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“You're not what I expected a shinigami to be.” You look into eyes as you talk, finding her soft and alluring features all the more a sharp contrast to what she supposedly does. Probably because you haven't spoken much she lets you carry on, smiling silently as she rows, “I am sure that the living would spin tales of someone in your profession being an old sickly crow who is as mysterious and unwelcoming as this frightening land.” But, it's not like you're unsatisfied.
“That does sound like something mortals would say. I have to agree” She grins, looking at her exposed arms like they were something remarkable. “Are you unsatisfied?”
“No.” You give the thought no pause. “There is nothing wrong with you being the way you are.” There's no intention of flattery as you add, “A captivating and beautiful woman taking the souls of the dead into the afterlife is in many ways both more satisfying and fitting.”
It's true. The boatwoman is an invaluable agent to this process of death apparently. The mysteriousness and enigmatic nature of the afterlife is heightened by her appearance and attitude. Surely others would interpret as a sign of hopefulness, that better things await them. You're not nearly as optimistic, feeling caution but not pessimism. Before attaining paradise or whatever it is that you deserve, you'll no doubt be judged.
“You know, you really aren't like the other dead.” The boatwoman continues on smiling as she speaks, her eyes locking into yours. “I'm glad you're my first.”
You sit, bringing yourself to her eye level.
“I had expected you to lament your passing, to despair somewhat like others would.” She explains. “But you didn't, your gaunt face never once looking it had regrets. You haven't said anything, pleaded to go back, or even hesitate in getting onto the boat.” She laughs, her chuckle reverberating sweetly over the sounds of the river. “The first real words out of you are a compliment. A real good one as well.”
She stops rowing momentarily, and moves a hand to grab something hooked to her side. She produces a gourd with the same pattern as her blue-white attire. She offers it to you with a pleased smile, “Here, you can have some.”
“Wouldn't that be pointless?” You ask, guessing the nature of the liquid.
“You're dead, not gone.” She says as you take the gourd. “You can still think and feel, can't you? Not to mention that you're breathing as if you were alive.” She points out something you hadn't noticed yourself – your rhythmic and controlled breathing is the same as it usually is. “Not that you really need to here, I think. But food and drink will continue to be as pleasurable as it was before for now.”
“Thank you.” There's nothing else to be said as you have a go at the contents of the gourd. A strong willful liquid washes into your mouth and down your throat, adding an intense flavor on its way down. “It's really good.”
The strong moonshine is something like what you used to make yourself when you were in any given place for long enough. Proud and powerful, but with a round taste at the end. Not the drink of choice of most.
“Good that you can appreciate it.” She takes the gourd as you hand it back and immediately takes a drink herself. “Nothing like a little magic to make the day better.”
Her attitude reminds you somewhat of what you used to do. Her job is certainly as grim as yours was (although in a less visceral way); A little help to get through that reality went a long way in keeping you together. Out in the wilderness, a drink was the highpoint after a difficult hunt.
“So, how did you die?” She asks directly. You notice that she's stopped rowing, and leaning back in her seat with the gourd in hand. “You give the impression of someone who wouldn't die even if you killed him.”
“Now that's certainly not true.” You laugh earnestly, taking the gourd as she offers it again – you take another drink. “Else I wouldn't be here, right?” The boatwoman smirks, looking pleased with your joke. The alcohol tastes better than before, and it's as if your whole spirit is ready to fly about. “How do you think I died?”
“Obviously not surrounded by friends and family on a warm bed.” She doesn't act sensitive, cutting to the thick of it. You like that. “I take it you died all alone and quite suddenly.”
“That's right.” You realize you're being talkative. Must be the alcohol, or the overwhelming strangeness of the situation – floating in the middle of a river casually in a land of bleakness, mist, and the dead. “I died in the freezing cold, alone, fatally wounded and as helpless as I was when I came into the world. In short, I died exactly how I thought I was going to die.”
“Rough, bro.” She looks sympathetic to your death. “But you do have that look of blood and iron about you.”
“Isn't that right?” You laugh again and drink more, handing back the gourd to her.
The sky there is a deep grey, uninviting and dull. You stare up at it, and time passes without even the realization that you're doing nothing. It's the same for the woman with you. Though it's finally her that breaks the silence, sitting up and readying the oars again.
“Let's get going, shall we? It's only prudent to keep the Yama waiting for so long. I have no idea if this new boss is easy-going or stuck up as the rest of them.”
“Sure thing, Komachi.” You close your eyes, the movement of the boat feeling like a comforting lullaby.
“Here we are.” You see the shinigami's hand extended towards you. You take it, trying to remember where you are. You realize that you probably fell into a light sleep. “Isami, we're walking for a bit now.”
“Alright.” You try your best to come to your senses, stumbling slightly as you come out of the boat. The far shore feels weird – the ground feels packed and hard.
You say nothing as she guides from the shore up a hill and onto a wide path. She's silent as well, and you realize it's your surroundings that are to blame. Statues and grave markers adorn the sides of the path, and religious symbols overwhelm the senses. This is the starkest reminder you've had yet that you're dead, and you feel belittled and vulnerable.
An eternity passes before you arrive at a large imposing temple-like structure. You follow your guide up steps and into the great doorway. The corridors are immense and seemingly stretch infinitely, being devoid of all movement and clutter. Your normally muted footsteps, trained from a lifetime of stalking, reverberate loudly on the polished stone floor despite your best efforts. This place brings out your self-awareness in full, making you feel utterly insignificant.
A great door at the end of the passageway is your destination. The shinigami signals for you to wait and knocks. A moment of involuntary tenseness passes before a reply comes and the great door is opened for you.
A great chamber welcomes you, decorated with luxurious carvings of precious metals depicting all of the facets of the afterlife. The wicked are being punished for their sins while the enlightened ascend into paradise. In the middle of the largest relief in the room stands a tall and imposing judge, decreeing what occurs to souls that don't reincarnate immediately. Komachi stands near the entrance of the room as you're encouraged to stand in the middle, before a grand pulpit that's before a shelf full of scrolls.
“Your life and deeds are to be assessed before your fate is decided.” A firm voice comes from the side of the chamber, as a woman in an ornate dress makes her entrance. She confidently makes her way to the pulpit, standing tall before you with a full look of confidence. In her left hand she holds an equally ornate rod. “I am the Yama of the Paradise. We shall find out if you lived a life of virtue or a life of sin.”
She looks to the end of the chamber, “You. Komachi, was it? The transport took longer than scheduled. Explain.”
“I apologize, boss.” Even though you don't turn to look at her, you can feel the other woman lowering her head. “We ran into some difficulties. He had no currency to pay for the trip.”
“I understand.” The judge seems satisfied with the answer. You look at the golden emblem on her hat, trying to make out what it is. “In the future, make sure there is no more tardiness, keeping a smooth-running schedule is of the utmost importance.”
“I'm sorry, it won't happen again.”
“Good. Now close the door and leave us. But don't go too far, I may require your presence again.”
You hear the door close behind you, and you're left alone with the judge.
“Let us begin then.” She reaches into the shelf behind her, grabbing a scroll. She opens it and begins to ask questions. “What is your name?”
“Your full name.”
“That is my only name.”
“It says here that you have a given name as well. Attempting to lie to me won't bode well.”
“It's no longer mine.” You state, speaking frankly.
“So you claim. That is acceptable. In your moment of judgment you should reply with the truth as would be known by the divine.” The woman reads more of the scroll. “Your profession, what you did until the very moment of your death, how long did you do that?”
“As long as I could wield a sword properly.”
“It would seem so, even though it was reckless and endangered you.” She recounts your past, “A mere boy attempting to hunt that which is beyond human is extreme.”
“It was what needed to be done.”
“I can see that that is the truth as you perceive it. Let me ask then – why? What compelled you to take the path in life that you took?”
 “It was my calling – pure and simple.”
 “I had no other alternative.”