Death Mage 199 – Hard mode in both worlds
The house of the leader of the Bravers, the house of the Amemiya couple, was in a high-end residential area. Naturally, it was a safe area, with surveillance cameras and top-of-the-line guard Golems (similar to Earth’s drones).
It wasn’t rare for houses here to have their own hired security personnel… those with military experience. It was said that the only ones who would try to try to rob a house in this area were those who wanted to end up in a prison or in a coffin.
Banda was traveling the streets of this residential area, in the middle of the day, facing backwards. He did not possess a physical form, so it appeared as if he were sliding silently across the ground, as if someone were pulling him along.
This is the Nation of Japan, the equivalent to Earth’s Japan… Even though this is supposed to be a fantasy-like world where magic exists, it looks just like a world featured in a near-future science-fiction film, he thought to himself as he looked at the security Golems with cameras attached to their heads and Golem trucks that drove themselves automatically to deliver their goods.
If the Golems were replaced by robots, it would truly be a science-fiction world. Since machines were also being used, it could have been described as a hybrid between magic and science.
Considering that, Banda thought that it might have made more sense to simply use actual robots… but unfortunately, the word ‘robot’ was not a commonly-known term in Origin. It was a technical jargon term used to refer to rare Golems that did not require magic to operate.
Perhaps technology has developed further because of magic’s existence, Banda thought. Leaving these differences between the worlds aside… It seems my main body really is Meh-kun.
Banda appeared as if he was sliding backwards without moving his legs (or at least he would, if he was visible to anyone other than Mei), but he was actually not moving of his own will at all.
He was being dragged along as Amemiya Narumi pushed the stroller that Mei was riding in, approximately fifty meters behind him.
It didn’t seem that Narumi felt any resistance, so Banda had tried planting his feet in the ground, but even when he did so with all his strength, it had been impossible to stay in place. It was likely that even using Materialization and digging his claws into the ground would have no effect.
“Now then, I’ve tested the maximum distance between me and Meh-kun, and whether the Golems’ Mana sensors can detect me, so now all that’s left is…”
Banda opened his mouth, whose corners were at his ears. He extended his tongue and his two antennae, which were ordinarily covered by his hair.
He saw that he could extend both of these over ten meters ahead of him.
Next, he slightly opened the membrane that looked like a coat and fired a horn of the Demon King, using the Demon King’s lungs and proboscis like an air gun.
The horn flew into the distance. Of course, it was a spiritual projectile with no physical form, so it didn’t collide with anything.
“I can’t be more than fifty meters away from Meh-kun by myself, but my tongue and antennae can extend beyond that, and I can fire parts of myself that are separated from my body. That probably applies for my spells, too,” Banda murmured to himself. “Now then… I suppose it’s time to go back.”
Banda turned around and returned to Meh-kun and the other Banda that was there with her. He moved incredibly quickly, even catching up to the car that was moving in front of him.
“How am I so fast? Do the original’s Attribute Values apply in this world?” he wondered. “I’m back, Meh-kun, me.”
“Banda,” Mei said happily inside the stroller.
“Welcome back, me,” said the Banda that had stayed with her. “Now then, let’s return back to normal.”
Banda was a being that existed only in spirit; he had made use of that to make a clone of himself. Now, the two Bandas merged back into one.
Mei made a sad noise. “Banda…”
“Meh-kun, it’s not that we got rid of one of me, we just returned back to normal,” Banda told her.
Mei was currently being taken to the park by Amemiya Narumi and the woman who worked for her as a babysitter and helper. Incidentally, her older brother Hiroshi was currently playing at his friend’s house.
“Mistress, do you know what this ‘Banda’ that Mei-chan has been saying since this morning could be?” asked the helper.
“I don’t really know,” Narumi replied. “I think she means ‘panda,’ but…”
Mei made a noise of discontent.
“Meh-kun, I can’t hug you when outsiders… when Mom and others are around,” said Banda. “It’d frighten them.”
He felt uncomfortable calling Amemiya Narumi ‘Mom,’ but he did his best to not show any reservation when it came to her parents.
He needed to get used to it, but less than a day had passed since he had begun haunting Mei.
“Then perhaps Mei-chan can see a panda. It seemed that she saw a puppy the other day, after all,” said the helper.
“Yes, people say that children see things differently from adults, and things like this have happened with Mei before,” said Narumi.
It seemed that their suspicions were resolved. Banda was thankful that they were not more concerned.
After a little while, they arrived at the park. It seemed that playground equipment like slides and jungle gyms weren’t very different between Earth and Origin.
But Mei was still just a year old; she could not play on this equipment. She would spend most of the time having a nap while Narumi and her babysitter discussed child-raising strategies with Narumi’s friends and their babysitters.
“My son’s such a rascal, his body can’t keep up with his antics.”
“Boys are a lot of work, aren’t they. But our Hiroshi is so focused on games…”
“Speaking of games, I’ve heard that there are games that need you to go outside to play them –”
“How peaceful. Maybe Dark Demon Creation Path Enticement isn’t in effect because I’m not the main Vandalieu; spirits don’t really come near me,” Banda murmured to himself.
“Puppy~” said Mei.
“Meh-kun, that’s the spirit of a puppy. It doesn’t have a good aura around it, so it might be dangerous if you call out to it,” Banda warned her as he looked at Narumi’s face and casually thrust his arm into one of the housewives that she was talking to.
The housewife gave a small groan. “… That’s strange, am I getting tired?”
Banda moved his arm to feel around her insides.
“I’m already entirely made of spirit form, so… nothing out of the ordinary. Next… Nerve inflammation, I’ll give you some medicine for that. Next… severe stiffness in the shoulders. I’ll fix that, so take care,” Banda said to her.
One after another, he thrust his arm into the housewives and conducted a medical examination on them. He then put his tongue into them and used Materialization on a small part of it so that he could release the appropriate medicines on their unhealthy areas.
The housewives let out small groans, suddenly experienced less back pain and one even squirmed and moaned, “My shouldeeeers!”
Meanwhile, Banda carefully observed Narumi’s reaction.
“Everyone, are you alright?!” Narumi asked the housewives.
It seemed that she really had not taken any notice of Banda’s actions.
“Even at this distance, I won’t be noticed as long as I don’t use magic. Well then, I suppose it’s fine for me to use my Skills and the power of the fragments,” Banda concluded.
The parasite-type Demon King Familiar, which used the Demon King’s sub-brain and nerves to take over the bodies of others, had large limits on what Skills it was capable of using. However, Banda was a being that had been created from a piece of Vandalieu’s own soul.
Thus, it was likely that he would be able to use just about any Skill if he used Materialize on himself.
“I’m not sure if I can use my Unique Skills, though. But it would be going too far to brainwash people or devour their souls to test that,” Banda said to himself.
“Banda, Mama, okay?” Mei mumbled.
“What about me, Mei?” said Narumi.
“I’m not going to thrust my arm or tongue in Mom unless she really needs emergency medical treatment,” said Banda. “She might take notice of me, too.”
That was when it happened. The ominous dog spirit snarled, suddenly leaping up and biting one of the children on the jungle gym.
This was a peaceful, high-class residential area, but spirits could not be managed. However, this dog was far short of being an actual evil spirit, the kind that would appear before the living as ghosts and curse them or materialize to bite them.
The bitten child was unharmed; his foot had just slipped a little.
However, the bite had come at an unlucky moment. The boy had been climbing the jungle gym, and his foot slipping made him almost fall off. At the same time, he desperately tried to twist around to grab onto the jungle gym, but he lost his balance.
And with a startled shout, he fell, with the back of his head pointed towards the ground.
All of this took place within a handful of seconds; naturally, there was no way that the child’s mother or Narumi would save him in time. However, the jungle gym was not that high off the ground. Being a child who didn’t weigh much, even if the back of his head struck the ground, perhaps he would get away with just a bump on his head.
But during those few seconds, Banda chased the dog spirit away, produced fat and soft fur on his hand, and placed his hand between the child’s head and the ground. The moment the child’s head landed, he used Materialize on the surface of his hand.
“In the worst-case scenario, he could die,” he murmured to himself.
Noticing that something was wrong, the boy’s mother came running to the scene. The boy was confused at soft sensation on his head and the lack of pain. The mother scooped him into her arms and checked whether he was injured.
“Banda~” said Mei, happily greeting Banda as he returned.
“It looks like he didn’t hit his head too badly. I’m glad he’s not hurt,” said Narumi.
“Yes, I’m so glad,” said the boy’s mother.
“It really seems that Amemiya Narumi won’t notice me if I’m just using the fragments,” Banda murmured.
Mei was Banda’s top priority. On top of that, he had to conceal his existence from everyone other than Mei. He wasn’t here to save lives or carry out justice.
But that couldn’t mean that he could just do nothing and let everyone other than Mei die.
“With great power comes great responsibility… I hate that way of thinking, and I don’t intend to teach it to Meh-kun. But it would also be problematic to let her see me do nothing even though I have the ability to save people. That might greatly inhibit the development of her social morals, emotions and the ability to feel empathy for others,” Banda told himself.
He didn’t want Mei to become a gentle philanthropist, but if possible, he wanted her to grow up to be a bright, considerate girl.
… Though this was also because Banda had the same personality as Vandalieu, who would have hesitated to simply let the boy fall.
“And it’s quite likely that my existence will be found out within a few years anyway,” Banda sighed, looking at Mei’s mother, Amemiya Narumi… the reincarnated individual with the ‘Angel’ ability that allowed her to mentally connect to others and share their memories and experiences.
Vandalieu had heard of her ability from Kanako and the others; if she were to use it on Mei, Banda’s existence would be revealed in an instant.
Narumi wasn’t likely to use it on her own daughter for no reason, but… she would likely use it once she became curious enough about the mysterious friend that only her daughter could see.
It was possible that it wouldn’t come to that, but… the people around Mei were sure to notice her peculiarity.
“Puppy?” Mei asked.
“It’s alright. I scared the bad puppy away, so it ran off somewhere,” said Banda.
Mei possessed an affinity for the death attribute, and could even see spiritual beings.
Perhaps because she had absorbed Pluto’s power as a fetus, Mei had an affinity for the death attribute, something that no other person in Origin possessed. Even Banda did not know why that was, but that was the reality.
He didn’t even know how much of an affinity for the death attribute Mei possessed. Would she only be able to use a single specific ability like Pluto and the others, or would she acquire Death-Attribute Charm and learn multiple spells like Vandalieu?
But if this was to become known, the whole world would turn its attention to her. She was the daughter of the ‘Braver’ Amemiya Hiroto and the ‘Angel’ Narumi, so it was likely that she would be taken into captivity right away, but… the ‘Avalon’ Rikudou Hijiri was trying to get his hands on the death attribute, and he would not stay quiet.
Depending on the trouble that arose from those circumstances, Banda’s existence would be found out after all.
“Hey, me… It’s not like I’m resenting you, but the situation is pretty hard over here,” Banda murmured, wishing his words would reach Vandalieu.
“Banda~” said Mei.
“By the way, Meh-kun, wouldn’t it be better for me to call you Mei-chan instead of Meh-kun?” Banda asked her.
Mei made an unhappy noise, tears welling up in her eyes.
“What’s the matter, Mei? You look like you’re about to cry… Are you hungry? Sleepy?” asked Narumi.
“Alright, I’ll keep calling you Meh-kun. Look, it’s my antennae,” said Banda, waving his antennae at her to cheer her up again.
Several years had passed since Machida Aran, Shimada Izumi and Endou Kouya became Rodcorte’s familiar spirits – in other words, angels. They had become able to perform some of the maintenance work on the circle of reincarnation system.
They couldn’t make any real adjustments to it, but they could resolve its errors. That was all.
“It seems that it’s finally settled down,” said Izumi.
“To think that errors would occur in Origin… Was there some kind of mass spawning of Undead or something?” Aran sighed.
Thanks to the familiar spirits, the sudden errors occurring in the circle of transmigration system had been resolved.
“A mass spawning of Undead would be a large incident, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. I checked Rikudou’s memories, but it doesn’t seem that he’s run any large death attribute experiment,” said Kouya.
“Then what in the world happened? Vandalieu isn’t in Origin, you know,” said Izumi.
The cause of critical errors and bugs in the circle of transmigration system was Vandalieu. The familiar spirits were as aware of this as Rodcorte was.
Rodcorte’s system was generally near-perfect, and with regular maintenance, no errors or bugs other than those caused by Vandalieu occurred in the system.
“You’re right. Even he wouldn’t be able to fly from world to world…” Aran murmured. “I take that back. Hey, take a look at Joseph’s memories.”
“Is there something strange about them? You’re right that his recovery from his insomnia and hallucinations is quite a big deal,” said Kouya.
“No, it’s his dreams. Look at the records of his dreams!”
The records of people’s memories that could be seen through Rodcorte’s circle of transmigration system also included the memories of dreams. However, dreams were unstable and often nonsense; Rodcorte certainly never looked at them, and the familiar spirits didn’t look at them either.
But now, Izumi and Kouya looked at the record that Aran had told them to, and froze. They were at a loss for words.
There was one particularly clear, distinct record in Joseph’s dreams, so clear that small details could be made out. This record contained a giant person made of countless human bodies and fragments of the Demon King.
Kouya and Izumi managed to restart their brains after the initial shock and set about trying to analyze the grotesque giant.
“What is… this?” Kouya murmured. “Considering its appearance, it’s kind of…”
“It looks like it’s being very kind to Joseph,” said Izumi. “These high-pitched screeches… Are they words?”
It was not that Joseph had experienced some terrible nightmare. Given that, this giant’s presence was very strange.
None of the familiar spirits immediately realized that the giant was Vandalieu. This applied for Rodcorte as well, but the familiar spirits were always watching the records from when people were awake, not at their dreams.
However, through several rounds of reasoning and deduction, they became more and more certain that there was no other possibility.
“… It’s probably Vandalieu. I checked the records from the victims being used in Rikudou’s experiments, and they had the same dream on the same night as Joseph. The same goes for ‘Metamorph,’” said Aran.
“This is Vandalieu?” muttered Izumi. “Before he was reincarnated in Lambda, I heard that he had the same appearance as any other human other than the fact that he was covered in death-attribute Mana, but… wait, the errors that we’ve been having, are they caused by the souls of Joseph and the others being guided?” she said, shocked by the idea of this possibility.
“No, they haven’t been guided yet,” said Kouya. “If Joseph and the others had been guided, we wouldn’t have been able to see their records, so that hasn’t happened yet. It’s likely that several instances of contact will be needed, like with Kanako and the others. So, unless the same thing happens again next time, they’ll stay inside Rodcorte’s circle of transmigration system.”
“Next time, huh,” Aran muttered.
There would certainly be a next time. Kouya and Aran were certain of that. Vandalieu had appeared in the dreams of people in another world; as long as there was no way to prevent that from happening, it was highly likely that Vandalieu would appear in the dreams of Joseph, Mari and the others again.
Knowing this didn’t mean that the familiar spirits could do anything about it, and Aran couldn’t help but give a self-deprecating smile, knowing that Joseph and Mari… especially Mari, would be better off being guided.
He even wished that Vandalieu would keep appearing in their dreams every night.
“Wait, if that’s the case, why are there errors? Joseph and the others have received Vandalieu’s influence, but if they haven’t been guided, then there shouldn’t be any errors,” Izumi pointed out.
The self-deprecating smile vanished from Aran’s face in an instant. “You’re right. Maybe there are some who have been guided.”
“It’s not one of the reincarnated individuals. I’ve already checked that I can see everyone’s records. Maybe some of Pluto’s fans?” Kouya suggested.
“Rodcorte wasn’t paying attention to those either, so we don’t even know how many there are. I’ll check now,” said Izumi.
The familiar spirits used the system to investigate, but they found that they were able to check the records from every single person who worshipped the Eighth Guidance.
So then, who had been guided? Having no leads, the familiar spirits looked through the records of Joseph and the others once more.
Finally, they got to the ‘Metamorph’ Shihouin Mari’s dream.
“Isn’t Vandalieu talking to someone? This black thing,” said Kouya.
“Is this a child? Child… Could it be!” said Aran, hastily trying to access a certain record… but found that he couldn’t, and knew that his hunch was correct. “Kouya, Izumi, I’ve figured out who has been guided. It’s Amemiya and Narumi’s daughter, Mei,” he said.
“So it’s her… You’re right, we can’t access her records,” said Kouya.
“To think that it’s her… I didn’t think to check,” said Izumi.
Among those living in Origin, the familiar spirits had frequently kept an eye on the other reincarnated individuals, those around them, and those who worshipped the Eighth Guidance. They had never checked Mei’s records.
Mei was also related to the reincarnated individuals, as she was Amemiya Hiroto and Narumi’s child, but she was just one year old. It would be far easier to get information by looking at the records of the Amemiya couple or their babysitter rather than Mei herself.
“I’m sure he’s not doing it on purpose, but… what will we do? That bastard Rodcorte probably hasn’t noticed,” said Kouya.
“He’s in the middle of discussions, after all… Aran, do you think Rodcorte will take notice when he gets back?” Izumi asked.
“No, he probably won’t unless we tell him,” said Aran. “We’ve already fixed the errors, and the one who was guided wasn’t a reincarnated individual, but one of their daughters. He should have no interest in it.”
The abilities that reincarnated individuals possessed came from the power in their souls. They weren’t inherited by their children through blood.
Their physical abilities were hereditary, and people’s affinities for attributes in Origin did not match those of their parents’, but it was common knowledge that qualities for magic were passed on from generation to generation.
But physical abilities and talent for magic were not important to Rodcorte; what Rodcorte believed was important were their powers.
Indeed, there were people in both Origin and Lambda who possessed greater physical abilities and skill at magic than the reincarnated individuals. The ‘Thunderclap’ Schneider and Randolf ‘the True’ were good examples of this.
It was possible that Mei and Hiroshi would inherit exceptional qualities from their parents, but Rodcorte wasn’t interested in them.
“… Then let’s keep quiet about it. He’ll find out if he looks in detail at our own records, though,” said Izumi.
“He doesn’t have the time for that, does he?” said Aran. “He might not even notice until Joseph is guided.”
Rodcorte would offer the reincarnated individuals to Alda as anti-Vandalieu forces. In order to make that happen, it was certain that he was going to use some method to make the reincarnated individuals obey him.
Perhaps he would erase the memories of the reincarnated individuals who refused – putting them into a convenient state where they couldn’t remember anything but their own names, but could still use their fighting skills and abilities – and have them reincarnated in Churches of Alda. And as they would be reincarnated in adult bodies, the head figures of Alda’s religion would welcome them as champions.
Rodcorte would certainly take steps to make methods like this available.
Rodcorte alone wasn’t skilled enough to remove a person’s memories while leaving their experiences and skills intact. However, with the help of the gods of Alda’s forces, this could become possible.
As long as the reincarnated individuals remained in Rodcorte’s circle of transmigration system, that is.
“It would actually be helpful if he could guide everyone… though it’s rather shameless for us to say that now,” said Izumi.
“We’re on the side that wants to kill him, after all. Not to mention that Rikudou and Amemiya definitely won’t be guided…” said Aran.
“In any case, let’s focus on deepening our understanding on the system for now,” said Izumi. “If we’re too focused on Amemiya Mei, Rodcorte could take notice.”
While Banda was busy in Origin comforting Mei-chan with his antennae, in Lambda, Vandalieu was following the advice of the young Beast-person guard Kest and getting a room at the Starling Inn.
The Starling Inn was an inn that was mainly used by novice adventurers, new peddlers and inexperienced minstrels. Its selling point was that it was priced the same as a cheap lodging house in an alleyway, while offering relatively clean rooms as well as a breakfast of a hard lump of bread and a cup of water.
The large rooms were ten Baums a night.
It was the same price as the amount that Vandalieu had given to the corrupt guard Aggar as a bribe.
“Why do I feel like I’ve been ripped off?” said Vandalieu.
“… Will you use him as fertilizer after all?” said Eisen’s voice in his ear.
“It was just my imagination, I haven’t been ripped off at all,” Vandalieu muttered quietly, putting down his belongings that he had made just for appearances’ sake.
He was in a large room that multiple guests used together, but it was still the middle of the day, so nobody other than Vandalieu was here… No, there was a man who appeared to be a minstrel, sleeping while clutching the case that held his instrument.
“Even if this is what the guard recommended, you could have stayed in a nicer place, couldn’t you? This ‘big room’ would be completely filled up if I spread my legs out,” said Orbia, who was now a Ghost but had originally been a Scylla.
“Well, your legs are long and you have eight of them, Orbia-san… but the ceiling is very low in here,” said Princess Levia, who had originally been a Titan.
“Of course, I didn’t choose this place because the guard recommended it to me. I booked the room just in case so that I’m not mistaken for a street urchin,” said Vandalieu.
This inn was such cheap accommodation that a poor child like him could stay here without raising suspicions.
“It’s a temporary base of operations to use while I prepare to register to the Commerce Guild, just until I can rent a house,” Vandalieu said.
Vandalieu had entered the city of Morksi so that he wouldn’t stand out, but he wasn’t under the impression that he would stay unnoticed forever.
He would make preparations for the business that ne needed to register at the Commerce Guild, register under a false name, then buy a small, worn-out house from a real-estate agent.
He would then spend the next three months selling meat skewers or something from a cart.
If he was hired by an existing company, his freedom would be limited, and with his base of operations being a cheap inn, enjoying conversations with Orbia and the others would be difficult, as would meeting with Miles, Eleanora and the rest of his companions.
It would also be problematic for the inn if Murakami’s group were to attack him while he was in the city.
Of course, trust issues arising from the fact that he had a low social standing would be overcome forcefully with information provided by Miles and the others, and money. They had already scouted out a man who seemed like he would sell his stall, and a real-estate agent that would sell Vandalieu a house.
But Vandalieu, as a child with no relatives, would certainly stand out once he did these things.
That was why he knew that standing out to some extent couldn’t be avoided once he came to this city.
“If things go smoothly, I’ll only be here for tonight. In three months, I will have a good position in society and either Murakami or Birkyne’s heads, or maybe all three,” said Vandalieu.
“I see… Then how about leaving to purchase the stall now? Or will you return to Talosheim and change Jobs first?” asked Gufadgarn.
Vandalieu had just reached Level 100 with the Spirit Warrior Job right after coming to Morksi. That was likely due to the Experience Points earned by the Demon King Familiars in Talosheim.
“I thought I’d change Jobs at the Commerce Guild,” said Vandalieu. “But before that, I want to try and see if I can communicate with the me that is in another world.”
He had already briefly explained his dream to Gufadgarn and the others, including the fact that he had created a clone of himself and parted ways with it.
Vandalieu had done so simply because he had thought that this might be goodbye, and the black baby would be lonely… but this news had left Gufadgarn, the evil god of labyrinths, speechless.
“Indeed, I agree that this must be looked into immediately. You have split your soul, after all,” said Gufadgarn.
Indeed, Vandalieu had split his own soul in order to create this clone… Banda. He had done something that only gods were known to be able to do.
But it seemed that there was nothing out of the ordinary with Vandalieu himself. His soul was the result of Rodcorte taking the broken pieces of four champions and forcibly joining them together; Gufadgarn and the others suspected that this was why Vandalieu would be unaffected even after splitting his soul to some extent.
“Well, I’ve confirmed that my maximum Mana has decreased by about 100,000,000 on my Status,” said Vandalieu. “I hope that my clone over there has got it,” he said, closing his eyes as if meditating.
He lamented the loss of his own maximum Mana, which totaled about 150,000,000 Mana including the bonus from the Mana Enlargement Skill.
“Take good care of my body, please,” he said.
And then he focused his mind onto Origin.
But no matter how much he focused, he could not confirm the presence of his clone in Origin.
However, he felt the sensory information from his physical body fading away, and the next thing he knew, he was standing in a mountainous area.
“… This isn’t Origin. This is the former Scylla district, in this world,” Vandalieu murmured.
It was possible that a similar place existed in Origin. However, there was no mistaking this place. If Vandalieu recalled correctly… this was the place where the ‘Liberating Princess Knight’ Iris was fatally wounded; it was the place where he had killed the ‘Five-headed Snake’ Ervine.
Vandalieu thought that perhaps he had focused his mind so much that he had entered a memory from his past, but then he realized that this was not the case.
The view around him was different from back then.
The ‘Sword King’ Borkus was carrying a black greatsword on his shoulder. Next to him was the ‘King Slayer’ Sleygar, playing with the stitches on his neck, despite the fact that he hadn’t been an Undead at the time.
Looking past them, Vandalieu could see Iris. She had been fatally wounded back then, but she was unwounded now, standing together with resistance fighters and Ghouls. Among the Ghouls were Vigaro, Zadiris and Basdia – even though they hadn’t been there back then.
He could even see Isla and the Black Night Knights’ Order, a legion of knights who were made up of Undead Vampires, as well as Eleanora, Bellmond and Miles. Finally, Legion floated into view.
None of them spoke a single word.
“What in the world… There isn’t a single spirit nearby. Everyone is a little bigger, and their equipment is old. Iris is in her old human form, and the air around her is clearly different…”
Vandalieu was bewildered by the fact that everyone was silent, and that there wasn’t a single spirit to be seen.
“No, I’ve become about ten centimeters smaller,” he murmured, suddenly realizing that he had shrunk. “I’ve returned to my height from before my growth spurt… and everyone has returned to how they were then, with the old equipment that they were using back then. Come to think of it, I had a similar dream a little while before, where I was in a similar state.”
At that moment, the empty air ahead became distorted, and a corridor appeared.
At the same time, Borkus raised his sword, and Sleygar leapt into the air and vanished. Isla, Eleanora, Bellmond, Miles and Legion began to move. Iris, the resistance and the Ghouls leapt forward.
Five people appeared in the corridor, surrounded by a pale light.
“Hundred Light Omnislash!” the swordsman leading them shouted.
Iris and the resistance members were helpless as they were cut down by the series of slashing attacks unleashed by the swordsman… Heinz.
The female martial artist Jennifer, the shield-bearer Delizah and the scout Edgar leap forward to meet Vigaro and the others in battle.
“So this is the group after all! That head-hunting demon might be around, so don’t let your guard down, Edgar!” shouted Jennifer.
“More importantly, that child is here as well! Diana, stick with me!” said Delizah.
“I’m glad we used Heroic Spirit Descent in the corridor before we came out. Leave the head-hunting demon to me, Heinz! It’s good to check things first, but don’t let your guard down or hesitate, Heinz!” Edgar shouted to his companion behind him.
The three of them set about disposing of the Ghouls. Delizah’s mace crushed the organs of Vigaro, who was far weaker than the real Vigaro. Jennifer’s fists smashed Basdia’s head to pieces. Edgar’s blade pierced Zadiris’s throat before she even had the chance to recite a single incantation.
“… I know,” said Heinz, a pained look on his face, cutting down the surviving resistance members with a single blow.
Iris’s head rolled to Vandalieu’s feet, and he picked it up as he watched this carnage unfold.
There were no horns, and its skin was white. It was certainly the human Iris.
“… It’s a perfect imitation of the real thing,” Vandalieu murmured.
Blood was pouring from Iris’s severed neck, and her head was still warm to the touch. But it was fake.
He knew it was fake because when Iris and the others were killed by Heinz and his party, there had been no response from Danger Sense: Death. More importantly, he could not feel the connection of his ‘Guidance’ or the mysterious divine protections.
And even after they died, their souls were nowhere to be seen.
In other words, these were soulless, lifeless, elaborate fakes.
Just like the Gubamon and Ternecia that he had seen in a previous dream…
“I was late to realize this, but I suppose this is the trial that Heinz and his party are taking. It’s a mystery as to why I’m a part of the trial, but I am… extremely unhappy at the gods that made this trial, and at Heinz and the others for taking it.”