When Vaati’s eyes next opened, he found himself choking and gasping for air. His hands reached for his neck, fighting desperately to pull the lute string away, trying to open his airway- but it was gone.
It was… gone?
He turned his head when he saw light suddenly burst into the room, eyes going wide in shock as he looked at his brother. Instinctively, he cowered back- but his brother didn’t seem to say anything to him, only turning his head and calling out.
But… as for what he said, Vaati quickly realized he didn’t know. His brother had deafened him before, he supposed it made sense… but did it normally last this long? And how long had he been unconscious? Why had his brother stopped?
Things only made sense when his brother and some guards filed into the room, moving right past Vaati… and towards Vaati. When he turned his head, the truth came crashing down on him- he had died. His body was laying on the ground, discarded like a broken doll.
He had been murdered by his brother. He had been killed, and his brother was going to get away with it, because he was king. That of itself didn’t bother Vaati, though. He didn’t really care that Octavo would ‘get away with it’- it only hurt to see how his brother would drag someone else into this, how he would force an innocent person to take the fall for his actions…
What had Vaati ever done to make his brother hate him so much? He didn’t- no, he couldn’t understand it. Perhaps it truly was some sort of resurgence of the curse, a horrible twist of fate… destiny wished to refuse them happiness. It wished to refuse their souls kindness, or a life where they could simply be. And Vaati… he found that he resented that. So deeply, he resented it.
“Why… why must our stories always be ones of tragedy?”
There was no response- even if there had been, he wouldn’t have heard it anyways. All he had was his own thoughts, watching the living pass by and continue with their lives.
For what reason he didn’t know, but Vaati found himself following his brother around. Perhaps there was some small part of him that felt like maybe, just maybe, he could reach out. He could change things. But that sort of thing… it was only wishful thinking, was it not? His brother hated him, and would be far happier now that he was dead. There was no way to change this, no way to alter this fate… tragic as it was, it was unavoidable.
But still… even his own hopelessness didn’t stop him from wishing, from wondering. From thinking about the what-if, from wishing for a happier ending.
Do you wish to change things?
He did. He so dearly wanted to change them, to create a better world… a different history. A happier history.
Are you determined to change things?
“I… I am….”
Even if there’s a chance that things will end the same?
“Even so… if there’s a chance to make things better…” Vaati paused after a moment, looking around desperately. “W-Wait, who- who are you? Who am I talking to?”
Your fate… this history was not supposed to be. This history should not have existed.
“What… what do you mean? Why are you talking to me? I… I know that I… I’m not like those of me in the past. I’m weak, compared to those who shared my name…”
If you are weak, why do you wish to change things that cannot be changed?
“Because… because I just can’t accept this… I’ll never be able to rest peacefully.”
Then… will you reach out your hand?
Vaati was unsure what they might’ve meant by that. There was nobody around to reach out to- certainly not to the living, and there were no other ghosts around. It was just him, and a voice he couldn’t make sense of.
Will you reach out your hand?
“I-I…. I will.”
Even if it’s to one who would hurt you?
“If you mean my brother… still, yes. He killed me, and I… I’m mad at him… but I want to wish for a world where things were different… where we could’ve learned to get along, instead.”
So, you would offer kindness to one who’s shown you cruelty?
“Yes.” There was a bit of force to his voice, more than he’d intended. “He’s suffered too… it doesn’t… it doesn’t excuse what he did, but if I could find a world where we’d been able to be happy instead… one where things could be better…”
If you have the will… then fight for that which you want.
“F-Fight? But… but I’m dead.”
The laws of time don’t need to apply to the dead… all it takes is the proper will. Time is a river… you need only figure out how to row upstream.
“…Upstream? Like… back in time…?”
The voice seemed to be getting quieter, and Vaati looked around desperately in any attempt to find who it was. Still though, he could see nobody out of the ordinary- it was just him and the living, and they paid him no mind.
“Wait, before you go- who are you? Why are you helping me?”
Seek the ones who wait… they rest in their castle, they shall aid you…
“The ones who wait? Their castle? What are you talking about?!”
Head to where the story of your souls began… you will know where to go……
But before Vaati could say anything more, there was silence. Any trace of the strange presence was gone, leaving him completely and utterly alone with his thoughts.
To change fate… to change history… was that truly something he could do? No… no, it was not a matter of ‘could he’. He simply had to…for his brother’s sake, and his own. Even if he felt himself weak compared to his previous lives, even if he was nothing compared to the ones he was named after… he was still stubborn. Being stubborn was one of the few things he felt like he did have in common with the records of those like him in past lives, a small, fragile thing... but something he could cling to.
And so with all his soul, he would hope, he would believe, and he would reach out for that better life.
And he woke up.