3:28 – Recollection
Space and time was locked down. Not only that, but a domineering presence that was both divine and cruel descended upon the world.
Nowun noticed it first, mainly because his ability to return failed. The only times that happened were when an overwhelming force had appeared. But considering his current abilities, the only one capable of that…
“Damn. That Goddess noticed, huh?”
A deceptively kind and nonchalant voice echoed through the land. At the same time, the Immortal Door appeared in the sky. As if a scene from rapture or the end of days, a pair of pearly gates descended from the heavens, stopping above Heavenspan.
Nowun could sense the astonishment from the mortals and experts in the city below. He even saw a few foolish ones race towards the door, as if thinking they could leap to the heavens in one go and become Immortals.
Iridescent lightning scattered, bolts of energy that contained every color imaginable. Not only tribulation lightning, but lightning that carried energies and laws of other elements as well. Paradox granted form on pure whimsy of an omnipotent goddess.
The foolish ones that tried to reach the door were vaporized in an instant, with not even their soul remaining.
Fortunately, it seemed like he wasn’t the one to cause that goddess to arrive. If it was, the door would have appeared directly above him. In other words, in the center of the city. But for some reason, the door had descended near the entrance… where he had left those experimental memory copies?
Nowun narrowed his eyes and focused his awareness to see what was happening. However, a few moments later, he didn’t need to.
To think that time travel could bunch up karma so chaotically like this! Not only that, but for you, pretty girl, to not only escape my grasp this time but become so strong… It’s fun!
A female voice that echoed like a choir. Not one, but many. And those words resounded not in the air, but in the souls of every being present.
Nowun grit his teeth.
The Goddess that sent him to the new world with vague circumstances. The one who branded his soul without his notice and pretended to be his ally. The one who he should have been wary of, was wary of, but then was fooled into complacency.
“…It’s still a bit early.”
He could sense it now. Was it because she had been holding back in the past out of courtesy, or because he had grown stronger that he could tell? The being hiding behind those doors, the Goddess of the world, her power was almost limitless.
The only reason that he was ‘free’ at the moment was because she was unaware. Because he had done the unthinkable, both to himself and her.
Nowun glared at the pearly gates, the Immortal Door that had stopped above Heavenspan’s entrance, and then decided to head off. While he didn’t know what exactly had caused her to notice, it seemed like it didn’t involve him. Now, all he had to do was-
Something was off.
A connection? A slight tugging on his wrist. No, his right hand. Like an invisible tether.
Confused, Nowun turned towards the source only to see his disciple standing at the other end. That girl who was too beautiful for her own good, to the extent where her misfortune was great enough that it wasn’t an exaggeration to say she garnered heaven’s envy.
Xinxin stood beneath the Immortal Door with blank eyes. Was it because of the energy emitted from beyond that door? For some reason, his disciple had reverted a bit in physical appearance. If she had appeared to be a young woman when he saw her last, now she had returned to her original appearance of a young girl on the cusp of adulthood.
But that wasn’t what caught Nowun’s gaze or attention. Instead, it was the sensation emanating from her, a familiar mix of chaos and darkness that shouldn’t exist.
“…Damned disciple. Always causing me trouble…”
First her clan, then her fiance, and now her… if he wasn’t certain that he had removed himself from the grand scheme of Fate, Nowun might have been upset. Instead, he was annoyed.
The Immortal Door opened, and an indescribable beauty descended.
At the same time, Nowun moved.
Someone was standing in front of her. A bewitching beauty with golden hair and sparkling eyes- no, a delicate beauty with silky hair the color of the night sky and dark eyes glittering like stars… No. Even that was wrong. An arrogant beauty with crimson hair, an ordinary beauty with dark brown hair, a delicate young princess, a mature older sister…
A woman beyond description descended from the sky and stood before Xinxin. The moment she appeared, the guards vanished into black smoke, as if phantoms upon sunlight. As for the others, the men, women, children and elderly that were attempting to flee, all of them stood as if frozen in time. Their gazes were drawn to the woman, their expressions blank as if their souls were whisked away.
Xinxin was no exception. Staring at the indescribable beauty slowly approaching her, Xinxin couldn’t do a thing. However, it wasn’t because she was spellbound by that beauty. Instead, it was because of what she could remember.
That person, that approaching woman… it wasn’t the first time Xinxin had seen her. Or was it? Whatever the case, that divinity about her, that aura… Xinxin could definitely remember that. A light so bright that it burned, something that could etch itself deep into the soul and never leave.
“Hm… though quite younger and with a trained body, your beauty is still one to praise, Zhan Xinxin 1 . While your mother was pure in soul, it seems you are quite pure in your beauty.”
Words spoken as if a song. They lulled, they bewitched… but somehow, Xinxin managed to maintain her consciousness. The reason…
The indescribable beauty giggled. “Oh yes! I was looking for someone to turn into an angel, but couldn’t find anybody with a pure enough soul in the present, so I thought I’d take a look back in the past. I didn’t think that would change things up so much though! It was a pleasant surprise to find someone that managed to reach me through that old backdoor. Though, the way he did it was kind of boring.”
Xinxin’s frozen mind began to stir. Memories that she didn’t have, shouldn’t have slowly returned. Like a fractured jade, pieces drawn back beyond time.
A sheltered life foolishly chasing after a brilliant young man. Trials, tribulations, and a path rewarded with nothing but regrets.
A naïve trust shattered again and again as a man with average looks and cold eyes used her in countless experiments, each ending in her death.
Pain, agony, despair, resentment…
But there was something else that resonated beyond the dark emotions. Something that stirred from within the chaotic swirl of darkness.
“Now… I’m really curious how you ended up like this, so I’m going to be taking that body of yours. Don’t worry! You won’t feel a thing! Well… not like it would matter anyway?”
The woman stepped forward. Though her appearance shifted, the gleam in her eyes, the expression of a predator that found a new prey to toy with, didn’t. She reached out towards Xinxin’s face, as if to brush her cheeks in assurance.
But before that woman could-
“Sorry to disappoint, Goddess, but she won’t be going anywhere with you.”
-A man in black robes pulled Xinxin away.
“S-Sifu?” Xinxin hesitantly called out. After a moment, she shook her head. “No. You’re-“
“Quiet, girl. No matter how many times I repeat this, you always seem to be the cause of all my troubles… Did you save my life or something in the past? That’s the only way to explain this mess…”
Nowun couldn’t remember anything beyond his arrival in the world and fragments of general knowledge. It was… possible that they had karma from before then. But even if that was the case…
“Leave. This will be the last thing I do for you and our debt is cleared.”
“From this day forth, you are no longer my disciple. Now, begone!”
A surge of darkness wrapped Xinxin and then tossed her through the air at high speeds. To a normal person, it was fatal. But she would be fine. After all that he gave her, if she still managed to die from that, it was her fate.
But more importantly than all of that…
Nowun turned back to the Goddess and said, “That’s odd. I would have thought you would object.”
“Why would I stop such an amusing act?”
“Amusing, huh?” Nowun nodded and then focused his energy into his right hand. “Yeah, that sounds like you. This entire world’s just a play, isn’t it?”
Serena tapped her chin. “Hm… well, if it isn’t a play then what is it? Everything here is just a stage I setup and the pieces just dolls for me to play with. Although…” She narrowed her eyes. “You’re different. I don’t know you.”
Nowun’s eyes widened for a fraction, but he managed to conceal it. “You don’t… but I know you, Serena. And you… you have a lot to answer for.” He clenched his right hand, causing a black sword to form. The blade he had carefully crafted to clash against her divinity.
Though, facing her like that… he had some doubts.
Serena’s eyes flitted towards the blade, and then back to Nowun. “I don’t remember earning the ire of someone like you… or even meeting you. But now that I’m seeing you face to face… I have to ask. Are you a time traveler?”
Black light cut through space, tearing it apart as it surged towards Serena. But, before it could reach her, an invisible barrier emerged. Standing unharmed beneath it, Serena smiled. “No need to answer. I can tell from that attack.” She smiled, an expression of pure joy. “You did well to erase it, but I can still feel traces of my power within your own. You’re it, aren’t you? The one who I’m meant to face? My ‘fated’ opponent!”
Nowun didn’t respond. Instead, he carefully gathered his strength and watched Serena.
The Goddess laughed and held out her hands. “Come on then! Scorn me and try to kill me if you can, my unnamed foe!” With those words said, Serena charged towards Nowun, manic glee in her eyes.