Despite the clear light of day and the oddities that would normally quickly draw attention to the two strange characters, their powers hid them from mortal eyes like a blanketing veil. Any passerby that made his journey past the museum would simply fade through the pair with no knowledge of their presence—yet perhaps feeling a ghostly chill from the strange, unconscious action that had transpired—and carry on his merry way to whatever his destination may be. They were expelled from existence in the eyes of the world and, as the lord and lady of death shared that tender moment of a kiss of long-standing love, the feeling was equally returned: In one another's embrace, the realm about them was nothing more than a blur and time revealed itself as the illusion it truly was.
It was not without a begrudged, breathless sigh when the enchantress that was his beloved pulled her lips from his own. His wings, black as night, seemed to whisper his dismay at the pair's parting as they folded back into place. Still, he held her close, nuzzling his forehead against hers in a soft caress. And no matter how many times he found himself gazing deep into her eyes—as pure and as rich a gold as the sun itself—he was always bewitched by them, caught by and helpless to their warm glow.
Eventually, he relented his hold around her and she his while the last essences of the sky's evening hues painted the horizon. Though they could teleport wherever they pleased, it was as if on some silent agreement that they began to walk along the nearly quiet streets, linked hand in hand. Why waste a perfect twilight stroll? Their lands could survive without them for a little while.
"So," La Muerte exhaled with a gentle grin, "What do you think? Would any of them make a Bookkeeper?"
"If it gets that thing off our hands any faster," Xibalba replied, "then yes. But in all honesty, my dear, I haven't seen anyone yet to fill that position."
"You're being very picky, considering how much you complain about watching over it."
"Can you blame me? I don't even understand how the mortals deal with those jobs—everyday, clocking in from dawn until dusk, to sit in a chair and occasionally get up to check an empty hallway, with absolutely nothing there besides a bunch of fossils, props, or paintings: There's nothing to do and it's even worse for the guards who have the night shift. At least in the Land of the Forgotten, my subjects have each other to suffer an eternity of nothing with."
She managed to stifle back her laughter. Though the humor was grim, his complete seriousness in the matter was amusing.
How had the Book of Life fallen under the protection of the rulers of the dead? That story had begun some years ago…
The two hadn't known what to make of it when the Candle Maker had requested a meeting in the Cave of Souls. Since the events regarding their wager had ended, La Muerte and Xibalba had spent more time with one another than in the past millennium or so, but rarely did the three spirits who guarded the souls of humanity meet as a trio. Each had their duties to uphold first and foremost, and the Candle Maker had the most taxing of all—to watch over the lives and destinies of every living creature on Earth.
It had been noted that he was falling a little short on the second part. Due to this struggle, he had been given no choice but to request help. The news hadn't been taken as well as he would've hoped.
"The book moves on its own accord!" Xibalba had snapped, gripping his staff in frustration sometime into the argument and having already refused to accept the task. He had his own problems to worry about, one of which included the startling population growth of the Land of the Forgotten. "Can't it just, you know, check itself?"
"It's a book! It doesn't work like that, man," The Candle Maker had retorted, "Look around you: Usually there's a plague or something to keep everything in balance, but I don't remember one moment since the dawn of time when there's been this many candles." It was true: The Cave of Souls was completely covered with them, perched high and low—some far too close to the waterfalls than they should be but with nowhere else to put them. "Every few seconds, a candle has to be made and another put out. At least I don't have to watch over the candles of trees and stuff like that as much anymore, but the humans are breeding like rabbits! "
"And dropping like flies," Xibalba finished, "Of that we're well aware!"
The same fate of the realms of the two had also befallen La Muerte's, though even she would admit it seemed that less and less of living kept a devotion to tradition and the memories of those now passed. Despite this, she offered, "I could keep it safe. It couldn't be too much trouble with me."
One look between Xibalba and the Candle Maker told how much of a bad idea that was. Not that La Muerte couldn't be trusted with the responsibility, but a place that redefined "party central" wasn't quite the ideal spot to protect a sacred relic that could change the fate of all mankind.
"There's got to be some other option," Xibalba groaned, "It won't kill anyone if you're not watching the candles all of the time, right? Or if you just set aside the book for a bit? Put it on a shelf?"
"Seven billion souls to keep track of, dude!" he exclaimed, "That's seven billion stories on top of seven billion candles! Besides that, I've got orders from up-top that say somebody's gotta take the job."
La Muerte couldn't keep it. The Candle Maker couldn't keep it. Xibalba's kingdom wasn't safe either, as any of his subjects would likely try to take it for themselves in order to change their fates.
The only place it could be kept safe and secret was in the land of the living. No mortal knew of it and therefore none would look for it. So, finally, it had been agreed that La Muerte and Xibalba would share the duty of guarding the Book of Life there. With the trio's combined powers, they were able to make a rift in the realms—disguised by the museum and locked with a spell—to hide it in plain sight.
However, this was only a temporary solution. The Candle Maker had been right: Someone needed to look after the Book of Life. Someone who could be attentive to it at all times and be ready to act when destiny led astray—a Bookkeeper.
And so they searched among the mortals. Under the guise of a tour guide, La Muerte brought those she thought may be worthy of the task into the rift, and there they would be judged. Xibalba, ever pessimistic towards humanity and the evils the race was capable of, always reminded her to keep cautious of those she allowed entrance, knowing any wrong move could put the world in danger.
La Muerte was, in a sense, a bit picky herself in who she thought should watch after the book. It had to be someone of good heart and faith: Trusting, compassionate, honorable, devout, pure…
As she felt that of all of humanity, children were among the purest of souls, yet to be corrupted by the turmoils of man, she had shown a small group of youth the Book of Life. How their eyes had twinkled in wonder at the histories they were shown, their hearts overwhelmed with a passion for the story she had told them and the recognition of those in the tale as friends only separated by thin parchment.
But Xibalba had reminded her of another important factor that would determine who would watch the Book of Life: Sacrifice. "Whoever is chosen," he said, "Would have to give up everything they've ever known. Their lives, their families, their futures… Few would choose a duty they've never even envisioned over that—not unless they craved power."
"And it must be their choice," La Muerte finished sadly. It was likely that one of the children may have accepted the task, but could they truly understand the weight of the decision? She couldn't put them through that. They had so much life to live and so much time to decide their fates for themselves, and only they knew the people they would grow up to be. Even if it had been their decision, they're lack of understanding would only feel to her as if she had tricked them into a choice they never would've made otherwise.
"I pray it doesn't take that long, but we have an eternity to search, my love," Xibalba reassured her, wrapping an arm around her waist and allowing her to rest her head upon his shoulder as they walked. "Tomorrow, after all, is another chapter."