Disclaimer: Minor spoiler to the Faraway Paladin series.
Death is a sacred subject to humanity. It either intimidates people or sets them at peace. For most people, death is the end of everything: their desire, their dream, their passion, their enjoyment. For others, it is an escape pathway out of any misery, pain, and suffering slowly gnawing their soul if they stay in this world. Therefore, the idea of immortality while beguiling to most people; is despised by some. They prefer to follow the guide of nature when the time comes. Will – the protagonist of the Faraway Paladin light novel who died as a worthless member of society and reborn as the child of the undead – understands all these ideas. The course of action throughout the early years of his second life will reflect deeply the general approach of this series on the nature of death and reborn as we accompany him onto his journey in the ruined city to find back the warmth of life he has lost.
The Faraway Paladin starts at the city of death far away from humanity, in a small chapel at the top of the mountain where three undead resides guarding a secret since the day their last breath is drawn away. Everything seems endlessly uneventful until one day, a living human newborn found at the chapel ends their eternal boredom and reminds them what it feels to love and be loved again. Will grows up under the training of Blood – an energetic fighter warrior; the caring of Mary – a kind-hearted mummy; and Gus – a trickery but all-knowing specter. They fight, laugh, and cry with each other as a family until the day Will reaches 15 years old, where he must make the hardest choice of his life that change their fate forever.
The series focuses a lot on the idea of differences between “to live” and “to not die”. Is there a point of immortality where every day you are haunted by the ghost of the past and the fear of the future; where you know for sure that everyone and everything you love will wither away before you and you will be left alone in this empty world? Are you okay with living life but having your ideals, personality, passion, and emotion slowly drained away from your soul until the point you are only a hollow shell drifting away in the flow of the world?
This is a common fate in our society, where people need to focus on the necessity of life and have to cast away the things their hearts desire to survive while hoping that one day when they have enough money and time they can return to do what they truly love (which would often turn out to be too late or they just straight-up forget about it) to live as they struggle “to not die”. This exactly is the group of people our main character was put into before he got reincarnated, as he seals away his basic emotion throughout his struggle to survive in such a society and ends up forgetting how to cry at his mother’s funeral, which he deeply regrets in his second life.
On the other hand, if people manage to incorporate their passion and love into their life without being a burden to others and successfully enjoy their time, then when the scythe of death comes to them, they can be happy that they managed “to live” the fullest life that could. Ironically, Will learns about this idea while being raised by the undead – who represent the regrets people still have in the afterlife. Having experienced being an empty shell of society, he appreciates the affection from his three caretakers and tries his best to become the best version of himself so they can be proud of him. He then becomes a beacon of warmth and love for the trio, who have long forgotten those things.
Each member of the undead trio has their own story to tell and ideals that they were forced to leave behind when they struck a deal to become immortal guardians. Then, for the entire 200 years, they stay in the small chapel living an immortal life as its guardian, seemingly till the end of time without any care of what is happening out there. Suddenly, the boy comes and reminds them about what it’s like to have emotions and something to truly care about. For 200 long years of emptiness, they can finally be able “to live”: to express their emotions, to do stupid things and laugh about it, to care about each other like a family, and to train Will to be the strongest and kind-hearted person to not carry their huge legacy, but to have the best life that he can.
This small spark of fire reminds them of what it feels like to be human again; and although their body lacks the warmth of life, the love and care they give Will heal his soul from the crowded but cold and lonely world where he died once. Eventually, the upbringing the give Will becomes his strongest asset, helping him develop character and a reliable moral compass. This will help him when he eventually faces the challenge of the Gods on his upcoming maturity ceremony, but that is a story for another time. For now, they are just a normal lively family residing in the chapel at the top of a ruined city having a fulfilling life with the second chance that they have.