When Jisung dies, he wakes up like all the rest.
Everything is dark, and cold, and somewhere in the far off distance he can hear a something like a faint yelling, but everywhere he looks all he can see is darkness. For a moment he flails, struggling to make sense of what Was, until finally, after what seems like forever, he feels the ground under his feet, and kicks up as hard as he can. In a split second he breaks through the surface of the water, coughing and sputtering as he searches for any sign of shore.
It takes a moment, but he eventually finds it in the peripheral of his blurry vision, a strip of dark grass leading away from the river Jisung has found himself in.
His muscles burn as if he’s been swimming for hours, rather than what seems to have only been a few moments. Water crests over his head, which is barely above the surface, and the cold dark rapids threaten to drag him down again as they cling to his already waterlogged clothes. He takes his hands through the water, and kicks as hard as he can, but he isn’t sure if he’s even making progress when the shore doesn’t seem to get any closer.
“Hey, c’mere.” A gentle voice breaks through Jisung’s struggles, right as he feels like he's reached his limits. He's still too far from the shore to make it on his own, and he can feel himself slipping below the surface again, but there's all the sudden a pale hand coming into view, a hand that Jisung grabs and holds onto like a lifeline.
Funny, seeing as he would soon learn that this would be his first contact with a Soul Reaper.
“Easy, take deep breaths. Sheesh, you got a violent pass over, didn’t you.”
The reaper speaks softly, muttering under his breath, and rubs Jisung’s back until he’s no longer gasping for air, and the panic that clouded his vision finally subsides one he realizes that somehow, he has solid ground beneath him.
“What?” Jisung chokes out, looking around to find himself standing on the bank of a dark swirling river. Beside him stands a stranger with blonde hair, and a calm smile that somehow manages to slow Jisung’s heart as it races in his chest. Every piece to the suit the man wears is black, so dark he almost blends in with the shadows—or he would if he weren’t so pale.
“Do you remember how you got here?” The man asks him, his hand a steady pressure on Jisungs shoulder, but strangely, a welcome one. Jisung doesn’t even realize he's leaning into the touch, until the man wraps his arm around Jisung’s in a comforting gesture.
“No,” Jisung rasps, throat still burning from all the water that came up, and out of the corner of his eye he thinks he sees the flash of red and blue lights, yet somehow there’s no sign of them on the face of the man who pulled him out of the water. Just a look of pensive understanding, and dark eyes.
“Do you know why you’re here?”
There’s a long period of silence, before Jisung shudders and nods.
“Because I died.”
The man hums, Jisung isn’t sure if it’s to affirm what he said, or something else. He’s not sure how he knows, but there’s a hollow ache to his bones, and a numbness to his fingers and toes that tell him he was under the water for a long time. He thinks he hears the sound of emergency sirens behind him, but everything but the sound of the water rushing behind him and the mans voice sounds like it’s being spoken through several layers of cotton, like the other side of the river is miles away rather than a good stones throw away.
He wants to look, but the man pulls a thick blanket out of nowhere and wraps it around him, the thick grey wool surrounding him in warmth, and Jisung clutches it around his still shivering form on instinct. For the first time he looks down, and he sees that he’s wearing normal clothing, not counting the fact that it’s all water logged and torn up. He stares at the deep blue of his shirt and thinks for a moment that it might be his favorite, but he’s not quite sure. Both of his knees are scraped, and he only has one shoe on, and it’s already falling apart.
“My name is Chan, I’m going to be your Guide, do you understand?”
“I think so,” Jisung nods, blinking away a stray drop of water that came from his hair. It hangs in ribbons, hanging in front of his eyes like a curtain. “You’re gonna help me pass over?”
“You made it through the worst part on your own, but yes. I’m here to help.” Chan nods, and Jisung notices that Chan’s eyes keep flickering between him and something behind him, expression unreadable as his jaw tenses.
Somewhere far away, through the faded noises poking at Jisung’s consciousness, Jisung thinks he hears someone yelling something he can’t make out. He’s tempted to look, but something deep and heavy in his heart tells him not to, that he’ll see far more than the other side of the river. He’ll see something that he doesn’t want to see.
“If you turn around, you’ll get all your memories back.” It’s as if Chan knows what Jisung is thinking, and the fact that Jisung was right, causes a chill to run up his spine.
“And if I don’t?”
“That’s up to you.”
After that Chan is silent, taking a step away from Jisung, further away from the rush of the river still going on behind him. From the far off yelling Jisung thinks might just be in his head, but he knows it’s there, and if he looks back he’ll see something awful.
He glances down at his knees, and his one lonely socked foot, and presses his lips together.
As soon as he takes a step towards Chan, the shadows bleed away, and the dread that had been hanging on Jisung’s back since he came back to consciousness does the same. He’s all of the sudden completely dry, and when he looks down his clothes look mostly the same, only they’ve all been bleached of color, and they’ve all been mended. He even has both shoes back.
He looks up to see Chan standing there with a warm smile on his face, wearing the same suit, but no longer with the perfect tie or the jacket. In fact, a few of the top buttons are undone now, and his sleeves have been rolled up.
Chan looks comfortable for the first time as he gives Jisung a polite bow.
“And that, was the hardest part. Welcome to another life, Han Jisung.”