He died. His soul had left his body. The last moments of his life were being replayed in his head over and over again until darkness absorbed them.
There was nothing but darkness.
The hero of the underground ring was stabbed to death by the one to whom he had entrusted his heart. He was capable of winning even the most difficult fights, but couldn’t defend himself against his beloved.
He could no longer see, or hear, or feel.
He couldn’t be.
For some reason, he was still aware of himself, his past, and even his personality.
The only thing he had forgotten was his name. It seemed to him that he had never had one, but his memories claimed otherwise.
He had no idea how much time he had spent in that darkness. Maybe an hour, maybe a day, a year, or perhaps even an eternity. It could’ve even been a single moment. Time didn’t exist there. Gradually, something began to change, and he felt distinctly alive. Like a newborn, he became suddenly aware of his existence.
He opened his eyes. At least, he tried to open them. His left eyelid was swollen and it wouldn’t move, but he managed to open his right one with a lot of effort.
At first, everything was blurry, but after a while, his vision became a little clearer.
The man saw endless, wide skies. Spread above him was a clean and calm ocean of blue. There wasn’t a single cloud, only a majestic light.
His hearing came back right after his vision. It happened rather abruptly. The man heard a stream gurgling somewhere nearby, carrying muffled voices.
Next came the sense of smell — the pungent aroma of sewage and feces hung in the air. At the same moment, he tasted something bitter that reminded him of metal. There was blood in his mouth.
The last to recover was the sense of touch. The man finally felt his own body. Hands, legs, torso, head... It all seemed so unusual after his soul had spent some time in the darkness. A forgotten feeling...
He didn’t want to move, and even if he had tried, the pain would’ve impaled him on the spot. Even lying motionless, the man felt his hands burning with pain, and blood oozing from the wound on his leg. Water mixed with shit and urine was touching his skin, making it sting and itch.
His breathing was weak and irregular and his chest hurt. The man had no desire to do anything.
Looking at the endless skies with one half-open eye, he reflected. He was thinking about why he was here. Why had life given him another chance? What for?
Pain... His soul couldn’t find peace even after death. How sad…
Then his memories started coming back. Someone else’s memories began to merge with his — memories of the previous owner of the body he had found himself in. He, too, had recently died, allowing him to be reborn.
His story was also a tragic one. He was only fourteen when he was mutilated, killed, and thrown into a ditch because of a petty theft he had committed so as not to die of hunger.
His family had moved to this city not long before that event occurred. An epidemic broke out, the nature and origins of which remained unknown, annihilating almost a tenth of the local population. His parents had died a year earlier and left him a small shack and some money. He would’ve continued to live on, but he was unfortunate enough to have come across a member of one of the city’s ruling families.
Broken hands and death were an unjust punishment.
Strange how the man wasn’t at all bothered by that right now. There was no anger or hatred in him, only boundless apathy and a drop of incomprehensible joy.
The man finally remembered a name. It wasn’t his, however. No. It belonged to the previous owner.
But it was still a name.
His name was Kai.
For some reason, he was quite pleased with this.
Suddenly, Kai was filled with a strange sensation, and incomprehensible lines of text showed up before his eyes, surprising him.
Life and emotional activity discovered...
Canceling Uninstall System...
Restoring the structure...
The system has been restored and is ready for use...
Test opening of the options menu to check the mind of the carrier...
• Power: 0.24
• Speed: 0.49
• Endurance: 0.3
• Stamina: 0.5
• Mind: 2.1
• Energy: 0.67
What’s this? A thought flashed through his shocked mind. Having regained focus, he managed to dig out the memories that might hold answers to his questions.
As it turned out, everyone in this world had such a System. Kai had no doubts that he was now a part of a completely different world, and that he was no longer on Earth. However, he wasn’t sure how much martial arts masters like him were worth here.
The System appeared in people at the moment of their birth and remained there until they died. Apparently, having considered Kai dead, it began uninstalling itself, but the presence of another soul stopped it. Only one thing remained unclear: How and why did he enter the corpse and for what reason had the System started functioning again? What had stimulated it?
The past Kai knew little about it, as he was from a poor and illiterate family. But the new Kai, who had lived on Earth for a long time, guessed that it was something like a neural interface — a computer placed in a person’s brain that millions of people from his world could only dream about.
The little knowledge that the past Kai did have, he had gained from the general information window of the System, and rumors that he had heard from his parents. As the present Kai understood it, the System scanned the characteristics of the body at birth and displayed them in the brain in the form of numbers. It performed the same action whenever any stat changed. The System was constantly monitoring them.
They were calculated in relation to the average value of the physical abilities of a twenty-year-old human, with a score of one being equivalent to that value.
Kai’s stats were extremely low right now, even for his age. The reason behind it was his crippled and beaten-up body.
Present Kai re-read the information window, not wanting to rely only on past Kai’s memories.
Power was responsible for all manifestations of physical strength, and speed for the speed of muscle contraction, transmission of neural signals throughout the body, and even thinking.
Endurance was self-explanatory and the System information only confirmed the present Kai’s assumptions. The next characteristic — stamina — determined one’s resistance to various injuries and the ability to recover from them. That is, to regenerate.
Weirdly, though, the mind which, by logic, should’ve been pretty low — he had never considered himself smart — was almost doubled...
Mind reflected all intellectual and mental abilities. Kai assumed that this characteristic had such a high value due to social reasons. Since there were no official educational institutions in this world, there weren’t as many literate people here as there were on Earth. Therefore, in comparison to the local majority, he was highly developed in this regard despite being in the body of a fourteen-year-old boy.
At least he wasn’t a complete loser...
The last characteristic displayed the amount of energy that could be used to perform various techniques. In this world, techniques were special abilities that allowed a person to use magic, called martial arts. It could be said that in this case, the word technique was a synonym for the word “spell.”
Kai suddenly felt weak. He shouldn’t have survived, but since he had, he shouldn’t have remained conscious. The mysterious force that remained with him after his soul had moved into the new body kept him alert only for ten minutes.
Consciousness was slipping away from him and Kai found himself floating in the darkness once more.
In the meantime, in one of the alleys where people were rarely seen, about 300 feet away from a wounded man stood two figures.
A pretty girl of about eighteen was marching down the alley. Her thick, brown hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, and her warm, amber eyes were sparkling. Despite her graceful form, her dress was rather plain. She was holding the wrinkled hand of a gray-haired, old man.
In spite of his age, he kept his back straight and didn’t lag behind his granddaughter. Time seemed to have had no power over him. Dressed in a long robe that only healers were allowed to wear, he calmly walked forward.
“Grandpa, I swear!” the girl said with concern. “You have to see it! The resemblance is uncanny...”
“So what?” he asked in a deep voice. “You must understand, Julie, that the past can’t be changed!”
“I beg you, just take a look!” she cried.
The old man only sighed.
After a couple of minutes, they reached the ill-fated alley with a gutter. What the old man saw made him freeze.
Bitter sorrow filled his heart. Right there, among the garbage and sewage, lay a boy who was the spitting image of a person close to him. Of his grandson.
A grandson who had disappeared more than a year ago.
“It can’t be,” the old man whispered, not believing his eyes.
“I told you,” Julie said, unable to hold back tears. “Could it be that he managed to return?”
The old man was silent. It was difficult for him, a wise old man, to believe in miracles.
The old man was silent. It was difficult for him, a wise old man, to believe in miracles.
“That’s...” The old man fell silent.
Having gotten closer, Julie was finally able to examine the boy. Her heart sank when she saw his wounds and broken hands. Sobbing, she fell to her knees.
Julie had no doubt that this was her younger brother. She refused to believe that the Heavens couldn’t hear her and that she wouldn’t be rewarded for months of suffering. She wanted to believe that her missing brother had been saved.
Having noticed the change in his granddaughter, the old man quickly leaned forward, and assessed the boy’s injuries. A doctor’s temperament, as well as the hope that this truly was his grandson, didn’t allow him to just stand by idly and watch.
“Grab his shoulders. Careful,” he began to instruct Julie. “We need to get him to our clinic as soon as possible. I don’t know who has done this to him, but if we don’t act quickly, he won’t survive.”
Julie, who had been helping her grandfather all her life, quickly did as she was told. With no hesitation, she grabbed the boy under the armpits as carefully as possible.
The old man took the boy’s legs, and they lifted him together. Having quickly and carefully brought him to the clinic, which was a part of their house, they laid him on the bed, removing and throwing away his dirty clothes.
Having washed the boy, the old man began treating him.