I do not own The Book of Life.
"Now tell me, boy. What keeps you up at night? What eats at you from the inside? What, do tell, is your worst fear?"
The little man ponders for a few seconds. The little man who has dared to defy and challenge me, and who complains too much for not getting his life back, is pondering. He has guts, I will admit, but he is also stubborn and doesn't know when he has lost. I knew he would lose since he has brought shame on that day in the bullring. All because he couldn't simply kill the bull! Wait. That gives me an idea. I know what he biggest fear is. After all, he did say I could choose anything for this challenge. He just glares at me, already thinking he will beat me. Oh, how wrong he is.
I teleport Manolo to the largest central bullring stadium in the Land of the Remembered. Thousands of souls, including his family, sit in the audience while La Muerte, Candle Maker and myself stand at the very top of the building looking down at everything. Aw, the little man looks so much like a helpless ant I could just squish him! Too bad he's already dead.
"Manolo Sanchez!" I announced. "You will have to defeat EVERY bull the Sanchez family EVER finished! All. At. Once!" As I spoke the doors around the ring opened. And out stepped one bull after another, creating thousands, and surrounding Manolo. "If you finish this task, you will live. Again," I say as I roll my eyes. As if! "And if you fail," I make an even smaller Manolo in my hands. Why can't he be this size? "... You will me forgotten!" I blow the littlest man away into dust! "Forever!" Oh! I can't help but feel a little... evil!
"This is impossible!" Candle maker cries out next to me, running his hands down his face. "It can't be done!" For once, the fat tub of cloud and light is right.
The bulls come charging. Manolo is dodging and flipping, and running and jumping, there's yelling and crashing, the crowd is cheering and yada yada yada... All three of us watch closely as the match progressed. Oh! Manolo's father and great-grandmother just died. They've come to watch him fail! Speaking of which, every bull collides to form into one giant bull and a ring of fire around it and Manolo.
"Man this is a whole lot of bull!" Candle Maker yells. Yay! I going to win! But I won't celebrate just yet. The Sanchez's whole reputation is shown off this very moment.
It sickens me. In all honesty, no one, let alone this family, has a right to take the lives of these bulls. One of the many reasons I despise the mortals, killing innocent creatures. So many animals are here in the Land of the Remembered. They call it good sport and fun and games. But even I'm not heartless enough to take a life of a creature who truly does not deserve any punishment. Animals could be the purest living things in the Land of the Living. They only follow their natural instincts, tend to their offspring, and profess to keep the wilderness and outside alive and full of beauty. I genuinely admit that! I don't usually spend time around them; I don't hate them but they can annoy me at times. At least they all end up here after they die, to be happy and worry-less, and lucky that La Muerte loves animals so much.
La Muerte. How could I forget. For a brief moment, I take my eyes off the bullfight and look at my wife. She's hooked and doesn't notice me, watching Manolo's every move. In a way, I could understand why she betted on him for our wager. In a way, he reminded me of her: strong, kind, courageous, determined, clever. I originally didn't plan to have cheated. I was desperate! I didn't know what to do! I just didn't want to be a loser and have my own wife laugh in my face! I just wanted to prove to her that I am worthy of her! Is that so wrong?!
Ever since our separation, I've been miserable. I've tried everything to have her come back to me. I just want to show her that I, her husband, can be the man I once was. The man who triumphs after his own mistakes and wins her heart again. I knew I was in for a long way when I married La Muerte. She's so beautiful. Her luscious locks of black licorice hair, the lovely gold patterns on her skin, her sweet red lips... Oh gods if I could just kiss them all day... I miss her. Her laugh. Her smile. That sweet voice of hers, only she is allowed to call me 'Balby'. I missed to non-facade strokes on my face that she gives me. Her gorgeous golden eyes, filled with warmth and kindness, and a passionate fire stronger than the sun. But I don't blame her for not wanting to be beside me. I offered her to stay with me in her former realm, but unlike I planned, she said no.
"Are you quite sure you don't want to stay here with me, my love?"
"Yes Xibalba. I would... Just like to think things over. Alone."
"... As you wish, La Muerte."
I love her. I love her more than anything. I've always had and always will. But I don't know if I could tell her after everything I've done. She truly deserves better than me. I was so close to win her back! But I suppose it was only my stupidity that keeps on driving her away. Ay, Xibalba, you son of a-
My thoughts were interrupted by the strumming of a guitar. My eyes land right on Manolo. The large bull, now in fire, knocks him away. However, he stands back up with his guitar in his arms. Manolo does nothing for a moment as he stares down at his guitar. I could've sworn I saw a smile crossing his face. Then he strums the same tune I have heard before, as silence sinks into the ring. I could only frown and fur my eyebrows at him. His biggest fear is bullfighting, and even killing the bull! His sword is right there, but her grabs his guitar instead! What in the world is he doing?
Toro, I am humble, for tonight I understand
Your royal blood was never meant to decorate this sand.
You've suffered great injustice, so have thousands before you.
I offer an apology and one long over do.
I can feel my frown deepening. This doesn't make sense! He's just singing to the bull! SINGING! Out of all things! And not to mention he is bringing shame to his family, AGAIN! The bull should just finish him off right now! But it only had begun charging at the little man when it stopped! Is it really listening to this song?
I am sorry. Toro I am sorry.
Hear my song, I know I sing the truth.
The bull doesn't look convinced. With a grunt it began to raise a hoof over Manolo, ready to crush him. And I smile, knowing it can't let go of a grudge that easily. Poor kid, who doesn't even know how to not be unharmed without playing with a silly instrument.
Although we were bread to fight, I reach for kindness in your heart to tonight!
The large hoof slams down, but only beside Manolo. What?!
And if you can forgive, and if you can forgive, love can truly live.
And if you can forgive, and if you can forgive, love can truly live.
All of a sudden, the flames have died and the bull surrenders as it lies on the ground at Manolo's feet.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!
All that imbecile did was play a song on a guitar and THAT tamed a bull, many bulls who have hated his family for years?! And is finally calm?! How can this be possible?!
But... Was he apologizing? That song. I've seen Manolo play before. When no one is around or for Maria, he seems to sing so passionately and putting his heart out as he sings. His father Carlos, I could tell doesn't the idea of his son being a musician. And I've only seen Manolo stand up to his father once. That was when he first refused to kill a bull.
Wait. A. Second.
Has he really been hiding this? Is he being his true self? Is this why he was hesitant at the beginning?
A wave of shock came to me when I realized Manolo's fear was never bullfighting. I had been wrong. I was wrong this whole time!
In that moment Manolo had conquered his true greatest fear: being himself.
My jaw drops to the floor, literally. Candle Maker, without flinching, roughly tugs on my beard and sends my jaw back to its rightful place.
And if you can forgive, and if you can forgive, love... love will truly live.
As Manolo sings the last lyrics, he gently placed a hand on the bull's snout, and where he touched marigold petal appeared. The petals formed out of the dust and ash of the bull and flew up out of the opening of the stadium. Only one landed onto Manolo's palm.
"He did it!" Candle Maker cried out, this time happily! And the sound of cheering from the audience flooded the stadium.
"Yes he did," La Muerte smiled. It was the first time I've heard her speak since the bullfight began, and I knew she was smiling proudly at me.
But, even I could not contain an impressed smile. "Yeah, I'll give him that."
The Sanchez's raced down to surround and congratulate Manolo. Even Carlos Sanchez, who was completely against his son's true desires, looked so proud of Manolo. You know, the kid isn't so bad. I'm starting to believe that he's not like a humans. Perhaps humans aren't as horrible as I believed they were. Manolo proved that he has a heart, therefore proving that maybe other mortals have good in them as well. It sounds odd, I know. But I'm actually starting to... like this one. Even if I lost to a mortal, I have no shame. Well, it's not everyday a mortal gets to impress me. La Muerte, mi amor, you've picked a good one.
"In accordance with the ancient rules," Candle Maker began and then grasped me and La Muerte's hands. Together we all proudly aid, "We give you life!"
Hello everyone! Hope you like this one-shot I've done. This idea has been bugging me for weeks now and I am so glad to have gotten it out of my head!
Keep calm and ship Gravepainters.
KAMIKAZE-721, signing out!