As always, big thanks to this chapter’s sponsor: Delsin D. ($150)
Meanwhile, in Origin, several days after Vandalieu’s twelfth birthday in Lambda…
The people of this world conducted Mana measurements on children after they turned three years old, though the timing of these measurements differed slightly from country to country. Public medical institutions carried out tests to determine children’s affinities for each attribute – which were characteristics that people were born with – and it was required by law to report the results of these tests. That was true even for the children of high-ranking government officials, celebrities, gang and mafia members, and it was true for the children born to parents who belonged to the Bravers.
A week had passed since Amemiya Mei’s third birthday, and her family took her to get the tests done. To the people of this world, the test at three years of age was equivalent to Shichi-Go-San celebrations.
TLN: Shichi-Go-San is a Japanese celebration when children turn three and seven years old (for girls), and five years old (for boys).
The test itself was simple and it didn’t take long for its result to be known. Many families enjoyed a meal at the restaurant or held a party at home after the test, making it a bigger celebration than the child’s third birthday.
Having taken leave from work for this day, the Amemiyas intended to do this as well.
The hospital staff had taken a sample from Amemiya Mei… a sample of cells taken from the inside of the mouth. But inserting this sample inside the machine that extracted Mana rather than DNA had not yielded a result.
“… This is strange. Why isn’t the test result appearing?”
“A problem with the machine?”
“That’s not possible. The machine is functioning normally.”
Machines that measured one’s affinity for each attribute were commonplace in modern times. These affinities generally never changed over the course of one’s life, so these machines were only ever used once for each person, but even clinics in countryside regions and remote islands were required by law to have them.
Operating them was even simpler than an X-ray machine; no special qualifications were required. Anyone could operate them after taking a several-hour course on the handling of personal information.
Maintenance on the machine had been carried out according to regulations, and it was functioning normally today. And yet, Amemiya Mei’s sample – and only hers – had produced no result other than ‘Error.’
“Maybe the sample was contaminated. Can you get them to provide another?”
The staff had come to the conclusion that they had contaminated the sample by mistake… Perhaps part of another person’s sample had been mixed into Mei’s, causing the machine to not produce a correct result.
In other words, they believed that it was the result of human error on their part. Naturally, they weren’t convinced by this explanation. But given that the machine was functioning as normal, that was the only possibility.
People in this world possessed an affinity for at least one of the seven attributes – earth, water, fire, wind, life, light, and space. These affinities were possible to measure once the Mana in a child’s body stabilized, at around the age of three.
This was common knowledge. An eighth attribute had once been discovered, but to the people of this world, that was like a single albino crow among the world’s entire population of crows, and it was not something that was actually taken into consideration.
One of the staff immediately went to where the Amemiyas were waiting, and after explaining the situation, they came back with another sample from Mei.
With an unusual amount of care and attention to detail, they put that sample in the machine and began the test. But the result was the same ‘Error’ as before.
“What… could this mean? Should we ask for another sample?” said one of the lower-ranking male staff.
“No, the result will probably be the same no matter how many samples we take. It’s likely that the problem is not with our procedure or the machine, but with Amemiya Mei-chan herself,” said the more senior staff member.
“P-problem?!” the male staff member said in astonishment.
The Amemiyas… They were world-famous people and known for being heroes, and the senior staff member was suggesting that there was something happening in the body of their daughter.
But this conclusion was not such a serious one.
“The Mana in her body is likely still unstable. There are individual differences in development, after all. Though it is extremely rare, cases of Mana not stabilizing by the age of three have been reported to the medical association,” the senior staff member said.
“I see. That’s a relief… Then what are we going to do about the test result?” asked the male staff member.
“Let’s have them come back for another test in half a year.”
It was very important to determine one’s affinities for the attributes. The type of magic one would learn and the kind of profession they would go into in the future depended on them, after all.
If one wanted to be a firefighter, it would be easier to learn to cast water-attribute magic to be able to produce a generous volume of water than achieve the extremely high level of technique and control in fire-attribute magic required to start and extinguish fires at will.
However, the children being tested were at a stage before they even received elementary education; there was no battle against time here. None other than the most education-obsessed parents would care much about learning their child’s affinities for the attributes half a year later than other children.
“Alright,” said the male staff member, moving towards the door to go and explain the situation to the Amemiyas. “Then let’s… go…?”
But suddenly, he stopped in his tracks in an unnatural manner. The other staff members in the room also stopped moving entirely, as if time had been frozen.
“What’s the matter?” the senior staff member asked in confusion, but the other staff members didn’t even look at him. “Hey, stop messing… around…?”
And then he saw it. The thing that the other staff were staring at.
In the corner of the room, a blind spot of the security camera, there was something resembling a person.
“Hello,” it said.
It looked like a man with white hair and a white face, wearing a fur coat. But its voice, despite having a flat tone, was of high pitch, so perhaps it was a woman.
However, the staff quickly stopped thinking about its gender as they noticed that its face had four eerily-glowing eyes.
The staff attempted to scream in fear and escape to call security. But their bodies… they were completely frozen, and they couldn’t even move their eyes.
“It doesn’t seem to be very effective at this distance. I need to open my eye wider,” said the creature… Banda, as he opened his mouth wide to the point that it was larger than a human head.
He revealed the inside of his mouth, which was lined with sharp teeth, and an enormous eyeball protruded from within.
The eyeball emitted an ominous glow that swept the men’s consciousness from their bodies. However, their bodies did not collapse to the floor; they remained as they were.
“You people will now do exactly as I say. Switch Amemiya Mei’s sample with that of a child that has an affinity for only the light attribute, and run the test again. After that, dispose of both the real sample and the replacement using your standard procedures. Your normal standard procedures, that is,” Banda instructed them. “Once you have done that, forget these instructions and forget that I even exist. Do you understand?”
Seeing the staff nod in response, Banda gave a satisfied nod and closed his mouth, then undid his ‘Embodiment’ Skill to go to the security room next.
Banda had expected that an ordinary test machine would not be able to produce a result for Mei during the test that would take place when she was three years old. Ordinary machines couldn’t detect death-attribute Mana, after all.
So, Meh-kun did have an affinity for the death attribute after all, he thought.
This was the only possible conclusion, given the fact that this ordinary test machine had failed to give a result for two consecutive tests.
What would Banda do in the event that Mei did possess an affinity for the death attribute? He had pre-emptively consulted the ‘Druid’ Joseph Smith, who had become his ally, as well as several others that he had guided through dreams, to come to a decision.
He would brainwash the hospital staff to fabricate a result stating that Mei had an affinity for only the light attribute. With the light attribute, elementary-level education only involved producing a light at the fingertips and controlling the strength and color of that light. During these exercises, Banda would be able to fool those around Mei using his luminescent organs.
Yes, fooling them during that time was the best he could do.
In the future, it would become impossible to hide Amemiya Mei’s affinity for the death attribute. Or at least, if she wanted to live in this world’s society, it would be impossible to avoid this secret becoming known. Magic was an everyday part of life in this world, after all.
The only thing that Banda could do was buy a little more time before her secret was discovered.
Well, I’m not even so sure that I’ve managed to buy much time with this.
He was on his way to brainwash the security staff to make them alter or delete security camera footage, but despite doing all of this, the amount of time he had bought was very small… Banda suspected that it wouldn’t even be more than a few days, let alone years.
A mysterious being that was not a ghost had previously entered the Amemiya residence, and Banda had disposed of it. If this was the doing of an underling of the ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri, the traitor among the Bravers, then Mei was already being targeted.
With that being the case, it was only a matter of time.
I’ll need to make bolder moves moving forward.
Fortunately, he had recently resynched with his main body, Vandalieu, and updated his abilities… He was surprised that he had become a father, but that was the least of his worries right now.
When the time comes… If it turns out that Meh-kun can’t find happiness in this world, I’ll summon my main body and have him materialize… But what should be done about the Amemiyas? I think it wouldn’t be so bad to make my main body suffer like I’m doing now.
Banda had already come to a decision on what to do about Hiroshi, Mei’s older brother, as well as Joseph on the others. The only problem was Mei and Hiroshi’s parents.
With the test at the hospital over, the Amemiyas returned to their home, believing the result that their daughter possessed an affinity for the light attribute, and hosted a party as they had planned.
“Thank you, everyone, for coming here to celebrate my daughter today. Forget about work for a day and enjoy yourselves. Cheers!” said Amemiya Hiroto, raising his glass.
The Bravers in attendance and the friends that the Amemiyas had made in this world raised their own glasses with a “Cheers!” in response.
The ‘Hermes’ Baker and the ‘Titan’ Iwao were exchanging small talk with glasses of champagne in their hands.
“Amemiya and Narumi are a great couple, huh. I gotta do my best to keep up,” said Baker.
“Baker, you said the same thing when Hiroshi turned three,” Iwao pointed out.
“Ugh! I-it can’t be helped, alright? The person I was dating at the time broke up with me!”
Their conversation then turned to those who had died and were not here.
“Back then, that Asagi was trying to show off some crappy magic trick and messed it up, just as everyone expected, huh,”
“Yeah. That guy had that kind of side to him… Akagi, Tendou, Mao, Endou. Those guys were all laughing back then, too. I wonder what they’re doing now? Is there a heaven, or have they been reborn somewhere?” Iwao wondered out loud, staring off into space.
“I’m not sure about Mao, but the others have been reincarnated and are doing well. According to the information network of Duke Alcrem’s house, anyway,” Banda replied, fully aware that Iwao couldn’t hear him.
According to Duke Alcrem’s information network, Asagi and his companions were apparently working as adventurers employed by the Birgitt Duchy while conducting a research project on seals for Demon King fragments.
Banda’s main body, Vandalieu, was impressed with the way they had established themselves in Lambda’s society far more quickly than he had, likely due to the fortunes and destinies they had received from Rodcorte.
As for their research, Vandalieu was unable to deal with Demon King fragments that went out of control in distant locations, so he was hoping that they would produce some results… though he had no intention whatsoever of reaching out to them and assisting them.
Asagi and his companions were surely being provided with information regarding Vandalieu by Rodcorte and the Birgitt house, but the fact that they hadn’t come to interfere with anything he was doing was likely a sign that they, like him, had no intention of making contact.
As for the ‘Noah’ Mao Smith, even the Alcrem house’s information network didn’t reach beyond the borders of the Bahn Gaia continent, so he’d only heard rumors from merchants. According to these rumors, her trading was going well.
Either way, the information gathering that the Alcrem house had conducted as part of its intelligence activities had been done with the instruction of gaining any information on new adventurers who had signed exclusive contracts with the Birgitt house, and a strange female Dwarf who had left the Bahn Gaia continent, rather than an instruction to investigate reincarnated individuals. Thus, it was possible that another investigation would turn up new information.
“That’s enough with the gloomy talk. Those guys would hate for us to be talking about them when we’re supposed to be celebrating,” said Iwao.
“You’re right… Then let’s make this the last of that. Cheers,” said Baker.
And with that, they clinked their glasses together and focused on celebrating Mei’s affinity for the light attribute.
Incidentally, Kanako, Melissa, and Doug weren’t mentioned by the Bravers. The Bravers considered them to be traitors like Murakami, and this was actually true, so they couldn’t be blamed for that.
I understand that, but it’s still unpleasant, Banda thought.
“Banda?” said Mei, who was sensitive and sensed that Banda wasn’t in a happy mood.
“It’s nothing, Meh-kun,” said Banda, clearing these thoughts from his mind.
“Hmm? What is it, Mei?” asked one of the Bravers, the ‘Echo’ Ulrika Scaccio. “What is Banda…?”
“Oh, don’t mind her. It’s a friend that only Mei can see,” said Narumi.
“A friend that only Mei can see… Is she okay?” said Ulrika, sounding concerned.
It was not Narumi, but Iwao, who answered.
“It’s fine,” he said. “It’s what’s known as an imaginary friend, you know. Friends that only you can see, when you’re a small child.”
“Is she really alright? It isn’t some form of trauma from the incident, is it?” said Ulrica, worried that this phenomenon might be an effect of the incident in which Mei and Hiroshi were kidnapped along with their babysitter and bodyguard.
She herself was suffering mentally due to her harsh missions, and was reliant on the regular use of medicine to stay mentally stable, so she couldn’t just ignore this.
“Ulrika, like Iwao-kun says, it’s fine,” Narumi assured her. “Mei’s been talking about her friend Banda since before the incident happened.”
She possessed the ‘Angel’ ability that allowed her to share a consciousness and sensations with others, but she had not used it on Mei to attempt to see Banda – because she was convinced that it was just an imaginary friend that her young daughter would have only temporarily.
She believed that exposing that Banda was just an imaginary friend would be similar to telling her that Santa Claus didn’t exist, so after discussing it with her husband, she had decided to simply keep an eye on her daughter. It would probably be discussed again if Mei could still see Banda after reaching elementary school age, however.
“Banda,” said Mei, reaching out towards Banda.
“Come on, you promised not to pay too much attention to Banda today, didn’t you?” said her older brother Hiroshi, scooping her up into his arms.
Banda had asked him to take care of Mei during the party as he would not be able to use ‘Materialize’ with the guests around.
“Thanks, Hiroshi. Though you probably can’t hear me right now,” said Banda.
“Nii-cha, he says thanks,” Mei told her brother. “What about wriggle-wriggle?”
“You’re welcome. And no wriggle-wriggle,” said Hiroshi.
“I suppose transferring myself into Hiroshi isn’t possible. I don’t have a physical body, after all. Ah, but it might be possible with his shadow,” Banda said to himself.
Banda was a split entity of Vandalieu, created by putting fragments of his soul together. Thus, he did not have a physical body. However, perhaps it was possible to transfer a part of himself with someone’s shadow, something that also didn’t have a physical form.
“I’ll try it out next time,” Banda decided.
If successful, it would increase Hiroshi’s power. His acquisition of no-attribute magic was proceeding smoothly, but this alone was unlikely to be of much use against Rikudou Hijiri. It was worth attempting.
“You know, Banda says he’s gonna try it out,” said Mei.
“Try what out?! Stop it, don’t do anything weird to me!” said Hiroshi, who was still holding Mei, as he anxiously spun around in circles to try and see Banda.
The adults around the children laughed.
Just as this scene was filling the room with a lighthearted atmosphere –
“Hey, sorry I’m late.”
The ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri arrived. Behind him was the ‘Shaman’ Moriya Kousuke.
“You sure took your time. I thought you’d decided not to come,” Amemiya said jokingly.
“Sorry about that. Some leader somewhere decided to spend some time with his family, and that’s made things harder for the rest of us, you see,” Rikudou said with a smile.
“Such harsh words. But I’m sure you can manage, right, leader in the shadows?”
Amemiya and Rikudou shook hands, and a lot of the people nearby, including Narumi, Iwao, and Baker, welcomed Rikudou as well.
There were some exceptions – the people who had been guided by Vandalieu through dreams, including the ‘Druid’ Joseph Smith, who was being careful not to show the nervousness he was feeling inside.
Seeming not to take notice of this, Rikudou Hijiri began talking to Joseph.
“I haven’t seen you for a while, Joseph. I heard that counseling has been going well for you,” he said.
“Yeah. It’d still be difficult for me to go back out on the field, but I think I’ll be of use researching plants and supporting the agriculture industry,” said Joseph, startled but managing to produce a friendly reply.
“That’s good to hear. The truth is, there are a number of Bravers who had some mental problems, including you, and all of you started recovering around the same point in time. Do you have any idea why?”
“That’s… Sorry, but nothing comes to mind.”
In reality, it was because he had been guided by Vandalieu, but he couldn’t say that.
“It’s just a coincidence, isn’t it?” Joseph said, trying to play it off.
“I suppose so… All of you were in treatment for a while, and the psychiatrists assigned to you weren’t collaborating in any way. I suppose it should be thought of as a coincidence,” said Rikudou. “Either way, I’m happy for you.”
“Y-yeah. Thanks,” said Joseph, who was feeling bewildered.
He didn’t mean to doubt Banda, but was Rikudou really conducting illegal death attribute research?
Rikudou was behaving so naturally, as a friend, and certainly didn’t seem like he was plotting anything.
That sentiment was shared by the other Bravers whom Banda had made his allies. And Joseph wasn’t the only one desperately trying to stay calm.
It was the ‘Shaman’ Moriya Kousuke.
There’s no mistake about it… There’s something here! In this room… right next to me!
He was capable of creating an artificial spirit using his own Mana, and he could instinctively sense Banda’s presence.
What a tremendous quantity of Mana. As much as the ‘Undead,’ or even more. And it is clearly on its guard against me… no, against Rikudou-san. Once we achieve what we came here for, we should leave as soon as possible.
As Rikudou’s underling, Moriya had conducted many intelligence-gathering missions and assassinations. It was this experience that allowed him to sense the invisible threat that was Banda… though there was almost nothing that Moriya could do in this situation despite being able to sense this threat.
Seeming not to take notice of Moriya’s behavior, Rikudou finished up some more small talk with his colleagues and then approached Mei and Hiroshi.
“Hey, Hiroshi-kun,” said Rikudou. “Would you let me hold the adorable star of today’s party?”
Banda had told Hiroshi that if Rikudou Hijiri were to speak to him, he should do what he was told. And so, Hiroshi handed Mei, who had suddenly fallen very quiet, over to Rikudou.
“Hello, Mei-chan. You’ve grown big, haven’t you?”
Mei looked up at Rikudou with a curious expression as he held her. Behind him was Banda, who was ready to take action if he tried anything, even if that meant being seen by the other Bravers.
Banda had his mouth wide open, ready to bite Rikudou’s head off at a moment’s notice. His four arms, which were capable of tearing through iron plates like they were made of clay, were wrapped around Rikudou’s body in a near-embrace. It seemed that Mei found this very curious.
On top of that, a part of Banda was already hiding in Rikudou’s shadow. He was capable of either instantly killing Rikudou or immobilizing him if he showed any strange behavior, activated some device, or cast a spell.
And the soul of Vandalieu was ready to immediately tear open a hole in space and enter this world if needed.
… This isn’t Rikudou.
But being this close, Banda realized that the person before him was not Rikudou. He… or rather, she, was the ‘Metamorph’ Shihouin Mari, who had transformed herself into Rikudou Hijiri.
“What’s the matter?” ‘Rikudou’ said. “Or maybe this is to be expected. It’s the first time I’m meeting you like this… I’m?”
“You okay?” asked Mei. “Have you figured it out? Who you are?”
“I-I wonder what you’re talking about. It’s me, Uncle Rikudou. I’m friends with your mom and dad… Huh?”
Rikudou had been wearing a calm, easygoing expression, but now, his face was completely drained of blood and it was covered in beads of cold sweat. His smile was now strained and forced.
“I-I am Rikudou Hijiri. Rikudou, Hijiri? Y-yes, Hijiri. This place is, I am… I am? Dad… Mom?”
‘Rikudou Hijiri’ began convulsing in an unnatural manner and looked like he would start foaming at the mouth and collapse at any minute.
“Rikudou-kun!” shouted an alarmed Narumi, hastily taking Mei from his arms.
“Rikudou-san!” exclaimed Moriya as he grabbed hold of ‘Rikudou’ to stop her from falling. “I’m sorry! Rikudou-san seems to be feeling a little unwell, so we’ll excuse ourselves! Enjoy the party, everyone!”
“H-hey, is Rikudou alright? Shouldn’t we cast some healing magic…?” said Amemiya, looking concerned.
“Don’t worry, we have medication for him. But it takes a while to take effect, so we’ll be leaving,” said Moriya, firmly refusing his offers of help, as he was aware that the person that he was holding was not Rikudou Hijiri.
He was acting desperately to control the situation; if the disguise of ‘Metamorph’ became undone here, revealing the supposedly dead Shihouin Mari, there would be no way to play this situation off.
Many were bewildered by this series of events and watched with concern as ‘Rikudou Hijiri’ was taken away.
The real Rikudou Hijiri, having seen what had taken place at the Amemiya residence in real-time, smiled in satisfaction. He was now certain that his great ambition would be fulfilled.
“As I thought, Amemiya Mei has an affinity for the death-attribute and death-attribute Mana.”
According to her test result, she had an affinity for the light attribute, but Rikudou hadn’t believed that for a second. After all, the shadow of the Eighth Guidance lurked around her… though it was actually Banda.
Rikudou believed that if something strange had happened at the test… if the test was redone, or if the hospital staff he had bribed refused to listen to his orders, or if the security camera footage was mysteriously deleted, then the conclusion was that Mei had an affinity for the death attribute, regardless of the result that came out on paper.
“I must acquire her and research her at any cost.”
This was the second person to be born in this world with an affinity for the death attribute, the first being the ‘Undead.’ Researching her was certain to help unravel the death attribute’s mysteries.
Her parents, Amemiya Hiroto and Narumi, as well as the Bravers who often had contact with them such as Joseph, would cause problems in acquiring her. The yet-unidentified ‘remnants of the Eight guidance’ were also more than problematic, but… it had to be done, even if Rikudou had to make some sacrifices and reveal his true identity.
With these thoughts in mind, Rikudou began counting the cards he had up his sleeve and the methods he could use.
“It’s unfortunate that ‘Metamorph’ has fallen out of good condition at a time like this, but whatever. I’ll have her help me with some human experiments before she breaks. Experiments to artificially acquire an affinity for the death attribute, that is.”
Why did the ‘Undead’ – Amamiya Hiroto, and Amemiya Mei, possess an affinity for the death attribute? Why did Pluto and the other members of the Eighth Guidance only have an imperfect affinity for it?
None of them had an affinity for any other attribute; they had that in common. So what had set them apart?
It was the experience of death.
“Though it goes without saying, us reincarnated individuals, including the ‘Undead,’ experienced death on Earth. But Pluto and the others, although what they experienced was close to death, they did not actually die. Isis, who entered a state of brain death. Valkyrie, who entered cardiac arrest. Berserk, who lost most of his body. Shade, who lost all of his… None of them died completely. But it’s likely that Amemiya Mei died completely once. When she was a fetus.”
It had happened when Mei was so small that her mother, Amemiya Narumi, hadn’t even been aware that she was pregnant with her. She had been killed by Pluto. When Pluto poured ‘death’ into Mei’s mother Narumi, it would have taken some time for Narumi to die. But Mei had been smaller than a fingernail, and she had not been able to withstand it.
But Pluto had reabsorbed the ‘death’ immediately afterwards, and Mei had been revived along with her mother. This had been possible because Mei had been a fetus, in a state where she depended on her mother to exist.
Rikudou had been there, and he was certain that this was what had taken place.
“To acquire the qualities for the death attribute, one must experience a complete death. I see. That explains why no research institutions have managed to produce any death-attribute users thus far.”
Plenty of research institutions had likely conducted experiments where they stopped the hearts of experimental subjects through various methods and then revived them. But none had caused brain death as well as cardiac arrest in the subjects before reviving them. Or even if they had, it was unlikely that they had attempted to test whether the subjects were capable of using death-attribute magic afterwards.
After all, dying a complete death was a requirement, and Rikudou Hijiri had only become aware of this because he knew that the ‘Undead’ was a reincarnated individual, and because he himself had also experienced death once.
“All there is to do now is to figure out how to revive the brain after brain death. If we erase the subjects’ affinities for other attributes before killing them, implant devices like the ones used on the ‘Undead’ so that we can control their Mana… Hmph. To think that I would end up creating Frankenstein’s monster in another world.”
Rikudou’s research up until this point had been like fumbling blindly in the dark. Believing that he could now see a path to success, he struggled to suppress a laugh… and failed, bursting into loud, triumphant laughter.
“I would certainly like ‘Metamorph’ to produce some results. After all, if she succeeds, I will not have to kidnap my friend’s daughter!”
But unbeknownst to Rikudou, Pluto and the others, despite having died completely in Origin, were still only able to use death-attribute magic in limited aways after being reincarnated in yet another world as Legion.