So I binge-read A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special recently, and something hit me as the Fall of the Holy Empire shadow-world Arc ended–isn’t Desir living a Shadow World of his own life?
See, the Shadow World, as I’ve come to understand it, is kind of a mix that reflects the world of the characters. It can be either the past of their world, where the current living people have to redo and correct historical wrongs, thereby “learning” something about their history to create a better future when they return to the present, or it can be an alternate landscape in which monsters roam.
At the very beginning of the series, the main character, Desir, is with his party of elites, and they defeat a dragon, their main quest, but nothing happens. They aren’t freed from the Shadow World. Instead, they’re stuck in it. They, or maybe just the audience, learn that the reason they weren’t released is that they didn’t stop the dragon’s heart from exploding–thus destroying the land and throwing Desir 13 years into the past… or did it?
Following the Fall of the Holy Empire Arc, we learn that not every quest is given to the present characters as they enter the Shadow World. In fact, the characters seem to have to figure them out on their own or find clues to enter the quest, almost like an MMORPG (only people die if they don’t finish the quest that they’ve entered).
Desir, like his team, didn’t exit the Shadow World–they died there and are very possibly, individually, reliving events from their past as a reflection of their lives or what their lives could have been with hindsight.
Using the people of the Holy Empire as an example, we learned that the people died in the shadow world or, at least, are trapped there since we’re informed that the land was consumed by the expanding Shadow World due to a mistake in their thinking and leadership that caused them to ignore the growing problem that the Shadow World posed.
Desir clearly made mistakes in his past, which he is reliving and correcting currently in the series. Couldn’t he, unknowingly, be living in the shadow world?
The people of the Holy Empire didn’t know, and couldn’t recognize intruding faces like Desir or his party members as not being a part of their world; it would stand to reason that Desir could be in the same boat.
His party and others are thinking and feeling characters, you might point out–but so were the characters in the Holy Empire Shadow World, with histories and separate lives going on outside of the Desir’s party.
So, ultimately, my theory is that what we’re seeing and reading is a dream sequence provided by the Shadow World to Desir to correct his past.
What do you all think?