After the light faded from Pluto’s eyes, Amemiya Hiroto felt a sense of disheartenment that he couldn’t easily rid himself of.
In order to atone for destroying the ‘Undead’ without realizing that it had been one of the 101 reincarnated individuals, he had tried to save the members of the Eighth Guidance who had been saved by the Undead. Despite that, he had ended up killing the last remaining member with his own hands, even if it was to save the life of his own wife, Narumi.
And to make things worse, he had done so at the moment when Pluto had noticed the small life harbored inside Narumi’s body and sacrificed herself to protect it.
I just ended up making the same mistake as I did with the Undead…
He had definitely made a mistake. This was the only thing he could think after how things had turned out; he felt an urge to let out a shout.
“… Let’s at least burn their remains. I’m sure they would have wanted that,” he said.
No matter what he did, time couldn’t be reversed.
“You’re right…” Narumi agreed as she closed Pluto’s eyes. “I’m sorry that this is all we can do, even though we couldn’t save the one who was important to you…”
“You might have forgotten this, but the United Nations have appealed for us to retrieve the bodies, so… alright. We just have to make it seem like we ran into unexpected resistance and couldn’t retrieve the bodies, right?” said the ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri with a bitter smile, shrugging his shoulders. “But we should be prepared to face a lot of criticism. Everyone who is watching this through Angel right now is an accomplice.”
This plan was one that had been created by the Bravers. As a result, they had succeeded in wiping out the Eighth Guidance, but the special forces of the various nations had also been almost completely exterminated, even if it had been a result of them making moves on their own.
And Amemiya Hiroto would be harshly blamed if the Eighth Guidance’s corpses, the clues to death-attribute magic that the leaders and high officials of every nation so desperately wanted, could not be recovered.
“I don’t mind that,” Hiroto said.
He had prepared himself for that. A spell glowed in his hand. But before he could release it, news came through Angel from Iwao and the others who were keeping watch in the tunnel, telling him that circumstances had changed.
“Hiroto, Murakami and the others are here! They’re saying some crazy stuff!”
“Some nonsense about them being undercover investigators!”
“Undercover investigators?” Hiroto replied. “You mean Murakami is…?!”
Through Angel, he could see Murakami, along with his three companions including Tsuchiya. They had finally shown themselves, holding identification papers from a federal state.
It was difficult to believe, but the identification papers looked genuine.
This is bad.
Hiroto didn’t know how Murakami and his group had become undercover investigators for a federal nation, but he knew what they were here for. They were going to demand that the remains of Pluto and her companions be handed over.
If he let that happen, Pluto and her companions would lose their dignity. Not only that, tragic beings like the Undead and the Eighth Guidance would be created for the purpose of researching the death attribute.
Hiroto hastily began re-casting the spell that had been interrupted by the unexpected communications. “Hijiri, you take care of that boy’s body –”
At that moment, the voice of the ‘Venus’ Tsuchiya Kanako, who shouldn’t have been connected to Angel, came through.
“Okay, stop! If you damage Pluto and Enma’s bodies any further, we’ll arrest you for obstructing our search!”
“Wha –?! Why are you connected to Angel?!”
Hiroto looked at Narumi in surprise to see that she was wearing a surprised expression as well. But her surprise signified something different from Hiroto’s.
“H-huh? Why did I leave her connected to Angel? Why did I think she was an ally…?”
Seeing Narumi in this dazed state, Hiroto instinctively realized what Kanako had done.
“Kuh, she used her ability!”
Hiroto groaned at the fact that he and his companions hadn’t understood Kanako’s ability, and in disappointment in himself for not realizing it. But even so, he tried to burn Pluto and Enma’s bodies. However, Hijiri stopped him.
“Hijiri, why are you stopping me?!” Hiroto demanded.
“Hiroto, it’s too late. Now that we’ve been seen by Tsuchiya, our excuses won’t work. Or do you intend to be arrested for obstruction of investigation?”
“This isn’t the federal state!”
“That’s right; we’re in a nation in the European Union. But do you think the European Union will cover for you? If you became a criminal, the Bravers could become disassembled. At best, the United Nations might send a new supervisor to take charge. I don’t want that.”
Hiroto tried to think of a way, using whatever abilities, magic, information and connections possible, to protect his Braver companions while not handing over Pluto and Enma’s remains.
He couldn’t trust the United Nations, which was ruled by the European Union and the federal state that had made Murakami’s group into undercover investigators.
Kanako had already seen that Pluto and Enma were dead.
And every high government official and wealthy person in the world desired the death-attribute Mana that lingered in Pluto and Enma’s corpses.
Unable to find a way to fulfil both of his wishes, Hiroto chose to protect his living companions and the Bravers organization.
And then Murakami Junpei entered the room with a proud… or rather, bitter-looking expression, with Kanako behind him.
“What’s the matter? Your face looks pretty pale considering you’re the ones who chose to leave us,” Hiroto said.
“It wasn’t a complete victory for us, either. There were unexpected situations happening one after another, and we only narrowly came out victorious,” Murakami replied.
Murakami hadn’t exposed his identity as an undercover investigator to the Bravers because he’d wanted to. He had been left with no other choice; he had only done this because it was the final option he had been left with.
It would have been best if we’d managed to kill Pluto and retrieve the corpses without these guys noticing, or snatch the corpses after these guys killed them, but… I didn’t think they’d sympathize with the Eighth Guidance and try to burn the corpses. Are they crazy? Don’t they know how much those corpses are worth? Murakami thought bitterly as he pointed his chin towards the door, signaling for Hiroto and his companions to leave.
“Now then, we’ll be collecting these. You guys go clean things up elsewhere,” he told them.
“It’d be troublesome if you got in our way, you know!” said Kanako cheerfully.
Neither party wanted to look at each other’s faces. Now that there was nothing more that could be done, Hiroto had no objections to leaving the room.
“… Before that, I want you to tell me something,” Hiroto said. “Were you the one who set off a bomb in the Bravers headquarters and killed Izumi and Aran?”
He asked this question in the end. Previously, Kouya had investigated with Oracle and come up with the answer that the crime would have been impossible to commit with the abilities that Murakami and his nine companions possessed.
“Ah, that incident,” Murakami said with a nod. He closed his eyes, as if reminiscing.
The truth was that it was indeed Murakami Junpei’s doing.
Using a certain contact, he had received a hand grenade from the ‘Gungnir’ Kaidou Kanata, and using his Chronos ability, he had kept it for a long time, using his Chronos ability to delay the activation of Gungnir.
He had then thrown the hand grenade through the walls of the Bravers headquarters to kill his two targets.
“Sorry to disappoint you, but it wasn’t us. It was the Eighth Guidance guys. I don’t know what methods they used, though,” Murakami said.
There was no reason for him to be honest and tell the truth.
“Is that true?” Hiroto asked.
Of course, he didn’t simply believe Murakami’s words immediately.
But Kanako gave him an ill-natured smile. “Do you have any proof or anything to use as a basis to doubt us?” she asked.
Hiroto let out a noise of frustration.
Both the ‘Inspector’ Shimada Izumi and the ‘Laplace’ Machida Aran, who possessed the Calculation ability, would have used their abilities in situations like this, but they were the ones who had fallen victim.
“Well, you’d just need to ask the Oracle once you return, wouldn’t you?” Kanako continued.
Though Hiroto and his companions didn’t know this yet, the ‘Oracle’ Endou Kouya had also already been killed.
“As long as we’re here, we won’t let you do as you please,” Hiroto spat as he left the room, glaring bitterly at Murakami and Kanako.
Murakami and Kanako let out large sighs as he left.
“Does that person think that we’re doing as we please?” Kanako said.
“We’ve got a lot of trouble ahead of us. Us villains have our own problems, you piece of shit,” Murakami muttered.
The two of them began their work, starting with the retrieval of Pluto’s corpse. If they didn’t take it back with them, they would lose their statuses as undercover investigators, so this was necessary for them as well.
Within the day, Murakami and Kanako, as well as the surviving ‘Aegis’ Melissa and the ‘Hecatoncheir’ Doug, were at the federal nation’s national department of defense… a building that was in the shape of a hexagon, commonly known as the Hexagon.
The headquarters of the intelligence agency that had employed them was located elsewhere, but beneath the Hexagon was a top-secret research facility, sheltering the few surviving researchers from the hidden laboratory that had originally discovered the death attribute.
That was why they had been summoned here, bringing the Eighth Guidance’s corpses with them.
“Haah… everything’s so serious here,” Doug muttered.
“We’re the ones who found employment at such a serious place,” said Melissa.
“And I feel pretty depressed.”
“We almost failed, after all. I hope they don’t cut our rewards.”
With the dissatisfied Doug and Melissa behind them, Murakami and Kanako headed into a place that was like a waiting room, led by some other employees.
Beneath the Hexagon, the corpses of Pluto and the others would be thoroughly examined and used for conducting research into the death attribute.
The corpses of Shade, Izanami, Isis, Baba Yaga and Ereshkigal had been impossible to recover, but through great effort, they had managed to collect the corpse of Enma as well as Jack o’ Lantern’s corpse, Ghost’s corpse, Valkyrie’s blood and Berserk’s remaining fragments.
These would be analyzed, and inhumane research and experiments that Hiroto and his companions would want to avert their eyes from would be conducted here.
With the justification that this was for the benefit of the entire human race.
Murakami and his companions had experienced being in contact with the Eighth Guidance members over a long period of time while they were still alive, so they had been brought here to be questioned to aid the research as well.
“You think they’ll come to interfere with us?” asked Doug. “If they do, I’ll gladly fight them. I didn’t get to go crazy last time.”
“Doug, if you’re talking about the Bravers, there’s no way they’ll come here. This is the national department of defense. Coming here would start a war. There’s no way that Amemiya Hiroto, the good boy, would allow that,” said Melissa.
“And thanks to Shade, he doesn’t have the time for that, either,” Kanako added.
The Bravers were currently being showered in criticism from the entire world. Thanks to the false information spread through the internet by the ‘Oracle’ Endou Kouya, whose body had been possessed by Shade, there was now a great fuss about him having been a devil worshipper, and him and the other Bravers having obtained their abilities by making contracts with the devil.
Unfortunately, the devil had never been confirmed to exist, Amemiya Hiroto and his companions had no way of proving that this wasn’t true.
There was no way to prove that they hadn’t signed a contract with a being whose existence hadn’t been proven.
It literally was the ‘Devil’s Proof.’
There were all kinds of other rumors as well, such as that the Bravers had deliberately let the special forces soldiers of the nations perish, that Kaidou Kanata’s evil deeds had been ordered by Amemiya Hiroto, that Amemiya himself had given the order to kill the ‘Metamorph’ Shihouin Mari because she had discovered the truth.
“Well, all of that is baseless nonsense. After a while, that information will become known to be the crazy words of the mad Oracle or fake information leaked by Shade. The suspicions surrounding the Bravers will clear, but the number of people who can’t trust them will increase. Things turned out perfectly, didn’t they?” Doug concluded.
“I see, so that’s how it is… hey, can you not just appear out of nowhere and scare Sensei like that, Rikudou?” said Melissa.
Doug and Melissa looked in surprise at the fifth person in the room, the ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri.
But Hijiri was unperturbed by his presence being noticed; he gave Murakami a slight bow with a gentlemanly smile on his face. “It seems that you’ve managed to accomplish the minimum of what was requested, but it was quite the crude work, wasn’t it?”
Indeed, it was the ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri, who was still a member of the Bravers. He was the mastermind behind Murakami’s group.
He had persuaded the secluded individuals, Murakami Junpei and Tsuchiya Kanako, to betray the Bravers; he had planned things so that Murakami could obtain a hand grenade from Kaidou Kanata; he had arranged for Murakami’s group to meet the top leaders of the intelligence agency of the federal nation whom he had brainwashed secretly beforehand; he had even had a hand in the kidnapping of the ‘Gazer’ Minuma Hitomi, who had been receiving treatment in a facility.
And it had also been him who had helped Shade kill Endou Kouya of the Bravers, without even Shade himself realizing it.
“It is our first job, after all,” Murakami said.
“Everyone has a first job. But results are desired from professionals, even when it is a first job. Isn’t that right?” Hijiri said.
“… That’s true,” Murakami muttered to his former student before falling into silence.
Their previous relationship on Earth was no longer valid here.
Hijiri had requested Murakami to do four things: Secure Pluto’s corpse and hand it over to the federal state; dispose of Gazer, Marionette and Death Scythe before the mission was over; hand over any other body parts of the Eighth Guidance members that could be obtained; and erase any traces of what couldn’t be collected.
The final part, the disposal, had been done by the Bravers of their own will, but all of the requests had been cleared.
However, three companions had been lost and the fact that they were now employed by the federal state had been revealed to Hiroto and his companions; if this was an exam, Murakami had just narrowly avoided a failing mark.
“But Hijiri, you were there as well! Couldn’t you have helped us a little? Don’t act like you’re so important!” Doug said, lashing out at Hijiri.
“Doug, don’t say such stupid things!”
Melissa and Kanako hastily tried to stop him.
“It’s fine,” Hijiri said, his smile not faltering at all. “He just misunderstands something. I… Rikudou Hijiri, was never there. The one who was there was her.”
“Eh? What are you talking about, Rikudou-kun, you were with the Bravers the whole time – ?!” Kanako began.
Hijiri’s appearance changed into that of a woman, right before the confused Kanako’s eyes. Kanako and Murakami knew that woman well.
“The ‘Metamorph’ Shihouin Mari…?!”
“Yeah, don’t call her by her name too much, though,” said Shihouin Mari, who was supposed to have died in an explosion that occurred at her isolated cell. She was speaking with the exact same expression and tone, as if she had been taken over by Rikudou Hijiri himself. “I’ve carefully brainwashed her with magic and drugs, but it’s not an ability, so it can’t be called perfect. There might be sudden moments of noise, so be careful, just in case.”
And then she transformed back into the ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri once more.
The one who was with the Bravers back then was not Rikudou Hijiri himself, but the ‘Metamorph’ Shihouin Mari, who had transformed into him.
Murakami felt astonishment and fear upon learning this fact, but at the same time, it made sense.
I did think it strange for the mastermind himself to go out there, but it was a double right from the start.
It had also likely been Hijiri who had pulled the strings behind Shihouin Mari being blown up. He had placed a different corpse there in her place, and brainwashed the real Mari to add her to his collection of pawns. Though this had been treated as the doing of the Eighth Guidance, the real culprit was among the Bravers, and this had occurred after Shimada Izumi and Machida Aran died.
It had probably been simple for Hijiri, as he was deeply trusted by Amemiya Hiroto.
That scrupulous mastermind gave a bitter smile as Murakami looked at him.
“… Ah, don’t misunderstand. I’m not blaming you, nor am I reducing your rewards. This is just a little bit of idle talk,” said Hijiri, who was even more of a villain than Murakami, through Mari who was apparently now no more than a relay device in the form of a person.
“W-what?” said Doug, seeming bewildered.
“Since you completed the minimum requirements of what I requested, I have no complaints. That’s what I mean. You’ll be paid the promised rewards, and you’ll be employed in the intelligence agency with the treatment that you were promised. It will be difficult to have you treated like leaders right away, but I’ll arrange for work to be sent your way so that you can build your achievements,” said Hijiri, listing out favorable conditions one after another.
“Are you sure you can promise stuff like that?” Murakami asked.
“Of course. Despite my appearance, I’m controlling the intelligence agency of a superpower nation from the shadows, and nobody knows about it except for you four, you know? It’s simple.”
“Then I’m grateful, but…”
At that moment, an announcer’s voice came in through speakers, calling for Murakami and his companions.
“It looks like it’s time. Now then, I’ll excuse myself,” said Hijiri, transforming into a Hexagon employee as he left.
In an operating space, where the underground laboratory could be seen through a layer of reinforced glass, there were workers in lab coats questioning Murakami and his companions.
Doug, Melissa and Kanako were cooperating with the investigation without any signs of unhappiness, as Rikudou Hijiri had assured them that their futures were secure.
However, Murakami felt a strange discomfort at how Rikudou Hijiri had behaved.
Something is off.
No matter what, he couldn’t shake off this unpleasant, sinister feeling.
What was so off about him? His behavior? The way he’d talked like an important person? … No, that wasn’t it!
It’s the words he said, the words we wanted to hear! I said similar things to Death Scythe and Marionette! If you’re going to kill them anyway, empty promises are fine!
So then, the reason he asked us to come here and hand over Pluto’s body, with which he was so obsessed, was…!
Having suddenly realized something, Murakami stood up from his seat, driven by his sensation of fear. He approached the reinforced glass to look at Pluto’s corpse, which was under investigation.
“W-what’s wrong, Murakami-sensei?”
Ignoring the surprised voices of the others, Murakami looked at Pluto’s corpse just in time to see an employee touch Pluto’s corpse with a dissecting scalpel.
“S-STOOOOOOOP!” Murakami screamed.
But the scalpel didn’t stop, and it broke through Pluto’s skin. And then something resembling a black gas erupted from that point with incredible force.
“Death-attribute Mana detected! This is… already beyond critical levels!”
Inside the laboratory, the researchers who were wearing protective equipment that included magical defense as well crumpled onto the floor, one after another. An alarm sounded, and operators’ screams filled the air.
Nobody knew exactly what had happened, but Murakami was the only one to instinctively realize it.
This was the ‘death’ that Pluto had accumulated for almost ten years. This immense amount of death was supposed to have been poured into Narumi, but now that Pluto had died, it had nowhere left to go and it was overflowing!
“S-Sensei! What happened?!” Doug shouted.
“Don’t think about it, we’re getting out of here!” Murakami shouted back with a completely different expression. “You’re in the way, move!” He cast a spell towards the exit that was flooded with Hexagon employees, blowing them away along with the door.
Screams echoed in the room as blood and fragments of bone and flesh filled the air.
“W-what are you doing?! If you slaughter the employees of the national state of defense, you’ll be questioned for treason!” Melissa shouted at the apparently deranged Murakami.
Doug and Kanako stared at him, dumbfounded.
“I don’t give a shit! Hurry up and start running!” Murakami said as he broke off into a sprint.
When the other three looked behind them, the black fog was somehow closing in on them through the reinforced glass.
Melissa, Doug and Kanako watched the smoke make contact with a young female operator, who let out strangled noises as she was mummified in a matter of seconds. Their expressions changed and they hastily ran after Murakami.
However, they quickly caught up to him.
“Th-this is bad, we’re surrounded!” Murakami muttered.
The passageway in front of him… the passageway that led to the elevator that would take them to the ground surface, was filled with black smoke.
The black smoke had moved more quickly than they had thought.
“M-Melissa, use Aegis, protect us with Aegis!”
“Doug, break the ceiling! We’ll escape through there!”
The four of them quickly took refuge inside the Aegis’s shield. And then Doug opened a hole in the ceiling with his telekinesis. Rubble rained down, but Doug sent it flying with his telekinesis as he tried to continue digging.
If he could continue digging like this all the way to the surface, they would be saved. Or so the four of them thought, but then Doug suddenly began convulsing.
“W-what is this smoke, it’s mixing in with the rubble… Touching it even with your abilities is bad…!”
Kanako let out a scream. Right before her eyes, the moisture was stripped from Doug’s body, leaving behind only skin and bones. He collapsed with a dull thud.
“You can’t touch it with your abilities, either?! Melissa, you…!” Murakami began as he turned around to see that Melissa was already dead, having become mummified where she stood. “E-even Aegis doesn’t work?!”
“Wall of Water and Wall of Ice disappear right away as well! This fog absorbs Mana?!” Kanako was trying to build walls with spells, but it seemed that the black fog absorbed not only life force but Mana as well; her spells simply vanished like mist.
And with Melissa’s death, the Aegis had been undone. The black fog closed in on the remaining two relentlessly.
Murakami used Chronos on himself and Kanako, trying to delay the effects of the black smoke, but he could only do so for a few dozen seconds.
His Mana was absorbed with incredible speed; even his second ability, Super Mana Recovery, couldn’t keep up with it.
Kanako screamed in despair. “This, I don’t want to die like this, why?! Why?!”
“SHIIIIT! You knew this would happen, and you set us up, Rikudou! Damn it! CURSE YOOOUUUU!” Murakami roared.
The two of them watched each other turn into mummies as they perished.
The death attribute that the federal state’s Hexagon had been researching went out of control, causing the deaths of all Hexagon employees inside the building at the time, as well as Murakami Junpei and three other former Bravers.
The black, fog-like substance engulfed the grounds of the national defense department and tried to spread even further.
The army was urgently summoned to counteract this, but they weren’t even able to slow down the spreading of the fog.
Just as the flustered cabinet ministers started pressing the president to fire a nuclear missile at the Hexagon, the Bravers, whom the entire world was viewing with eyes of suspicion, arrived on the scene.
At the ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri’s suggestion, the Bravers used a plan centered around light and life-attribute magic, utilizing Amemiya Hiroto’s powers, to dispel the black death-attribute fog that covered the Hexagon.
At a meeting where the most important of his cooperators were gathered, Rikudou Hijiri was repeatedly joining his fingers together and separating them again, seeming to be restless.
“What’s the matter, Rikudou?” said one of his cooperators, calling out to him. “It’s unusual for you to be so restless, isn’t it?”
Hijiri gave a bitter smile. “This is a bad habit of mine that I’ve had since the past. I feel uneasy when things go too well. If there was a plan that I would consider a great success if it accomplished seventy percent of its goals, and then it went and accomplished ninety percent of them, I can’t be blamed for finding it hard to believe, right?”
The chain of events for which Rikudou Hijiri had pulled the strings. Everyone who was an obstruction or a danger to him had now disappeared, save for one person.
Those who had been obstacles to his plans, forcing him to build roundabout plans – the ‘Oracle’ Endou Kouya, Calculation, Inspector, Gazer and one more person.
Those with abilities that had posed a danger to him – Death Scythe, Marionette and Mage Masher.
The ones he had used to dispose of the above-mentioned individuals, the ones who had known that he was the mastermind, vulgar people whom he couldn’t trust because they would betray their allies for unimportant reasons – the ‘Chronos’ Murakami Junpei and six others.
And those who obstructed him and his cooperators from monopolizing the death attribute – the Eighth Guidance members who harbored death-attribute Mana within them, as well as the survivors from the military nation’s secret laboratory who had been hiding in the Hexagon to conduct research into death-attribute magic.
Hijiri had succeeded in having all of them die without using his own hands, except for one.
“The only one left is Amemiya Hiroto, huh,” one of his cooperators murmured.
“The Braver… the hero is tenacious, after all,” said another.
“No, it’s not like that at all. If he, the leader, were to disappear, there’s a chance that ability-users in the Bravers organization would scatter. It’s more convenient for all of them to be gathered in one place. It’s more convenient to utilize them, and dispose of them, that way,” Hijiri explained, correcting his cooperators.
In fact, he had made his plans to ensure that Amemiya Hiroto wouldn’t be killed by Pluto. It wasn’t Hiroto who was in the way.
“Naruse Narumi… no, Amemiya Narumi. To think that Pluto would stop herself from killing her.”
The death of the ‘Angel,’ Naruse Narumi. This was the only objective of this chain of events that had not been accomplished.
“It was unexpected that she was in the early stages of pregnancy, but… I suppose the most unexpected thing was that Pluto was more of a romanticist than I’d expected,” Hijiri said.
“Unless you were being served by the goddess of destiny, bringing about all of your desired results under those circumstances would have been impossible. Or is that one of the abilities you possess?” asked one of the cooperators.
“No. As I explained to you people, the abilities I possess are Increased Learning Speed and Unlimited Development.”
The ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri. He was the reincarnated individual who had received the plainest cheat-like abilities among the Bravers. The ability to learn knowledge and skills more quickly than others, and the ability to develop as a person with no limits, were not abilities that he could show others and say, “Behold, my powers!”
He hadn’t been used to draft plans like the ‘Oracle’ Endou Kouya, nor had he been noticed like the ‘Noah’ Mao for the convenience of his abilities. He was also unable to act on the field using only his abilities, like Death Scythe, Hecatoncheir and Gungnir had done.
But using his abilities, he had studied diligently and had become one of the technical personnel of the Bravers… a magic specialist. This was the result of him focusing solely on increasing his skill with magic while the other reincarnated individuals struggled to learn to use their abilities.
And because of this, Hijiri had a certain ambition. He had gathered people to join his side to turn these ambitions into reality, and they had now assembled for this meeting.
Members of the Bravers just like Hijiri, religious officials, those in the political and business fields, military personnel – powerful people from all kinds of backgrounds.
Hijiri separated his fingers once more and pointed at the monitor that displayed all of these people as he addressed them.
“Now then, let’s leave the reflection at that. Today is a celebratory party. From this point onwards, we will nurture humanity, stepping onto a road towards a new human race that has evolved both physically and spiritually. First of all, we will acquire the power of the ‘Undead’… the person who was supposed to become the 101st Braver!”
Quite early on, Rikudou Hijiri had arrived at the truth that the ‘Undead’ had been one of the reincarnated individuals… probably Amamiya Hiroto, whom Naruse Narumi had mistaken Amemiya Hiroto for.
He had come to this conclusion from the fact that the ‘Undead’ had enjoyed rice at the research laboratory in which he was raised.
The Undead had desired not meat, fish or sweets, but rice. He had been Asian, but raised in a European culture. Despite being raised in a laboratory, where the only food he knew should have been what was fed to him, the Undead had desired rice.
Other people might have simply assumed that he had heard one of the workers at the laboratory talking about rice, but Hijiri was different.
The time he was born is around the same time as us, too. Wasn’t he reincarnated from Japan as well?
Having instinctively realized this, Hijiri had destroyed the document recording the fact that the Undead had desired rice.
And then, with the hypothesis that the Undead was a reincarnated individual, he’d started his own independent research into the death attribute.
“This is reasoning stacked upon reasoning, but let me declare this. Our hands shall reach the death attribute! And through the death attribute, we will evolve into a new humanity!” Hijiri said.
Hijiri’s cooperators stirred and cheered, and they gave a round of applause.
Rikudou Hijiri’s ambition was to develop in a way that truly transcended all limits.
Due to the effects of Unlimited Development, it was possible for him to develop his stamina, Mana and skills endlessly, becoming a superhuman.
But even then, he would still be within the restrictions of being a ‘superhuman.’
If he continued studying diligently for the decades to come, Rikudou Hijiri would likely leave his name behind in history as a mage with the magical mastery of a god.
But he would not be a god.
Even if he pushed his skill with magic to the limits, one day, he would grow old and die. From an average person’s perspective, he may appear to be omnipotent, but in reality, he would be limited in all kinds of ways, far from omnipotent.
Most importantly, his body was too frail.
No matter how much it develops, the time it takes for the brain’s commands to reach the nerves cannot be shortened. Sensory organs, internal organs, muscle, bone, they’re all too weak. My ability only removes the restriction of development, after all. It isn’t something that can make me evolve from something other than a human.
But if he were to master death-attribute magic –
That will be the moment I become a member of a new human race beyond the Homo sapiens… No, I will become a god!
As his cooperators gave him a standing ovation, the genius with the burning desire to become a supernatural being reaffirmed his determination to achieve his ambition, even if that meant using others as seeds to nurture his growth.
Murakami Junpei, Tsuchiya Kanako, Doug Atlas, Melissa J. Sautome, deceased.
Remaining reincarnated individuals: 79.
Completely unrelated to these events, the god of Origin was moving.
Like the god of Earth, it was a being that had been created after humanity’s birth, from humanity’s religions, fears and imagination.
It was far smaller than Earth’s, but it had split into numerous divine beings modeled after legendary and mythical beings, and these all existed simultaneously.
It was in a state where angels and demons were constantly in direct contact with each other, and thus, its separate components had interfered with each other ever since its birth.
As a result of a negotiation with Zuruwarn, the god of space and creation, a god from the foreign world of Lambda, the god of Origin moved with a single purpose.
That purpose was to deliver the souls of the members of the Eighth Guidance to Zuruwarn, who resided in the foreign world of Lambda.
Normally, the rebirth of all souls was under Rodcorte’s jurisdiction. Interfering with this was a grave violation of the rules.
However, the god of Origin had plenty of reason to commit this act.
After all, Rodcorte had reincarnated a hundred and one individuals in Origin from another world, without any previous warning, and even given all but one of them special abilities.
And the reason he’d done that was so that they could use Origin as a tutorial… a practice ground, before being reincarnated in Lambda.
Both the god of Origin’s divine beings and demons alike had become enraged by this.
That was why god of Origin cooperated with Zuruwarn.
As the souls of the Eighth Guidance tried to obey the rules and return to Rodcorte, one of the divine beings in charge of the afterlife and reincarnation stopped them and sent them to Zuruwarn. As Rodcorte tried to interfere with this, all of the remaining divine beings drove him off.
As a god, Rodcorte had the upper hand in power and personal history. However, this was Origin. The only ones who knew of Rodcorte’s existence were the reincarnated individuals, of whom about eighty remained.
There was no way that all of the gods of Origin’s human race would be defeated by him.
The god of Origin had the feeling that it had accidentally picked up one different soul, but a divine being of love, among many others expressed the opinion that it should be sent along with the rest, and many of the demons, demon kings and spiritual monsters disliked the idea of going through the trouble of separating that one soul out, so the god of Origin simply sent all of these souls to Zuruwarn.
Zuruwarn, the god with the appearance of a winged, four-headed lion, awaited the souls of the Eighth Guidance.
Vandalieu had already created a vessel for them to be reincarnated into once the souls were received.
“At first, he simply intended to use Vida’s relic to create them, but… though it’s a coincidence, it’s incredible that he’s taken the base form of life with no soul and the base form of a spirit with no life, and then joined them together. As expected of Vandalieu, who was once those four.”
Zakkart, Ark, Solder and Hillwillow. Vandalieu was living up to the expectations of possessing a soul born from the soul fragments of those four.
“Now, all there’s left to do is to place the souls in the vessel in order, and wait for new lives to be born. I’m looking forward to it~”
Zuruwarn had always had the personality of a trickster. One of the things that he was looking forward to was this endeavor that would likely enrage Alda, the god of law and fate.
His original goal had been to send Vandalieu allies to prove that he was not Vandalieu’s enemy, however.
“The god of earth’s reactions are slow; the new siblings are still wandering about. Ricklent is still groggy from overusing his power… Aren’t I amazing for continuing to work under these circumstances?”
As Zuruwarn talked to himself in a normal, informal tone of speech, the Eighth Guidance’s souls arrived.
“Alright? … Hmm? It seems that there’s one unneeded one? … Hmm, hmm, so that’s how it is.”
Deciding that this didn’t matter, Zuruwarn went to put the souls, including that of the ‘Gazer’ Minuma Hitomi, into the vessel created by Vandalieu.
But at that moment, Rodcorte’s enormous hand extended towards him.
“Hand those souls over!” Rodcorte demanded.
“Zuruwarn! Take those souls and pull back for now!” shouted Ricklent, the genie of time and magic, as he tried to stop that enormous hand. However, he couldn’t even buy any time for Zuruwarn.
“How persistent of you, to chase me all the way to Lambda!” Zuruwarn muttered.
Rodcorte’s hand sent Ricklent flying aside and grasped at Zuruwarn, trying to take the souls that he was holding.
This place was a part of Lambda, the world where Zuruwarn and Ricklent were worshipped. Normally, just like the god of Origin, they would have been able to repel Rodcorte.
However, unlike the god of Origin, Zuruwarn and Ricklent were in wounded states; they had continued using their powers despite not having completely recovered from the injuries they sustained in the battle against the Demon King.
For Rodcorte, this was little more than taking candy from a baby.
I won’t let you take them so easily! Zuruwarn thought as he sunk his fangs into Rodcorte’s arm. It was a small, mostly-meaningless act of resistance. The amount of damage that Rodcorte took was equivalent to welts appearing on his arm.
However, that damage caused Rodcorte’s arm to stop.
“Now’s the time! Go, my souls!”
Using the single moment given to him, Zuruwarn drove all of the souls that he was holding into the vessel.
“The reincarnation has already been completed! Leave this place!” Ricklent shouted.
With a groan of frustration, Rodcorte’s arm vanished. He had likely realized that there was nothing more that he could do.
No matter how much power he had, he could not step outside his jurisdiction. Having only a single authority was Rodcorte’s weakness.
Zuruwarn let out a sigh of relief from all four of his heads. “Are you alright?” he asked Ricklent.
“It’s nothing serious. But…” Ricklent looked at Zuruwarn with a grimace.
Zuruwarn nodded. “I know. Things have become troublesome. Rodcorte has found out that we’ve become Vandalieu’s allies.”
Up until this point, Rodcorte would have been under the assumption that the gods of Lambda were not Vandalieu’s allies, at least among the divine that were currently active.
However, Zuruwarn and Ricklent were Vandalieu’s allies… How would things turn out now that Rodcorte knew that they had started directly interfering with him?
But Ricklent shook his head, as he continued grimacing at Zuruwarn, his brother. “No, that’s not it,” he said. “Brother, you have ignored all of the procedures that I set as the god of magic, haven’t you?”
The souls of the Eighth Guidance were supposed to be reincarnated into the vessel one at a time, with a few minutes between them. With Ricklent casting several spells during the process, even.
But Zuruwarn had simply driven all of the souls into the vessel at once.
“… Ah,” said Zuruwarn.
“That’s not what you should be saying.”
“But it was an emergency situation… Look, the vessel seems to contain the souls now, so hasn’t the reincarnation succeeded?”
“Indeed, the reincarnation has happened.”
The two gods looked at the vessel… the basic life form that Vandalieu had created using Vida’s relic, as it burbled and squirmed fiercely.
“… Even I can’t imagine what form they will be reincarnated in,” said Ricklent.
Have I messed things up for the first time in a while? Zuruwarn wondered, but he decided to blame everything on Rodcorte.
“Well, I’m sure it will work out. And Rodcorte is the one at fault. Now then, I’m going to return to the negotiations with the god of Earth, so I’ll leave the rest to you,” Zuruwarn said, and then he left.
“He ran away…” Ricklent let out a deep sigh and decided that for now, he would keep watch over the vessel containing the souls of all of the members of the Eighth Guidance and the ‘Gazer’ Minuma Hitomi.