I thought it was all water under the bridge at this point. The world that I had left behind had been shoved aside, so that I could focus on succeeding in the new role that I had been given. Since I believed that there was no way back, being an Electi in a fantasy world had become second nature.
In actuality, I was afraid to look back at what I had left behind – a comforting world where I had the freedom to waste my time on whatever I fancied, a group of friends that I spent time with, supportive parents that were sometimes strict with me, and a world of conveniences at my fingertips.
Sure, I had landed in a fantasy world unlike anything that I had experienced before, one that mirrored many of the things that I was a fan of. However, I had lost everything to be here. That was one thing that I deeply regretted.
“Haa… what’s done is done. I just have to move on…” My mind slowly calmed down as it came to terms with everything. Humans were a strangely adaptable species. Even though one could lose everything, most of the time, it immediately latched onto something else to convince oneself to move forward. Perhaps, that was why I had been so drawn to Eryn. In order to give myself the will to continue, I had to convince myself that there was something to fight for so that I wouldn’t dwell on what I didn’t have any longer.
Minutes passed as I once again convinced myself that my new life was ‘better’.
“Hey Claude, I’ve been holding out for a bit, but why are the people here dressed so strangely?” Lady Kaguya’s voice echoed in my head.
I snapped out of my stupor and looked around, realizing that I had completely missed the fact that people had been walking by me, many in bizarre outfits. Far from the normal outfits of a modern world, there were people in all manners of dress – from fantasy-like clothing to steampunk and even gaudy, cartoonish designs.
“Speaking of which, what am I doing in the middle of downtown? The only time I usually venture here is-“ My voice cracked as the realization dawned on me. “… during an anime convention.”
Sure enough, the scenery behind me had turned into a large gathering of fans who had all dived into the unique culture of Japanese animation and video games.
“So… uh, is it normal for people to wear such outfits in your world?” Lady Kaguya hinted as my attention was drawn towards a group of girls dancing in rhythm like they were rehearsing for a concert.
“Uh… not really. That’s for a special occasion,” I quickly responded.
“What about that? His weapon certainly looks impractical. I thought you said that there weren’t giant monsters here?” She pointed to a group of armored men with swords bigger than their bodies.
“The weapons are fake. Just for show.”
“And how do you explain… that?” Lastly, she pointed to a trio of mostly naked buff guys in speedos. The only other attire was a strange brown mask covering their heads, as the three of them appeared to be embracing while flexing for a photo op.
“That’s the buff Dug-… never mind. I give up. Can we just move on?” I beat myself over the head, trying to dismiss the meme that those guys had dressed up as. In any case, why was an anime convention the first thing that popped into my head about my previous world? Certainly, it had been a big part of my interests, but to have it weigh so heavily in my subconscious was…
“Well, now you’ve only just piqued my interest. After all, Wen Lu and Wen Zhi had similarly strange things in their heads but refused to tell me all about them.” Lady Kaguya ended that statement with what sounded like a pout.
“Eh? You don’t find this completely bizarre?” I was surprised that she wasn’t turned away by the ‘uniqueness’. Otaku interests weren’t exactly widely accepted by normal people in my previous world.
“Did you think I wouldn’t be open-minded after experiencing the minds of not one, but two, otherworlders?” Lady Kaguya let out a snicker. “I even discovered that Wen Zhi had a thing for priestess robes.”
‘Ack.’ Forcefully, I tried to wipe the current scene from my mind before things got dicier. The last thing I needed was for her to discover what type of waifus I rolled for in gacha games. Like a fading scene, the busy metropolitan area went away and was soon replaced by a college dorm room.
“Whew, a bit more subtle.” I looked around at the nerdiness of my room, but it was better than the scene before. Certainly, my living area was a bit messy and had strange items decorating it, but that was hardly worse than the invention-obsessed Katsys’s workshop.
I reached down and picked up a textbook from the floor, which read ‘Introduction to Fluid Mechanics.’ Immediately, several ghosts of myself suddenly appeared – one frantically studying at the desk, one lounging on the bed playing video games, and one heading out the door to greet my old circle of friends.
“You were… a scholar?” Lady Kaguya asked.
“Hardly. This is the bare minimum for most people in this world to get a decent job. My parents thought that it would be best for me to get an education, so that I wouldn’t be trapped in a limited amount of options like they had growing up.”
“And you had to please them?”
“Of course. They’re my parents. Wouldn’t get off my back unless I tried to do something, even if it’s something that I didn’t really care for.”
“It must be nice to have that option.” Kaguya’s voice trailed off sadly.
At that moment, I realized how fortunate I had been. Like many people in her world, Lady Kaguya had no choice in her future. She had been designated as the Oracle from the very beginning. Even those that had gained some freedom in their options had fought hard for them. In comparison, I had been given every opportunity to pursue something on my own, yet I had squandered those chances.
That only changed once I had been given no choice but to work with what I had in this world. I regretted now that I hadn’t tried to be smarter or more gifted in something else, which would have made things easier. Despite that, what I had carried with me up to this moment had been invaluable.
“My parents were really looking out for me, huh…”
The scene shifted to that of an office for a practitioner of Eastern Healing. Scenes of my mother examining patients as a younger me watched on, of her teaching me various techniques from the books lined on the shelf, of her scaring me with what seemed like witchcraft and voodoo – all with a smile on her face – I recalled these scenes fondly. This was the reason I had known about pressure points and what this world called ‘mana gates’. My knowledge from these experiences had been one of the few things carried over and not lost.
I walked over and pulled out a book from the shelf. Flipping through the pages, I was disappointed that they were blank.
“Of course. I never actually got around to reading these. Never had the desire to. Obviously, they would be blank.”
Lady Kaguya could feel the regret laced in my words. If only, I had the motivation to try a little harder. Then, those pages wouldn’t be blank.
I pulled out another book. This time, it was one that I was most familiar with. I stopped at a page that had a diagram of pressure points on it. As a child, I found it strangely alluring that being pressed somewhere could lead to all sorts of effects. It was like the body had magic buttons on it, and thus, it had captured my attention.
Because of that, this book contained a vivid recollection of the text and images I remembered. I let out a sigh as I closed the cover, relieved that it was all there.
“Thank you, Mom.”
The scene once again morphed to that of a kitchen, one of a busy restaurant. A scene of my father manning the stove as I watched his back was the first thing I noticed. I often thought that cooking would be such a chore as he worked continuously at a fast pace. During the high point of mealtimes, there was hardly a break as his sous chefs would quickly prep the ingredients needed for the next dish, having them ready and waiting as soon as he finished with the current one. The rapid-fire exchange between them and the multitasking needed to manage multiple dishes at once had scared me off.
However, one scene had always encouraged me, which started to play out.
During the quiet times, my dad would patiently show the kid version of me how to cut properly. It may have been strange to let a 7-year-old wield a knife, but he had watched my actions very carefully to ensure that I wouldn’t harm myself.
“That’s it. Everyone has to start from somewhere. Even if your cuts are uneven, even if you smash it a bit, that’s okay. There are a million of ideas out there to cover up your mistakes. Maybe your mistakes won’t even be mistakes in the end, but part of the grand scheme of the dish. That is the joy of cooking – to make something out of what you have and be surprised by how it turned out. Don’t fear failure, Claude. Make something of it.”
The child version of me continued cutting carrots into irregularly shaped blocks, barely understanding the lesson that my father had given. However, the fact that I remembered his words so well showed how deep of an impact that it had.
Truly, cooking had been one of the first things I had turned to, in order to make up for the deficiencies that I believed I had. As he had said, I may have used it as a way to cover up my ‘failures’.
“Thank you, Dad.”
“You had a wonderful family, didn’t you?” Lady Kaguya asked after seeing all of these scenes.
“Yeah… much more than I ever realized. Just what was I dissatisfied with? I don’t understand. I regret that I left them, but how would any of this make me closer to becoming a demon?” I wondered aloud as this was consistent with what I had always known but never bothered to think about. I saw nothing emotionally scarring that was said to create dark emotions inside me. There were merely regrets of a person that didn’t make full use of his life, likely no different from any other person who looked back on their life.
“Is there truly nothing else?” Lady Kaguya also questioned. Though she had learned quite a bit about myself as a person, she had her doubts about my supposed inclination for demonification.
“Yeah, none- kuh!”
Suddenly, a sharp static noise erupted in my mind. The previous warm scenes of home disappeared, replaced by a horrible grinding noise. Though I tried to cover my ears, it didn’t lessen as it came from inside my head.
Fire suddenly came into view all around me. Explosions rocked the ground, drowning out the static from before. I looked around in shock. The buildings around me had fallen into a decrepit state, as if heavily damaged by a bombardment. People were on the ground, some of them clearly dead from fallen debris.
“W-What is happening?! What is this?!”
I vaguely recognized the area, despite the wreckage. It was the surroundings around my college. But I didn’t recall any kind of tragedy taking place prior to being summoned to another world. Yet, something had clearly happened. The buildings had been partially destroyed around me, and I could feel the heat stinging against my skin.
Another explosion rocked the ground and knocked me off my feet. As I tumbled backwards, I saw some white mysterious being dart across the sky. They shot beams that wrecked the surroundings like some sci-fi fantasy. However, this was the real world! How could that be possible?!
“Calm down, Claude! I can see that you’re in a panic, but this must have happened in the past! It’s just a vision! You can’t be hurt by it!” Lady Kaguya’s voice had calmed me down just enough to function once again. However, my mind then turned to the next logical worry.
I hopped to my feet and ran off in the direction of my parents. They lived in the suburbs, not that far from the college. With what was going on, I had to check if they were safe.
My hopes were not good as more buildings continued to be torn apart by the attacks of the mysterious beings. At a glance, they seemed like faceless dolls with wings, almost like someone had traced the outline of an angelic being and failed to give it defined human features.
I didn’t need to run very far. My feet stopped as the road ahead of me abruptly ended. My heart sank as I stared out at a large crater than spanned tens, if not hundreds, of miles outward. The landscape before me had been decimated, leaving no chance for anything to have survived that had been there.
I felt a bitter rage engulf me. It was highly unlikely that they would have escaped such destruction. Why had this happened?! For what reason?!
I barely had time to register the fact that several beams of light shot down, engulfing me in its attack. I felt myself dissolving along with the area bombarded around me.
The static noise came back, and everything remained an endless white fog. No matter how hard I tried to think about it, the previous scenes refused to come back. They refused to answer the questions that I had.
“How could I have forgotten something like that?” I cursed at myself. A lingering sense of hatred and disbelief clouded my mind. A sudden feeling wrapped around me. It must have been Lady Kaguya trying to offer comfort, which was doing its job as my mind started to calm down.
Perhaps, my mind had decided to conveniently erase those memories to keep me from going mad. But to think that some horrible event had taken everything from me, I was still shaking from it.
Suddenly, something appeared among the fuzziness that clouded my mind – a small window, like looking through a crevice in a wall. I placed my eye right up to it and tried to peek through, hoping to gain any insight.
On the other side, there was someone who looked like me, but was clad in a different outfit. He looked like the typical adventurer, one that braved through monsters, who cut down his enemies, and was somewhat dyed in blood.
His demeanor looked completely different, like he had weathered many battles. His face held a grim, weary expression, but there was still a fire in his eyes, as if a strong desire pushed him onward.
Somehow, I could feel his anger, his pain, his anxiety, and his sense of helplessness. It was like I ‘was’ him. But how could that be? I didn’t recall any of this.
Just then, I heard a whisper from him. I pressed my ear against that hole and tried to hear what he said.
“Why do I fight? Because God gave me another chance after I had died. To be summoned here and fight for a wish. And more than anything. I wish to return… to gain back my world which was destroyed.”
‘… I died?! My world was destroyed?!’
I pulled back with a gasp before forcing myself to continue watching. Various images flashed by rapidly, showing my other self brutally slaying down those in front of him. Just like me, he sliced through everything with ease. Just like me, his eyes glowed with a purple hue.
But unlike me, he slayed everything without care, man or beast. His knife slid across their flesh effortlessly and rendered them into a bisected corpse. The coldness of his uncaring gaze as he trampled through an endless battlefield felt so foreign to my own.
That man terrified me, but I was unable to look away. The tiny hole in the middle of the indistinguishable chaos that my mind had become seemed like a glimpse at some dark secret my memories had locked away. Moreover, I was stunned as to how I could ever act like that. It was so surreal that I would’ve dismissed him as another person, if he didn’t have my exact looks.
A sudden wave of negative feelings – outrage, disbelief, anguish, and vengeance – swept over me as the man on the other side now appeared to be glowing with power.
“This world does not deserve to exist…,” his voice repeated, over and over again.
With a bright flash, suddenly the view of a planet was severed in half. The two parts split off and crumbled away.
With that, my visions became dark. I felt myself being ejected from that space.