First Story – Let Me Listen to Your Lingering Regrets Prologue
Inside the relatively wide half-moon-shaped classroom, I sat down on my uncomfortable chair with my thick textbook spread across my long desk, listening intently to my professor’s sonorous voice.
“Students, what happens when humans die? Today, we’ll be closely discussing this topic.”
The classroom was about two-thirds full. But unlike my classmates who were brimming with confidence, my heart was trembling in anxiety. Feeling my heart hammering in my chest with a loud thumping sound, I sat in class while desperately trying to quell my uneasiness.
–God, if you’re real, I ask this of you. I pray that I won’t be called again today.
“As you already know, when humans die and leave the ‘human world’, they are sent to ‘heaven’. However, those plagued with ‘lingering regrets’ come back to the human world as souls. Is that clear?”
“Yes.” The voices of the students echoed in chorus.
“And that’s where problems arise. What do you think is the significance of our existence–dwelling between the human world and heaven? Yuma Nikaido, why don’t you tell us the answer?”
With my name called in a tone clear with mischief, I stood up.
God is dead. At least the god protecting me.
“U-um, the significance of our existence… Our mission is to guide human souls who die with lingering regrets safely to heaven.”
“That’s right. Well then, what else?”
“O-other than that…um…”
As I stammered to answer, the professor deliberately let out a loud sigh.
“Oh my, Nikaido, don’t you have anything else to say? Never mind. Why don’t we hear the answer from Nagamoto instead?”
In response to the professor’s urging, the boy who belongs to the honor roll rose from his chair. “There’s no other reason. Our mission is to sever the lingering ties of humans to the world and send them to heaven. That’s all.”
Like a true honor student, he answered with an air of intelligence.
“Well said, Nagamoto. Everyone, we just have to be dedicated to completing our mission. Nikaido, how about reciting what you wrote in your last report?”
I bit my lip. I felt like all the blood in my body traveled to my ears and I was sure they tingled red.
“We have to resolve the humans’ lingering regrets so they can happily go to heaven and the people around them can be happy too.”
As I fumbled to answer, the professor shrugged his shoulders in exasperation. “Indeed, we are incredible beings and may have superior powers than humans. But you want to happily send the human souls to heaven? Aren’t you a bit too full of yourself?”
As the professor said, we certainly have abilities that humans do not possess. For example, our five senses are sharper. We also have the power of invisibility, telekinesis and the ability to fly, among others. Despite the professor’s vehement objection, “making people happy” and having those powers are two separate matters.
“Not just simply guiding the souls to heaven? Where do you get the humility to work beyond our capacity? Are you planning to become the mysterious existence known as ‘God’?”
Sensing the sarcasm in the professor’s words, the classroom erupted in laughter.
Speaking of “God”, even to us who are more familiar with supernatural beings than humans, his existence is still shrouded in mystery. Indeed, our mission is to send human souls to heaven. But the reason why is unknown even to the smartest scholar.
“But professor, I-”
“Goodness, you’ve got something more to say? Your audacity to refute such common knowledge to every student in this classroom really baffles me.” He expressed exaggeratedly. Feeling mortified, I hung my head down.
“Nikaido, I know you want to say something about ‘human happiness’ but we just exist to resolve their lingering regrets. If you pay attention to such an insignificant matter, there will be a delay in sending souls to heaven. Do you understand? Our mission is to send the souls to heaven. No more, no less. So, going back to your report, could you tell us what was your grade?”
With my cheeks reddening, I answered. “Pass… For re-submission…”
“Pass but for re-submission. Is there anyone else in this class who received the same grade?”
Giving me a scornful glance, the professor beckoned me to sit down. His eyes darted around the room and he switched into teaching mode.
“Students, you are all in this training course to determine your path. On that regard, you have to think of what kind of ‘Agent’ you want to be, if this line of work is really suitable for you–”
The professor shot me a meaningful glare before continuing, “–Or if it is a job beyond your capacity. Make sure you think it over carefully. I’m expecting that you can come to an objective decision without personal feelings into play.”
After school, as they call it in the human world, I left the majestic school building with close resemblance to the Parthenon dejectedly, without a single classmate I could call for comfort. I have a few close friends in classes other than this “Agent Training Course”, but in this particular one, I feel like I’m lying on a bed of thorns.
—Yuma the hopeless failure.
To everyone in class, I am nothing but a shadow… No, not quite a shadow. In fact, I am a consistent topic of the rumor mill. It’s no secret that everybody talks about me behind my back.
I pursed my lips regretfully.
At an altitude among the sea of clouds, I looked across the blue sky of our world, which exists between the human world and heaven. This sky serves as a portal through which human souls pass in order to get to heaven.
—Never give up!
Gathering my resolve and filling myself with a renewed spirit, I marched ahead without looking back at the school building.
In any case, that would be my last class with that professor and the last time I’d feel depressed over his sarcastic remarks before my apprenticeship starts.
I finished preparing for my practical training and was given a place to stay in the human world. Now, I’m standing in front of an old building, the place of my apprenticeship.
By relying on the map provided, I arrived at the building which looked a bit older than the houses in the area. It seemed a bit out of place so for a moment I thought I had made a mistake in reading the map.
A group of three lively boys, who seem to be junior high school students, passed behind me. One of them glanced at the office building and gestured in a small voice, “Hey, was there a building like this here?”
He questioned the two boys.
But in response, the two boys mumbled together, “Huh?”
“What do you mean? How could there be a building in this weedy vacant lot?”
“Are you out of your mind?”
The boy continued to question the existence of the building but up until they disappeared from my sight, the other two still didn’t believe him.
There’s no mistake. This place may be in the human world but it is also beyond the human world. Just like the roadside pebbles, this building simply “exists”. It has no purpose.
Like one of the junior high school students earlier, some people with strong “extrasensory perception” can see it but most humans won’t be able to notice its existence.
Home of an “agent”, the person I aspire to be.
A place where wandering souls gather.
My heart starts pounding as the tension rises in anticipation of the experience waiting for me as I strive for my big dream.
–There’s no turning back. You can’t run away. You have to persevere and polish yourself.
I’ve lived in the shadow of “failure” until now, so the only way I could redeem myself is by becoming an agent who is second to none.
Feeling the rapid beating of my heart, I strengthened my resolve.
“Let’s do this! Gotta do my best!” I cheered myself and entered the office.