Chapter 1: Yanderes, Gifts and Nurse Uniforms
“…Then the hero Rolsberg swung his pitch black iron greatsword. As the Great God Kohril was dying with Rolsberg’s iron sword penetrating his chest, the god asked of the hero, “Why dost thou fight, O mortal? Your life is fleeting in front of us so why struggle needless?”. Rolsberg said, “ It is precisely why we fight, god, because we are mortals.”. The great god closed his eyes and said, “Thou might be right, for we the gods have forgotten what it is to have a life…”
–Extract from the Lost Scrolls of the Salinzet Mountains, 141 A.C.
Tch. More monochrome spaces. These gods really need to let go of their monochrome fascination.
A white space extended in all directions, endless. Standing a few feet from me was a…woman. Slender, tall and shapely. At least this one looks nice.
The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the woman was a katana. Her angular,chiseled features were sharp as a well honed blade, eager for blood and fire. Black hair like torrid water framed her bewitching yet cruel face, laid bare for the world to see the weapon that was this woman. Her shallow,amused smile did not touch her crimson eyes. If eyes were windows to the soul, this woman’s soul must make s’mores out of men’s soul with its burning ferocity. Now this…has to be a god or I didn’t know one. Actually I knew just one. Ofcourse, I had to stoke this fire.
“Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” I asked aloud, while groaning inwardly, Awesome, Rigel! Now you are delivering lame, outdated pickup lines to divine beings.’
The beauty simply arched one of her immaculate eyebrows.
The Heaven must have some damned good salons.
“Men”, she sighed.
The Goddess sauntered towards me. The total white space shifted and shimmered till it shattered like glass and gave way to a new scene. The ground was awash with blood, snaking along dry red soil. The earth eagerly soaked up the thick liquid, but the flow was relentless. Bright red blood dripped down copper spires that had jutted out of the ground. The stench of iron and death coiled through the stagnant air in thick waves, hitting my senses in intervals. Hundreds of writhing, spasming hands broke the surface and tried to claw at the god’s bare feet, desperate to drag her down and devour her. The goddess simply smashed her well maintained feet on them, crushing a few fingers here and there. The scene was surreal and terrifying, and I don’t mean her pedicured feet.
“Nice land of death vibe you got goin’ there.” I managed to croak.
My stomach dropped a thousand feet. The ends of my fingers went cold. Electrifying shivers ran down my spine.
“Not my dream, Rigel”, She said, pausing, “It’s yours.”
I thought that might be the case.
“So, what does Zain want with me? And who are you?” I inquired, noticing her black ballroom gown with green shimmering snake head patterns. Yep, definitely Zain related.
A languid smile spread across her face. “How did you know?” she asked, letting herself fall into a chair that had conjured up magically.
“The green and black attire and the IKEA chai”, I shrugged, “In short, terrible aesthetic sense for a god.”
“I can see why he chose you, Mortal”, said the woman. “I am Astria, a retainer of Lord Zain and your appointed Farsythee. The green and black are the house colour of Lord Zain. All of us who serve him must wear his house colors”. Ah! that’s it! the colour was absinthe green!
“So…even your lingeri–” I couldn’t help myself, I had to retort.
“I will dock your pay for sexual harassment.” she hissed venomously.
“You don’t pay me.” I interjected helpfully.
“And you can quit anytime you like.” she said with a mocking smile.
Way to rub it in, lady.
“At any rate, I am your Farsythee, which means I am your liaison between Lord Zain and the Covenant. On occasion, I might even help you understand the world.” the frustrating woman continued smugly. I want to punch her face!
“So you are my personal Navi (1). A tutorial.” I sighed.
“Yes, Rigel..I am your Nav…Farsythee.” She seemed annoyed, maybe she sucked at Zelda, “Rigel, you talk too much. If you listen more and talk less, you might just survive this world. However, men like you die easily so I don’t expect much out of you”. She flipped her hands.
She must be a hit at the parties.
She spoke on in her best fantasy story narrator impersonation, “The Immortals of this world grew bored of millennia of creation and destruction. Civilizations of people came and went, the gods got tired of their games, replaying the same story over and over. Terrible ennui drove the Immortals to wars and wanton destruction among themselves and creation itself. A god’s war is also the war of his people, so this resulted in widespread loss of lives. The Creation itself was in danger.”
Someone should get them Internet. I imagined Zain typing ‘lol’ while watching cat videos on Youtube, an inadvertent grin on my face.
“Mortals, who were mere followers of the gods, rose up in revolt against them. Amidst oceans of blood and forests of bones, Gods and Demons fell in battle. Mortals, pitiful as they were, managed to turn the tides of war through immeasurable sacrifices. Needless to say, the gods were horrified. All the immortal beings convened and came to an agreement”. Astria paused, a condescending expression on her sharp features, “Still with me?”
“Where does the Human Instrumentality Project come in?” I quipped.(2)
“The what?” she seemed utterly confused.
“Nandemonai.” I replied nonchalantly, “Please continue, oh-obligatory plot explanation device”*
“I will see that you die first.” she bristled.
“Nice gown by the way.” I offered as a way of appeasement but she wasn’t convinced.
She persisted in her rejected-narrator-for-LOTR tone, “Anyway, the assembly of the Immortal Covenant decided to stop all direct aggression among the immortal beings. Instead, they proposed playing games of war and aggression to settle their differences. These so–called games would make the whole world its stage, and it’s inhabitants into the game pieces”. She confirmed my worsening fears.
At least have an original setting, you stupid gods! Haven’t these guys heard of copyright violation lawsuits?
“So, Astria, in short I have to build a harem of beautiful slaves that are convenientlyin love with me, and learn magic that is conveniently gifted to me to defeat Zain’s opponent, right?” I splayed my hands, a smirk on my face.
Come on, follow the template. I already know all you guys are more cliché than a generic harem comedy. I can see the ending!(3)
Silence reigned supreme. The goddess kept looking at me with a frozen expression, her body as rigid as a mass of tempered steel. I could almost see darkness smouldering in her eyes. With a motion fluid as a bird of prey, she drove her hand into my chest. At first the pain didn’t even register, andhen it hit like a tsunami, every strand of my nerves on fire, awash with pain.
“Enough of your prattle. This is not a joke, Mortal, at least not for you. Any more words, and you will truly die. True wisdom lies in acknowledging your place.” declared Astria, her voice laced with poison and contempt.
She seemed to be searching for something in my chest cavity. Her slender fingers prowled through my body sending shock waves of pain and violent spasms. I threw up blood in my throat, the blood choked me slowly. I didn’t have the strength to claw at her wrist, embedded in my chest.
I could sense my body growing numb from the blood loss, the blood pooling at my feet. Wh…why is the world going black?
Suddenly, Astria gripped my still beating heart. Even though she literally held my heart in her hands, I couldn’t feel its movements. Had I lost that much blood already?
“Know this, Mortal, your life lies in our hands. The Covenant forbids us from interfering with the happenings in Sangraal or its inhabitants directly. However, this applies to only this world. Otherworlders like you are just mere tools brought in to influence Sangraal indirectly. Through promises, whispers and lies, you people are to be played.” Astria declared in a frigid tone.
She…She is smiling!. A violent, vicious smile while she squeezed my heart of its blood.
The hands writhing in the ground with their fingers clutching at the air and each other like some insect’s antennae simply went wild.. They tore up others that were in their vicinity, and their hate knew no bounds when they sensed Astria. It seemed like they would devour her, rip open her flesh and rend her bloody limb to limb if they got hold of her.
“Your dreams are disgusting, Rigel”, Astria shivered as she smashed more of the hands, “You cannot escape. You are not permitted to suicide. Grow strong and kill the gods you hate so much. That is the only escape, Rigel”.
She withdrew her arm from my chest, I spat out blood on the ground. My blood mixed in with the crimson soil. Astria lightly put her hands on my chest. My whole body burned up from extreme heat the flowed from her hands and engulfed me. I made bestial screams as warmth like hot wax filled my chest. After what felt like eons, the pain subsided.
Astria started speaking in an almost apologetic tone. “You see, you remind me of someone. I want to kill that person and salt the earth with his blood for all he has done.”
Nice. A homicidal yandere goddess. That’s just what I need. The wounds in my chest knit, healing of their own accord.
“Unwitting or not, you have paid the price of blood. So I, in return, will bestow knowledge upon you.” Astria stated in a demoralized tone.
Whats with gods showing up and inflicting life-threatening injuries every time! It’s getting boring, I want a refund! Okabe-san, please change the World Line before all this! (4)
In retrospect, I should have known that something wasn’t quite right. I mean the whole situation was out of whack, but something was even more so. I had faced more life-threatening violence in last few hours than in my whole life. But why am I so calm? It was as if I was accepting things easily. Too easily in fact. But then, I didn’t know what was happening. I wish I did.
“The Covenant decreed that every otherworlder summoned by the Immortals must be given 3 gifts and no more.” Astria explained before exhaling, “‘Gift of Knowledge must be the first, Might the second. The third and final gift shall be the domain of the god contracted’. These are the actual words I believe, that were spoken by the Covenant.”
“Through the Gift of Knowledge, you can easily learn whether it’s language or magic. Through the Gift of Might you will have better physical and regeneration capabilities compared to the masses of the race you belong to. Since you are a Vassal of Lord Zain, your last gift is…” Astria flashed a smile full of pity, “Sacrifice”.
I had a sinking feeling about what the last “gift” was. It couldn’t be anything good. My nails dug into my palms hard as she finished, “You pray for something and then pay a suitable price for it. The bigger the miracle you wish, the steeper the price. It has to be something dear to you.”
“You said ‘since I am a vassal of Zain’. Does this mean other summoned people do not have to go through sacrifices?” Why do I even ask, of course I drew the short end of the stick.
“All power has a price, Rigel. Never forget that. No matter what kind, if you desire power, be prepared to pay a price”, Astria said in a grave tone, “Even if it’s different, everyone pays the price; even the gods”
I remembered the tale of Odin, the King of Norse Gods. Dude hung himself from a tree branch for 9 days, pierced by his own spear; to gain power.
“That will be all for now, Rigel”, said Astria.
“I want dental care.” I told her flatly.
“No can do”.
“Harem of pretty slaves”.
“Get it yourself.”
“Extraordinary hero cheat power”.
“Pay the price”.
I sighed. Of course. Things wouldn’t be that easy.
“It is about time you wake up, Rigel” Astria turned around and motioned to leave.
“You turned out to be unexpectedly nice, Astria. You did open up a hole inside my chest, but nice”, I said honestly.
Astria paused while walking away, half turning towards me, “Rigel, the only thing worse than malicious gods are nice ones. Trust no one, not even yourself”.
“I will kill you”.
Astria smiled for a moment, “I will look forward to it then. By the way, Rigel, do you like nurse uniforms?”
“Huh?” I was dumbfounded. I mean, suuuure, I like ‘em as much as the next guy but what as she…
“I hope you don’t”, she stated as the the dreamscape of horrible hands and bloody spires folded unto itself, disappearing from view as I woke up in full clarity.
I opened my eyes. The ceiling was unfamiliar. Wooden lattice beams supporting a dark coloured wooden roof slanted upwards. Medieval setting, check.
Sounds of someone speaking an unfamiliar language drifted to my ears. In all honesty, it sounded like someone punched a goat after gagging it. When I turned my head towards the source of the sound, my eyes popped out of my head and fell to the floor. Well, almost. A woman stood at the far corner of the room. She was saying something but all I could do was stare. It was a hippo on two legs. What the fuck?
Nope, I’m not hating on the “generously endowed with fat individuals”; it was an honest to god bipedal hippo, and it was wearing a nurse uniform. Everything was spilling out and not in a good way.
I closed my eyes and pretended to go to sleep. She still spoke to me in what sounded like someone-strangled-a-mountain-goat-ese.
Those was my first few moments in the village of Shrafingshire.
At least I wasn’t killed by a truck.(5)
The A.C in the quote above the chapter is indicative of the time in the world of Sangraal. A.C= After Covenant, B.C= Before Covenant.
(1) A reference to the game series Legend of Zelda.
(2) A reference to the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion
(3) A reference to Okabe Rintarou, from Steins;Gate and their storyline, basically reset the story to beginning so all the horrible stuff doesn’t happen.
(4) A reference to the numerous number of Summoning/Reincarnation Japanese Web novels where the MC or the important characters are killed by a truck which sends them to the alternate world.
Syosetsu is full of trucks killing people and here are some of the more popular translated ones for reader’s reference.
Mushoku Tensei, Oredungeon, Yuusha Party, Devils Spice, Hakomari, Gifting(somewhat), Simple life of killing demons, Tilea’s worries.
*Nandemonai= Japanese word meaning ‘nothing/ no matter’