Kings of Fortune

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Episode Nine - Immortalize Me

The Baya’s sole purpose is to maintain the balance of good and evil within the life force through the help of hunters. Hunters are chosen from unique individuals once filled with purpose and a great desire for life, but died before fruition. By giving these individuals a second chance to live, they are charged with the duty of granting death to those who don’t deserve life.

By the word of the Baya Council, contracts are placed on rapists, murderers, the greedy, and the cruel. These criminals who wasted their life force, or Soul, with each malicious deed committed, are hunted and killed by the Baya.

To complete these contracts, hunters reap the life and Soul from the undeserving and claim the reward for themselves.

To aid their efforts, the hunters are given incredible physical and spiritual abilities. They can move at extreme speeds, attack with unrestrained power, endure absurd amounts of pain, and sense the mood of their surroundings.

Where majority of humans would fail at the most extreme physical feats, the Baya hunter would succeed with much greater ease. Using their strength and bonded weapon, a hunter can easily kill a human with a single blow.

Most importantly, a hunter can never die. Fueled by enhanced life force, they can be beaten, burned, and rendered unconscious, but they cannot be killed.

Once a hunter accumulates enough Soul from contracts, they are given a choice. The Baya hunter can choose to reincarnate as a newborn child with a new life, or be resurrected into their previous life. This is the final gift awarded to the hunter for their loyal duties to the Baya.

It is this choice the hunters live for, and kill for.

Initially, no one truly knows how they reach the Baya spiritual plane. They simply do.

Once they arrive, the individual is asked to decide.

They can either relinquish their life force to the Well of Soul and therefore lose their existence for all of eternity, or devote themselves to the duty of the Baya for a second chance at life.

This was an easy question to answer.

As he awoke, he felt nothing but darkness. He tried to move his body but there was no body to move. He tried to look around him but there were no eyes to look with. He felt only the vast emptiness of space all around him, his emotions neither fear nor joy.

He was merely existence. The simplest form.

Time would pass, but he wasn’t sure how much. A thought soon emerged, and this thought was the question.

‘Will you give your life to Baya? Or surrender your life force to the Well of Soul?’

Without hesitation, his deepest desires chose to devote himself to the Baya.

The next moment, an enormous round platform illuminated around him, and the vast emptiness became an endless sea of stars in the night sky.

His body appeared with everything else, and instantaneously he could feel his fingers, his legs, his neck, and his head. He ran his hands over his hair and his naked body and down to the platform he was now standing at the center of. The platform felt neither cold nor hot. It was simply there and he was intrigued to touch it, to feel something.

More thoughts streamed into his mind.

The oaths of the Baya, he was informed. The never ending list of rules a hunter must live by, and each one obligated to acknowledge.

‘As Baya, I devote myself to reaping the Soul from those undeserving, and claiming them for myself and my crew.’

‘I do.’

‘As I claim Soul for myself, I swear to devote my purpose toward the good of all life.’

‘I do.’

‘I must never take life from those who do not deserve death, and never give death to those who deserve life.’

‘I do.’

‘To the best of my ability, I will try to engage in only the life of my bounty, and never interfere in the life of any other citizen.’

‘I do.’

‘No matter the circumstances, I will not reveal the secrets, the intents, or the methods of the Baya and the life force to any mortal citizen. I will respect the Baya, the Council and its principles, in secrecy.’

‘I do.’

These thoughts seemed to go on for hours and half of them he hardly understood. But what was time anymore?

Nothing. He had already seen the face of death, understood the bland feeling of simple existence and suddenly, nothing seemed to matter. It wasn’t like he had plans, or places to go. Now, he was just waiting for something to happen.

‘As Baya, you live and fight for Soul. Your duty will always be, to balance the life force between good and evil.’

He was taught the purpose of the Baya and instructed on every duty the Baya hunter must fulfill. At the end, he was strained by the same question he’s had since the beginning of his journey.

If contracts are formed for criminals, why was he contracted?

This question was not answered for him. Instead, the informative stream of thought continued flooding his mind, filling his head with more knowledge and no answers.

‘If you forsake any of your oaths, your Soul will be relinquished for all of eternity.’

’Why was I contracted?

‘If you forsake any of your oaths, your Soul will be relinquished for all of eternity.’

‘Please, tell me.’

‘If you forsake any of your oaths, your Soul will be relinquished for all of eternity.’

‘I understand.’

‘Like all hunters, you were brought here because of your determination to live, your selfless act to save another life, and to protect the one you loved. Do not forget your purpose, and you will be granted another chance at life.’

“I understand,” he nodded.

‘The accumulated Soul of your previous life will be returned to you, enriched with the power of the hunter. May you remember our generosity and never forget your loyalty to the Baya.’

‘This feeling.’

A cold, sharp tingling sensation streams into his veins and courses through him from head to toe. Suddenly, his entire body is forced erect and vertically stretched apart. His muscles tense and flex, forcing him immobile. It feels like all the blood enough to fill his body is rushing back into him, rudely forcing its way through his chest and limbs with complete disregard for his wellbeing.

Before long, the surge of energy stops and disappears just as sudden as it came. His body relaxes and he falls to his knees.

Something is different.

Everything goes black, leaving nothing but darkness and the voice.

‘You are Baya. Welcome, Zylo.’

He awakens.

The lights are set dim, and Zylo finds himself lying on a large bed. Rubbing his hazy eyes, he spots a desk, a cabinet, and three separate doors around the burgundy shaded room.

Zylo gets up from the soft bed and walks curiously around the carpeted floor. Almost immediately, he notices a difference in himself. His body feels light and his feet step fast, striding swiftly across the room requiring the least bit of energy.

Quickly jabbing his fists forward several times in the air, he watches as his arms shoot out with amazing speed requiring the least bit of effort. He lifts his toes off the ground and jumps high into the air, easily touching the ceiling with his head ten feet up. Never before did he feel so unrestricted, so free.

The last time he was alive, his body was remarkably tired and exhausted, sick and beaten. His arms and legs were constantly aching and burning, struggling to drag the heavy, slow rock that was his clumsy body.

That body was a burden, and now he feels none of those pains. He is flexible, nimble, strong, able to defy the laws of nature he was so bounded by before. Certainly, this body will require some getting used to.

Zylo takes several minutes simply stepping around the carpeted floor, amazed at different everything feels. He appreciates the blessed gift of a hunter’s body, but more relieved he wouldn’t have to follow up on delayed plans to the gym.

Hands quickly rummaging through the cabinet, he finds mounds upon mounds of assorted clothes in his size. There are jeans, shorts, slacks, t-shirts, button-ups, and all in multiple colors. Eyes wide with joy, a cheerful grin stretches across his face.

’What a jackpot!

Zylo is not crazy about shopping for clothes, but he might as well indulge since it’s free. Like a mad man, he eagerly sorts through the masses of attire searching for multiple combinations of outfits.

After ten dreadful minutes of indecisiveness, he decides on a modest pair of dark blue jeans and a red sweatshirt, just to start. He’s too modest to wear anything too extravagant so soon.

Walking to the body length mirror beside his cabinet, Zylo is not only impressed by the exquisitely clear reflection of the mirror, but surprised by the image he sees. His faux-hawk styled hair that used to be pure black in color, is replaced by a snow white.

“Well, that’s different,” he mutters, running his hands through his smooth, cream-colored hair. He shrugs at the change.

The remaining mysteries of the room lie behind the three doors. He explores the rest of this bachelor pad made in heaven, discovering one door leading to a deluxe bathroom and the second to an empty walk-in closet.

Zylo opens the third door, surprised to find a hallway leading to a dimly lit living room with manila couches, a large television, and a wide coffee table. The room is decorated with paintings and colorful flower-filled vases comparable to a fancy hotel lobby.

Nice room, nice clothes, and an empty, unnecessarily big closet he would use to store nothing whatsoever. Not bad. The life of a hunter looks pretty swell.

“So, this is my new life…”

’…What now?

He’s not keen on introducing himself to a band of murderous roommates, though he is technically one of them. Suddenly, his stomach makes a very audible gurgle amid his frustration. “Apparently hunters still have to eat.”

Despite the hunters immortality, they find eating in their best interest not only to reenergize, but for the simple pleasures of devouring delicious foods.

He creeps suspiciously into the living room more cautiously than a burglar, only to find pure silence. Perhaps no one is home. Things would get awkward pretty quickly if they saw him tip-toeing right now.

On the other side of the room that he couldn’t see from his doorway is a kitchen, a dining table, and a bar.

He runs his hands along the smooth polished wood of the bar counter, thoroughly impressed with the room. “Wow, this is the life!”

Perhaps there is something in the fridge. Popping the door open, he finds eggs, sandwich meats, yogurt and lettuce. A bunch of other random foods are packed away in the drawers but Zylo keeps it simple, reaching for the eggs and turkey meat.

How nostalgic. He recalls sitting on that park bench and eating the delicious sandwich as tears poured from his sobbing miserable eyes, crying about his life.

How delicious that sandwich was. Somehow, that day feels like ages ago from a different lifetime.

His grumbling stomach takes him back to reality, and he quickly fries two eggs on the pan. After five minutes, his shining achievement sits beautifully atop a plate on the kitchen counter—an egg, turkey and lettuce sandwich.

Zylo smiles at his prize, then sighs, “There’s no mayonnaise in this fridge…” A moment’s pause and he shrugs, jumping onto the couch with sandwich in hand.

’Tons of food, nice room, nice clothes…am I actually in heaven? Am I still dead? Wait, what is death, then? Can someone say something and explain any of this? Please?!’

He glances around.

‘Whatever, then.’

Zylo turns on the TV and readies himself for relaxation. The sandwich is devoured in thirty seconds, but much faster than he intended since it took him five minutes to make.

After, he starts eating a little bit of everything from the fridge. There is a craving that he just can’t seem to satisfy. Maybe death starves a person and now he has to replenish, who knows.

Actually, he would know, which is exactly why he goes through the fruit, broccoli, the beef and chicken after grilling on the pan, the yogurts he somewhat loathed, and a large bucket of ice cream. After dying, this is the rest and recuperation he needs—a time to indulge in hedonistic gluttony and sloth.

Only two hours into Zylo’s food bingeing do his dorm mates finally return. They appear in the room talking and laughing with one another while Zylo eats and laughs at the TV. Both sides do not realize the existence of the other until they are not but several feet apart. The moment they turn to face each other, their greetings are mutually met with a few seconds of silence.

Zylo gradually drops his spoon into the bucket of ice cream, jaw dropped in shock.

You?” They say to each other.

Standing behind the couch staring at Zylo is Renzo, and beside him, Kitsune. They are wearing the exact same clothes Zylo last saw them in.

Renzo is still wearing his black bowtie, red button-up shirt, and black suspenders while Kitsune has the same black suit vest over a white button-up shirt, black tie, and thin rectangular sunglasses over his eyes.

Most notable of all, Kitsune’s absurd pompadour still sits excessively proud on his head.

“What the fuck?” curses Zylo, but surely Kitsune is thinking the same thing.

“So…you’re Baya now? Congrats.” Kitsune remains composed but curious.

“All our food…” Renzo slowly examines the room, spotting the sandwich ingredients on the counter, the bucket of ice cream on the table, and the empty yogurts and bottles of juice scattered around.

“Goddamn it!” Zylo’s great day is ruined. He leaps over the couch with hands wildly flailing toward Kitsune, who hastily jets behind Renzo for cover.

Chotto matte!” Kitsune clutches on to Renzo’s arm, “You need to calm down, okay?!”

Face narrowed with anger, Zylo raises his finger at Kitsune like a pointed spear. “You tried to kill me you piece of shit!”

“My juice…” Renzo grieves.

“Hey! You’re Baya now, alright?” Kitsune desperately reasons, “That means we failed, and you died on your own terms!” He continuously turns Renzo’s body, keeping himself separated from Zylo’s rapid pacing.

“I don’t care! You put me in this mess! I could’ve lived my life!” Now even more enraged, Zylo tries to smack Kitsune, but Renzo is just so tall and bulky. His body gets in the way and Zylo retracts his arm.

“Put you in that mess? I lost my crew ’cause of you!” Kitsune tries to explain, “Why you had a bounty is none of my business. If it wasn’t us, it would’ve been some other hunter trying to kill you.” He slaps away one of Zylo’s reaching arms.

This is hopeless. Zylo stops and leans back against the couch, taking a deep breath to settle down. Perhaps staying calm is the best course of action. Not for the sake of keeping the peace, but for the sake of not upsetting his stomach since he ate for nearly two hours. He put too much time and work to satisfy that stomach and he will not throw it away for this squabble.

Kitsune peeks out from behind Renzo and adds, “Look, you’re Baya now. You should know how this works. A contract is a contract. I failed to kill you anyway, so…no hard feelings?”

“The ice cream…” Renzo mourns, staring at the empty tub.

“What did you mean when you said you lost your crew?” Zylo’s voice is contrastingly calm.

Exposing himself, Kitsune comes out from his cover and leans his elbow against Renzo’s thick arm. “After we failed to kill you, King Kuro, the Master of the hunters, kicked us off the Immortal Aces crew and sent us to this one. We were penalized along with other stuff…but that’s not important. What’s important is we lost our ranked one crew.”

“Oh, okay,” replies Zylo, trying to sound more apathetic than he feels, if that were even possible.

Renzo reaches for the bucket of ice cream and scoops out the bottom, hoping to salvage whatever is left.

Kitsune says, “You know, it was a long while ago but that was some crazy thing you did. I mean, who would throw himself off a roof for a girl?”

“I might’ve done it,” Renzo blurts, licking the spoon.

Kitsune continues, “And now you’re Baya? That’s some tale.”

Zylo raises an eyebrow. “Wait, what do you mean, ‘a while ago’?”

Kitsune scratches the side of his head, unsure of a better way to break the news, “Well…it’s been over a year already…since you died. Thirteen months I think, I guess no one’s told you yet.”

’Thirteen months? It’s already been a year and a month?

“Okay, I can see you’re shocked, but I want you to know, I really admired what you did there for a bit. Sure, you screwed me and Renzo but…ah well.” Kitsune extends a hand toward Zylo with hopes of reconciliation.

But not that easy. Kitsune and Renzo destroyed his life and he is not going to let that slide. They tried to kill him and took him away from Rachel.

‘No. I am not letting that go.’

Zylo snubs Kitsune’s hand and walks back to his room, shutting the door.

“Too soon?” Kitsune mutters. Renzo shrugs and eats the last spoonful of ice cream.

Back in his room, Zylo lies on his bed and stares up at the empty wooden ceiling.

“Rachel.”

He didn’t forget about her. In fact, he’s been thinking about Rachel from the very moment he awoke. Zylo knows he needs to succeed as a hunter if he wants to be with her again. However long it will take, he has to get it done.

For her.

Though Kitsune and Renzo put him in this situation, Zylo will have to respect them. They are his teammates now, and the only means for him to get his life back.

Part of Zylo is filled with hate, but an even bigger part of him is filled with love for Rachel.

He closes his eyes and takes a nap.

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