1 Prologue

"Gods, deities, and supreme beings came from the belief of a particular culture that everything in this world is bound to a higher power. Just as a master to a slave, most cultures believed in servitude to a higher power could give them higher chances of salvation or favor.

What salvation, you mean? It's primarily a belief that when people die, their souls are transported to either heaven or hell, or something similar to that concept depending on their culture and their belief systems. Obviously, most people would prefer an afterlife of joy and peace, thus the concept of heaven was born.

For most, a hell is a place of never-ending pain and suffering. Something that was conceptualized to discourage humans to go against the norms of their culture and society. These concepts are well-embedded as far back before Christianity was introduced by the Spanish colonizers in 1521.

To me, the concept of deities and supreme beings are just products of a primitive mind trying to understand the nature of a world unfamiliar to them. By providing the notion of a higher power guiding the laws of nature, humans were able to assimilate their own laws forming their own culture and society. This creative process of the human mind also made way for the technology and progress of their society.

As humans progress to the modern era, so did their gods. Their beliefs would take another form of deity or object of worship. In the end, as humans believe their replaceable to their gods, we can also assume that gods are as much as replaceable like their mortal counterparts."

- Anton Maravella, PhD

" A good read, master?" a dark shadow hissed.

" Quite," he replied. " He's almost there. Such a shame he had to die before he finished this literature.", he smirked and closed the book that was chained to the soul's waist.

"Is he a good candidate, Master? Is he going to be a katabang?" another disembodied voice tore from the shadows.

"He could've. But I am not looking for a molester. This filth deserves to be punished. He got murdered by the student he molested after he spread their videos online. Such a shame."

"But Master... He had already met the criteria you need for a..."

" I am the god here! I make the rules!"

" But Master Sidapa... These are the rules every god has to follow."

" Silence! I am the rule! If you wish to dispute that, bring it to the council. Let's see if they'll listen to the likes of you, Tagahatid!"

There was complete silence.

"I thought so too." he said, " Besides, I have already one in mind," he smirked again. " Ready my boat, I would love to personally welcome the candidate."

"As you wish Master Sidapa." The voices began to scramble and further away.

Sidapa sighed as he walks into the hallway of bones. The gloom of the place was enough for a human to go into utter insanity but he is not human, at least not anymore. His thoughts were focused on finding a replacement but were mildly distracted with the final passage of the book he read earlier.

Gods are as much replaceable as their mortal counterparts. "Such a crude concept but never far from the truth," he said to himself.

He reached the far end of his hallway, which is a dock overlooking towards the crimson-colored river. His boat was ready and Tagahatid was standing at the edge of the boat holding his long paddle. Tagahatid bowed low when he saw him. Without saying a word, he climbed into the boat and sat across the shadowy ferryman.

"Where to, Master?"

"Butuanon River."

"Mmmasstter ttthaaat's not-"

" I'm sure she wouldn't mind. If she does, I'll talk to her."

Hesitant but afraid to incur his master's wrath, Tagahatid nodded and pushed away the boat from the dock into the red currents and rowed his way to his master's destination.

He caught a glimpse of his master's face. Underneath the long hair covering his face was a set of deep glowing brown eyes for fervor and excitement. But what most struck him was his smile. It looked like a grin, a sight that haunted Tagahatid throughout the journey. It was an expression he has never seen and one he doesn't want to see once more. The grin of someone that has lost his mind.

"Master-" Tagahatid tried to strike a conversation with him but stopped midway. He hesitated. He had always been afraid of his master.

He remembered what he did to the previous Tagahatid over 2 centuries ago when it spoke out against his master's wishes. His master never hesitated to drown him in the crimson river tying the book chain around the previous Tagahatid's neck. Of course, it didn't die, but it got torn to pieces beyond mending, his master attached him on post at the bank to serve as a reminder to ever tried to defy him.

"Yes, you can speak and no, I won't break you like the previous one." a quick reply from his master that surprised him.

Tagahatid relieved asked, "Why Butuanon? That's not within our territory."

"Why not? Isn't it part of the physical world that we're bound to?"

" But Master, the Mistress may not like it. Especially because we are encroaching her rivers."

" That is true. We are encroaching her rivers. However, the soul we are taking has a soul contract from the days of old." He looked at his alagad and smirked, " Surely, she wouldn't contest that?"

Tagahatid nodded and rowed silently. His master thinks he was contented with the answer. Indeed, he was but he cannot shake the feeling of a great calamity up ahead. A calamity that would involve the Soul World and the physical world.

"Master, we have arrived." as he pushed the boat with all his might into the opening.

The sun never blinded Tagahatid every time he enters the physical world, to him it resembles the warm welcome of the living world he once belonged.

" Today's typically busy, wouldn't you say?" his Master asked.

" Truly, maybe it's rush hour?" he answered.

" It never felt the same way when I was here way back."

His Master sighed, " Tagahatid, take me to IT Park, that's where we will meet her and make it quick before Maggie finds out."

Tagahatid finally realized how dangerous this trip would be. He now knows his Master has no plans of speaking with the Mistress. He just wants to take the soul and leave before she notices it.

" Sa hanging umiikot sa tadhana, diringin mo ang aking hinagpis! iihip sa paroroonan ng nakatakdang hinahanap. Paunlakan mo ang aking hiling, hiramin ang pakpak ng iyong mga ibon at ilipad sa aking kahahantungan."

[ To the wind that encircles fate, hear my woe! Take me to the place of the one I fated to seek. Grant my wish, let me borrow the wings of your birds and let me fly towards my destiny.]

After Tagahatid uttered the chant, the boat their own floated to the air and flew towards the soul that his Master is here to collect.

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