Happy 5th Year Anniversary! It is by far one of my favorite Matthia novels to date, so PLEASE check it out! This was a joint effort by everyone in ExR for our 5th Year Anniversary. Thank you, Addis, Rikko, Aphelios, Ceti, KarateChopMonkey, gaeatiamat, and Rara.
Chapter 9: Living for Death
Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The Landlord had a nightmare. He dreamed that he was strapped to a bed or an operating table. He could clearly feel his body, but couldn’t move.
The light rose, the mist fell. He saw a myriad of lights and a myriad of people rushing past. There were wide-sleeved ancient people; there were heavily armored Western medieval warriors; there were clogs on the Eastern women; or Victorian gentlemen who carried canes. In addition, there were many people with strange costumes and strange faces of unknown origins, like a wonderfully mixed scroll stuck into his world. If he looked to the left or right, any direction was infinite.
After he realized that it was a dream, he woke up immediately. The clock in the study showed that he had slept for eight hours, and was ready to get up.
There was no sound in the Survivor’s room. No sobbing or shouting, so he judged that there was no Survivor now.
He washed up leisurely, read a book for a while, played ping-pong against the wall a few times, then suddenly heard a knock on the door.
It wasn’t from the White Room, it was a knock on the door to his living room.
The Landlord’s jaw was on the floor as he slowly moved over to open the door. There were two people standing outside the door, adult males who were wearing somewhat dirty hotel uniforms.
These two people must be Survivors. No one else would come here, but they surprisingly didn’t make a fuss in the room, nor did they kneel outside to pray to God or something, they knocked on his door like a visit to the neighbors!
One of them said, “Hello, my name is Ji Wei, I’m…the one who died once.”
“I know…” The Landlord nodded in befuddlement.
“We came out of that white room and went to the hallway, the one with lots of doors…That’s when a staircase came down, and we walked up.”
The other also extended his hand to the Landlord, “My name is Fang Yuan. This is my…” He habitually touched his pocket. “Ah, I didn’t bring my business card.”
“You can’t use the card,” The Landlord said. “Your past life is all gone. You’re dead.”
“I understand.” Fang Yuan looked at Ji Wei. “Just now Ji Wei told me. He said he had heard of this resurrection phenomenon, and also told me some related rumors. Originally we were going to wait for you to appear in the white room, but you never came, so we decided to come out and find you.”
“You’ve heard of me?” The Landlord was astonished.
Amidst the aroma of coffee and tea, Ji Wei recounted his experience of attending an offline party related to the website, and how he met Survivors “before he was reborn.”
The Landlord tried to remember. He was vaguely able to recall the explorer and mermaid because they both entered the same world hand in hand, which made a deep impression on him. As for the men who had given birth, and the imprisoned maiden, he had no recollection of them at all. He had received countless maidens with tragic experiences, as well as many wonderful male creatures who could give birth.
“Strange, how strange,” said the Landlord, almost to himself. “There was nothing like this before…Space-time isn’t arranged in a straight line of time, or rather, in my case, it’s in a straight line, but not between us. Your stories aren’t sequential, because each Survivor is from a different universe…You shouldn’t have a connection between all of you, because your lives are not connected. The only intersection between all of you is this dimensional rift. But you could be accepted by the same new world, as if you should all have been in the same world, before your life was separated…”
As he said that, the Landlord, as if brought to new thoughts by his own words, stopped and sank into the sofa in silence.
Ji Wei looked at Fang Yuan beside him. “What about me and him? Are we not supposed to be in the same world, and now that we’re dead, we just happen to have the opportunity to travel to a different place?”
“Maybe that’s really true,” Fang Yuan said. “I really felt like I didn’t belong in that world. Well… I kind of can’t explain the feeling. It was like those things before were someone else’s story….”
When he heard him say that, the Landlord nodded. “Every Survivor has this phenomenon, a sense of being divorced from past experiences.”
Ji Wei smiled. “So Mr. Fang no longer sees me as prey?”
“Of course not,” Fang Yuan said. “I said before I died that we were friends.”
“What exactly was the relationship between you two before?” The Landlord lifted his eyes.
“A strained relationship, anyway.” Ji Wei rubbed his forehead. He had a vague impression that the killer had shot a bullet into his head before he died, but now there wasn’t a scratch on his forehead or the back of his head.
As with the others, the Landlord let them stay, and they were free to use any of the facilities there. But the Landlord himself wilted, with as not much energy as in the past, and less chattering or asking questions.
While one Survivor was watching a DVD and the other was sitting on a high ladder picking out reading material on the top of the shelf, the Landlord returned to his private bedroom and pulled a thick photo album out of the cupboard. The album wasn’t only photos, but also small notes, letters, cards, tokens, etc. They were left behind by some of the numerous Survivors he received.
He didn’t remember who all those people were. When he looked at these objects it proved their actual existence, and the Landlord was able to continue what he had just been thinking.
Perhaps the Survivors didn’t come because they died, and were called to other worlds. Maybe they should have belonged to the world behind their door, and they were actually born in the wrong time and space.
The dimensional rift was like a zipper, and joined back together what had been divided.
Some Survivors had repeatedly explored who the Landlord was and why he was here. For the Landlord himself, his life was as natural as anyone’s. He rarely thinks about “why I’m here,” as people often do.
Now, as never before, the Landlord felt that his life wasn’t taken for granted.
It was functional, he existed because of some phenomenon or need.
One day, the Landlord and his two guests took turns playing on the dance carpet several times and when they took a break, the guests told each other what had happened in the past.
The Landlord was stunned to hear about Fang Yuan’s experiences. He pointed to the bookshelf somewhere. “You simply, simply like that kind of novel out of the…In that kind of novel, the male protagonist is generally a president or something, who does things, the actions through an air of neurosis, especially controlling, and especially loves to force another protagonist…It’s that kind of novel.”
Fang Yuan carefully considered this description. “That seems to be a very unhealthy novel.”
“You used to be so unhealthy.” Ji Wei walked past him.
The Landlord sat across from Fang Yuan. “You mentioned before that it was hard for you to feel the emotions of others?”
“Yes. Of course it’s not that absolute. I’m not a robot. It’s just…how do you say it? I’ve always had that ‘stripped feeling.’”
“All the time?”
“Yes. You told me that a Survivor comes here with a sense of the divestiture of his previous life. Although he remembers what happened, remembers the joy and sorrow, he has little affection for them. That’s what happened to me. I had a strong sense of disassociation when I was in the world before I was reborn. I was able to adapt to society because I, like everyone else, wanted to live a better life. I couldn’t help but be false in my career, and play games. I still have emotional intelligence, but after I got better than most people, I stopped caring what other people thought and just found a way to get whatever I wanted.”
“Don’t you care about the feelings of others?”
“Yes, I can. In fact, I can even now.” He glanced at Ji Wei beside the bookshelf. “Except the difference is that my purpose has changed. For example, with Ji Wei, I used to have some sort of passing interest in him, and then after something happened, I didn’t feel that way about him anymore, but thought he would be good as a friend. So that’s how it changed. I decided.”
The Landlord recalled the behavior of Fang Yuan in the living area in the past few days. He was never polite with people, and used whatever he wanted, without the cautious attitude of other Survivors at all. Not only that, he didn’t resist sharing his past experiences at all, whether it was a painful near-death experience or the things he had done to bully others, he didn’t hide it. A normal person would have some difficulty talking about that.
Fang Yuan was indeed very special. Before he died, he already had a sense of being divorced from the world he was in.
This made the Landlord feel even more that the Survivors were going to the right place in the future.
Maybe they didn’t come here because of death, but came here in order to encounter death.
“You don’t have any designs on me, now do you?” the Landlord asked jokingly.
Fang Yuan thought seriously for a moment. “There is no physical attempt. At least not now indeed.”
“Wait! Are there other attempts?”
“Yes. I attempt to sit here and talk. It feels good.”
Ji Wei found the book he wanted, and walked past them again, “Never mind. He has such a peculiar way of expressing himself.”
Ji Wei used to be considered more than half way into the field of scientific research. Now, he obviously absorbed knowledge much faster than Fang Yuan. He found countless treasures in the Landlord’s living area, as if it was a small library, and he spent whole days immersed in it.
The Landlord was once worried that he would stay for a long time and not leave. His fears didn’t turn out to be true. Ji Wei found his door before Fang Yuan did.
That day, the Landlord was still sleeping when Ji Wei woke him up and told him, “I seem to be feeling it…”
“What?” The Landlord was dazed from sleep.
Ji Wei’s hands shook slightly from excitement, so he had to clench his fists tightly. “The door, my world,” he said. “I seem to feel what it will be like.”
The Landlord followed him out into the corridor, and Ji Wei headed straight for a certain door.
“The world I want, it doesn’t have to be scenic or rich. It will be perfect for me, for people like me to thrive and do what I want to do.”
“I heard that you are a scientist who studies something,” the Landlord said.
“Biophysics,” added Ji Wei. “But I can’t be called a scientist. My planned life was interrupted by Fang Yuan, and I died because of Fang Yuan’s involvement…But now I don’t blame him at all.”
“I can’t believe you don’t blame him. How magnanimous.”
“Ha, if I hadn’t died and just gotten seriously injured or something, I would have blamed him. Right now, I’m just bent on the future.”
As they spoke, Fang Yuan woke up as well. He walked down the stairs, and gazed at the door in front of Ji Wei. He was curious about what it would look like when it was opened.
“Ready to go already?” the Landlord walked over, and patted Ji Wei’s shoulder.
“Thanks. I can feel it. Now is the time.”
“I wish you all the best.”
When the door was opened, neither Fang Yuan, nor the Landlord could see anything outside the door, there was only white light or chaos in their view.
“Will he go to a better place?” Fang Yuan asked.
The Landlord shook his head. “Usually, people say ‘to a better place’ when they are comforting a dying person with religious beliefs. The world behind the door doesn’t have to be better, no one knows what it’s like. There may not be birds and flowers there, and it may well be a crueler and more dangerous world than the original. Perhaps with famine, poverty and disease, war…but it is also the place where his life will blossom to greater glory, it is the place that is better for him.”
They turned to walk back to the living room and the Landlord said, “In a few days, you too will find the door you want to enter. You will feel it in time.”
The Landlord had already entered the living room, but Fang Yuan didn’t follow. He stood on the stairs, and looked back.
“What’s wrong?” The Landlord came back to him. “No way. You feel it now?”
“No, it’s not that.” Fang Yuan pointed to the end of the long corridor. “How did it get shorter?”
The original corridor was almost endlessly long, with doors that stretched into the distance. When a Survivor felt the doorway that called to them, they would naturally walk toward the door, and no matter how far away it was, they would come to it effortlessly. As if the location had collapsed.
Now the corridor appeared to end.