The Metamorph, Shihouin Mari, gave a small laugh as she looked at the place she had been taken to, a special cell that had been made for detaining her. “How generous of you to give me a custom-made room,” she said.
Her voice had no sign of bitterness or sarcasm, but a special microchip and explosives had been embedded inside her body.
This was a step to prevent even the smallest chance of Mari escaping, as she was capable of taking on any appearance.
“… I’m sorry for being so incapable,” said Amemiya Hiroto, apologizing to her without responding to her words.
He was wearing a pained expression as if he was the criminal, not her. The other reincarnated individuals who had been working with him and Mari were wearing similar expressions.
But Mari gave Hiroto a small, bitter smile. “Don’t apologize,” she said. “I know you worked hard to solve things without having to kill me.”
Mari had killed another person who had been reincarnated from Earth, Kaidou Kanata. Although she hadn’t worked with the terrorists, she had exploited them, led the government and her companions on a wild goose chase with false information and set things up so that her target, Kanata, would be sent on a mission on his own.
Kaidou Kanata’s death had a great impact on the other reincarnated individuals. They had been working in disaster relief and counter-terrorism, so they had come into contact with people’s deaths… even other than the civilians and terrorists killed in disasters, they experienced the deaths of allied military personnel and helpers that they should have saved.
But the death of Kanata, one of their own, had a different level of impact.
They had been given new lives by a god and reincarnated in this foreign world called Origin from Earth with magical talent and special “cheat-like abilities.” But they had been stared in the eyes by the reality that even they could die and be killed.
This event had caused cracks to form between the reincarnated individuals who had come together to form the organization known as the Bravers.
No, to be more precise, the cracks had already been there, but they had simply been invisible. It was Mari’s murder of Kanata that had made these cracks impossible to ignore any longer.
But there were some among them who thought that everything was Mari’s fault. Even the governments and armies of every nation considered Mari, who possessed the Metamorph power that allowed her to perfectly replicate her target’s fingerprints, retinas and even their vein patterns, to be a dangerous individual.
And there were also those who felt distrust for Hiroto, who had advocated for her to be confined rather than erased.
“You killed Kaidou Kanata, a single person,” said Hiroto. “You ensured that the president’s daughter remained protected. I can understand your motives. This is your first crime, and normally you would be given life imprisonment or maybe even a definite term depending on the country, not a death penalty. And the nation you killed Kanata in has already abolished capital punishment. It would be too selfish to erase you out of convenience and emotion.”
“A stiff way of thinking as usual,” said Mari.
“It’s better than being soft,” said Hiroto. “At least, it makes it easier for others to tell what I am thinking.”
If including those who did the office work, not all of the Bravers were those reincarnated from Earth, but they had many relatives and needed to be faithful to international laws in order to be trusted. That was what Hiroto thought.
The reincarnated individuals possessed powers that went beyond even the principles of Origin, a world with science as advanced as Earth’s and magic that didn’t exist on Earth. If something went wrong, they would be treated as mutants. In fact, groups advocating that they should be treated as such already existed.
That was why they needed to show that they obeyed the rules of society.
“But with everything said and done, I was oblivious to Kanata’s crimes,” said Hiroto. “That’s what I’m apologizing for.”
“There’s no reason to apologize to me, considering that I killed him with my own hands before consulting you,” Mari said as she entered the room.
Seeing her disappear behind the closing door, Hiroto and the others turned and left.
“… What information do we have on them?” asked Hiroto.
“The whereabouts of Murakami and the others became unknown after they joined the ‘Eighth Guidance,’” replied Minami Asagi, one of the three people who had been escorting Mari. His tone was polite, but his eyes were filled with anger.
Murakami… the reincarnated individual who had been a high school teacher on Earth by the name of Murakami Junpei, had left the Bravers with a group of ten others and vanished after joining a terrorist group.
Rodcorte had said that the conflict had subsided, but for Hiroto and the other Bravers, this was just a calm before the storm.
“Just what are they thinking… Especially Murakami,” Asagi continued. “Did you know that he was our homeroom teacher? Would a normal teacher incite his students and have them join a group of terrorists?”
“It has already been nearly thirty years since he was your homeroom teacher,” another one of Mari’s escorts pointed out. He was the ‘Oracle,’ Endou Kouya.
However, it seemed that Asagi wasn’t satisfied with these words.
“But we are all companions, are we not? Despite that, they betrayed us… I cannot forgive them.”
Asagi had been a hot-blooded member of a sports club on Earth who cared about his friends, who had a somewhat totalitarian way of thinking. He also had a strong tendency of being influenced by the past life he had lived on Earth.
Up until now, that had been a good thing. The past lives that the reincarnated individuals had lived on Earth and the things they had experienced there were a necessary foundation for them to not abuse their new lives and the powerful abilities that they had suddenly been given.
However, the current problem had occurred because they had relied too much on this foundation and not seen what they needed to see.
“Asagi, it has already been more than twenty years since we died on Earth… nearly thirty,” said Hiroto. “People change over that amount of time. We should have considered that.”
“Hiroto-san, I know that even in the news on Earth, you would hear about arrested criminals’ classmates saying that they were good people in the past, but we are companions –”
“Kanata sold the organs of his ‘companion’ on the black market.”
“That’s true, but… isn’t that because he gave into temptation and strayed from the path! We must fight, for Tanaka and the other two who were lost! If we don’t, they won’t be able to rest in peace!”
“Asagi, I know how you feel, but… we’re nothing more than humans who have memories from our previous lives and strange powers,” said Kouya.
“Kouya-san, what… are you trying to say?” Asagi glared at Kouya, as if Kouya’s words had poured cold water on his fiery emotions.
“Other than Murakami, we’ve already spent more time in Origin than on Earth,” said Hiroto. “We should not believe in each other blindly just because we are companions. We can be tempted, or… our senses of values can even change. That’s what Kouya is trying to say. And I think the same.”
“That… I understand what you are trying to say, Hiroto-san, but I cannot accept it!” Asagi shouted over his shoulder as he walked off, leaving Hiroto and the others behind.
Hiroto gave a bitter smile as he looked at Asagi’s strong-looking back, and then he spoke to the other reincarnated individuals, who had remained quiet up until now. “Sorry, but please go and listen to his grumbling,” he said, gesturing for them to go on ahead, leaving him and Kouya alone.
“I think he is far more hard-headed than I am, but it is helpful that he is so unchanging,” Hiroto remarked.
“It’s not like I hate him,” said Kouya. “It’s just that when nobody else is around, he says, ‘but on Earth,’ at every opportunity, which is troublesome.”
Hiroto and Kouya laughed and relaxed their shoulders as they continued their conversation.
“Can’t you find out where Murakami and the others have gone with Oracle?” Hiroto asked.
Kouya’s cheat-like ability, ‘Oracle,’ might be considered by some to be like a god’s ability to make prophecies. However, in reality, it was not a power that could be called omnipotent.
Kouya’s Oracle was simply ‘something’ that told him a way to achieve the results he wanted.
At first, Kouya had thought that this ‘something’ was a god. But he soon experienced that it wasn’t anything as all-knowing or omnipotent as a god.
It had answered several of his questions with, “That goal is impossible to achieve.”
Thus, Kouya suspected that the answers he received from Oracle were derived by accessing the collective human unconsciousness or the Akashic records or something like that.
According to the Oracle, the answer to Hiroto’s question was –
“In the near future… I don’t know the exact time because it changes every time I ask, but as soon as three months or as far away as three years, it says we’ll know through the news.”
“That means that those guys will do something. Is there a way to prevent that from happening?” Hiroto asked.
“… Sorry, but I don’t know,” Kouya replied. “The answer to that changes every time as well. If I don’t know what specifically needs to be done, I can’t give an accurate question.”
“How to prevent Murakami and the others committing an act of terrorism,” “How to prevent Murakami and the others kidnapping someone,” “How to prevent Murakami and the others from trafficking drugs” … All of these were different questions.
With something vague like, “How to prevent Murakami and the others from committing a crime,” he would get strange answers like, “Catch Murakami within one hour before he spits out his gum on the street.”
On that occasion, they did check satellites and surveillance footage in nations and regions where spitting gum onto the street was a crime, but… of course, there was no way that Murakami could be found.
“Murakami and the others know about my Oracle as well,” said Kouya. “That’s why they’re interfering with it by making multiple plans for crimes and committing small crimes like spitting gum on the street.”
“I see. I suppose we have to use methods other than your abilities to find them,” said Hiroto. “If possible, I want to avoid doing something like killing them, but…”
“For your wife’s sake as well, huh?” said Kouya.
“Yeah. She said to treat them as different people from when they were on Earth, but it’s also a fact that we can’t erase the past,” said Hiroto.
Their lives that ended abruptly and irrationally on Earth, the bonds with their families that they left behind. And the unhappiness that they were experiencing in Origin now.
The more disappointing their lives on Origin were, the harder they were, the more their memories from Earth seemed to shine.
Companions killing each other was hard for Amemiya Narumi, who had become Hiroto’s wife.
Knowing this, there was something that Kouya hadn’t revealed to Hiroto. “… There’s something that I haven’t told you,” he said.
“I had the vague feeling that you were hiding something,” said Hiroto. “Ever since a short while after that secret research laboratory was destroyed by one of the subjects becoming an Undead.”
During that incident, the world had become aware of a new attribute, the death attribute, while simultaneously losing it. Even though they had been compelled to do it out of necessity, this incident was the beginning of the Bravers beginning to fight terrorists and criminal organizations in addition to rescuing people after disasters and accidents.
However, to Kouya, it was an unforgettable incident in a different way.
“After that incident… It was when we all started our military training. I asked, ‘How we can avoid losing a single one of us reincarnated individuals.’ The answer was, ‘Impossible. One has already been killed.’”
The incident had now become even more unforgettable for Hiroto.
“Is that true?” he murmured. “Long before Mari killed Kanata…”
“After that, I managed to ask the Oracle before my Mana ran out,” Kouya continued. “I asked who the killed reincarnated individual was, who killed him, whether there was any way to find out. For, ‘who was killed where,’ it told me to ‘look at the file of the incident at the research laboratory,’ and for, ‘who that reincarnated individual was on Earth,’ it replied, ‘you will know if you ask Naruse Narumi what happened before she died on Earth.’”
Kouya’s confession revealed a truth that was terrible for Hiroto and the other reincarnated individuals.
“I see, at that time, we… finished one of our companions,” said Hiroto.
“I simply intended to ask the Oracle, ‘the best way to exterminate the Undead,’ but… for him, it was probably a terrible betrayal,” said Kouya.
Kouya and Hiroto, who had finished their reincarnation in Origin before Amamiya Hiroto had reincarnated, couldn’t understand why only Amamiya had been unable to join up with the others and ended up as an experimental subject in that research laboratory.
However, the only reason that the other reincarnated individuals had all been able to join up was something as vague as a ‘miraculous destiny.’
“Amamiya Hiroto… so he reincarnated as well,” said Hiroto.
The young man who had tried to save Narumi and died before her. Hiroto’s wife had first talked to him after mistaking him for Amamiya Hiroto. This was the beginning of their relationship, so Hiroto also remembered that there had been a boy who had a similar name to him.
“But Kouya, back then, he was already –”
“I know. He was an Undead. He was already dead and had turned into a dangerous creature. There was no way to turn him back into a human. That was why the only thing we could do back then was to grant him peace.”
At least in Origin, Undead were those kinds of creatures. They were monstrosities that twisted and corrupted the Mana around them. There were some cases where they maintained their personalities for a short while immediately after becoming Undead, but even then, there was no telling when they would become evil monsters.
A method of bringing people back to life didn’t exist, so there was no way that there would be a way to turn an Undead back into a person.
That was why Kouya didn’t regret the act itself of killing Amamiya Hiroto, nor did he consider it a crime.
“Still, we were supposed to be able to find him, but we couldn’t,” he said. “I should have just asked the Oracle what we needed to do to meet him. But… for some reason, despite the fact that I asked the Oracle so many questions about our companions, it never told me about his existence.”
The companions that Kouya had asked about were defined as, “those who had reincarnated from Earth and received new abilities from the god.”
Amamiya Hiroto had indeed been reincarnated from Earth, but he had not received cheat-like abilities or anything else. That was why he had not been considered as one of Kouya’s “companions.”
“It’s best not to brood over it,” said Hiroto, putting his hand on the guilt-ridden Kouya’s shoulder. “It’s you who said that we are merely humans. Neither you nor the Oracle are omnipotent. Don’t blame yourself.”
“He died. We can’t meet him anymore, nor can we apologize to him or have him forgive us. The only thing that we can do is to ensure that there are no more victims like him… victims born of research into death-attribute magic.”
The real problem was that the dead could not be brought back to life. They could not be talked to or anything, so they could not directly apologize to Vandalieu.
Even if they wanted to compensate his bereaved family, Amamiya Hiroto had no relatives or friends in Origin.
That was why if they felt guilty and were seeking a way to atone, they had to act to satisfy themselves, just as Hiroto was saying.
The idea of ‘saving enough people to make up for the person who was killed.’
“… You’re right,” said Kouya. “Since we can’t bring him back to life, we have no other choice but to do that. What will you do about your wife?”
“Don’t tell her. I don’t want to cause her pain,” said Hiroto.
“Yeah, that’s for the best,” said Kouya. “Even if we tell her, she can’t meet him again. It’s better for her to not know. That was something that could be said for you as well, but… I’m sorry for getting you involved. I kept quiet about it for as long as I could.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Hiroto. “The fact that we gained even the smallest amount of information about the death attribute means that there is a meaning to the battle we are about to face.”
If Kouya had asked the Oracle how to meet Amamiya Hiroto again, it would have given him a clear answer that they would meet the one who had once been Amamiya Hiroto after death, and he and Hiroto would have been able to deduce that there would be a “next” opportunity for them. But this thought didn’t occur to them.
“… And now that I’ve learned this, I want to capture the members of the Eighth Guidance alive, no matter what,” said Hiroto. “Of course, for reasons other than those of the intelligence agencies. Because they are the last people Amamiya Hiroto saved.”
The Eighth Guidance… When Amamiya Hiroto had become an Undead and gone on a rampage in the secret research laboratory, he had saved the other experimental subjects. The Eighth Guidance was a criminal organization formed by those former experimental subjects.
“Back then, we didn’t know the details behind that incident, and we ended up leaving their protection to an international organization. But we won’t fail this time,” said Hiroto.
The members of the Eighth Guidance, which Murakami and some of the other reincarnated individuals had joined, were supposed to be protected by an international organization, but they had then been secretly exploited by that organization for further research into the lost death-attribute magic. They had escaped through their own efforts, and now they had been involved in several major incidents in addition to conducting acts of terrorism against agencies and organizations that were conducting research into death-attribute magic.
They were completely different from other criminal organizations; they were almost like a cult. And every other organization was targeting them, suspecting that they knew something about death-attribute magic.
“I’ve already asked if there is a way to save them,” said Kouya. “But it’s going to be hard.”
“What was the answer?” asked Hiroto.
“… We have to capture Murakami and the others as soon as possible, or kill them. That was the answer. Murakami and the others aren’t cooperating with the Eighth Guidance. They’re going to use the Eighth Guidance and then betray them.”
Hearing this answer that was far more difficult that he had imagined, Hiroto pressed a hand to his forehead.
A god stood still with his eyes closed.
His appearance was that of a trinity consisting of an old man, a young man and a boy. So it would have appeared, but then these three, who were all carrying heavy books, turned into beautiful women.
The god’s name was Ricklent, the genie of time and magic. Like Alda and Vida, he was one of the eleven gods born from the giants of origin.
He and one other god were gods with no gender and no fixed appearance like those of Alda and Vida; they were gods without form.
Ricklent opened his eyes and stared at Lambda, the world that he and the other gods had created.
“The prophecy has been fulfilled. Ark has returned,” he said.
“Is it not Zakkart?” asked another voice.
A four-headed lion had suddenly appeared in front of Ricklent.
“Zuruwarn, he is also Ark,” Ricklent replied.
The one with the form of a grotesque lion was Zuruwarn, the god of space and creation. He was a being that existed everywhere and yet existed nowhere, ruling over space.
“Indeed. He is Zakkart, he is Ark, he is Vandalieu and he is a transgressor,” said Zuruwarn. “Other than our reckless older sister and brave younger sister, have any others answered?”
“There are few other than Vida who have responded to my prophecy,” said Ricklent.
“What about our brother who has become violent and foolish?”
“Unknown. Zantark is too far separate from me.”
“Then what about our new brother who is honest and wholehearted?”
“He answered. But he is wandering somewhere and cannot be found.”
“I see. Then what will we do from now? I intend to curry favor with the transgressor.”
Hearing Zuruwarn speak these last words, Ricklent showed emotion on his face for the first time.
He frowned and gave a bitter smile. “You should not use that expression*. Neither she nor Ark would want that,” he said.
“Then you will not curry favor with him?” asked Zuruwarn.
“I will not,” said Ricklent. “I will cooperate with him in accordance with Ark’s goal and humor him*.”
“So you do intend to curry favor with him after all, do you not?”
“Of course. He is a transgressor, after all.”
Long ago, Zuruwarn had suggested inviting inhabitants of a foreign world in order to save Lambda, which was in crisis due to the war against the Demon King. At the time, he hadn’t actually said, “Let us summon champions.”
He had said, “Let us summon transgressors.”
Beings from another world who would transgress and stir all kinds of domains, creating something new.
Destroyers who would break down the existing order, causing chaos as a new order was created.
Those who would shout good words while scattering evil, one who would destroy evil and carry out good.
These were what Zuruwarn referred to as transgressors.
Those with the knowledge, ideas and values from another world who could make possible even things that the gods themselves could not accomplish. Zuruwarn had wagered everything on such a being.
And regrettably, at this rate, he would lose that wager.
That was why he needed the transgressor who was Ark and Zakkart to do everything he could.
Although he was a god, he thought it was irrational that the transgressor would need to continue where things had been left off a hundred thousand years ago and carry the world on his shoulders again, however.
“The transgressor has not honored us because our subordinate gods are cooperating with Alda,” Zuruwarn said.
Ricklent and Zuruwarn’s subordinate gods continued to exist, working under Alda, the leader of the remaining gods.
“They are our Spirit Clones that do nothing more than the work that is needed to maintain the world, but… it would also be irrational to expect a one-sided understanding from him, too.”
The god of seconds, the god of minutes, the god of hours, the god of the front, the god of points, the god of depths and the god of the behind. These were the gods who had been given the role of supporting the concepts of time and space, maintaining the space attribute. But their true states resembled advanced artificial intelligences.
A hundred thousand years ago, the world needed to be maintained whether Alda or Vida emerged victorious, so Ricklent and Zuruwarn, who were currently more than half-asleep, had ordered those subordinate gods to not participate in the battle.
As a result, even though they had remained neutral, the myths had depicted them as being among the gods who had supported the victor of the conflict, Alda.
From the perspective of the transgressor, Vandalieu, Ricklent and Zuruwarn were not definite enemies, but it was unlikely that he would think of them as allies, either.
And if they continued acting as if they were pulling the strings behind the scenes, he might mistakenly think of them as enemies.
Thus, it was necessary for them to make him aware that they were allies, even if they needed to strain themselves a little.
“With that said, we cannot do anything significant,” said Zuruwarn. “We have lost our power. I in particular must do many things in my powerless state.”
“It does not have to be significant,” said Ricklent. “The transgressor himself will do significant things. He is the one we are anticipating great things from. As expected of Ark.”
“There is Zakkart as well. But I am in agreement. He has reproduced the ramen, miso and soy sauce Zakkart and Ark could not. At this rate, curry will be not far behind.”
Ricklent experienced the pain similar to having one’s bones gouged out while Zuruwarn felt as if his organs were bursting as both of them ‘cooperated’ with Vandalieu.
“Whether this will be made use of will depend on him,” said Zuruwarn.
“It will depend on him, but either way, he will create something new,” said Ricklent.
And then Zuruwarn vanished and Ricklent returned to gazing continuously at Lambda.