Mushoku Tensei (LN) - Volume 23 - Chapter 6

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Chapter 6:

Nanahoshi’s Fate

IT WAS FINALLY THE DAY for Nanahoshi to return home. 

The only others present in the Hall of Teleportation were Perugius and me. Nanahoshi insisted she didn’t want a crowd here to see her off. She said she’d already bid her farewells, so she must have seen them exactly the way she wanted to remember them.

Our formation was the same as before; I was the mana tank powering everything while Perugius and his spirits directed and maintained the flow. Nanahoshi stood at the center of the magic circle. She faced me, dressed in traveling attire with an enormous rucksack on her back. It was stuffed with a vast array of items to prepare her for what she might find on the other side. Neither one of us had ever ventured outside the borders of Japan before coming here. That was why she’d also packed some items she could trade for local currency no matter where she ended up, along with her ID, magic crystals, and scrolls. Who knows if those last two things would work where she was going?

All she could do now was rely on her wits and courage to get her through the rest.

Nanahoshi and I traded last glances. We said nothing. Whatever words needed to be spoken had been spoken last night.

“Rudeus!” Perugius bellowed, his voice booming through the room. “Are you prepared?!”

It felt more like a command than a question. I pressed my hands to the teleportation apparatus. Same routine, no changes. I had practiced this numerous times by now. I couldn’t claim that they had all been successful, but whenever we failed, we located the issue and refined the process so that the mistake wouldn’t happen again. Perugius and I were veterans at this.

Okay, let’s not go overboard. I’m just the battery here.

“Ready,” I said.

“Nanahoshi, I assume you are prepared?” Perugius asked, his booming voice once again rendering the question more of an imperative.

Nanahoshi nodded. “Yes, Lord Perugius. Thank you for everything!”

“Your gratitude is unnecessary. You’ve taught me a few amusing trifles.”

Their parting words were short and succinct, and once finished, they tore their gazes away from one another. Nanahoshi directed her attention back toward me, and Perugius directed his subordinates with his eyes.

“Very well. Let us begin,” he said.

With his signal, the apparatus began to power up. The process was exactly as it always had been. Perugius and the rest of his spirits pressed their hands to the magic circle. Once the edges began to glow, I began pouring my mana into it. It eagerly gulped up the power I offered, but I was used to that sensation by now. The circle responded by glowing brighter and brighter, cycling through an array of colors—first blue, then green, then white. Blinding though it was, I forced myself to keep focus, to ensure I made no mistakes as I supplied it with mana. 

My experience during the experiments came in handy here. I knew the intervals when it needed power by heart. I was careful to ensure a sustained, constant flow of mana with no dearth or excess.

Exactly as before, the circle’s glow turned black—wait, what? Hold up just a sec. Did we ever have it turn black before? I’ve got a real bad feeling about this.

“Rudeus!” Perugius barked at me.

The black glow was growing more pronounced by the second. I was worried whether we should continue this or not. But since I wasn’t in control of this thing, I had no way of making that call.

“Lord Perugius! Your orders!” I demanded.

“More mana!”

I obeyed his command and forced even more power through hands. It was no longer a flow—it was a flood. Strength fled my legs, my vision blurred.

In spite of my best efforts, the blackness refused to fade. Instead, I felt something threatening to spill out—the sensation crawling up through my fingers, hands, and arms. It was a dreadful, entirely new sensation.

This can’t be good, I thought. Could I make the call to shut this thing down? After all, Perugius had ordered me to give it more power. I needed to have faith in him and—


A sound echoed around us. The light from the magic circle faded immediately, as if a breaker had popped and the power had gone out. It was so instantaneous that it struck me as odd. Normally if something went wrong, it was a gradual ebb as the circle lost power. This was different. It was almost like something had sucked out all the mana from it before extinguishing.

My lips thinned.

Not all the light in the room had faded. The candle stands positioned at each corner of the room still had a flame dancing on each of their wicks. A deafening silence that enveloped the room. It reminded me of a computer with its power suddenly cut. And sadly, plain as anything, Nanahoshi stood inert at the center of the circle.

Everyone was flabbergasted, me included. I couldn’t see the spirits’ expressions beneath their masks, but the air of confusion hung heavily.

“Why!” Perugius howled. “Why, Rudeus Greyrat!”


Me? What’d I do?

“Why did you cut off your supply of mana?!”

Cut off? What’s he talking about? I blinked at him. “I gave it power just like I was supposed to.”

“But then why would…” His voice trailed off, but I could guess what he was trying to ask. Why would the magic powering it suddenly disappear?

Emphatically, I hadn’t cut off the supply of mana. I had increased it, in fact. I was as confused as they were. Had something gone haywire with me, and the power stopped flowing from my hands like it was supposed to? It was hard to believe that could be possible, considering the immense fatigue I was now fighting—the same kind that I always dealt with when I used a vast amount of mana.

“If the supply of mana had been cut off, then the circle should have lost power the moment that happened,” I reasoned aloud.

Perugius nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, true. It did have mana. Why was it not fed to us? It was almost as though someone else interfered and harnessed the circle…”

I inspected the circle. There was a small fissure in the pattern. Had some sort of insect managed to disrupt the structure, causing it to short-circuit?

“Grr…” Perugius growled under his breath. He cupped his chin as he contemplated the meaning of it all.

Nanahoshi silently stepped out of the circle. Peeling the straps of her backpack from her shoulder, she lay the heavy load on the floor. Then she walked stiffly toward the door, leaving the Hall of Teleportation entirely.

I glanced at Perugius. He was still lost in thought. His servants were listless.

What now? I also wanted to know the cause of this failure, but… Nah, leave this to Perugius.

I hurried after Nanahoshi.


Nanahoshi was in her room, sitting on her bed. Her shoulders were slumped, her head hung. It was hard to make out her expression with her face turned downward. The atmosphere radiated exhaustion and resignation.

In stark contrast, I wasn’t all that shocked. I couldn’t shake what my future self had once told me—that in the end, it would fail. I had no way of telling whether this was the failure he referred to or if there was another one still awaiting us further down the road. Part of me wished I had asked him more about it so I would know, but there was little point in lamenting it at the moment.

My future self also told me about how I’d failed to comfort Nanahoshi in that moment. What happened to her after that? My older counterpart had tip-toed around a direct answer, which seemed to indicate it was a wretched ending. Just like this.

I had to do a solid job of comforting Nanahoshi this time. The problem was…how? I could say, “Everyone experiences failure. Let’s put it aside and hope for a better result next time.” Hm, too cliche. Sounds like the sort of thing my future counterpart probably said.

Or maybe not, I thought, reminding myself, he was so shattered after what happened to Roxy, he might not have managed anything like that. It was possible he instead said something much worse, driving Nanahoshi even further into despair.

From what I knew of my future self, he seemed like enough of a degenerate that I couldn’t rule out the possibility he exploited her vulnerability. Maybe he’d said, “If you can’t go home anyway, then be my woman!”

Kinda wish I knew what screwup my future self pulled. Then I’d have some idea what to do. No, I needed to think about this myself. There was a wrong option here, and I had a burning curiosity about what it might be. Life wasn’t normally like that—it wasn’t a video game. I had to find my own words to console her with.

I racked my brain. Uh, how do I normally go about this? The first thing that came to mind was when I consoled Sylphie. Right! That’s it, first I take a seat beside her. Then I wrap an arm around her shoulders…

“Is that how you seduced those three?” Nanahoshi interrupted. She lifted her head and gave me a hard stare.

Oh. Guess she has a point. This is kinda sexual, huh.

“My bad.” I hastily removed the hand that’d been hovering right above her shoulder, ready to pat it. She’d cut me off before I could even make eye contact. I folded my hands in my lap. “So, um, Madam Nanahoshi. If you would permit me a moment of your splendid attention?”

“What? I’m busy.”

“Come on, don’t be like that,” I said. “When you feel like you’re all alone in the world, it’s important not to bottle it up. You’ll feel better. It won’t fix the problem, sure, but it can put you in a better mindset to tackle the problem more effectively once you’re ready to…”

My voice trailed off as I glanced at her and noticed she had a notebook spread out on her lap. Japanese was scrawled on the pages. At the top, it read: Tentative Theories About Why the Teleportation Failed at the Final Stage.

“It’s a good thing you told me ahead of time about this failure,” Nanahoshi said as she traced the Japanese characters on the page with her finger. “If I didn’t know, my first assumption might have been that there was something wrong with the magic circle itself.” She lifted her gaze from the book. There was no trace of despair in her expression. Maybe I was wrong about the exhaustion and resignation. She had already mentally prepared herself for the possibility of failure.

So… I guess that means I don’t need to console her? I mean, I’m sure she’s still gotta be crushed that it didn’t work out. While I was lost in thought, she glanced down at her notebook again.

“Hey. Do you remember when I talked to you before about my theory on how all of this happened?”

Theory. Theory… Kinda rings a bell, doesn’t it? Pretty sure it was something far out and wild, but I don’t quite remember it.

After mulling it over for a moment, I shook my head. “Sorry, mind giving me a refresher?”

Again, she gave me that cold judgmental look.

Jeez, sorry.

“Fine, but I’m only going to summarize…” With that preface, she began to launch into her explanation, which was essentially her reading straight from the notes in her book. “First of all, the Fittoa Displacement Incident which resulted when I was summoned here should never have happened originally. That raises the question: why would something so irregular have occurred? When I heard that your future self had traveled back through time to speak to you, I deduced that someone in the future must have sent me here, to the past. No—since I’m not originally from this world, perhaps it’d be more correct to say the person responsible placed me in their past.

“History changed the moment someone who should never have existed suddenly appeared out of thin air. Like dropping a rock into a tub already filled to the brim with water, my presence displaced the total amount of mana in the world, and as a consequence, the Fittoa Region was wiped from existence.”

Oh, yeah. This sounds familiar. I think I was so preoccupied with other stuff at the time that I didn’t really pay attention. It was still an absurd theory, to be sure. But if she was so focused, then it seemed she really wasn’t hung up over the teleportation failing. Nah, she’s gotta be torn up. This whole nonsense spiel is probably her just trying to distract herself. Guess I should humor her.

“Do you follow me so far?” Nanahoshi asked.


She flipped a page in her notebook. This time, the line at the top read: Who Would Do This and Why?

“This is the crux of the issue here,” she said, tapping the page. “I theorized someone from the future wanted to change the past, right? You might be wondering why I suspect it is someone from the future. Orsted himself is the clue. He was sent from the past to the present, where he keeps reliving the same period over and over in a loop. At present, there isn’t a soul who can interfere with him, which makes him the most powerful of all—able to continue the same loop again and again until at last, he achieves victory.”

Orsted was sent by his father, the first Dragon God, who also cast a secret art on him that causes him to relive the exact same span of time—just as Nanahoshi described. According to Orsted’s own prediction, there was only one way to escape this loop: to defeat the Man God. He had yet to bring down the Man God, but he would someday. Nanahoshi wasn’t exaggerating when she called him the most powerful.

She continued, “It is my belief that the reason we were both sent here has something to do with the battle between the Dragon God and the Man God.”

“How come?”

“Because the first person I met after I found myself in this world was Orsted. I met you after that, and you greatly changed the course of Orsted’s fate. Unlike the other people here, you and I can and are interfering with his loop.”

Right, let me make sure I’ve got this straight…

Orsted was stuck in these loops so that he could defeat the Man God. I had no idea which of the two would come out on top, but for argument’s sake, let’s assume the losing side found some way to alter the past. If we were to also hypothesize that they had sent Nanahoshi and myself as a strategic move to skip the scales so that they would achieve victory…then which one lost originally?

It has to be Orsted, I reasoned to myself. He’s the one still caught in these loops. That meant there was a possibility that the Orsted of the future had called us here.

“But it’s not Orsted,” Nanahoshi said, as if reading where my thoughts were going. “He couldn’t do something like this.”

She had a point; Orsted’s intention was to win without making any changes to the past. Even if he were to make alterations to the past, he’d be more likely to choose a period further back in history. For instance, the second Great Human-Demon War, when Laplace was split into two. It was also possible that an Orsted who’d experienced many more loops would interfere with a version of himself in a past loop. But I couldn’t think of a reason why he’d bother to do that.

Nanahoshi went on, “The Man-God couldn’t either. As Orsted said himself, the Man-God was already supposed to win this loop.”

Orsted had never known about Geese’s existence until now. Thus, he’d thought victory was close at hand. He had no way of knowing that he would stumble over a seemingly insignificant pebble along the way. If not for our presence in this loop, his defeat would have been assured already. That was further proof that the Man-God had no incentive to change the past.

“Then who would do this? And why?” I asked.

“That’s the question, isn’t it? I have to preface what I am about to say next by admitting this is only conjecture on my part, but…” Again, she tapped her finger on the book, pointing to a name that was written on the page. Shinohara Akito. Immediately below that was the name Kuroki Seiji, but she had crossed it out, penning yet another name beside it—Rudeus Greyrat.

“Yesterday, when I learned your true identity, I remembered something. When the accident happened, Aki—Shinohara that is—wrapped his arms around me. You saved Kuroki Seiji, so he was outside the truck’s path. I suspect he probably wasn’t sent here. There were only three of us that were hit in the collision. And two of us are here together right now. The last remaining person is nowhere to be found.

“You appeared in this world ten years before I did. I have to think that means the three of us were sent to different time periods here.”

Well, to be more precise, I was reincarnated, not sent. Not that it makes that big of a difference, I guess.

“And if you came here before I did, then there would be nothing off if Shinohara came here at an even later date. Much, much further into the future, where he met Orsted. Let’s suppose that was the first time anything had ever changed in that Orsted’s loops, and that he and Shinohara became companions. However, Orsted realized afterward that he had no way of defeating the Man God. So he took other steps to ensure his victory.”

Thus, someone from the future changing the past, huh?

“Wait,” I interjected, “you’re saying that this has to do with why the Fittoa Region was totally obliterated? Because this Shinohara guy is some kind of esper with super abilities that allows him to change the past?”

“No, nothing like that. But I do think he would have met a number of different people, just as I have. It wouldn’t be strange for him to have found someone who can alter the course of history…” Her voice trailed off.

A Blessed Child. The words immediately popped into my head. It never occurred to me when I saw Zanoba’s superhuman strength, but the Blessed Child in Millis could see into a person’s memories simply by looking into their eyes. It didn’t seem terribly farfetched to assume there could be a Blessed Child out there with the ability to alter the past in some way. Heck, if I hadn’t met my future self, I would have probably lived the miserable life detailed in his diary. Didn’t that mean the past had already been changed once already?

It didn’t feel real to me that such a thing was possible, but on the other hand, I couldn’t rule it out. After all, I had somehow reincarnated here and Nanahoshi had been sent here from our world. Was altering the past so farfetched in comparison?

I stroked my chin in thought. “Did Orsted say he had any clues about who this person could be?”

“Yes, he did. He said there’s a Blessed Child who can reverse the time of an object.”

That wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I asked the question, but it fit with Nanahoshi’s theory about a Blessed Child with time manipulation abilities.

“However,” Nanahoshi went on, “he also said that Blessed Child’s fate was so much weaker than anyone else’s that they died without ever being able to do anything.”

“And you think Shinohara Akito stepped in and saved them,” I guessed.

It felt like the puzzle pieces she had given me were starting to click into place. This Shinohara guy would have met with the Blessed Child as well as Orsted. We could infer, then, they had somehow developed a magical implement which allowed them to extend the parameters of this Blessed Child’s powers. That would make the most sense, given it aligned with our own experiences; Nanahoshi had collaborated with Perugius to create an even more powerful teleportation apparatus. Likewise, I had met Cliff and Zanoba, and we had created my Magic Armor. We could then assume that, with the aid of this magical implement, they’d managed to alter the past.

None of this answered the real question. So, I had to ask… “What’s that got to do with your teleportation failing?”

“I was hoping you would ask that.” Nanahoshi turned to the next page. This time, the top was headlined with the words: My Future, Assuming I’m Unable to Return Home.

“I thought to myself, wouldn’t he have searched for me just as I’ve searched for him?”

I whistled low and nodded. Seemed logical enough.

“Well, this is again only supposition on my part, but what if the reason I can’t return home in the present is because I return home with Shinohara Akito in the future? Or rather, what if there’s a stipulation to me being able to return? Like, I have to meet some condition, or fulfill some purpose before I can leave. Maybe both are true, even.”

Okay, so… Hold up a sec. I’ve gotta make sure I’m following.

The basic gist was that, for some reason or another, this Shinohara guy was summoned here into what would be our future. One thing or another happened, and he became companions with Orsted, and the two worked together. They learned that, as things stood, they couldn’t beat the Man-God. When they tried to look into the root of the problem, the cause was in their past. So they found a way to extend the range of that Blessed Child’s abilities to alter the past.

That’s when I was initially summoned here. Except, the moment I appeared, the Man-God foresaw his own death at the hands of my descendant. With their help, Shinohara and Orsted were able to finally take him down. However, there was a problem: Shinohara had no way of returning home to his world. Thus, he once again used the Blessed Child’s powers. This time, he summoned Nanahoshi to the past, knowing how fiercely she would want to return home. Her passion for going back spurred her to invent better teleportation circles.

I could only guess that when they summoned her, perhaps they were a bit too reckless in how they altered the past, thus destroying the Fittoa Region. That thought alone made me furious with this Shinohara guy. If everything Nanahoshi supposed was true, he had destroyed that land and countless lives out of his own selfishness.

Of course, this was all speculation. Still, I guess I can’t blame the guy, can I? Perhaps Shinohara was so out of options that he had no other choice than to alter the past like that. Or maybe he had no way of knowing how dire the repercussions would be. The most terrifying possibility was that circumstances were so drastic that he made the call in spite of the cost.

I could relate to that. Since coming here, I had made so many precious connections to other people. To my wives, to my children, even to my little sisters. I was willing to become Orsted’s underling just to protect them. Fortunately for me, Orsted turned out to be a surprisingly good guy. What if he had been rotten? What if he’d ordered me to carry out the most heinous acts? I knew in my heart I would’ve followed his commands regardless. I would do anything to protect my family. Maybe Shinohara and I were no different on that front. Everyone had something that was precious to them.

“I get it,” I said, after organizing my thoughts. “So then, Nanahoshi, let’s assume all of your suppositions are correct. What are you going to do?”

“Good question…” She paused for a moment and then said, “Assuming that the condition is for me to make something before I can return home, I think I have already fulfilled my role. I created the teleportation apparatus. I have no intention of creating anything else.”

If Nanahoshi’s role was to create the teleportation apparatus, then what was my role supposed to be? To lead Orsted to victory? Maybe everything hinged on me killing Geese? Could be I’m only thinking that because he’s weighing so heavily on my mind in the first place. Geese might not be the only hidden disciple.

Nanahoshi continued, “Having said that, the fact that I couldn’t go home must mean there’s still something left for me to do.”


“And while I realize this is hopeful thinking on my part, I wonder if my final task is to send the Shinohara in the future back home.”

“Wait. What?” She lost me there.

“I mean, that has to be it, right?” Nanahoshi insisted. “I made the apparatus, but if he doesn’t know how to use it, then he won’t be able to return.”

Okay, yeah, I think I follow. Even if we do assume he has some kinda mana tank like me in the future to help, just having the installation itself won’t be enough to actually get it to work. There’s a good chance Perugius won’t be alive anymore by then. I could see what she was getting at, but this whole hypothetical scenario seemed a little too neat. The problem could be easily solved by Nanahoshi penning and leaving a manual which he could then use in the future.

“Or maybe, I’m already in the future,” Nanahoshi said.

Aha, that makes more sense. She couldn’t return home because it would create a time paradox. If she returned now, then her future self wouldn’t be able to exist. And if her future self had helped perpetuate the change in the past, then her future self’s actions and existence would take priority over whatever her past self attempted to do. That would explain why the teleportation installation just abruptly ceased working with no real cause or reason.

Nanahoshi shook her head. “But at the rate things are going, I won’t live another eighty years to see that future. I have this disease I am dealing with, after all.” Her eyes fixed on the corner of the room as she spoke.

I had a bad habit of letting it slip my mind, but her words were a grim reminder of the fact that she was still afflicted by Dryne Syndrome. It was almost like the AIDS of this world. Nanahoshi managed her symptoms by drinking Sokas Grass daily. There was no telling when the disease might progress to something more unmanageable. The chances of her surviving for eight more years were quite slim.

“What are you going to do?” I asked, not for the first time in this conversation.

Nanahoshi sucked in a breath and said, “I’m going to ask Perugius to freeze me in time.”

She was referring to one of Perugius’s spirits—Scarecoat of Time, whose touch was capable of freezing someone in time. If she used Scarecoat’s power, she could survive those long years. It wouldn’t be indefinite; at some point, Laplace would revive and Perugius would launch a full-scale assault to take him down. He wouldn’t have the luxury of wasting a precious resource like Scarecoat when that happened. If everything lined up, it would be eight years from now. Fifty at the most. Orsted would need to take Laplace down as well if he was going to make it to the Man-God. Shinohara would be there to assist with that, which would mean…Nanahoshi would wake up at just the right point in time.

“I’ve made up my mind, Rudeus. I have one last request to make of you.”

I tilted my head. “A request, huh?” Wonder what it could be.

“I want you to take some kind of measure to ensure my existence doesn’t escape Shinohara Akito’s attention. Write about me in a book or erect a monument to me—whatever works. Also, while I know teleportation circles have been forbidden in this world, I would like you to make them public if possible. Continue to research them.”

“Is that really necessary?”

“There’s no guarantee all of the suppositions I’ve made are correct. In fact, it’d be odd if all of them were. Best to assume eighty percent of what I said is nothing but fantasy and take out insurance. That way if everything I’ve said is wrong, I’ll still be able to find a way back home when I wake up.”

She’d worn away my skepticism with her rock-solid logic. I wouldn’t sweat about it being totally accurate, but it made perfect sense. Now, once again using perfect reasoning, she was swaying me toward acting as if none of it were certain. We didn’t even know if Shinohara had been sent to this world like us. Maybe she was wrong and the magic circle just had some flaw in the design. We had reached the highest level of perfection we could manage at this current point in time, but it was perfectly conceivable that there was still something missing—something we wouldn’t be able to overcome without a breakthrough.

“Of course, I still intend to wake several times each year to get an update on present circumstances,” Nanahoshi said. “I am sure things will change while I am…asleep, for lack of a better word, and I may ask you to change tactics at that point.”

Situations did tend to change, after all. Some new information might refute the premise of her thesis entirely.

Besides, I thought, as long as I still draw breath, I want to do whatever I can to see her home. There’s nobody else I’d trust with that letter to my family.

“All right,” I said.


After our conversation, we carefully scrutinized the teleportation apparatus to be absolutely sure there were no issues with it and made one more attempt to send Nanahoshi back to her world. We confirmed everything was as it should be. There were no issues with the apparatus, everything went beautifully…but we failed, nevertheless. It was as though someone was shutting off my mana supply to the apparatus to interfere with our attempt.

I could at least confirm that there were no issues on my end, assuming Perugius was being entirely honest. The only guess I could make was that the interference was coming from someone in the future. I couldn’t imagine how it could be the Man-God’s doing. Whatever the underlying cause, our mission to send Nanahoshi back ended in failure, and that was that.

It was then that Nanahoshi informed Perugius of her plan. I thought he would oppose her decision, but he accepted it quite readily. When she implored him to lend her Scarecoat of Time so she could fall into a deep sleep, there was a momentary flicker of sorrow on his face that smoothed over so quickly it almost made me sad. Once it was gone, he merely muttered, “If that is what you wish.”

It occurred to me that she may have already discussed this possibility with him and made arrangements.

“Well then, Rudeus, Lord Perugius, I leave everything in your capable hands,” Nanahoshi announced before disappearing to her room.

Her plan was to only awaken when Scarecoat’s mana ran out, which would be about once a month. Considering how estranged we had grown over the past few years, no terrible sorrow gripped me at the thought of her absence. For me, it was more like a friend moving far away. I did feel something else, though.

What is this? It makes me feel kind of uneasy.

“Rudeus Greyrat,” Perugius called out, stopping me as I was about to leave the floating fortress, still struggling with my own inner turmoil over this outcome. “I detest the word ‘fate.’”

That seemed sudden and out of nowhere. I soon nodded and said, “Me too.” I didn’t want to think that everything we had accomplished was simply us following someone else’s plan.

“It’s detestable to think that the future clenches its fists around the past. I can scarcely stomach it.” He shot a spiteful look at the door that Nanahoshi had disappeared through moments earlier. “That belief shows scorn for the past and contempt for the present. I refuse to accept it.”

“For having such a strong opinion on the matter, you sure didn’t throw a fit about lending Nanahoshi one of your subordinates,” I said.

“Hmph,” he grunted. The lines of his face hardened as he scrutinized me. “It is my belief that there was something lacking with the circle itself.”

I pursed my lips and refused to comment.

“Nanahoshi seems to have abandoned hope, but I shall not. While she is trapped in a deep sleep, I shall see this magic circle completed—this I swear on my name as the Armored Dragon King.” A fiery determination shone through his dark eyes. “Unfortunately, I lack the substantial mana pool you possess. Thus, Rudeus Greyrat, I shall have you lend me your assistance in this endeavor.”

“I don’t mind helping out. I have to ask, though: Why do you go to such great lengths to support Nanahoshi?”

My question seemed to bring him back to his senses. His expression shifted, and his eyes unfocused, gazing into the far distance. It was as if he himself didn’t know why he was doing this. After a few moments, his brows drew together, indicating that he had some notion as to his own motivations after all.

“To the past, our present is the future. Our past selves brought us to where we are today, and our current selves will continue to build our future. I desire to enlighten my apprentice by showing her the error in her foolish thinking. That is all. I am only idling my time until Laplace’s revival,” Perugius said.

Foolish, huh? Perhaps, from his perspective, Nanahoshi looked like a petulant child sulking because she didn’t get her way. Maybe he thought she was under the illusion that if she just went into deep sleep and woke up later on, something might magically change and solve all her problems for her. He wanted to refute that.

“All right,” I said. “I’ll help out, then.”

“You have my gratitude.”

“No need for that.” I flashed a smile at him, pleased at this little interaction.

Nanahoshi probably wouldn’t return to Japan in my lifetime. However, even if she was never able to go back, at least she had someone to look after her. That warmed my heart.


And thus, Nanahoshi went into a deep and dreamless sleep to await the future. I was left with an uncomfortable tangle of emotions that was hard to tease out. Part of me was relieved that we’d reached an ending. Another part grieved for the same reason.

I wondered if Nanahoshi would have reached this conclusion with or without my involvement. Thinking back on it, my future self had never told me what her fate was. He only danced around the topic with a sorrowful look on his face. I suspected, based on what information I had, that Nanahoshi had never shared her conjecture with him. Perhaps Perugius later told him that she committed suicide, but it was possible that was a front—that she had actually gone into slumber to await the future just as she had this time.

Regardless, this brought one matter to a close at least. Perugius seemed intent on continuing his research, and Nanahoshi seemed equally intent to continue her journey home in the future. For the moment, this was over. Nanahoshi had given the matter consideration and chosen her own path. It was time for me to shift gears and go back to focusing on my role in this.

All right! With that settled, it’s time to head off to see the Sword God, Gall Falion. Eris and I can go together, just the two of us. Best to keep things simple. It did make me a little uneasy to think we would have no back-up, but from what I’d heard, no one in the Sword Sanctum was particularly bright. Taking someone who was an expert at speaking with her fists was the safest option.

Before I took off, I needed to give Orsted my regular report. I wanted to tell him about Nanahoshi’s choice. She’d already told him her theory, but I still needed to give him the final wrap-up.

I made my way straight to Orsted’s office.

“Oh, Chairman Rudeus! A pleasure to see you, sir,” greeted the cheerful receptionist with a bow of the head as soon as I entered the lobby. “The CEO is waiting inside.”

“All right,” I said, not missing a beat as I strolled past her and headed for his office. When I entered, I made sure to politely close the door behind me before turning back to face him. I had my legs perfectly positioned, a shoulder’s width apart, and my arms folded behind me as I stood in front of Orsted, who was seated at his desk. I lowered my head as a show of respect. “I have a report to give you, sir.”

“Very well.”

“Nanahoshi’s attempt to return to her world ended in failure. She believes the cause lies in the future. She has employed the power of Perugius’s subordinate, Scarecoat of Time, to fall into suspended animation.”

“I see.” Orsted slowly pulled his helmet off, then pressed his hand to his temple, breathing out a long sigh. “And what did Perugius say?”

“He insisted that the failure had to be due to some inadequacy in the circle itself. He is determined to continue improving it so that he can see Nanahoshi home.”

He stared at me. “Is that all?”

“Perugius also said that it was absurd for the past to be determined by what takes place in the future.”

“Of course he did. He would say that.” Perhaps it was my imagination, but his voice was unusually full of emotion. Although his expression is just as implacable and his tone just as flat as ever.

“Now that I have heard about Nanahoshi, what do you plan to do?” Orsted asked.

“I’ll give it some more thought, but my present plan is to go to see Sword God Gall Falion. As always, I would appreciate as many details as you can provide.”

“Very well. I have already compiled my knowledge on the man.” He reached into his cabinet and produced a bundle of documents. He was well prepared, as ever. While I appreciated his thoroughness, I got the feeling our roles were kinda reversed here. Wasn’t I supposed to be the one providing such materials, since I was his subordinate? Not that it matters. We’ve come this far doing things this way. Not like it’s gonna change now.

“Thank you, sir. I will gladly make use of them.”

“I wrote in here as well, but just for emphasis—avoid fighting Gall Falion.”

“Yes, sir.”

While one curtain closed on Nanahoshi’s story as she sunk into her torpor, another opened. My somewhat bizarre break came to an end. It was time for me to resume my battle with Geese.

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