Tae Rang, the man who had introduced himself as a daoist, took a deep breath and told a long story.
It had been a month ago.
The great empire and middle kingdom occupied more than half the East Continent, so the speed of transmitting news was slow. Even an express horse would take several months to reach one end of the kingdom to the other, so it had been inevitable.
There were 256 castles that ruled the kingdom, and eight princes reigned over the lords. This feudal style of governance contributed to the slowing down of communication.
There were institutions like the magic towers, but the situation was different from the Western Continent where magic power and by-products were spread widely throughout the continent. The East Continent handled the problem of sending and receiving information using homing pigeons.
“The supreme justice read the heavens and said that a disaster would begin from the capital city.”
Theodore also had the ability to read the heavens, but he urged the daoist to continue.
“That night, the heavenly star was red, and the people in the middle kingdom started to turn into creatures, regardless of their identity, sex, and age.”
It was literally a nightmare.
A prince of the central kingdom had claimed that the kingdom’s population had already reached one billion people. The lords of each province had counted a significant number, and it was clearly over 100 million. What if all these people turned into monsters? Even half of it would be 50 million, and half of that would be 25 million.
A person who couldn’t handle a single wild dog wouldn’t be able to kill a top warrior who had turned into a monster. This catastrophe threatened not just the empire but also the material world.
‘No, the monsters devoured each other, and the survivors protected themselves, like this village. Even so, the number was likely to be reduced considerably.’ Unlike the first time, Theodore heard about the situation and was able to calmly measure the level of the disaster. ‘I haven’t figured out why, but the kingdom is under the influence of the Receptacle of Solitude. When the monsters eat each other, they fill their stomachs, but there is no sign of their power increasing. There is no one to do farming or other matters, so the survivors won’t be able to last a year without sacrificing something.’
In some ways, it was the same with beasts. They had physical abilities several times stronger than that of ordinary humans, and their intelligence was enough to deceive hunters. A tiger or a bear couldn’t be anything other than a predator in the ecosystem.
Then what was a predator’s ‘nemesis?’ Something on the same level as a predator? A quick prey that couldn’t be caught? No, the word ‘nemesis’ wasn’t to that extent. A nemesis was something that couldn’t be overcome. It was an empty stomach.
An environment in which all prey disappeared was deadly to predators, and these monsters were no exception. Once the monsters ran out of humans, wild animals, and wild birds, they would eat their own kind, and the numbers would be reduced.
Theodore got all these answers, but there was one problem left. “...The survivors need to defend themselves so that the monsters can’t fill their hunger.”
Tae Rang’s eyes widened at Theodore’s words. “Y-You are saying the same thing as the supreme justice. I only said a few words so how...?”
“It is obvious when calmly looking at the situation,” Theodore said. Then while ignoring Tae Rang’s eyes which were filled with admiration, Theodore asked about his colleagues who had come ahead of him, “Rather, my colleagues should’ve stopped in this village before me. Did you borrow the strength of those two people?”
“Ah, I’ll explain from here!” Lee Seol spoke on behalf of Tae Rang, who was too busy admiring Theodore. “If you are talking about Theo’s wife and the silver-haired girl, they went to help Hyungkang Castle 300 kilometers to the northwest.”
“Yes! The residents of the castle have changed into monsters. But since there is an outstanding master present, there wasn’t any serious damage. All the nearby survives gathered in Hyungkang Castle along with a judiciary of the royal family.”
As the strongest empire on the East Continent, the lords were competent. The number of monsters that were changed might’ve been small at first, but it wasn’t easy to defend the castle and calm the confused people. However, if there was a master level shaman present, then the castle should be able to have defenses that wouldn’t be easily surpassed.
Nevertheless, there was one reason why extra power was needed.
‘The mutant monsters have master level mana.’ Thinking about it again, Theodore found it strange. The power of a monster shouldn’t change that much after the transformation.
According to the judiciary, there was little difference between a strong warrior and a monster. Then there must be a reason why the mutation was happening.
-User, Gluttony spoke as he came to this conclusion, -I am certain that I know the truth of this phenomenon.
* * *
After Tae Rang finished his story, Theodore asked for understanding from Aquilo and was left alone in a room without anyone else. Theodore confirmed that there was no one around with his senses and a transcendent’s magic. Then he sat in a chair and spoke, “Start.”
Gluttony replied like it had been waiting, -First, this is caused by Lust.
“I guessed. I wasn’t sure until you confirmed it.”
-I was the same. I realized the nature of this phenomenon after receiving a clue from User’s reasoning, Gluttony continued in an excited voice. -Why did the mutations in shamanism occur? Why did the ability of an individual become so different and why is it irrelevant to their life before the change? The key to this question is Lust’s struggle.
-That’s right. It has to do with something you did. It is a little different but similar to the butterfly effect.
‘The butterfly effect?’ Theodore made a confused expression, but Gluttony didn’t explain.
Gluttony raised its voice and exclaimed cheerfully, -Sloth! Prometheus’ arrangement that you performed set fire to Lust. That is what caused this disaster.
“Crazy!” Theodore made a bug-eyed expression as he realized everything in an instant.
Gluttony’s words were right.
By expelling Sloth, the mana concentration of the world would decline significantly after centuries. It was a future that couldn’t be reversed and had struck Lust with a thunderbolt across the ocean. The decline in mana concentration would interfere with the conception of an upper species, blocking the purpose of her existence.
-Thus, Lust started the last chapter. How many children has she given birth to on the East Continent for over a thousand years and how many descendants did they give birth to? Lust has turned on the potential latent in those who inherited her bloodline!
“That is why they turned into monsters?”
-Perhaps. User, don’t you know better than anyone the appearance of monsters? They aren’t monsters but remnants of the parent species. Ulfheðnar, Arv, Vulcan... They were failures who disappointed Lust. Gluttony’s explanation was clear, accurate, and cruel enough to not leave any doubts.
Theodore wasn’t responsible, but he played a role in this catastrophe. The plan to expel Sloth and lower the mana concentration of the world had all come from the god who looked ahead to the future.
Theodore let go of his last protests. “I see.”
He wasn’t swayed by guilt and looked at the reality in front of him. “The mutation comes from the blood of the upper species flowing in their veins. She triggered all the blood relatives in an attempt to draw out a winner, and the monsters are just failures who didn’t become an upper species.”
“I don’t understand the method of throwing everything into an unlikely possibility, but it is a grimoire.” Theodore’s head was cold like the liquid in his brain had been turned into ice water. “...Let’s assume that at least one million people inherited Lust’s blood. Is there the possibility of a winner appearing among them?”
-Well, I can’t calculate it with my ability.
“Hrmm, I guess it is more like gambling than speculation.” However, Theodore’s eyes gleamed. “Can you answer my question, Seimei?”
It was a name that popped up without any context, but no one wondered about it. Gluttony was silent, and no one spoke for a while. Theodore waited a few more seconds before glancing at his left hand. It was a silent demonstration that Theodore would call him using the user’s authority.
[...Ah. Were you waiting for me to comment?] Sure enough, the genderless voice was Seimei’s soul rising to the surface of his consciousness.
“Haven’t I been waiting for a while? I crossed the wall as you stated in your advice. Now that I am a transcendent, you should be able to confide in me. Am I right?"
“The reason you told me not to approach the capital must have something to do with this grimoire.”
As usual, Theodore waited for Seimei to speak on his own. However, Seimei was silent for a few moments. Seeming to sense Theodore’s determination in his words and gaze, Seimei withdrew his hesitation. [I understand. I’ll tell you everything that remains in my memories.]
Theodore’s eyes dimmed, and a person who looked gender neutral appeared in his mind. The person was dressed in white and red, and he had ebony hair and golden eyes. This was the appearance of Abe no Seimei, the strongest onmyōji in Japan.
Seimei greeted Theodore with a blank expression. [Now, I will start from the beginning.]
Despite this being a disturbing story for him, Seimei’s determination didn’t waver. Theodore listened as the old shaman confessed the truth that no one else knew.
[It is as you guessed. I am the child of a yokai and Lust—a person who is a descendant of the white and golden nine-tailed fox, and is neither a human nor yokai.]
He was a half-man, half-yokai. Originally, it was something that shouldn’t be possible. Seimei was an upper species that had been created using Lust’s power.
It was far short of her ultimate goal, but Seimei was a monster who could compete with a dragon when fully grown. Thus, Lust had to raise Seimei well and use him to protect her. Unlike her other failures, she had planned to keep him and even imitated a maternal figure.
However, a problem had occurred in an unexpected place.
[My father saved me.] Seimei smiled as he recalled the proud memory. [Was it because a nine-tailed fox was attracted to a transcendent body or my father’s great paternal instinct? I still don’t know. Personally, I hope it was the latter.]
“Thanks to him, you escaped from Lust’s grasp.”
[Well, that is what happened. You should roughly know what happened next. I hid in Japan and walked the path of a shaman, reaching the level of a transcendent. I instinctively knew that I couldn’t work for my mother.]
Despite being born from a wicked yokai and a grimoire, Abe no Seimei’s nature was just and good. He couldn’t stand injustice and rescued the weak.
At that time, Japan was a small place consisting of several villagers, rather than a kingdom. It was the advent of the onmyōjis, led by Seimei. After a century of hard work and struggles, he settled in Japan with his successor and completed his organization.
[I thought I could win.]
Lust exercised absolute power over her bloodline, but she couldn’t interfere with a transcendent who had been removed from the framework of cause and effect. Abe no Seimei had crossed the border with that conviction. He had passed through the lands of the empire, defeating everyone who went against him and entered the capital. Seimei had become incomparable from when he escaped from the empire, and he wanted to destroy his mother.
After revealing all nine of his tails, he had called down a meteor shower to hit the imperial palace in the heart of the capital. Then he was defeated.
[...It was my first and last mistake.]
Seimei erased the smile on his lips.