Collapsed buildings, destroyed cars, withered trees, and a pungent stench that pervaded everywhere in the region cast by pale orange sunlight in the ever-encompassing dusk. The mirror of a seemingly intact, moss-covered building reflected the image of the setting sun, casting the light onto a strange bird that was seated upon a lamp post.
A bird that was predominantly bald, bereft of feathers that had once allowed it to soar through the skies, now rendered into a land dweller. Spiky scales jutted out of its squirming maggot-covered rotting flesh, humming from time to time in response to the stale wind.
It raised its rotting beak, unleashing a cry before coughing out some rotten flesh stumps that had gotten stuck in its throat, flapping its fleshy wings to land on the ground, gorging on the flesh of a rotting human that had been dismembered.
The bird displayed a ravenous state of hunger, ripping apart the human flesh as it ate in relish, alarmed when it sensed danger, turning around to fly away.
But, it had only traversed a couple of metres when a crimson radiance—shaped into a cascading waterfall—severed its body into two, causing its undead halves to twitch on the ground.
"Don't you dare eat my wife!" A man's enraged shout reverberated throughout the surroundings as the crimson radiance spread around like a tide, shattering the bones of all the birds that had arrived at the place to feast upon the pile of rotting corpses.
The man—sporting a large scar that ran from the brow of his left eye to his throat—rushed towards the top of the pile, propping up the dismembered corpse, feeling a minute pulse from the body, shouting, "Clarise! Wake up! Don't die on me!"
He gazed at the ghastly face of what had once been a beautiful woman, his beloved. Now, one side of her skin had been ripped apart, displaying sections of her skull at the mouth and the eye socket. Her right half was relatively intact as her eye seemed listless.
But upon hearing the man's shouts, the woman's eyelids faintly fluttered as her intact eye slowly faced his way, taking in the visage of the scar-faced man, mildly tearing up before turning still. The faintest hint of lifeforce remaining in her had vanished.
The scar-faced man's hands trembled; tears streamed out of his eyes as he opened and closed his mouth repeatedly, wishing to just unleash a roar of pain, unable to endure the loss, entering a state of self-harm in regret. But in the end, there was just bottomless despair waiting for him.
After all, he was now alone, the sole surviving human in this entire world. Twenty years ago, when the apocalypse struck their world, through thick and thin, he endured. For as long as someone was accompanying him through this hell, he could manage somehow.
"None of it matters anymore…" Tears streamed out of his eyes as he gazed at the dimming sky, letting out a long, exhausted sigh. He had fought for long enough. No more. He was done.
As such thoughts brimmed in his mind, his genetically advanced ears picked up the sounds of a horde approaching his way.
"Aberrants…fuck!" He trembled once, imagining the way he would be devoured by the ravenous horde as the sole living human. For a moment, his body's survival instincts kicked in, a habitual practice. But it vanished soon after, like droplets of water sprinkled on a hot pan.
He accepted his death, not even bothering to look at the horde that was almost upon him now. He could see some shadows cast overhead, depicting the titan-sized creatures that were targeting him.
Just their footsteps alone were thunderous enough.
One of the Aberrants stopped right behind him, tilting its body forward until its gigantic head was right above his face, flashing a wide grin as a viscous mucous leaked out of its mouth, dripping onto his shoulder, raising sizzling sounds as a part of his back and shoulder melted.
The scar-faced man had already accepted his death. Maybe it was thanks to this that he didn't feel any pain, blankly staring at the face of the Titan Aberrant. Tears streamed out of his eyes when he noticed the figure in his hold beginning to move.
Of course, she didn't come to life.
The infection had spread deep into her system, turning her into an Aberrant too, also regenerating her limbs. It began with her hand, causing the muscles to squirm like a twister, interconnecting with one another as her arm formed within a second.
And judging by the strength of her genetically advanced body, she was turning into an Aberrant more terrifying than the Titan Aberrant staring at the scene with a gleeful look.
"Fuck this shitty world!"
They were his last words, uttered while summoning the remainder of his mental strength, the final stretch of his willpower. The scar-faced man shuddered when his wife's hands plunged into his stomach, having grabbed hold of his spine, intending to yank it out to feast upon.
But right at this time, a feather slammed into her hand, hitting like a dart, barely injuring her. The Aberrant, Clarise gazed at the feather, wondering what it was when suddenly, a minor explosion resounded within her arm, ripping it apart like a torn fabric.
She screeched when immediately, a dozen feathers swerved into her mouth, resulting in an explosion that splattered her head, corroding it into dust. The headless figure plopped to the ground.
The scar-faced man watched in shock as the upper half of the Titan Aberrant also vanished, as if it had been bitten by something terrifying. And indeed, hovering in the sky was a whale with its mouth open, revealing shark-like jagged teeth, having bitten off the terrifying Aberrant.
It then unleashed a terrifying suction force that selectively targeted the Aberrants.
"Clarise! No!" He shouted upon seeing his wife flying into the whale's mouth.
"She's dead you know." A middle-aged man's voice resounded as an armoured figure approached the scar-faced man, resembling a bipedal rhinoceros, sporting a toughened body resembling steel. Each wave of his hand resulted in an Aberrant turning into dust.
"W-Who are you?" The scar-faced man was shocked, blurting out at the sudden change of events, "You're not a human, are you?"
"I am human." The armoured man replied, stopping as he looked around, gazing at the crowd of Aberrants that continued to swarm the place.
The horn on his rhino helmet shimmered with a bright light when immediately, the approaching horde of Aberrants all turned to dust.
He then gazed at the bleeding figure of the scar-faced man, trailing his gaze over his stomach where his wife's severed hand dangled out. He crouched before the scar-faced man, asking, "Do you wish to go back in time? If I were to say you could return to the past before the apocalypse struck, would you be willing to do so?"
"Haah…" The scar-faced man wheezed as light returned to his eyes, firmly expressing his desire as he gazed at the armoured man, "I don't know if you're a God or not, but please, I beg you. If there is a chance to return to the past, give me the opportunity to right the wrong."
"This time, I'll save everyone."
"Good, I hope you succeed." The armoured man snapped his finger, summoning a gigantic tree-shaped pillar that he plunged into the ground, saying, "You'll be sent twenty years into the past. Even though you won't remember this conversation, maintain your resolve."
He then extended his hand, handing out a black-rimmed visiting card, one displaying the image of two squares joined together, "Rhizen, from the Post-Apocalyptic Dispatch Society, at your service."
The scar-faced man cautiously took hold of the visiting card that sparkled into dust, dispersing into the surroundings as soon after, the ground began to quake in response.
Immediately after, the terrain began to change rapidly, as if time was being reversed. The collapsed buildings began to recover their original appearance, and the dead that covered the streets vanished, replaced by living beings. People scaled the streets, carrying their respecting belongings while heading to their workplace.
Cars plied the roads as the sounds of honking soon filled up the streets. The cacophony of the industrial settlement became reverberant once again. The sign of apocalypse no longer existed, as if it had never happened, a mere nightmare that one woke up from, unable to recall the contents.
At the side of the bustling street stood the armoured man, Rhizen, a frame smaller than before, no longer wearing the armour. Sporting a checked shirt and a pair of boot-fitting jeans, donning rimmed spectacles that gave him an academic personality, he had an appearance twenty years younger, that of a youth.
He looked around, frowning as he took out a pocket watch, gazing at the words flashing inside, an inscription of pearl.
[World Corruption: 96.71%]
"Even if I turned back time on this world, its state of corruption remains the same." He sighed, mumbling, "We have to clean it up as much as possible before its corruption reaches a hundred percent."
"Mom, that guy is weird…" A kid that was standing nearby pointed at him, stating innocently.
"Hush, child." His mother covered his mouth, displaying an apologetic smile at Rhizen before dragging her son away, saying after they walked a bit, "Remember, never talk with such people, alright? They suffer from a strange disease known as the eighth-grader syndrome."
"Is it contagious, mom?" The kid asked.
"It is, once you reach the eighth grade. So, you must avoid them, alright?" The lady explained in a hurry before boarding him onto the school bus that had alighted nearby.
"…" His eyelids twitched as Rhizen wished he could facepalm, feeling embarrassed upon sensing the gazes of the people nearby.
He was at a bus stop. And early in the morning, it was pretty crowded. So, a lot of them had heard his rambling, distancing themselves from him a little.
"I was rehearsing my role, haha." Rhizen scratched his cheek, gazing at a nearby uncle that was casting him judgemental looks, "I got a pretty good role for a movie recently. Today's my shoot. So, I was feeling nervous."
"No wonder." The uncle's mood eased up immediately after as he patted Rhizen, "I worked on a couple of gigs myself back in the day. It's pretty nerve-wracking."
"Uncle, are you an actor?" A girl sporting an expression of boredom tugged his shirt, asking in response. "You are pretty handsome."
Rhizen gazed at the elementary school kid, smiling as he nodded, "Just a small-time actor, though."
"Gimme your autograph!" She spoke excitedly, taking out a notebook and a pen from her bag as she handed them to him.
"Haha, alright." He had to put up with the lie, so Rhizen sported a casual smile, gave an autograph, and began to walk away.
The girl excitedly looked at the autograph, squinting in confusion, "P…A…D…S…PADS? What does that mean? His name is Pads? Why is there a rectangle under the name?"
She then looked around, noticing that Rhizen had vanished from view, asking a stranger nearby, "Where did uncle actor go?"
As for the person in question, he had transformed into a honey bee, using the opportunity to move discreetly through the bustling street before arriving at the roof of a skyscraper, returning to his human form, staring at the group of people before him, "We're running out of time. The apocalypse would begin in an hour. And due to the level of corruption, this world would be wiped out in a matter of weeks. So, we should take action post haste."
"Establish safe zones throughout the city." He ordered.
"Yes, Saint!" The group consisting of white-collared employees nodded before flying out by transforming into a flock of birds.
Rhizen arrived at the edge of the terrace, frowning as he gazed at the figure of an old man that was seated on a bench positioned at the side of the road. He was coughing vehemently as his eyes slowly turned red.
"It's already beginning, dammit!"