A/N: The prequel to A New Life In The New World, it tells the story of the two characters' past in full detail.

A Certain Bewitching Sunset

"This light is...is what?"

The young man stood at the edge of the beach, with inch-high waves lapping against his black boots. With his helmet removed, the setting sun's rays can reach his eyes uninterrupted and unfiltered. The young man knows from his lectures how he can see this light: photons of light produced by nuclear reactions in the sun, spread throughout space. These photons are refracted by the atmosphere and bend, and they diffuse over the ground. A tiny fraction reaches his eyes, and his lens bends them further to his fovea. His rods and cones are stimulated, and they produce electrical signals. They travel through his nerves to his brain, whereupon they are interpreted as an image. This image is visualised as the setting sun.

In short, this young man can describe every detail required to explain vision, but nothing can be said of the image itself.

And presently, he is searching his brain for an appropriate description. If a description of the colour of the image was required, then there is a huge vocabulary at the disposal of Ren Seimei.* The red-orange light reaching his eyes has a wavelength between 600 to 700 nanometres, and countless colour words exist for that range: auburn, rust, crimson, scarlet, amber, rose, blush, sienna, orange, and maybe chrome yellow. Ren has no problem thinking of a colour word to describe the image.

The problem occupying his considerably adept mind is whether a word even exists to describe this...this sight.

The irony he reluctantly would like to admit, is that he is unable to describe the image he sees despite the contrary.

Releasing a sigh, Ren looked away from the setting sun with unshielded eyes, regretting it. The pulsing afterimage of the shining entity refused to fade completely. Clutching his helmet with his right hand, Ren bent over and furiously rubbed with his left as though he could erase it by sheer will. Laughter echoed from somewhere behind Ren; the unusual sight of Ren struggling had amused his squadmate.

"Yo, Ren, got sand in your eyes?"

"Sha~ddup. It was the sun, burning right into my eyes...it kinda got clingy there."

A gloved hand slaps Ren's back, and the other person pulls Ren towards him: Haruka Aoumi**, Ren's squad leader and mentor.

"Now don't go chasin' the sun, yo. Say bye to the ball of fire you were 'bout ta kiss."

Haruka caught the subsequent slug with his free hand, having released the jet-black sniper rifle that it was grasping a moment ago. His voice dropped, and the playful tone turned serious.

"Break ends in five minutes, mission briefing is in ten. Get your gear together; R & R has been tagged after the last exercise."

"Yes, sir."

Having been let go of, Ren stood ramrod straight and snapped off a crisp salute. Haruka returned the salute and grabbed his rifle. The two men started at a slow pace back towards camp.

"Say, Ren..."

As the Squad Leader for this training mission, Haruka was technically not supposed to discuss trivial matters before and after mission briefings, but he often made an exception for his student.

"...yeah?"

"What's with you and the sun? E'ery time there's an outdoor exercise, you sneak off durin' breaks to stare at it. You got some grand cosmic date or the likes?"

"..."

Unusually, Ren had no answer for this, instead mulling over the question while they stepped over a clump of bushes.

When they reached the boundaries of the 'camp' - really just a campfire surrounded by low, concealed tents, Ren finally spoke up.

"I..I kinda get this feeling, I guess. Like...like there's something out there."

"So you are in love with the friggin' sun."

Ren was in half a mood to actually hit him.

"Will this jeopardise the training, Squad Member?"

"No, sir."

"Is it in conflict with any orders our squad has received?"

"No, sir."

"And," Haruka lowered his voice, "Will I have your full attention and ability for the training?"

"...yes, sir."

Haruka clapped Ren on the back once more.

"See you in five."

Ren headed to the tent on the left, while Haruka went for the command tent on the right. Because he was walking west, Ren stole one last glance at the setting sun before lifting the tent flap:

The sun had since dipped below the horizon, dyeing the sky with a red-gold streak against the twilight of dusk. Like a shooting star in the night sky, recoloured and replayed in slow-motion. But it was still as unfathomable as ever. He cast one last look and dipped his head beneath the tent flap.

Outside, birds chirped and insects croaked. The sun set once more, unaware of its admirer.

fin.

Notes:

*: Written in Japanese as 制命 恋 (Seimei Ren), it literally translates to [Systematic Life], [Love], whereby they are his last name and first name respectively.

**: Written in Japanese as 青海 春家 (Aoumi Haruka), it literally translates to [Blue Sea], [House of Spring]. whereby they are his last name and first name respectively.

Author's notes:

The inspiration for The Old Life and The New Life come from the same source: a nightmare I had a few years ago. I've forgotten a great deal of the details, but the essentials remain crystal clear. As A New Life has already hinted, it has something to do with heads being cracked open.

Expect infrequent updates, really. I will enter the military for two years, starting tomorrow, and I'll only gain access to a computer again roughly two weeks from now.

If I were to summarise the whole story arc, I expect to fill quite a few pages and afterwards bore myself out (seeing as I'm merely filling out what has been predetermined), so I will simply leave it for the rest of the story to you.

Thank you for reading the first chapter of The Old Life. ( : Review and Follow for updates...eventually.