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Duty That Transcends Death

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"Even in death, I still serve!"
Dreadnought, Dawn of Warnote 

When a character or a group of characters are so committed to their duty, oath, or obligation that not even death can prevent them from carrying it out. This can take multiple forms, from becoming a Revenant Zombie to Reincarnation, but all of them ultimately boil down to a character's sense of duty overcoming death itself.

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Subtrope of Determinator. If the character is an undead, this also becomes a subtrope of Unfinished Business and may overlap with Backup from Otherworld. See also Ghostly Goals and Murder Into Malevolence. Compare Purpose-Driven Immortality.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo, Bruno Bucciarati is killed when Diavolo has King Crimson punch his fist through Bruno's chest. However, thanks to a combination of Giorno's Stand Gold Experience and his own desire to protect Trish, his spirit is able to return to his body and keep going.
  • Brook from One Piece. He and his original crew died, but he had the power of the Revive-Revive Fruit which gave him the ability to return to life. Unfortunately, it took his soul a year to find his body which had become a skeleton by then. He was then left to drift aimlessly on his ship for fifty years until he was found by the Strawhat Pirates. Why didn't he give up? It was for a baby whale his crew had befriended, Laboon. They had to leave him behind for his own safety, but promised to return to him. Brook does not consider death a good enough excuse for breaking a promise. It goes as far as him protecting his afro-styled hair as that is the only thing still recognizable about him. Laboon is still alive. The Strawhats met him not long after reaching the Grand Line; in the same place he was told to wait. To say Brook was grateful to be told this would be an understatement.

    Comic Books 
  • Deconstructed in DIE, in which one of the characters in a humorous mood magically enforced an ex-boyfriend's vow that he would not rest until he saw her again. When they finally meet again, he is a Revenant Zombie and not happy about it.
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    Literature 
  • This notion is central to the narrative of the traditional Greek poem The Dead Brother's Song (and its many variations throughout the Balkans). Therein, a man takes responsibility for his sister when she marries someone in a foreign land. When he and all his brothers die of disease, their mother calls on him to keep his vow. He then rises from the grave and brings his sister back home.
  • In Deltora Quest, Gorl the Jalis Knight became so overcome with greed at the prospect of immortality that he killed his brothers for the Lilies of Life. However, he missed out on the chance for them to bloom, so he stood guard by them for eons, killing anyone who approached him and feeding their blood to the lilies. Even after his body had crumbled to dust and all that was left of him was a suit of golden armor, his willpower remained to continue his damned duty until the end of his existence.
  • In The Elenium, the ghosts/spirits of at least two of the knights who've sacrificed their life force to keep Queen Ehlana alive in a magical crystal appear to defend the protagonists during a skirmish with the bad guys. A character is profoundly shaken by their oath of loyalty permitting them to return from the Halls of the Dead to do this which is not normally possible.
  • Even death didn't prevent Professor Binns from teaching history as a ghost at Hogwarts in Harry Potter.
  • In the metaphysical reality of Reflections of Eterna, dead people first go into the Labyrinth, from where they can enter either the Sunrise ("heaven", according to The Church) or Sunset ("hell"). However, individuals with a particularly strong sense of honor (like Cesare Marichiare, who came back as the future Saint Adrian and Roque Alva in the final books of the cycle) escape the Labyrinth back into the mortal world, effectively coming Back from the Dead to fulfill their duties. The tradeoff being that when they die for the second time, there is no afterlife, just Cessation of Existence.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Angel, attorneys working for the evil lawyer firm Wolfram & Hart continue to be on the job as spirits well after they die.
  • In DueSouth, Robert Fraser, the father of the main character, dies and becomes a ghost. Aside from being seen by his son Benton, he helps his son out. He captures a criminal who escaped from prison, telling him "A Mountie will hunt you to the grave, hunt you from beyond the grave."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • In the 1st Edition Advanced D&D supplement Monster Manual II, a haunt is the spirit of a person who died leaving a very important task unfinished. They attack people who pass near their death site, draining their Dexterity until it reaches zero and they can possess the victim. They use the victim's body to carry out whatever mission they were pursuing when they died. If they succeed, they will pass onto their eternal reward and the victim will regain control of their body. In later editions, the haunt concept was expanded to include Murder Into Malevolence.
    • Ravenloft setting, adventure I6 Ravenloft. Every night at midnight, the spirits of all of the adventurers who died in Ravenloft while trying to defeat Strahd rise from the town cemetery in an attempt to fulfill their quest. Each night, they fail: they march toward Strahd's castle, enter it and just disappear.
  • Played for Horror in Mummy: The Curse. The Arisen are bound by duty, through the Rite of Return, and bestowed of might and durability of Biblical proportion to serve the Judges of Duat. But the bottom line? They are nothing more than tired old slaves to the whims of their gods, and they can't disobey. As the Nightmare Fuel page puts it, they have outlived everything and everyone they ever cared for, to serve otherworldly entities who were their taskmasters in life and demand their servitute for all eternity.

    Video Games 
  • Asura from Asura's Wrath found his Emperor assassinated, his wife fatally wounded, his daughter kidnapped to be used as a mantra-amplifier and himself used as a scapegoat for all of it by his fellow demigod generals in a long-term plan to rid Gaia of the Gohma. Before he can even take revenge and save his daughter, Deus singlehandedly kills him. He wakes up in Naraka — an Afterlife Antechamber that proceeds Reincarnation — clinging onto a pillar. He is goaded by a mysterious Golden Spider to embrace his rage and use it to accomplish the task, leading to him escaping Naraka back to Gaia. He later dies a second time and even that doesn't take.
  • The player characters of Divinity: Original Sin are Source Hunters: members of an order dedicated to eradicating the Source (a form of Blood Magic) and its adepts. Later in the game, both are revealed to be reincarnations of two ancient generals who fought the Source corruption and were tasked with keeping it imprisoned after defeating it. It is strongly implied that each one of their reincarnations since has dedicated themselves to fighting the Source even without remembering their past lives.
  • Played With in the Dragon Age series: All Deaths Are Final, but occasionally, an individual's actions in life impress the spirits of the Fade so much, they cross the Veil and possess the dead body, taking on the dead person's identity to carry out their duties. This happens, for instance, to the Grey Warden Kristoff in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, who dies fighting the Darkspawn but has his corpse taken over by a spirit of justice who carries on the fight.
  • Final Fantasy X: Auron. When he found out the Big Lie about the Summoners' Pilgrimage, the Church of Yevon, and the nature of the Sin creature, he flipped out and attacked Lady Yunalesca, getting mortally wounded in the process. It took him over a week to die, but he refused to pass on. He is determined to avenge his companions, Brasca and Jecht, and to prevent Tidus and Yuna from dying for nothing as their fathers did.
  • Ghost Trick: Missile is so dedicated to his owner that a little thing like death doesn't stop him. In fact, he chooses to stay dead because he is more useful that way. This goes to the point of spending years of his non-life waiting to motivate Sissel as Ray.
  • In King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride, all residents of Ooga Booga are undead (think The Nightmare Before Christmas), but one instance stands out. When the Boogeyman burned down the count's house, the count's dog (named Black Valiant) was killed and his master became the Headless Horseman. The dog is still guarding the estate and will fend off any intruders.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: It's stated in other texts that the protagonist of Ocarina of Time was filled with regret because, in his own timeline, no one knew him as a "Hero" and so his legend, his skills, and the other valuable lessons he learned were never passed on to anyone else. He was so committed to the need to pass on his heroic legacy that he wandered the world as the restless "Hero's Spirit", not able to move on until meeting the Hero of Twilight (his direct successor) and passing his teachings to him.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Link himself doesn't count, since he was brought back by the Shrine of Resurrection, rather than his own willpower. However, the four other champions, who died a hundred years ago fighting aspects of Calamity Ganon over the control of their respective Divine Beasts, do linger as ghosts in order to fulfill their duty of defeating Ganon.
  • In Pillars of Eternity, Death Guards are created when someone devoted to a cause dies with it left unresolved. In the first game, the Starter Villain comes back to reclaim his land after the player characters kill him, and the sequel features two Death Guards, one of whom has been driven insane by the impossibility of her goal.
  • In Planescape: Torment, Vhailor — an armor-clad, axe-wielding member of the mercy killers, a faction devoted to delivering brutal justice — is so obsessed with his task of bringing justice to the Multiverse that he somehow cheats death and remains alive as a walking armor many years later. He can actually be talked out of this, resulting in him finally finding peace and in his equipment promptly turning to dust.

    Web Comics 
  • The Sapphire Guard in The Order of the Stick are an order of paladins sworn to defend the Soon's Gate of the Azure City. Devoted to this purpose their entire lives, the paladins continue their vigil even after death — as a host of ghostly warrior spirits.
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    Western Animation 
  • Played With in Ducktales 2017: Duckworth was Scrooge McDuck's butler, very much dead prior to the show's start, and seemed content to stay that way. This changed when a Stage Magician hired for Scrooge's birthday party accidentally performed a real summoning ritual; Duckworth found himself amongst the living once more, albeit as a ghost capable of interacting with the real world — and his first instinct is to immediately resume his job as Scrooge's butler, using his ghostly powers to aid in that job.
  • In Mummies Alive!, Pharaoh Amenhotep assigned four guardians to protect his son, Prince Rapses. Because the Big Bad from that time was still a threat in the modern day, these guardians re-awaken from mummification to protect Rapses' immortal spirit, currently reincarnated into Presley Carnovan.

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