I've read stories where people were taken to other worlds without consent before, of random omnipotent beings yanking people out from their lives and into another just for their amusement. Or stories where they died and were either resurrected or reincarnated. No offense to those people but those last two choices don't appeal to me, I prefer living thank you.
In my case, I was given a contract.
After a long-ass day at work I had just returned to my small apartment to find it there in my living room, taking up the whole couch and watching anime. Its face was covered by a black reflective mask concealing its entire head, the bottom half cut in a crude mimicry of a jaw. From the head down most of its body was obscured by a… cloak didn't sound right, but it was the closest analogue I can use… of black, blue and purple swirling in careful intricate patterns. Its arms and legs were visible, and they looked like a mesh between flesh and dark metal. And it was-
"Is… is that my dinner?"
It looked up from the bowl it was eating from, and I could see movement under the mask, a pair of pale golden eyes peeking through the mask. "Hmm? Yes, I suppose it is. Apologies, but I had gotten here a tad too early and I got hungry." Its voice was deep, masculine and distorted, as though two people were talking.
Looking into the kitchen, I saw that it had eaten the entire portion of stew that I had set aside for myself for that night and the next day.
"You may want to use less milk next time, too creamy."
I was unsure if this was really happening or not. I considered that I may have overworked myself today and was now hallucinating but I threw that idea out, considering the proof ate my fucking stew.
Turning back the entity beckoned me to take a seat as it vacated the couch, revealing its tall lanky stature. I've read enough stories to know that it was probably better to do as it says no matter how scared I felt, lest I find myself lacking my masculinity. Or human nature.
Sitting down, The entity took a spot across from me as it sat in the air, legs crossed. "Now, I have not come here only to eat your food, decent it may be. I am here to offer you a choice," It leaned forward, eyes glowing, "Should you accept, I can send you to another world. One where you can find what it is that you want."
That caught me off guard. "What do- what do you mean 'what I want'?"
"I have been watching you for a little bit, and I've learned much about you already." It pointed a long finger at me, before continuing. "You are unsatisfied. Unsatisfied with this world, with this stagnating life. You want more than what this world can offer, full of stifling rules and hypocrisy. You are tired of people projecting their ideals and worldviews onto you, wanting you to act to their expectations of you. You want to be unchained from this reality and take what it will not give you; you want freedom." The being stood up and spread its arms out wide, filling up my view of the apartment. "Freedom to choose, freedom to be, freedom that no one but you can decide."
As it lowered its arms and sat back down, I admit that I was terribly shaken. What it just said did sound like how I've been feeling for a while now, but I had buried those feelings deep down since I felt that I couldn't act on them. Considering I was dealing with a ROB of all things I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that it knew.
"Now, that said, I did say that you have a choice. You can take the offer to go somewhere else, or you can stay here and try to live your life the best that you can do."
While I did want to take the offer, I had to ask. "What happens if I do take you up on this? I've read enough self-inserts to know that there's a catch."
The ROB chuckled, laughter echoing throughout the room. "Indeed. Should you accept, then after your journey is complete you shall become mine. That means that I will be asking you to do assignments and projects for me in other worlds that I cannot step foot in from time to time. In between such jobs you are free to do as you please, within reason."
Okay then. Take a chance and go somewhere becoming this thing's gofer, or stay here and live a boring ass life. Honestly, I was still tempted to take the deal, but I still had a life here.
"Again, it is up to you to take this offer. When you are ready, sign this and you'll be given a new life."
Reaching into itself, it drew a thick tome and laid it on a small conjured table. I reached over and opened it up to its first page, where a contract was written out.
I hereby accept on my own accord the offer given to me by *****.
By writing my name in this Book of the Rift,
I state that I give up my old life for a new one.
Below that was a space to sign it. Looking back up revealed that the ROB was gone, a quill left on the table.
Well that was rather rude of it.
So, left by myself with the contract in front of me, I sat there thinking it over. On one hand, I would be able to get out of this depressing lot in life and live a new one where I could do as I please. On the other, I'd be leaving behind everything that I already have, that and the comforts of modern living. There was no guarantee that the next place would be technologically advanced, or that it wasn't a death world.
Ultimately, I felt that worrying over it would be pointless and nothing would change if I didn't take action, so I made my choice.
Half an hour later I stood in front of my bedroom mirror to take one last look before leaving, because for all I know I could wind up looking completely different in a matter of minutes. All five foot ten inches of me was dressed in a pair of black khakis and a dark blue shirt, over which I wore a dark grey jacket. A pale thin face with tired dark eyes and a black goatee stared back at me, running a hand through short black hair. Topping it all off with a black flat cap, I silently hoped that my appearance wouldn't change that much.
Hoisting a traveling bag full of extra clothes and some toiletries over my shoulder, I returned to the open book and picked up the quill. Breathing deeply, I signed my name on the contract, the letters a bright crimson.
At first nothing happened, causing me to question the situation, but then I noticed part of the wall in front of me flaking off into dust. As more and more of the room began to fall apart, I could see even the furniture had begun to fall away. All too soon everything was gone, replaced with a darkness that was FAR from empty.
Everywhere I looked I could see crystalline bubbles floating through Infinity, all filled with galaxies of different shapes and sizes, each one a new indescribable color. I was breathless as I looked upon this place, the memory of this Expanse seared into my mind.
And just as quickly as it had disappeared, reality began to fill itself all around me in a flood of running colors. Soon I found myself on a little dirt road leading to a small string of wooden houses, a field of cows to my immediate right. Past the small hamlet I could see the shore, the ocean reflecting the peaceful night sky. Behind me was nothing but forest covering a field and up a mountain. And in the distance to my left was a tall ass wall towering off in the distance.
"Well, could be worse I suppose. Could have wound up in the Vortex World, though getting a Magatama might have been neat. If not painful."
Looking forward, I took my first step into a new life-
The Wind's Romance
It was a slow return to the land of the waking, my vision blurry as a white blob came into view.
"Alright, sonny, how many fingers am I holding up," it asked, waving a lump of blur in front of my face.
"Well, at least he's responding. That's good."
My focus soon became sharper to the point where I could see that I was in a room decorated like a doctor's office, though much more homey. The earlier blob turned out to be a short old man dressed like a doctor, white coat matching perfectly with his beard and hair.
Behind him by the wall stood a large stocky man with bright red hair, dressed like a farmer. He sighed and said, "It's good to see you awake. It was such a surprise to see you get knocked out outside my field. Was even beginning to get worried when you weren't responding for so long."
Okay, so something knocked me on my ass for a while and this guy got me to a clinic. That's good. Now to figure out where I am.
"Wher- eck, where am I?"
The big guy strode forward, replying, "You happen to be in Hornfield Village, north of the Goa Kingdom on Dawn Island."
Well that told me a lot, there was only one Goa Kingdom I knew about. Looks like I'm in One Piece, and right at the starting line as well.
"Alright," I said while sitting up from the cot I was on, "so what the hell happened? Was I trespassing' or something?"
Big Red shook his head. "Nah, nothing like that. I looked up from my cows and saw ya standing there, and then this chest of all things just drops down on ya!" He jabbed a finger off to the side.
"Gave ya a nice big goose egg on yer noggin, as well."
Ignoring the sudden pain in my head, I looked over to where Big Red was pointing. On the stand next to the cot was a small wooden chest, locked with a golden spiral plate keeping the lid closed. I idly noted that my bag was on the floor as well as I reached over to the box.
"At first I thought it might have been yours, but somehow I doubted that," Red said while I was turning it over.
"Ah, I forgot to introduce myself." Red jabbed a thumb at himself. "The name's Macintosh, but everyone calls me Big Mac. I run the town's fields and care for the cows, and I'm in charge of the village I guess. This here is Doc Walburg, the local physician." The older man grunted as he turned to a chart.
"Nice to meet you both, and thanks for the help. My name is 『 』... huh?"
What the hell?
"Are… are you okay there, lad?"
"Ah, yeah. Anyway, my name's 『 』. Okay what the fuck?"
Why can't I say my own name?! What happened that did-
By writing my name in this Book of the Rift,
I state that I give up my old life for a new one.
That line from the contract flashed in my mind. Was that it? Was the deal being literal?
Doc Walburg turned his attention toward me as he ask, "Well that's strange, can you not remember your name? Could that knock on your head have given you amnesia?"
I shook my head. "No, nothing like that. What happened was I traded my name for this."
With that I pressed down on the box's plate, popping the lid open so I could take out its contents. Sitting in the palm of my was a small green lychee fruit, the surface covered in unnatural spiraling abrasions that gave me a headache just to look at. Moving it around gave the illusion that the spirals were spinning in place. I suppose I should thank the ROB for giving me a fighting chance here.
Big Mac leaned in to get a better look, awe and fear in his eyes. "That- that can't be! Is that a real Devil Fruit?"
"Certainly looks like it," Doc said as he stared at it. "I've heard that people would do anything to get one, from stealing to slavery to murder, but giving away your own name is a first."
Leaning back, Mac ran a hand through his hair. "I bet if ya sold that, then you'd be richer than half of High Town. You'd be set for life and then some!"
My fingers closed around the small fruit. "Yeah, I could. But I won't."
I began peeling the fruit as the redhead asked, "Are ya sure? You'd be taking a risk eating that, what if ya wind up with a useless power? There'd be no benefit and you'd end up sinking like an anchor in the ocean!"
Dropping the spiraling skin onto the bed, I plucked the stone out and laid the lychee flesh in my hand. I knew the risk I was taking, especially since I couldn't swim, this was something I felt I needed to stand a chance in this world. So, I popped the fruit bits into my mouth.
And immediately began choking on the taste.
"OH GOD IT'S LIKE I ATE SATAN'S ASS!"
"That's probably the tamest comparison I've ever heard."
The Wind's Romance
"Thanks for helping me out, Mac. I really didn't have any plans for this."
"Don't worry, lad. I'm just doing what I think is right."
After the whole choking on the taste of evil bit, it was decided that now would be a good time to get some rest. Mac offered to let me stay at his place, but I declined, not wanting to bother his family so late at night. So to compromise he insisted on walking me down to the tavern to set up a room for me there.
In the meantime I was busy trying to come up with a name for myself, since my old one was apparently stricken from the record. Hell, I couldn't even remember my screen name from S****b******, which told me how thorough this was. As we neared the tavern I noticed a crow landing on the sign outside.
Hmm, that could work. There were certainly worse things I could name myself after.
Mac pushed open the swinging doors, drawing the attention of the few patrons inside. As they began welcoming the man I took a look around the cozy interior of the place, a soft breeze drifting through. Behind the counter was a young brunette woman who gave us a tired smile as we neared.
"Oh, hello there, Big Mac! Fancy seeing you here so late. Who's your friend there?"
"Hello to you too, Emi. This fellow here needs to spend the night if ya don't mind. He's new here and could use a place to stay for the time being."
"Oh that's no problem!" Turning to me, she said, "You can stay as long as you need to while you're here!"
I smiled, appreciative of the offer. "Ah, thanks. That's really kind of you to do so for me."
Emi laughed and waved it off. "No trouble, a friend of Mac's is a friend of everyone in this village, so please enjoy your stay!"
"Thanks again. The name's Crowe, And I'll be in your village's care."
"Ya hear that lads? We got ourselves a new pal here! Cheers!"
Before I knew it everyone in the tavern raised their drinks and cheered. One man made to give me a slap on the back, which was something I found uncomfortable, not wanting to be touched.
And in the next instant his hand passed through me, tufts of green wind trailing off of me.
"Huh, so that's what kind of Devil Fruit I ate was."
Ah, the classic One Piece reaction.