Feeling the sensation of water dripping against his cheek and flowing into his mouth, Hajime gradually regained his consciousness. While thinking that it was unbelievable, he slowly opened his eyes.
(…I’m alive? …I’m saved?)
While getting up doubtfully, his head hit the low ceiling of the hole.
Only now did he recall that the hole he created was only approximately fifty centimeter high. Hajime raised his hand towards the ceiling, planning to continue transmuting to increase the height. However, he just noticed at this moment, that what entered his vision, was only ONE shaky arm.
Hajime was momentarily stunned, only after a short while did he recall how he had lost his left arm. At that instant, he felt unbearable pain from his nonexistent left arm. But that was just a hallucination. Hajime dejectedly hung his head and reflexively pressed on his left arm. However he realized that the wound where his arm was torn off did not have any exposed flesh or blood, it had already healed.
“W-why? …And it was bleeding so much too…”
Though it couldn’t be seen in the dark, Hajime was sure that he was in a sea of blood. That amount of blood lost would have normally killed anyone. Using his right hand to trace his surroundings, the slippery sensation told him that the blood hadn’t dried yet.
Confirming that the blood which had not dried was indeed from his wound, Hajime judged that he was not out for long. While Hajime was pondering about his wound’s recovery, another water droplet dripped onto his cheek and into the corner of his mouth. The moment it entered his mouth, Hajime noticed that his strength slightly recovered.
“…No way… is this?”
Hajime endured the phantom pain as he raised his right arm towards where the water was dripping from and transmuted. He transmuted unsteadily and advanced deeper. The unexpected thing was that, the liquid that was seeping through the rocks seemed to be able to even recover magic power, he did not exhaust his magic power no matter how much he transmuted. Without resting, Hajime was perspiring heavily as he kept transmuting in search for the water source. Before long, there was a significant increase in the flow of the mysterious liquid, the droplets eventually became a stream, and advancing even further, Hajime finally arrived at the water source.
“This… this is…”
There was a basketball-sized crystal with a bluish-white luminescence. The crystal has been buried among the surrounding rocks, dripping water from the bottom end. It was a mysterious yet captivating stone. A blue radiance even deeper than aquamarine, is the most fitting expression. Hajime was instantly mesmerized, forgetting his pain.
It could have been dependency, or possibly attraction, Hajime reached out and placed his mouth directly on the stone. The dull pain in his body and the haze in his mind was cleared, even his fatigue was gone. As expected, the reason behind Hajime’s survival was due to the liquid flowing out from the stone. The liquid seemed to have healing properties. Other than the imaginary pain, all other injuries had recovered in the blink of an eye.
What Hajime didn’t know was that, this crystal is in fact the highest grade treasure known in history, called the 【God Crystal】, and was recognised as an already lost legendary mineral. God Crystals are formed from the flow of magic power in the vast earth over thousands of years which coincidentally accumulated, it is the crystallization of magic power itself. Ranging in thirty to forty centimeter in diameter, after crystallization, it will take another few hundred years for it to reach saturation before magic power will begin to overflow in liquid form. This liquid is called 【Sacred Water】, it is said that drinking it would cure all forms of injuries and diseases. Though it did not have the ability to regenerate lost body parts, drinking it consistently is said to give everlasting life, and could truly be called the drug of immortality. Ancient tales which tells of Eht using sacred water to heal the people were widely known.
Personally experiencing the feeling of barely returning from the abyss of death, Hajime wearily dragged his body to lean against the wall. The fear of dying took over, causing his entire body to quaver as he hugged his knees and buried his face in them. Both his heart and body were thoroughly spent, he no longer had any energy to escape.
If what directed toward him was not hostility and malice, but a helping hand, there was still a chance of regaining himself. However, the look on the Talon Bear was out of the question, it only saw Hajime as fodder, the eyes of a predator. Standing at the apex of the food chain, it hardly saw humans as a threat. Those eyes, combined with the fact that he had his arm eaten, broke Hajime’s spirit.
(Someone… save me…)
Here, in the bottom of the abyss, Hajime’s words would never reach anybody…
After some time, Hajime was now lying with his side on the ground, curled up tight like a foetus.
Four days had passed since Hajime’s breakdown. All that time, Hajime had hardly moved, surviving solely on the trickling stream of sacred water. However, drinking sacred water for a long duration also had its limits, though he was kept alive, it wasn’t able to erase hunger. He wouldn’t die, but Hajime was now suffering from the immense hunger and the phantom pain of his missing left arm.
(How did I end up like this?)
This question went through his mind countless times for the past few days. He couldn’t sleep due to the pain and hunger, which he recovered by lifting his head to drink the sacred water, but after recovery he would once again experience a fresh sense of pain and hunger. Over and over again, he would fall asleep and lose his consciousness, only to be awoken by the pain and hunger, then he would drink the sacred water to escape reality. His body was bogged in agony. How many times had it been, repeating between light sleep and awakening.
Before he noticed it, Hajime had stopped drinking the sacred water. He had unconsciously selected the easiest way to end his suffering.
(If I have to continue suffering like this… I might as well…)
His innermost thoughts murmured as his consciousness fell into darkness again.
Another three days had passed and the once subdued hunger struck again. The phantom pain had been torturing him ceaselessly, chipping at his spirit. The unbearable pain felt was almost as if someone was scraping at his wound.
(Why…am I not dead yet… Ah, faster, faster…I don’t want to die…)
Torn apart by his contradictory wish to die and desire to live, the Hajime now, could no longer think clearly and was muttering deliriously.
It had been another three days. The effects of the sacred water that he last drank had already depleted. He had not drunk any water, much less eat anything and probably couldn’t last another two days.
However, just a little while ago, on the eighth day, Hajime’s mind began to experience changes. Alternating between his wish to die and live, he single mindedly waited for this hell-like torture to end, but a murky darkness bubbled forth from within. That slime-like substance flowed through the cracks caused from all that fear and pain, eroding the innermost depths of Hajime’s mind.
(Why do I have to suffer… what have I done to deserve this…)
(Why did I receive such treatment… for what reason…)
(God kidnapped me unreasonably…)
(My classmate betrayed me…)
(A rabbit looked down on me…)
(That fellow ate me…)
Hajime’s thinking was gradually dyed blacker and blacker. Like an ink drop on a white canvas, staining the once pure Hajime. Whose fault was it, who forced all these unreasonable happenings onto him, who hurt him… unconsciously searching for an enemy. The intense pain and hunger, as well as the enclosed dark space, corroded Hajime’s spirit, further accelerating those dark feelings.
(Why didn’t anyone help me…)
(What should I do if no one helps?)
(What should I do to make this pain disappear?)
Ninth day. Hajime unconsciously began to think of a way to break out this current situation. Desperately wishing to be released from the intense pain, he began ignoring all the unnecessary feelings of anger and hatred that was pent up. Now was not the time to be caught up with those feelings. The pain that he was experiencing was not lessened even by a little with the blackening of his heart. In order to escape from this unreasonable circumstance, he must cut off any unnecessary emotions.
(What do I want?)
(I want ‘to live’.)
(Who’s stopping it?)
(The enemy interferes.)
(Who’s the enemy?)
(Those who interferes, and all those who forced me into this unreasonable situation)
(But what should I do?)
(I will, I will…)
Tenth day. There was no longer any anger or hatred left in Hajime’s mind. That unreasonable god, his classmate’s betrayal, monsters’ hostilities… even the smiling face of that someone who said would protect him… all of it didn’t matter anymore. In order to live, in order to earn the right to survive, everything else was trivial. Consolidating his thoughts, he came up with one answer. Like a tempered blade, sharp and strong, ripping apart everything in existence. In other words…
It wasn’t out of malice, animosity, or hatred. It was a pure killing intent, to simply kill to survive. All those who threaten his survival are enemies, and enemies I,
(KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL, )
In order to escape from this hunger,
(Kill and Devour!)
As of this moment, the honest and gentle guy who was always solves confrontations by apologizing with a wry smile, the Nagumo Hajime which Kaori said was strong, had completely crumbled.
And a new Nagumo Hajime, who for survival, would mercilessly eliminate all obstacles, was born. His mind which had been shattered into pieces became one again, however, it wasn’t one that was pieced back together, but merely a mended one, full of scars. In the darkness of the abyss, melted by pain and despair, his mind was instinctively reforged stronger than ever.
Hajime struggled to move his completely weakened body, lapping up the sacred water which had accumulated for the past few days from the ground like a dog. Though it couldn’t cure his hunger or phantom pain, vitality returned to his body.
With glistening eyes, Hajime roughly wiped his wet mouth, and a fearless smile floated on his face, revealing his canines. It was a perfect representation of a sudden change. Hajime got up, while transmuting, he muttered once again.
In a certain place within the labyrinth was packs of twin-tailed wolves. Twin-tailed wolves tend to move in packs of four to six. This is because individually, it is the weakest magic beast of this level, thus they have to supplement that by working in packs. This pack of twin-tailed wolves was no exception, forming a group of four.
While wary of their surroundings and moving under the cover of the rock wall, they were searching for a good hunting ground. The basic hunting method for twin-tailed wolves was an ambush. After wandering about for a while, the twin-tailed wolves found a satisfactory hunting spot and hid separately at four different corners, underneath the shadow of the rock wall. Next, is to wait for the prey to arrive. One of them slid itself between a rock and the wall to kill its presence, while waiting for the prey to arrive, it suddenly felt a sense of discomfort.
Since cooperation was essential for the twin-tailed wolves’ survival, they had their own unique form of communication. Though it couldn’t be used to communication effectively, they would at least be able to understand each other’s intentions regardless of their locations. It felt that something was off, they should have been a pack of four, but it could only feel the presence of three. One of them, who should have been waiting at the opposite side of the wall, had suddenly vanished.
What’s going on? While embracing this kind of suspicion, it heard its companion’s scream just as it was about to put strength into lifting its crouching body. At the same side of the wall where its other companion disappeared, another wolf was feeling frustrated, it seemed to have been caught in something and was struggling to escape, but was unable to get out. Just as the remaining two was about to get up to help, the presence of the struggling wolf vanished as well.
Confused, they hurried to the opposite side of the wall to check, but there was absolutely nothing there. The two remaining wolves were puzzled and attempted to use their noses to sniff out where their vanished companions were previously hiding. At that moment, the ground suddenly depressed and the wall protruded as if it wanted to swallow them. Though they instantly jumped away, but after they landed, their feet sunk into the ground, keeping them fixed in place. It would usually be an easy task for them smash the ground and escape, however they were too overwhelmed by the abnormal events that had never happened before as it was their first time being captured. The assailant thought of using the chaos to create a moment of stiffness, and the captured wolves gave him that chance.
The wolves’ cries was swallowed by the wall, and then, nothing was left.
The person who caught the four twin-tailed wolves was Hajime, of course. From the day he decided to retaliate, Hajime has been suppressing his hunger and phantom pain. While drinking sacred water to survive, he has been repeatedly training his transmutation with that inexhaustible magic power. Faster, more precise, more extensive. He would easily die if he goes out now, with the small cave that has the God Crystal as his training base, he refined his weapon bit by bit. Needless to say, his weapon is transmutation.
Though he was laying low, it also meant that he had to endure the random pain attacks. Hajime had to concentrate to his limits in order to resist that hunger and phantom pain. As a result of his training, his speed and accuracy is now several times higher, and he can transmute up to a range of about three meter. However, the offensive power such as that of earth magic, remained as useless as ever.
Using small processed containers made from stone to store sacred water, Hajime explored the labyrinth while marking his way with transmutation. That was when he found the four twin-tailed wolves. Tailing the pack of twin-tailed wolves, there were a few times when he was almost discovered, but each time, he was somehow able to escape into the walls using transmutation. Aiming at the moment when the four wolves were separated for their ambush, he transmuted the wall and his trap was set.
“What, they’re still alive? Well, my transmutation has almost zero direct killing power. Even the stone spikes I transmute does not have enough power or speed to kill the magic beasts here.”
Hajime peeked through the small hole by his feet with glittering eyes. The twin-tailed wolves were literally “in the wall”, trapped by rocks on all sides, they could barely move and could only show their irritation with their low wails.
He had in fact tried attacking the magic beasts by transmuting near their feet, but the power and speed of the stone spikes was absolutely lacking to even pierce them, it was hardly efficient enough for practical use. However, that’s in the realm of earth magic. Transmutation is only a refinement magic, and it is illogical to require killing power during refinement processes. Thus, being able to restrain them like this was the best that he could do now.
“Suffocating them like this is fine… but I can’t wait any more”
Hajime’s lips pursed into a smile, his eyes completely that of a predator. He pressed his right hand against the wall and began using transmutation magic. Cutting rocks and focusing on a clear mental image, he continued to work bit by bit. Eventually, the completed product was that of a thin spiral spear, but he enhanced it even further by adding additional parts and something akin to a steering wheel was attached to the handle of the spear.
“Here I go~ Take this, and that!”
Hajime stabbed the spear towards the twin-tailed wolves trapped underground. However the spearhead was easily repelled by the tough skin and fur.
“As expected. It really couldn’t pierce through.”
Why not a knife or even a sword. Basically, the stronger the magic beast, the harder it is. Of course, there were also plenty of exceptions, depending on the different species’ unique characteristics. In order to compensate for his incompetence, he had placed his emphasis on studying and learning. He had already guessed that ordinary knifes and swords were useless against the magic beasts of this level.
Hence, Hajime turned the wheel which was attached to the handle of the spear, round and round, the spiral spearhead began to rotate. Yes, this was a drill that takes into consideration the way to break through the magic beasts’ hard skin. Desperately turning the handle while adding his body weight onto it, little by little, the tip of the spear began to sink into the skin of the twin-tailed wolf.
The twin-tailed wolf screamed.
“Is it painful? Or do you want me to apologize? I am doing this to survive. Wouldn’t you guys eat me too? We are the same.”
Saying that, he rotated the drill even further while adding his body weight. Although the twin-tailed wolf struggled to move, it was impossible as it had been completely buried without the slightest gap.
Finally, the drill broke through the hard skin of the twin-tailed wolf, mercilessly destroying its insides. The two-tailed wolf raised a death throe, it lasted for sometime and suddenly, with a final spasm, it stopped moving.
“And, that’s food secured!”
Smiling delightfully as he ended the other three wolves using the same method, Hajime used transmutation to retrieve the carcasses of the twin-tailed wolves and while handicapped with one hand, he peeled off its fur.
Motivated by his hunger, he began to eat.