“Extraordinary,” Mikoto breathed. “You opened a gateway to another world.”
“And as you can see, I was punished for my arrogance. This darkness around my hand festers like a disease, constantly feeding and driving me into the shadows. When I stand in the sunlight, I feel like dry tinder about to burst into flames.”
“Well, it seems I was wrong to label you a demon. Is there any way to undo this curse?”
“I fear not. This curse is slowly spreading from one part of my body to the next. As for the final outcome, my body isn’t dying. I’m fading away. When the hex runs its course, not even my soul will remain intact. What’s left of me will be spirited away to the Yomi.”
“The Yomi?” Mikoto echoed.
“A world consisting of darkness. My main source of information comes from these scrolls.” Shindara reached into his pocket for the scrap of the Nara Hell Scrolls. “Some say this realm wavers in between our world and the afterlife. It resides on another plane of existence in the shadows.”
The connection between Shindara and the abyssal Yomi ran deeper than he cared to tell. It resembled an umbilical cord connecting an infant to its mother, except this “cord” tied Shindara’s soul to a limbo of darkness. Every shadow was a portal into the Yomi, but it was only obvious to most scholarly monks and occultists.
“The scrolls said the Yomi is a ghastly place beyond our comprehension. To attempt to understand its ways is madness of itself. Sadly, that isn’t even the worst of my predicaments. Do you wish to know what really frightens me?”
Shindara’s eyes glazed over.
“I wonder what happens to my soul if darkness consumes me. Would I remember my own name? Will I see, hear, or feel once I make that leap into the Yomi? I don’t know if my soul will survive.”
Shindara didn’t want to imagine an existence without identity or emotion. That kind of afterlife signaled the end of every trait that defined his humanity. It couldn’t even be considered an afterlife if his soul shriveled up and died.
That fear drove Shindara to grapple for any strand of hope, no matter how frayed. He hoped against all odds that something awaited him beyond death, whether it was paradise, a communion of souls, or reincarnation.
Mikoto’s voice suddenly rang in his ear.
“Well, let’s see how your body fares.”
Within seconds, Mikoto drew a hidden tanto dagger and launched herself at him. Stunned by her speed, Shindara swiped up his sword.