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An existential threat was closing in on the world of Origin.
Zuruwarn, the God of Space and Creation, and Ricklent, the Genie of Time and Magic, were on the borders of the world of Lambda, checking for movements in the other worlds just in case.
“If humanity becomes extinct, the God of Origin will fade from existence not long afterwards. If that happens, even if the planet itself remains, it will be no different from the world itself ceasing to exist,” said Zuruwarn.
“The God of Origin is a being that was created by the devotion and fears of the entirety of humanity. Thus, it is not capable of creating new intelligent life like we are. If humanity perishes, the God of Origin will have no choice but to perish with them,” said Ricklent.
“Well, it is not so easy for us to create intelligent life, either.”
Like Earth, Origin was a world whose space behaved similarly to Lambda’s and whose time flowed at roughly the same pace. However, from time to time, anomalies would cause periods of time to pass by very quickly, between several months to a year. Such an anomaly had occurred very recently, but that did not guarantee that another one would not occur again soon.
Ordinarily, such anomalies would not cause any problems and were not even worth taking notice of, but… in this situation, Ricklent and Zuruwarn couldn’t afford to overlook the events that were currently taking place in Origin.
“That is true, but please do not interrupt me,” Ricklent said. “More importantly, the threat that puts Origin’s existence at risk… Do you think Rodcorte will make a move?”
“It is possible that he has not even noticed the danger. Though it is also likely that he has noticed but does not intend to make a move,” said Zuruwarn.
The threat on Origin was the research on death-attribute magic being carried out by the ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri.
If the research was successful… In other words, if it were to produce the most terrible results, all life would be extinguished on the continent that Rikudou Hijiri was conducting the research on. And if the humans of Origin were unable to contain it, all life on an entire hemisphere would be extinguished.
It would affect all life, not just humans. And it wouldn’t just be birds, beasts, fish, and plants. Every single microbe, fungus, and bacteria in the air, in the water, and underground would be annihilated.
After the death of Pluto of the Eighth Guidance, her death-attribute Mana had exploded out of control inside the Department of Defense building of the Federal States. If Rikudou’s research were to continue, this incident would be repeated, but this time on the scale of an entire continent, or possibly even an entire hemisphere.
Humanity would not become extinct immediately, but… it was questionable as to whether they could survive such an incident. After all, not only would half of the human population perish, but vast swathes of the planet’s lands and seas would become dead zones with no life in them.
It was unclear as to whether Rodcorte was aware of this possible scenario. Even if he was, it was possible that he merely thought of it as an opportunity, as the incident would cause many of the Bravers to perish as well, and he would be able to use them as pawns against Vandalieu.
“We do not know how valuable he considers Origin to be. Even if an uncontrolled explosion of Death-attribute Mana were to extinguish half of all life in the world, souls will not be destroyed. As long as they are not destroyed, his circle of transmigration system may be completely unaffected. And because the God of Origin has allied itself with Vandalieu, it is possible that he considers the destruction of that world to be a desirable outcome,” Zuruwarn speculated.
He was unaware that Rodcorte had previously attempted to sever the connection between his circle of transmigration system and Lambda, at the cost of cutting off both Earth and Origin as well. If he knew this, he would have felt certain that this speculation was correct.
And in truth, Origin had become a matter of secondary importance to Rodcorte, and he did not care what happened to it as long as he could achieve the goal that was his highest priority – the erasure of Vandalieu from existence. Origin was insignificant compared to that.
Once Vandalieu was erased and the Demon Empire of Vidal was destroyed, he would no longer be a god of the world of Lambda. If Origin continued to exist after that, then he would consider himself a little lucky, and if it was destroyed, then he would simply shrug and say, “Oh well.”
“Of course, it is possible that he simply believes that the other reincarnated individuals can stop the impending disaster,” Zuruwarn added.
“Amemiya Hiroto. The God of Origin apparently intends to lend him its strength as well, so I hope he can do something about it… and it would be best if he could survive and live out the rest of his years until he passes away at an age that is far beyond his life expectancy,” said Ricklent.
Both of them wished Amemiya Hiroto the best of fortune in his upcoming battles.
“More importantly, Zuruwarn, are there any movements from the gods of other worlds? If Rodcorte were to request their aid, and they agreed to provide it… I would pity them,” said Ricklent.
He was worried that Rodcorte might have asked for help from the gods of other worlds under the rule of his circle of transmigration system – that he might have coerced them with the threat of stopping reincarnation from taking place in their world if they didn’t help him erase Vandalieu.
“I think you’re overthinking things. Doing such a thing would be too much of a double-edged sword,” said Zuruwarn as he stared deep into space, pouring a black liquid into his cup.
Ricklent’s concern was that Rodcorte would make this threat to the gods of the other worlds, which would be effective against all gods that desired the continued existence of their worlds, and these gods would have no choice but to obey him.
But if Rodcorte did threaten the gods of other worlds this way, many of them would begin to distrust Rodcorte and view him as a threat. From their perspective, there was no guarantee that these threats would only happen just this once. It was possible that Rodcorte would continue to make unreasonable demands of them in the future, holding his powers of reincarnation over their heads.
Zuruwarn suspected that they would then construct their own circle of transmigration systems. Guduranis and Vida had been able to create their own imitations of Rodcorte’s system. There was no reason why the gods of other worlds couldn’t do the same.
If this happened, Rodcorte would lose his monopoly over reincarnation across multiple worlds, which served as his source of power. Zuruwarn found it hard to believe that Rodcorte would risk such a thing.
It was not that he believed in Rodcorte’s wisdom; he merely believed that Rodcorte would not be bold enough to make such a decision.
“And even if gods from other worlds were to come and attack our world… they would be exhausted within minutes, even if we and Vandalieu did nothing,” Zuruwarn added. “After all, they would be descending on a world with completely different laws of physics.”
In general, a god descending upon a world would require vast quantities of energy. Descending upon Lambda, which had different laws of physics from other worlds, would require even greater amounts of energy. And if a god who originated from a different world were to do so in this world without any prior preparations… If they were to cross the boundary between worlds without a large population of their own worshippers, they would experience pain equivalent to one of their limbs being torn to shreds.
If they came to this world in such a state, even if Zuruwarn and the others did nothing at all, they would use up all of their power and fall into a slumber within minutes. If they possessed physical bodies, like demigods, then they would simply die.
The only concern was an invasion by gods of other worlds that were different from ordinary demigods and gods like Zuruwarn, like the one carried out by Guduranis and the evil gods that served him, but… it was difficult to imagine that Rodcorte had negotiated with such gods to allow him to rule over the reincarnation in their worlds, so that concern was unlikely to become a reality.
“I am aware of that,” said Ricklent. “Over a hundred thousand years ago, we were only able to visit Earth and discover the champions because the Mana that filled Earth was similar enough to the Mana that fills ours, because of your efforts, and because we were able to focus the use of our power on maintaining our existences there.”
TLN: A reminder that this Earth in italics refers to the world where Bellwood, Zakkart and the other champions originated from.
At that time, the gods of Lambda had already negotiated with the God of Earth, and that was a large contributing factor, but… the world of Earth had an environment that had been tolerable to the gods of Lambda, at least for a reasonable period of time. In addition to that, Zuruwarn had connected the two worlds through a hole in space, allowing them to move between the worlds without cutting themselves off from Lambda. And most importantly, their objective had been to select humans to summon them to their own world as champions, rather than invade. Thus, this task had not required such tremendous amounts of power.
The bestowing of power to the champions had been done during the instant it had taken to travel from Earth to Lambda, carried out in the single moment in which they were unrestricted by the laws of physics in either world.
“Ricklent, do you mean to suggest that the gods of other worlds may be capable of doing the same as us?” Zuruwarn asked.
“No. I do not know how much of a difference there is between Lambda and other worlds, but it would certainly be impossible for them to come here with the objective of fighting us… unless you are asking whether they would be capable of drinking Cola from a cup,” said Ricklent, looking pointedly at Zuruwarn’s three idle heads.
Only one of Zuruwarn’s four heads was participating in this serious conversation with Ricklent; the other three were drinking Cola.
Ricklent himself had three separate bodies; the rather un-godlike thought of having a light snack using two of them went through his mind.
“I meant that I pity the gods of other worlds if they yielded to Rodcorte’s threat, only to use up all of their power and fall into a slumber within minutes, never to awaken again,” Ricklent said.
The people of Lambda would have no knowledge of gods that came here from another world. Thus, there was no hope of these gods ever recovering from their damage through people worshiping them. They would never be able to recover unless they returned to the world they came from, where their worshippers were.
“That is indeed very pitiful, but… we cannot do anything other than pray that Rodcorte will not make such threats to the gods of other worlds. And currently, there do not seem to be any signs of him doing that,” said Zuruwarn.
“… You are right, but let us stay vigilant for a while longer, just in case. If we are able to sense the signs of other gods coming before they arrive, we can pass on a warning,” said Ricklent.
There was also a scenario where there was another world with space-attribute gods and heroes whose strength rivaled that of people like Schneider, Randolf, and Heinz, and the gods sent these heroes to Lambda. But Ricklent and Zuruwarn didn’t even consider this scenario.
If there were gods that possessed such power and initiative, invading Rodcorte’s Divine Realm rather than Lambda and wresting control over the circle of transmigration system from him or stealing the information necessary to conduct their world’s reincarnation on their own would be a less risky venture for a greater return. And such capable gods would surely realize that.
“But once Rodcorte learns that he is unable to escape his own destruction or catastrophic damage that would cause him to fall into a slumber, there is no guarantee that he will not threaten other gods… What is going on?” Ricklent wondered.
“We will just have to keep a steady eye on the situation, I suppose? We cannot ask Rodcorte in person, so we have no choice but to keep peeping and watching. There is no way to make certain of anything,” said Zuruwarn.
Meanwhile, the ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri, the man who was considered to be a greater threat to Origin’s existence than an all-out war between large nations, was feeling frustration and suspicion at the lack of progress in his plans and his research.
“So, it seems that ‘Metamorph’ will no longer be of any use,” he said.
“That is correct,” said the ‘Shaman’ Moriya. “She is terribly deranged and unable to maintain a disguise. She is only stable when she is sleeping under the effects of sedatives. We tried brainwashing her again, but neither magic nor drugs have had any effect.”
Rikudou sighed. He had been using the brainwashed ‘Metamorph’ Shihouin Mari to act as his body double in order to ensure his own safety and to buy time for his research into death-attribute magic to progress.
But when ‘Metamorph’ attended the party to celebrate Mei’s third birthday at the Amemiya residence in Rikudou’s place, she had suddenly become deranged, and it was now impossible to control her.
Since then, Rikudou had been forced to personally make his own public appearances in the media. This took up much of his time.
This would not be a problem if Rikudou had a capable person he could depend on to make progress on the death-attribute magic research, but…
“It would have been best to leave a few death-attribute magic researchers alive,” Moriya said.
“Capable researchers, to be more precise,” said Rikudou.
Many researchers of death-attribute magic had been killed by Pluto and the other members of the Eighth Guidance. The ones whom they hadn’t found, who had been secretly employed by the Federal States, had been killed at the Department of Defense building through the plan of none other than Rikudou Hijiri himself.
Rikudou had killed these researchers instead of kidnapping or hiring them himself in order to gain a monopoly on the research. Rikudou himself was a capable researcher, and ‘Metamorph’ had provided a convenient body double that provided him with enough time to both make public appearances while remaining hidden behind the scenes. Thus, he had felt no need to take in researchers from the outside.
But the top-secret research facility that Rikudou and Moriya were in now had other researchers as well. However, many of them were just lab workers who operated the research equipment; they were effectively little more than simple laborers.
His collaborators had sent him personnel as well, and while they proved to be capable assistants for Rikudou, he couldn’t depend on them to lead the research.
Even so, if the research was progressing smoothly, there wouldn’t have been any problems. Even with less time, Rikudou could simply continue with his plan to kidnap Amemiya Mei in order to acquire death-attribute Mana and rule the world.
Preparations for this plan had already been completed years ago, with the cooperative relationships necessary – both public and behind the scenes – already established. If he wanted to execute this plan, he could do so at a moment’s notice.
Making moves to keep the Bravers deceived had become more difficult, as the ‘Druid’ Joseph and several of the Bravers close to him had become suspicious of Rikudou. But this would not be a fatal problem. Amemiya Hiroto had been puzzled by the deranged behavior of Rikudou’s body double, but it seemed that he hadn’t come to any firm conclusions.
But if Rikudou were to execute his plan to kidnap Amemiya Mei while his crucial research had yet to make progress, and he somehow failed to acquire death-attribute Mana, then it would all be over for him.
Rikudou’s collaborators would all turn their backs on him, and he and his allies would be branded traitors and defeated by Amemiya Hiroto.
Rikudou was one of the world’s most distinguished mages and had superhuman physical abilities. Many of the other reincarnated individuals, including the ‘Shaman’ Moriya Kousuke, were his allies, but… none of them would be able to withstand the attacks of Amemiya Hiroto, who possessed cheat-like abilities such as ‘Ignore Defense.’
Death-attribute Mana was absolutely necessary to defeat Amemiya.
And there was also one enemy whose identity was a mystery.
“We still don’t know the identity of the thing lurking in the Amemiya’s house… No, the thing that has possessed Amemiya Mei. Given the behavior of Hiroto and Narumi, it doesn’t seem that it’s in contact with them, but… it’s possible that it’s in contact with Joseph,” said Rikudou.
“Then the one who caused ‘Metamorph’ to…?” said Moriya.
“There’s no other explanation,” Rikudou said. “Just what kind of magic… No, what kind of abilities does it use? Or could it be that there are some other reincarnated individuals other than the Undead that we’re unaware of?”
There were sensors in the Amemiya residence that detected all forms of Mana, including death-attribute Mana. And yet, even they had been unable to detect this unknown enemy – even at the moment when the brainwashing of ‘Metamorph’ was disrupted, causing her to become deranged.
This was impossible to understand for Rikudou, who believed that the unknown enemy… Banda, was a surviving member of the Eighth Guidance, one of their fanatical worshippers, or perhaps a spy sent by some other foe.
It was surely impossible for this enemy to remain invisible and cause ‘Metamorph’ to become deranged without casting a single spell… without emitting any form of Mana. Not without some kind of cheat-like ability like the ones possessed by the reincarnated individuals. Cheat-like abilities consumed Mana when used, but they did not cause Mana to be radiated, so they couldn’t be detected by sensors.
The truth was that Banda was in an invisible state by default, and the reason the brainwashing of ‘Metamorph’ had been disrupted was because he had previously appeared to her in a dream. The incident had been triggered by Mei’s words, and Banda hadn’t used any Mana at all.
“… I believe it is a being that has been created through someone’s abilities, but has possessed Amemiya Mei. Given that it’s a being that is powerful enough to destroy one of my artificial spirits in an instant, but remains completely hidden, there’s no other possibility,” said Moriya.
And he was, in fact, correct. However, he could never have guessed that this ‘someone’ was the one known by the codename ‘Undead,’ the reincarnated individual who no longer existed in this world.
“So, a reincarnated individual after all. Someone has taken notice of my plans, gained Joseph and others as allies, and is now protecting Amemiya Mei. But why are they keeping it a secret from Amemiya Hiroto and Narumi?” Rikudou wondered. “We have too little information. It’s impossible for us to narrow the possibilities down at this stage.”
There were still many surviving reincarnated individuals. And it was possible for reincarnated individuals to further develop the abilities that had been granted them by the god of reincarnation. It wasn’t too strange to think that one of them had done so and come up with a way to use their abilities in a way that Rikudou wasn’t aware of.
Thus, Rikudou gave up on trying to identify this ‘someone’ for now. Given that they were protecting Mei, it was unavoidable that they would interfere with his plans. But the reason Rikudou gave up on identifying them was because he believed that they represented less of an interference than Amemiya Hiroto.
“The more pressing problem is the research,” Rikudou said. “Why is death-attribute Mana not being produced?”
He looked down at the vast quantities of data that showed the results of the experiments that had been conducted thus far. But all the results were the same: Failure.
At the top-secret research laboratory of the military nation that had held the ‘Undead,’ research had been carried out under the hypothesis that an affinity for the death attribute was possessed by a human who did not possess an affinity for any other attribute.
Human samples had been gathered from people all over the world who possessed no affinity for any of the magical attributes, but this had failed. Every one of those samples had been so lacking in any affinity for an attribute that it was no exaggeration to say that they had no affinity at all – but in reality, there was a little… though it was about one percent of an ordinary person’s.
The researchers of the top-secret laboratory had then tried to artificially create humans with no affinity for any attribute. But this had also failed. To begin with, it had been impossible for them to create a human being out of nothing with the technology used at the time, and although cloning technology used to create copies of existing humans was able to suppress affinities for the attributes, it had been unable to reduce it to nothing.
And as their final resort, they had used clones of the Undead, his offspring that they artificially created, and even his relatives, including the parents who had sold him. But all of it was for naught.
To begin with, even with Origin’s current modern technology, nobody had discovered what determined a person’s affinities for the attributes.
After that, the work of the researchers at the top-secret laboratory had veered off course. It was around then that they conducted experiments on the people who would later become the Eighth Guidance.
But Rikudou knew what it was that decided which attributes a person had affinities for.
“In this world, the attributes a person has affinities for is determined by the soul. No matter how much research is carried out into DNA and genetics, it’s useless,” said Rikudou. “But there are examples of an acquired affinity for the death attribute, though imperfect, like those of the Eighth Guidance. This gave me a clue. Those people met some of the requirements.”
“Yes, you have explained it to me before, Rikudou-san. You said that in order to gain the power of the death attribute, one must die. The Eighth Guidance became able to use death-attribute magic because their affinities for the attributes were erased, and then they died, though their deaths were incomplete,” said Moriya.
Isis, who was in a state of brain death; Valkyrie, whose heart did not beat; Pluto, whose growth had been stopped; Berserk, who lost most of his body; Shade, who lost his entire body… Each member of the Eighth Guidance had been only partially alive and partially dead, to varying degrees.
When the death-attribute Mana of the ‘Undead’ was granted to them in that state, an affinity for the death attribute had taken root within them.
“That’s right,” said Rikudou. “That’s why I thought that if someone lost their affinities for the attributes and then their bodies died a complete death, they would acquire perfect death-attribute Mana.”
Of course, even if a person were to gain Mana in such a state, they would be a mere corpse. Even if they moved, they would be Undead. Success was impossible unless their hearts and lungs were restarted to bring them back to life after the Mana had become established in their body.
“But something is missing,” Rikudou continued. “The technology used to remove affinities for the attributes was already perfected by that top-secret laboratory. We have perfected a technology to capture a soul that has left the body and return it, to ensure that the subjects die a complete death rather than a temporary one, and we have perfected a technology that makes it possible to resuscitate the subjects after that. However… this only produced inferior copies of the Eighth Guidance, imperfect failures, or somewhat unusual Undead.”
Rikudou Hijiri had developed a technology that could store souls, something that had been impossible for the humans of this world.
If he were to publicly announce this technology and make use of it in the medical field, it would cause great advances to be made in this world’s medical technology and healing magic.
It would even be possible to create a society in which nobody died of any causes other than accidents, murder, suicide, or old age. It would be praised as the greatest invention of the century, and Rikudou Hijiri’s name would be engraved deep in the world’s history books.
But that would not be enough for Rikudou Hijiri’s wishes to come true. To him, it was nothing more than a technology that was necessary for him to achieve his ambitions.
The documents he was looking at detailed several experiments in which the samples acquired an imperfect form of death-attribute magic. One sample with an ability caused the decay of anything they touched, another with the ability to directly sap water from their target… and more, including some who had acquired the same abilities as the members of the Eighth Guidance.
Why were the samples only able to use imperfect forms of death-attribute magic, Rikudou wondered.
“… Could it be because us reincarnated individuals are different from the people of this world? ‘Metamorph’ is no longer of any use as a body double, so how about making use of her one last time as an experimental subject?” Moriya suggested.
“That theory doesn’t explain Amemiya Mei. Her parents are both reincarnated individuals, but she herself is a human who was born in this world. Wasting a precious subject for a pointless experiment would be… Wait,” Rikudou said, as if realizing something. “What do Amemiya Mei and the ‘Undead’ have in common? Is that where the key for my acquisition of death-attribute Mana lies?”
With that, he sank deeper into thought.
If there was one thing the two had in common that could be a necessary condition to acquire death-attribute Mana, Rikudou could only think of one possibility. But because Pluto and ‘Urðr’ had died, there was no way for him to test his theory now.
But still, if this theory was correct –
“Very well, let’s conduct an experiment on ‘Metamorph,’” Rikudou said. “I will proceed with my plans and adjust them, depending on the results, but… it may take some time. It is possible that I will need to discard this current body of mine.”
The events that would threaten the existence of the world of Origin were finally in motion.