(Shit shit shit!)
With Claret happily clinging onto my shoulders again, we were flying through the skies again as quickly as I could manage. Alicia was giving out constant exclamations as she enjoyed being able to see the environment while Claret gave me directions back towards the wagon.
It seemed the little seven year old didn't have any fear of heights thankfully. Most likely it was because she had no learned recognition of what height looked like. She wasn't able to connect the feeling of height she had learned with what she was seeing.
Well, that was better for me, as she wasn't scared at all with us flying so quickly while occasionally skimming the tops of some of the hills.
As we got close, I activate [Materialize] before dropping down near Mint's wagon.
Just as I landed, Mint yelled out and everyone gathered immediately from positions further around. It looked like they had already closed camp and was ready to move out at any moment.
"What in god's name happened?!"
"That's right! We woke up and we couldn't find you anywhere!"
"The imps were crying out so much! There must've been a huge horde of them fighting nearby!"
(It figured that they'd go for the main topic right off the bat.)
"Ah, umm, sorry. That was my fault."
"Ah, ummm, well, I was checking something out, and accidentally killed an imp. And after that..."
"Haaa. Well, it seems like you got out of that fine. I suppose that's a testament to your strength? It's good that everything went well, but please be careful next time. When imps call for reinforcements, you never know how many may show up. Some of the groups can also become distracted by other targets and cause collateral damage even when you purposely try to draw them away from friendlies as well."
"Ah, umm, alright. I'll be careful."
I wasn't at fault. I wasn't at fault in regards to this, but it was a good thing to know. But it really wasn't my fault. It was entirely an accident that I fell on one of them after all.
With that, we grouped up and made our way through the rest of the craggy hills, emerging out the other side as the sky was starting to turn a different colour. It seemed like normally they were able to cross the hills while the sun was still high in the sky, so I apologized once again for delaying everything.
We set up camp a small distance away from the hills, and like before, I volunteered to handle the full night watch. While the others protested since I had not only been up all day to help with the day escort but even had less sleep because I ended up with the last watch the night before and was the only one to fight monsters on top of that. They backed off once I insisted that it was in apology for making a mess of things the day before and waking everybody up because of my fight in the morning.
They didn't seem very satisfied with my argument, but I continued to press my point until they all gave up. It wasn't like we hadn't been doing this the entire time up to then anyways.
<You're still cooking even though you can't eat normal food Scarlet?>
After everyone went to bed, I was laying on my back while staring at the stars. Claret laid her head on my belly as I slowly stroked her hair.
"Ah, yea. I figured I'd do something to put me in their good graces."
<Master, I think you can talk to Alicia through your thoughts instead of speaking out loud.>
The dark spirit pointed out that theory when I whispered my answer out.
<Oh, can you hear me?>
<Claret, can you hear Alicia fine as well?>
<I can, Master>
<I wonder how that works.>
<I don't know. I can't even see my own status anymore, but your status show up whenever I try, Scarlet. They're even more amazing than I imagined.>
<You have an idea Claret?>
<Master, maybe it's because you're sharing your body with Alicia that she counts as part of the familiar contract with me?>
<Ah, that makes sense. In theory, you should be able to use any of my skills in your current state after all Alicia.>
<Really? Wow, there's so many skills I've never heard of before.>
<Well, some of them aren't even...oh yea.>
<What is it Master?>
Considering how things were now, it was probably impossible for me to keep my secrets from these two. No, even more than that, considering the kind of things we said to each other the morning before, I didn't want to keep these sort of things secret from them.
<There's a few things I haven't told anyone, even to you two, but I don't want to keep it a secret anymore.>
<What is it?>
Claret trembled on my belly. She probably wasn't angry or sad because I kept a secret from her. No, I was pretty sure that wasn't the reason.
<I kinda told Claret a bit of it, but I wanted to expand on it and make it all entirely clear for the two of you. First of all, I remember my previous life.>
<Master! You finally remember it then!?>
<Ah, no, it's probably not what you're thinking Claret. You said that you were sure that I'm the same Scarlet that you originally served, right?>
<No doubt at all! Your body looks different, but there's no way I can mistake your soul for any other!>
<You and the saint Scarlet are the same person?>
<Ah, well, what I think happened, is that I was once the same one you talked about in your stories Alicia...>
<You're even more amazing than I ever though!>
<Isn't she? Master is the most amazing in the entire world!>
That was a completely different direction than what I planned.
<Well, I don't know about how amazing that is, since I don't remember any of it.>
(Aaaand in a single sentence I feel like I just stepped on a kitten.)
<Umm...anyways, that aside, so what I think happens when someone dies is that their soul gets reborn into a new body. And I think after that happened a few times, I cheated the gods and managed to be reborn without having my memories erased.>
<Umm...then...in the end you remember your last life as well as this one?>
I confirmed Alicia's thoughts.
<That's pretty amazing!>
<Well, I think I got lucky though.>
<Even still! Ah, but did you say gods? As in more than one?>
<Ah, yea. I don't know what people believe normally around here, but I think that there's quite a few gods, and a bunch of them manage the reincarnation cycles.>
<Well, figures that damn church is wrong.>
It seemed like Claret's anger towards my predecessor's death touched even something as far separated as the entire organization even after so many years.
<Umm, anyways, while I don't remember more than one life ago, I do remember that much, and the process I went through to reincarnate.>
<Then, what sort of life did you have before?>
<Ah, umm, it's kinda hard to explain, since it was a different world, but I lived my entire life in a huge, enormous city. I didn't really do anything special for work though. I just made food for others.>
Thinking back, I lead a pretty useless life. I've never had anything but an ordinary dead-end job, never dated anyone, I wasn't even that close to my parents by the time I died. In fact, the only remarkable thing I could put a claim on was that I had died from overwork while pursuing my dream. A dream that was clearly dead even before I was.
Frankly, it was a pretty depressing life when I thought about it. It wasn't like I was even satisfied with anything about it. That was probably what made me try developing my own game. Not like I really enjoyed it in the end though. And by the time I had realized that, I had gotten to the point that I had gambled too much to just throw it away.
<Is that why you're so good at cooking?>
<Ah, no. Where I worked, the recipes were really simple and anyone could learn it quickly. I learned how to cook at home since I didn't have much money. Oh, right, I was a human in my previous life, so I ate food like normal rather than blood.>
<You were human? Then, the food you made for me...>
<Yea, they were things I remembered from my previous life. Not all of them were things I had made back then, but I liked to read all sorts of things back then as well.>
It was nothing but a hobby of mine back then. Looking up random things that caught my eye. Learning about how things worked, how they were made. The internet was really a blessing and I felt like I really took advantage of it. To have thought that so much of that random knowledge would have come to use for me.
Well, it wasn't like a ton of that knowledge wasn't useless even in my new life though. Knowing four ways to make a primitive house and seven ways to start a fire was completely useless when I could do both in seconds with magic.
But if I had to pick, then it was better that I did spend that time doing it. The fact that it was enjoyable was a nice bonus. Rather, since it was enjoyable, I wouldn't have stopped doing so even if people told me that such knowledge wouldn't ever come in handy.
<I see. But you ate that sort of food all the time, didn't you? What an amazing world you must have come from.>
<Ah, well, I guess it was pretty advanced in a lot of ways.>
<I'd have liked to have seen it.>
<Hmm? Maybe you did in a previous life? It seems like all the worlds are connected in some way so you may have spent a lifetime in my previous world as well.>
<Maybe we might have met in a previous life then Scarlet?>
<...If I died right after you did, would I have been able to live my next life by your side Master?>
As we were talking, Claret suddenly spouted out something way darker than I had expected. Her body trembled, and something wet seeped through my robes.
<Would I have been able to follow you to the next life if I more devoted when I found your remains Master? If, if only, I challenged the hero and died, or thought to follow after you immediately, you wouldn't have had to go on alone? I, I...>
Sitting up, I smacked the tearful spirit across the head, then firmly held her shoulders as I looked into her eyes.
<Most likely, I think the other Scarlet would've thought so too, but I would definitely hate it if I died and you decided to follow after me. Or even if you tried to get revenge against an opponent you stood no chance. I'd be the one full of regrets if people did things like after I died, alright?>
I pulled Claret into my chest, muffling any words she tried to say.
<Don't be caught up with your past Claret. Don't think about changing such a past. Because your past, your entire past, makes up the current you. Don't think about what could've happened, and instead move forward and keep living. You don't know what would've happened if you died then. You didn't know about reincarnation, and even if you did, there's no way to know how things would've ended up. In my last world, there were seven billion people. Even if you managed to go to the same world, out of who knows how many worlds, the chances you would've been born near me would've been minuscule. Don't gamble everything on the unknown, and instead do what you can with what you do know. Alright?>
<That's a good girl.>
I stroked Claret's head as she nodded. After a few moments, she poked her face out of my crevice and gave me a bright smile.
<Ehehe. You always did give the best lectures. You used to do it so much>
I froze at her words. She was talking about the previous Scarlet again. The only other previous me I was consciously aware of was the one that died broke and all alone, with all his dreams shattered. I gritted my teeth.
(I'm not that Scarlet. I'm my own person. I'm a different person. Any similarities are either coincidences or just common traits.)
The very idea that there was a ghost of another person guiding my thoughts and actions didn't sit well with me. It was like depriving me of my free will. Maybe, maybe it was because of the few things I actually had, my own freedom was the one thing I had never lost in my previous life. Because of that, the very thought of having even that taken away, or denied entirely, irked me.
<Is something the matter Master?>
<No, it's nothing.>
(But its not her fault. She didn't mean anything malicious by what she said, in fact she probably thought of it as a compliment.)
I averted my eyes and just continued to stroke her hair.
<Anyways, the other thing I wanted to tell you two, was something I managed to steal from the gods when I came here.>
<Master! Not only did you manage to come back to life with the memories of your last life, but you even stole something form them?!>
<Wow! Maybe you're actually pretty close in ability to the gods then?>
<Ah, no, I doubt it. Even this bit I just got lucky on, and was originally more like a souvenir than anything.>
<Mmm? So what did you steal then?>
<Ah, it was something called [Administrator Rights].>
<Yea. I don't really know much about it, but the main thing it lets me do is manipulate the skill system.>
It looked like I was being a bit too abstract in how I was explaining things.
<The main things I know how to do is altering and making new skills.>
<Master! That's the realm of god himself! You've really taken a step into godhood! You were always so incredible, but to reach even those heights were more than I imagined!>
<That's just exaggerating. I can't even use the authority that well.>
<I think she's right there. Being able to alter the rules of the world is something only god could do. The fact that you can means you're the closest existence to him in the world.>
<...if you put it that way, I suppose.>
I wasn't very satisfied with such an idea, but the basic premise was true. At the very least, I did have the power to completely mess up this world. Not like I would ever do that though.
<Well, it was thanks to this ability that I was able to save you Alicia, so I'm really thankful to having it.>
<I see. You really are more and more like a god then, since you've defied death twice now.>
<Ah well, I suppose. Well, I can't take full credit for it, since it was thanks to Claret that I was able to create the new skill to bring you back like this Alicia. I was only able to prevent you from entering the reincarnation cycle by myself.>
<Master, you give me too much credit. I only serve you.>
<Take it. It's true that I hadn't figured it out on my own, and without your clue, who knows how long it would've taken me to make this skill.>
I gave the dark spirit a quick kiss on the forehead as I continued to brush her hair. Claret froze on the spot as her face turned like a boiled octopus. The moment when I thought she unfroze and recovered, the dark spirit gave me a dopey smile before burying her face in between my cleavage.
(Super effective, huh?)
That was probably something I should keep up my sleeve for the future.
<Ah, but now that I think about it, the skill didn't work out so great at first.>
<Oh right. When I woke up, my head started to hurt so much. Everything was so confusing and painful.>
That was right. I couldn't think or focus on anything, and was mostly just stumbling around with the world's biggest hangover. While I fed on that hydra because I was desperate to get rid of the pain, to think that it actually fixed everything.
<I'm sorry. It's my fault you two had to suffer like that. If only I was smart enough to figure out what was wrong.>
<It's not your fault Claret. None of us knew what had happened and why. You shouldn't blame yourself.>
<It's just like what Alicia said. There was no way to have...ah, there it is.>
<There what is Master?>
Looking through my updated skill list, I found out what it was that I had to give my thanks to.
<The problem was that when I activated my new skill, there were two minds working within one body. The fix to that actually came from that hydra.>
<Yup. Hydras have nine heads, so that means they have nine minds. Though they do have nine brains as well and their intelligence doesn't seem to be that high, it's possible that their combined brains is still not enough to handle their nine minds. Especially when it comes to coordinating.>
<Then that means that they have a skill to make up for that?>
<Bingo. One of the skills I got from them was [Parallel Thought]. It's the skill to think multiple thoughts at the same time.>
<So before, your head couldn't handle both of our minds at the same time, which is why it hurt so much?>
<That's my guess. None of these other skills I got from the hydra could've helped us, and I can't even use most of them.>
I was really thankful for that hydra. Not only did it give me the best meal in a while, but it fixed the very problem I was having at the time.
<Well, anyways, those are the two big secrets I had.>
<You're really more amazing than I could've ever imagined Scarlet.>
<Maybe, though it doesn't really feel like it since I really just got lucky on a bunch of it.>
If that guard guy way back when didn't get distracted by the person in front of me, I most likely wouldn't have had the chance to do anything at all. Fundamentally it all started by a single stroke of luck.
<Uuuu...I wish I had some sort of big secret I could share with you Master.>
<Now that I think about it, it might not be something big to you, but when I healed you, your clothes fixed themselves up. How come?>
<Ah, these clothes? The clothes of a greater spirit is made from their own mana, so when I recovered thanks to you and my mana was restored, my clothes were fixed up at the same time.>
<Never having to get new clothes because they're made from your own body sounds nice.>
I was in complete agreement with Alicia.
<Ehehe. When I evolved, my entire appearance was copied from you. Normally the greater spirit's appearances is based on the mana that they eat before they evolve, but that only applies to our core bodies. So when I needed to make clothes for myself, I copied your favourite robes!>
Claret extracted herself from my arms and did a slow twirl, ending in a cute pose.
<Is, is that so?>
(Is it just a coincidence that they're black robes just like what I'm wearing?)
<That's incredible! So then you look just like the Scarlet from the stories then?>
<Yup! Besides my eyes and teeth, I look exactly like Master did before! She looked really amazing, didn't she?>
<Really amazing! Ah, but then if you say eyes and teeth?>
<Yup, she was a vampire too! You must really like being a vampire being one again in this life Master!>
<Ah, well, it is convenient in various ways.>
I didn't really know what to think about her words. This life aside, I really doubted the previous Scarlet had a choice as to what race she was.
<Oh, Claret! Could you tell us all about the time you were with Scarlet in her previous life?>
<I'd love to! We were together for a long time, so there's a ton! Ummm, let's see...>
Following that, Alicia and I spent the next day and a half listening to Claret's first hand accounts of many of the previous Scarlet's adventures. It was a bit scary how absent-minded she seemed to have been at times.
On the other hand, her philanthropy was pretty awe inspiring. It made sense why she was considered a saint, even if sometimes the results were purely accidental, or obviously selfishly motivated. I had definitely done a few acts of generosity, but they paled in sheer scale to the other Scarlet. And that didn't even take into consideration the sheer number of them either, though she had a few hundred years to do them, so it wasn't fair to compare.
But Claret sang her praise so enthusiastically that it was quite difficult to get her to stop or at least skip some of the stories. The way she said all the stories in second person as if she was telling me what I myself had done was in particular annoying, but I gave up trying to get her to stop after the seventh time.
Some things she was good at, but treating me as someone different from the other Scarlet was so beyond her that it felt like the sun would engulf the world before that would happen.
With another internal sigh, I pulled myself out from the tarps in the back of the wagon late in the evening when the adventurer girl tried to wake me.
It seemed like our destination was in sight, and so there wasn't any point in me resting for a night watch that wouldn't happen.
Unfortunately that didn't stop Claret's quite extended story time, nor Alicia egging her on to tell her next story.
Once again I sighed internally.
I wouldn't have minded it so much if the dark spirit at least wouldn't tell the stories as if they were my personal exploits.