon felt her whole body tingle as her boss surveyed her. A distinct feeling that Siyeon was being tested hit her. After a long moment, Minji nodded as though she had gathered enough information and was satisfied with her results.
“That is a disappointment. Who knows what the repercussions of her life continuing will bring.” Motioning toward the door across from her, Minji nodded. “What is done is done and her death will be rewritten. Go now and relax. We have no more assignments for you tonight.” Grateful that her half lie seemed to check out, Siyeon gave a final bow and did her best not to literally run from the room. Exiting in a rush to the darkened hallway, black stone walls lit by dim torches, Siyeon saw Gahyeon and Yoobin, fellow Reapers and what she would consider friends, watcher her in confusion. Before either could speak, she gave them a nod and rushed away. If she had a heart, it would have been racing, and she needed to get away, to calm her nerves, before she could handle any further interactions, even with her friends. Coming close to no longer existing could really do that to a person. Hopefully the truth of what she had done would remain a secret and Bora’s death date would be postponed for a long time. Hopefully.
She should have known that saving Bora was going to be a big deal. Reapers didn’t save people because if they did they were banished from every realm known in existence and because saving one life upset the balance of everything, and people rarely managed to defy their destined deaths, being mortal slaves to a natural fate they have no insight on. Those that did, they became reapers like herself. If her death was rewritten, Siyeon could only hope that she wouldn’t be the one sent to deal with it. Being banished wasn’t exactly something she looked forward to but she didn’t exactly think she could actually reap Bora. For some reason, that one human had brought back every aspect of humanity that decades of reaping had numbed out of Siyeon. She made her feel alive, made her feel defiant, and she was terrified of what that might mean. Going to her room, Siyeon stretched out on the couch and closed her eyes, just wanting to rest and recharge the energy she had used while out reaping, but as she drifted off to sleep a face swam through her mind, a laugh lingering in her soul. Kim Bora was going to be the death of her.
(AN: Go easy on me. I wrote this while super sick and mostly in the middle of the night when I have time to write. I’ll do my best to improve in the chapters to come.)