I open my eyes.
I can see.
A smile stretches the lips of my new body.
The obelisk is standing there to my side. Cracks run through its length. It’s dead, now that I’ve left its confines. It should completely crumble to dust in a few weeks, when my residual qi completely dissipates.
How long has it been since I sealed myself in there? A hundred years? Two hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? It’s impossible for me to know, but I get the feeling it has been a long, long time, somehow. And I’m finally back. Finally free.
It’s hard to suppress the joy in my heart.
No, no. Not too fast. I want to slowly savor it.
I close my eyes.
I breathe in.
I can smell.
And I can hear, too.
Hmm… This one feels really strange, actually. I can actually hear from four different sources.
This guy must have modified his body, somehow.
Well, beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose. I’ll make do with it. And if my obelisk chose him, he can’t have been too bad.
Let’s check that everything went well during the transfer.
I enter my new dantian – its surface looks strange, almost liquid, but it lets me pass unimpeded – and look down at myself. My soul still looks like my old body, but it should slowly change as time passes and I get used to this new one. I clench my fists a few times. I punch the air. I snap off a few kicks. I’ve never had any proficiency in martial arts, but that’s really not the point of the exercise. I’m only testing the response of my soul to my commands.
And I’m satisfied.
There is a faint sense of discomfort, but nothing too dangerous.
It does surprise me that my soul was damaged at all during the transfer. Did the owner of this body resist? I didn’t think that anyone would be able to strike back against a soul of my caliber. Did this guy have achievements in mind magic, too?
I quickly look around for his runes.
But my gaze stops on something else.
(Huh? What is that thing?)
It looks like a huge sphere of… blood? Why is it black? Is it demon blood?
(It does smells like blood.)
In fact, this whole dantian positively reeks of it. I wrinkle my nose. I don’t know why I didn’t notice right as I came in, but the stench is simply overwhelming.
I’ll just flush all of that disgusting muck out of here.
(No, wait. Why does this guy collect demon blood in his dantian? That sounds rather dangerous.)
Some form of practice I don’t know about?
Hmm… I should wait until I know more, I think. I wouldn’t want to receive any unexpected backlash while my soul is already damaged. It could be risky.
(Right, the runes…)
And there they are, floating in the void.
And they are huge.
I am duly impressed.
There are only two words – which is really low, admittedly – but they are both well-developed.
This guy understands. Having dozens of different powers is an attractive idea, but in my opinion, it’s actually much wiser to have few runes in your dantian and really delve into their deepest secrets than to accumulate shallow knowledge on many of them. When I was young, it took me a long time to truly grasp that truth and accept it, but when I did, when I devoted myself to mind magic and discarded most of the other runes I had learned, I reached heights of skill I couldn’t have imagined beforehand.
This guy must have found a good master, to reach this point. He’s fortunate.
The first word is 冰.
Very nice. Versatile. Useful.
An appropriate choice for a primary realm of study. I’ll definitely have fun with that one.
But I can’t read the second.
(What’s with that?)
Even when I try to clear the shroud of dark fog hanging over it, it doesn’t respond at all. It’s like it’s some foreign body that forcefully invaded this dantian against the owner’s will.
I’ll need to study that in further details.
I let out a sigh.
The previous owner of this body was quite talented, to have two different runes of such high level.
I feel a bit guilty at having stolen his body, now. I added conditions on the obelisk to make it reject people who were not talented enough, but I didn’t think to add conditions for the opposite eventuality. Maybe I should have had it reject people who were too talented, as well. But it feels a little strange to specifically go for a good-but-not-that-good outcome, doesn’t it?
I certainly didn’t consider that question at the time I created it.
I scowl silently.
Yes. Now that I think about it, I really should have considered it…
It’s already a bit callous to take over someone’s body for my own use, but it’s even more so to remove such a talent from the world. And yet, I can’t help but be happy at having received such a good body. Which in turn increases my feelings of guilt…
I sigh again.
The previous owner’s consciousness has already been extinguished by my own, in any case, so there is nothing I can do about it now, except take up his legacy and continue studying his magic. It’ll be quite a challenge, with these two added to my own mind magic, but it’s my responsibility. An earthshaking genius such as myself should be able to achieve it.
I let my mind leave the dantian, open my eyes, and, as I stand up, my reflection in the surface of the obelisk enters my sight.
And I am immediately struck dumb.
I look down at my body.
I look back up at my reflection.
…Wait just a damn second, please.
(What is the meaning of this?!)
This is not a ‘guy’ at all!
Did I just turn into a little girl?! And she’s not even human?!
That’s… No way…
This is as far apart from my former self as it’s possible to get.
My dignity… My gravitas… Gone.
I can’t show myself like this. Everyone who knows me will laugh at me.
Actually, everyone who doesn’t know me will also laugh.
Even I would laugh at this, if it had happened to anyone else.
This is just… ridiculous…
What in the void happened?
I distinctly remember putting conditions on the obelisk so that it would accept only a human male.
Did I specify ‘male’?
I can’t remember…
But I definitely specified ‘human’. That is a vital condition for my study of magic. Majin can’t study new runes at all! No wonder there were only two words in that dantian! They’re the ones she was born with!
I glance at the obelisk. This piece of junk must have malfunctioned, somehow. It ignored my conditions and simply selected the first idiot who stumbled onto it or something like that. And, of course, the first idiot just had to be both female and a majin. And one-armed, too.
There is not a single positive thing about this.
This resurrection is a complete failure…
What am I supposed to do, now…?
I shake my head dejectedly and examine my reflection in more detail.
Woah, this little girl’s eyes are scary. You don’t want to be glared at by eyes like those. Slit pupils. Glowing red irises. Black sclerae. This is really the first time I see someone with eyes that look so obviously evil.
Aren’t those demon eyes?
Is that girl a demon?
A humanoid demon…
I didn’t know such a thing existed…
This’ll probably bring attention to myself everywhere I go, which’ll be a bother, but I’ll bear with it. I’ve always wanted to study demons in more details, so this is a good opportunity.
…Why is she naked, though?
Highly improper. Really, have some shame, girl.
As I ponder, my gaze wanders around and falls on the wolf ears on top of my head. They twitch involuntarily, as if in response to my sight. I look down. A tail swishes from side to side behind me.
I have to say, this is really disconcerting…
What kind of species am I, anyway?
Some kind of unholy cross between an elf and… a werewolf?
No, I have a horn, so it’d be a fenrir, rather than a wolf, wouldn’t it?
Crossing two species so different from each other is obviously impossible… Even if it was possible, an elf and a fenrir? Really? An elf is roughly human-sized. An adult fenrir is about as big as a mountain range. That would make copulation a tad awkward. Or did the horn come from the humanoid half, instead of the wolf half? So it’d be an oni and a werewolf, then? Except an oni wouldn’t have such long, pointy ears, so that doesn’t work.
I’m starting to look forward to this, actually. This body might not be so bad. The fact that I lost any possibility of continuing on with my research of mind magic almost makes me want to cry, but this little girl is quite a fascinating research subject.
I can’t seem to be able to speak.
Am I mute?
I think I’m actually mute.
Now, that’s really inconvenient. I’m used to talking to myself.
I raise my chin and stroke my throat with my fingertips. In my reflection, on the obelisk’s surface, I can see a nasty scar running over the front half of my neck, as if someone with very clumsy hands took a rusty pickaxe and tried to slit my throat.
Yes, it seems I really can’t talk.
I think I could force some words out, if I really tried, but I get the feeling that it would hurt a lot, so let’s refrain for now.
Still, now that I look at her, that girl is really covered in scars. Though I suppose it goes without saying that, for a little kid to reach the 50th floor of Miroslav’s Tower, would be quite a painful process.
Mustn’t have been easy…
What is she even doing in here? This isn’t exactly a place for children to play around in.
Why did Miroslav let her in? Has that old bastard lost his mind?
(Wait a minute…)
Miroslav should have teleported me out the moment I took over this girl’s body. That was the plan we agreed upon. And he’s not the kind of man who’d forget his promises. It’s not that he’s not aware of my resurrection, since he knows everything that goes on in the Tower as a matter of course. It’s not that he’s too busy to teleport me out, since it would only take a single thought for him to do it.
In that case… Did something happen to him?
Is that old bastard dead?
Hahaha! Good riddance! That’ll teach him to be so annoying.
…No, actually, that’s very bad for me, isn’t it?
The Tower hasn’t collapsed, so someone has necessarily inherited ownership of it. But that someone probably couldn’t free me, even if they wanted to. They aren’t Miroslav, after all. Their powers would just be limited to letting people enter the Tower’s first floor, and that’d be about it. Maybe a bit more than that, if they’re particularly good at space magic, but that’s unlikely. Space magic is even more difficult to train than mind magic – and that’s saying something. I don’t think I’d let anyone but Miroslav cast a teleport on me, in any case. A third-class hack might botch the spell, and I’ve always been a bit leery about putting my life in someone else’s hands.
Which means that, If Miroslav isn’t in control of the Tower anymore, I’ll be trapped inside.
I remember him telling me once, while we were drinking together and he was more talkative than usual, that he’d placed a fixed exit on the top floor, but there is just no way I can reach that place. Even in my first lifetime, with all my skills at my disposal and my power at its height, I could only reach the 50th floor. If I try to go up while in a body I’m not accustomed to, using magic I don’t know anything about, I will get shredded in an instant.
How did this little girl even manage to reach all the way up to here?
I don’t want to boast, but I was pretty good, and I also had almost three thousand years of knowledge and experience behind me. I can’t imagine that a 10-year-old girl, no matter how gifted, could possibly be my match. Some things can only be gained with time.
Hmm… Oh… I see…
If Miroslav is dead, then all his magic formations should be gone.
The real difficulty of the Planar Tower doesn’t lie in the demons that inhabit it, but in those awful puzzles and games that sadistic madman set up everywhere. To survive in Miroslav’s Planar Tower, you have to be intelligent, rather than strong. Your mind has to be as bent and crooked as that old bastard’s.
If his games are gone, I just have to get past the demons.
Which wouldn’t have been too much of a problem when I still had my old magic, but now…
It’s doable, I suppose. But it’ll probably take me some time.
I guess I’ll just see that challenge as a way to get used to this body. This should –
My soul shakes abruptly.
W–What’s going on?
I quickly look inside my new dantian.
The huge sphere of demon blood is slowly contracting. It emanates a powerful qi pressure, as if it’s alive. And the more it contracts, the more my control over this body escapes me. I struggle to hold onto it, but it’s like trying to stop a flowing river with my bare hands. I can’t get a proper grasp of it. It’s like something is preventing me from –
My eyes widen in realization.
The original owner isn’t dead. She must have used some kind of mystical technique to hide her soul in the sphere of demon blood and hide from the obelisk’s perceptions. And now that she’s coming out, her soul is fusing back with her own body. Since she’s the original owner, she of course wouldn’t have any difficulty taking back control from me.
(Hmm? Her soul?)
That’s not right. I’m certain I made the obelisk reject gods.
She should be a mortal. And mortals can’t have a soul.
Did the obelisk really malfunction?
What am I supposed to do?
Taking over a mortal’s body is one thing, but I can’t very well just extinguish a soul, now, can I?
Still, am I going to stay trapped in a body I can’t even control as I wish?
(That’s… interesting, actually.)
Can two souls survive in one body?
Has anybody ever tried that before?
I don’t think so…
Ho… Hohoho! How novel! Brilliant! Now, I’m getting a bit excited!
I can just live in this dantian, then, at least temporarily. I can experience the world through the little girl’s senses, in any case, even if I can’t control her body itself. That’s always better than waiting in the obelisk.
But how am I going to explain my presence here to her?
Demons tend to be absurdly aggressive creatures, too. I wouldn’t be too surprised if she attacked me on sight, like a rabid dog – rabid wolf, rather. I suppose I’ll just try very hard to be polite and cooperative and just hope for the best.
Hmm… Let’s not mention I almost killed her in order to steal her body.
Let bygones be bygones.
Water under the bridge.
The sphere of blood keeps shrinking.
It doesn’t look like a sphere anymore, in fact.
Rather, it looks like a person’s silhouette.
And then, all of a sudden, all the blood making up that black silhouette drips down from the form it covers, splashing below us and expanding in an instant to form an enormous black ocean, leaving behind only the white body of a one-armed, scarred little wolf-girl.
Her eyes slowly open.