Once more, the round table in Alvheim. Just in case my gambit failed, I wanted to make sure there was a backup plan. As a result, I gathered the major pieces in this story to set up the reversal.
Aultry, Elio, Krozma, Xinxin, and myself.
Well, it was originally going to be Erik, but Xinxin steadfastly kicked him out and took his spot.
Aultry slumped onto the table, palming his head. “My baby girl…”
Elio looked at me and said, “Judging by the fact that you went out of your way to have Miss Faith retrieve us… as well as Aultry’s condition.” He looked at the bandages wrapped around the elven king’s body and said, “I presume something happened.”
I nodded. “Not just something. Someone. That Goddess you mentioned decided to show up.”
Elio froze and then narrowed his eyes. “…I take it the encounter didn’t end as you thought it would.” He glanced over at Aultry and said, “And from your appearance and expression, I guess she took your daughter as her next avatar?”
Aultry slammed his fist on the table. “Dammit! What are we supposed to do against a goddess like that?!” He turned to me and said, “If even you and the Heaven-Seizer couldn’t act, then…?” His face filled with despair and he hung his head.
Krozma huffed and leaned back in his chair. “Isn’t it simple? Goddess or not, we just have to kill her.” He looked around the room and said, “If we mobilize all of our forces, it shouldn’t be an issue.”
Xinxin rolled her eyes. “You should stop playing tough, Mister Demon Lord. A ‘King’ should stay put. Besides…” She shifted her gaze to Aultry and said, “I don’t think he would appreciate it very much if we killed his precious ‘baby girl’.”
Aultry suddenly stood up and glared at Krozma. “Demon Lord. If you so much as think about harming her…!”
Krozma held up his hands. “Fine, fine… But could someone give me a proper explanation? What exactly happened?”
I cleared my throat and said, “Allow me to explain. In short.” I turned towards Elio and said, “It seems that there was a goddess from a fallen universe that managed to persist somehow in this world. By helping the Emperor over there, she steadily regained some of her power. Correct?”
Elio winced and slowly nodded. “…Yes. As much as I hate to admit it, that is indeed how it turned out.”
Krozma frowned. “So what? Shouldn’t Lady Serena be able to handle a foreign invader?”
I nodded. “That should be the case. But the problem is… This Goddess is the source of Serena’s divinity. Or rather, Serena became a Goddess because of that fallen one.”
“…I don’t follow.”
Xinxin’s eyes widened. “I see! It’s like the ancient inheritances that experts leave behind!”
“Kind of.” I frowned and said, “I don’t know how it happened, but it seems like Serena’s divinity is derived from that goddess’s.”
Aultry looked at me and said, “But why did she have to take Aria?! Why my baby girl?”
“…Because Aria is Serena’s vessel.”
Aultry blinked. “P-Pardon?”
It was something that kept bothering me. Why that princess seemed so attached to me, why her soul was incomplete, and why Serena placed such an emphasis on her…
“…I think Serena planned to incarnate as Aria- No, I think that Aria is actually a fragment of Serena.”
I remembered the tired look Serena had in our talks, both in my memory and that guy’s.
Persisting for so long while not originally being a Goddess… surely that would take its toll. Aria was probably a way to live out life again as a mortal.
Aultry froze and muttered. “That… would explain quite a bit…”
I nodded and said, “Since Aria is Serena’s mortal incarnation, and since Serena’s divinity is derived from that Goddess…”
“…Then it would be a hassle,” Krozma finished. “Hm. I see the issue. But even so… Can we not just kill her regardless? If the situation is that dire, then-“
“We are not killing my baby girl!”
Xinxin sighed and shook her head. “I can see where Nero gets his lack of tact… but if it is as Sifu says, even if we do kill this Goddess as she is now, I doubt that it would solve the issue.”
Elio nodded. “I concur with Miss Faith. Celeste… Since none of you have interacted with her, you wouldn’t know. But that woman is both sly, cunning, and as stubborn as a roach. She is also particularly skilled at faking deaths.” He narrowed his eyes. “I would know.”
“…Then what do we do?” Krozma crossed his arms. “Do we contact Lady Serena directly to fight that other goddess?”
I shook my head. “It wouldn’t work even if we did. Like I said, the goddess is the source of Serena’s powers. Instead… I have an idea- Or rather, a gambit to make. But just in case it fails, I wanted to inform you of the situation so that we can make preparations to fight in the worst case scenario.”
Aultry looked upset at that declaration, but let out a resigned sigh.
Elio looked at me. “A gambit?”
“That’s right.” I glanced at him and said, “Seeing how whimsical that woman is, I’m guessing she enjoys games, right?”
Elio scoffed. “That’s an understatement if I ever heard of one. Even helping me unite the North was one giant game for her.” He paused. “…Wait. Why are you asking.”
The Lost Woods. Specifically, the broken down Door of Immortality.
“Are you sure about this, Sifu?” Xinxin stared at the door and then back at me, frowning.
I nodded. “I’m sure.”
The Door of Immortality. It was broken in this world, but in the Xia Dynasty, it led directly to Serena’s domain.
If it appeared anywhere else in the world, Serena would immediately notice and descend to meet the person trying to crossover using it.
That was true even here in this world where the Laws had completely changed. After all, it was an obvious thing that she would have to be blind to miss.
But right now we were in the Lost Woods. A place away from divine sight, and also the place where time and space could become tangled up together.
“…So this is why I kept Information Concealment even afterwards, huh?”
It was recognized for fooling her at first, but I must have subconsciously memorized the effects of this place through my reckless experiences.
“Sifu?” Xinxin looked at me, confused.
I shook my head. “Nothing. Just reminiscing a bit.”
“Ah.” Xinxin nodded. “About the Xia Dynasty?”
“Something like that.” I dug into my pockets and pulled something out. The ring with a strong connection between Serena and myself. The moment I did, the door lit up, rising out of the ground like it did before.
Xinxin watched it and then placed her hand on her chest.
I glanced at her. “…Are you sure that you’ll be fine without me? I don’t know how long this will take.”
Xinxin smiled. “It’s fine, Sifu. I’m used to waiting now. A year, a century, a millenium... No matter how long it takes, I’ll wait for you.” Her smile dimmed a bit, and she said, “It'll be a bit lonely… But as long as you return, it’ll be alright.”
I placed my hand on her head, patting it. “Don’t worry. I won’t be like that One Tin guy.”
She smiled, an expression that reached her eyes, and she said, “It’s Wang Tian, Sifu. And I know.”
I smiled back. Afterwards, I turned away from her and walked towards the Immortal Door. Placing my hand on it, I felt ripples of time and space distort. Karma, interacting with my Absolute Memory and the ‘gambit’ I laid down so long ago as well as the ‘truth’ that I realized.
“Good luck, Sifu!” Xinxin called out to me one last time.
Staring back, I grinned and said, “Don’t cry too much, alright, my beloved Faithful Companion.”
Her eyes widened in shock. “Si-!”
And then it was silent.
A void, the place between time and space. A domain that only those who stepped foot onto eternity and glimpsed at infinity could reach.
The Immortal Door vanished. But that was what I expected. It was just a ‘door’ after all. The path was yet to be walked.
At least, at this time.
I closed my eyes, quietly holding the worn-out ring. At the same time, everything that I experienced played back in my head. The memories that made up who I was, the memories of that guy who I left behind…
And finally, the memories of the one before me.
Opening my eyes, I saw a swirling vortex of energy and a young woman with light brown hair in a Japanese student uniform standing in front of it.
The light from the vortex died down, and the figure that had been standing in it faded away.
I stepped forward.
“Hm?” The young woman… The Goddess standing there turned around to look at me. “Who are you?”
I smiled. “No one in particular. What’s more important is… Serena and the Goddess of Asifant. Do you want to play a game?”