From the moment I had awoken, I had used flesh magic to check my body. I was in good health, with no signs of this supposed fever that had put Aiko out of commission. I was shocked to find a lack of mana. Whatever little mana I had was used up with just that, and I didn’t find it recovering at all. This place had no mana! At least, this body was okay. That’s all I needed.
Despite this, the witchdoctor here, at least, the older woman had called him doctor, wouldn’t let me leave until I went through various tests. The three women remained with me during this, but after their initial welling of emotion, they had quieted substantially.
The atmosphere seemed almost strange now that I was awake. This suited me well, as I wasn’t someone who knew how to small talk. It was a product of living in a tower and only having demons as a family for as long as I could remember. At least, the less we talked, the fewer questions they’d ask that I didn’t know.
Still, I was rather bored, and at some point, I needed to learn something. Since these three were my only source of information, I planned to use them.
“I would like to know more about this world.”
The oldest one, I had figured she was Aiko’s mother, looked up at me as if surprised I had suddenly talked. Did I speak the wrong language? I hadn’t noticed before, but I understood what they spoke, even though it was distinctly not common tongue. Furthermore, I was pretty sure I was speaking the same language. At least that goddess gave me this much.
“What is that?” Mom asked, her brow furrowing.
“The climate, politics, bar talk, any recent rumors or new things!”
“Oh, you want the news?” She grabbed some device at my feet and then clicked a button on it.
There was a low buzzing sound, and a small box strapped to the wall turned on, revealing the image of a tiny man. He was speaking. I stared at the box, trying to figure out what she had just done. After a bit, I realized the words he was speaking seemed to relate to what was going on in the local area. The news, she called it. Interesting.
You could have this news sent straight to your bed without even needing to get up? Normally, I’d have to leave the tower, maybe even talk to people, just to find out even the barest news, yet here was the man speaking unnaturally and telling me everything I needed to know! Isn’t this perfect for a NEET like me? Ahem… I realized was drooling and took a sip of my strangely soft and flimsy glass of water.
As I thought about it more, I started to recall other things about this world. It wasn’t coming from Aiko’s mind. I didn’t have access to any of his memories. Rather, it came to my own. Those books with pictures that I had summoned from this world, it had pictures of that device. It was called a television! They also managed to drive around in things called cars. That meant, this place, it was called a hospital.
Once I began to focus on the memories from reading constant manga, I started increasing my vocabulary at a rapid rate. I had just been caught off guard at first, but now that I focused, I did know much about this world called Earth. That’s when my expression dropped. One major thing about this Earth, supposedly mana didn’t exist in it. I wouldn’t know for certain unless I invoked a spell, and for that, I needed room, time, and ingredients.
Looking at this family, I knew I had no choice but to wait. None of them were giving me much mind. The blue-haired girl was reading a book. The mannish one was sitting in a chair, looking half asleep. As for the mother, she kept glancing at her wristwatch.
“Mother…” I said the strange words, causing her to glance up at me.
My heart strangely skipped a beat when she looked at me. It was strange, but for some reason saying that word and eliciting a response felt surprisingly good.
“What is it? Do you need me to change the channel?”
There are other channels?
“Ahem… I was wondering if you had somewhere to be.”
Her face turned red, and it was the first time that she looked somewhat pretty, although it didn’t hurt that she had a rather large chest.
“I’m sorry. It’s just… my job.”
“Since I’m awake, I’ll be fine. Do this job of yours.”
“It’s fine…” she responded. “My little boy is more important.”
“She means that they already fired her for missing her shift.” The mannish woman opened her eyes and shot me a glare. “because of you.”
“That’s not true!” Mom cried out. “Kio, your brother is very sick. My boss was unreasonable to demand I work when he just woke up like this.”
“Whatever…” She looked away, but she was mad.
“…” I didn’t know what to say.
I had never had anyone in my life who gave a damn about me. This guy’s mom was willing to lose a job just to be there when he woke, and he decided not even to come home. I had considered torturing and punishing his family in retribution for what he did to me, but this made that action feel just a bit bitter.
Silence filled the room once again, other than for the droning of the news. I continued to listen to it, finding out more knowledge about this world, and checking what I knew from manga with what I saw on the television. Hours passed, and they ended up bringing me a meal. I never care to eat much, so I only picked at it. When I saw the mannish woman, Kio, staring at it hungrily, I offered her the food.
“I don’t need it! I’m on a diet!” She snapped.
“Suit yourself,” I responded, pulling the tray back.
I wasn’t trying to be nice. I was trying to get her to stop looking in my direction. I wouldn’t put myself out there for anyone, and I only gave people one chance. That had always been my rule. I didn’t play at pleasantries. She reached forward and snatch the tray off my table, shooting me another glare before wolfing it all down. This had happened while Mother had left to use the restroom, so she didn’t comment on it. The blue-haired girl didn’t look at the food at all. By the time mom returned, the tray was empty, and Kio didn’t even glance my direction.
“Girls, are you hungry? Should I get some food?” Mom asked.
“I’m fine!” Kio said just as the other one went to open her mouth.
She closed it and then hid back behind her hair with her head in a book.
“Hina, what about you?”
Her eyes darted to Kio, and then she shook her head, her bangs bouncing back and forth. Mom sighed, sitting back into her chair while rubbing her back. We didn’t have to wait much longer before the doctor finally came in.
“I have to say, he’s completely healthy. I’ll set up the release for him. You guys can go home.”
All of us ended up letting out breaths of relief. I didn’t know how much longer I could stand being in that room myself. I could tell that Aiko did not have a close relationship with his family. I was closer to some demons than this guy seemed to be to his biological sisters.
“Just take it easy for a few days.” The doctor gave me a final warning.
It still ended up being another hour, but finally, we were leaving that place filled with white walls. What? It’s a place of healing? For a former wizard like me who spent his life studying the human body, I should find another world’s medical advancements intriguing? Well, I had a lot of bad memories from the so-called healers of my previous world. This world didn’t even have magic. In my mind, they were little more than glorified snake oil salesmen. Just because their snake oil did some of the things they claimed didn’t make them any less snakes.
The drive home was as silent as the room had been. It was clear to me they were a family in name only. I didn’t care about blood ties at all. Blood ties were what kings used to subjugate their people. Blood ties were what women used to force men to take care of them and their babies. It was something I didn’t care about at all, which was one of the reasons I hadn’t immediately killed them just for being related to the man who killed me. Of course, there were other reasons as well, such as my need to use them until I grew acclimated to this world.
When we pulled in front of a small building, I was intrigued to see that Aiko, that great hero who wooed princesses and dined with kings, was only a measly commoner in this world. Even when I lived as a slave to Twenty, that was the name of the first demon who had captured me and had me turn his women into demons like him, I had lived in a bigger place than this.
We pulled up to the house and the girls didn’t look at me once as they left the car and walked inside, running off to their rooms. It didn’t bother me. I would have been more irritated if they had been dumping sympathy on me or something of the like. The demons from my world often had trouble expressing themselves too, so this kind of environment was somewhat welcoming.
As I entered the house and looked around cautiously, I noticed that the older woman, the mother, was grabbing some stuff, looking like she was about to head out again.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, Aiko, I know you’ve just woken up, but you’re okay now, right?”
“I need to go back to the grocery store and see if I can get my job back. Hopefully, Bob is in a better mood than earlier.” She explained.
“A store?” I responded. “Do they sell ingredients?”
“Huh? Yeah? Are you sure you’re okay, honey?”
She reached out and touched my forehead. I pulled away quickly, completely unused to sudden contact like that. It had been gentle, warm, and loving, but those were things I wasn’t used to. She smiled slightly as she pulled her hand back.
“Sorry, it’s just, the doctor gave me the okay. I wouldn’t have a fever, would I?”
She nodded. “My little boy, getting so embarrassed. You’re growing up. Just stay here with your sisters.”
“I was hoping to go to this store and pick up some ingredients,” I said. “Do you mind if I come with you?”
“You want to go somewhere with me?” She smiled, and once again I felt a strange tugging in my heart and my face felt hot.
“Of course… I’ll be needing… some… monetary… ahem… money.”
Her smile dropped a bit. “I’m sorry, baby. I can’t give you anything right now. Don’t you have some left over from your birthday last week? It was in the card grandma sent. Didn’t you open it?”
“Okay, I’ll meet you in the car then. Hurry.”
With that, Aiko’s mom left, and I went through the small house. Aiko’s room was the only door that wasn’t closed. I stepped into the small room. The small bed took up about 1/5th of the total size of the room. It was messy, with manga, books, and various other forms of media all over the floor. There was also a television in here, but it was even smaller than the one at the hospital.
“So, this is the room of the man who killed me,” I said, looking around with distaste.
My eyes landed on a card sitting on the bedside stand. I picked it up, and paper notes fall out. I remembered from a manga that this was what this world used for money. Rather than using metal that contained value, they just printed the value on a sheet of paper and expected everyone to honor it. That seemed like a foolish system for me. I picked up the note and carefully examined it.
With a few choice ingredients, I’d be able to replicate this note with relative ease. It would be indistinguishable from the real thing. With a snort, I picked up the note and then stuffed it into my pocket. I then abandoned the room and came outside. As I walked out the door, there was a shout from someone next door. Standing behind a fence was a short, chubby girl with deathly white pale skin. Her hair was black, and so were her lips. She had dozens of earrings in her ears, and she was dressed completely in black.
“You’re back from the hospital,” She said breathily. “I was really worried.”
“As you can see, I’m fine,” I responded.
She looked down, biting her lip. “Did you… think about that note I sent?”
“I didn’t,” I stated simply.
There was a flash of hurt on her face. “I see… so, you’re not interested. And after I cast a spell too.”
I was just about to turn away, but then I heard her words and looked back. “You know magic?”
She looked away. “Don’t make fun of me. It was just a good fortune spell. It didn’t work.”
Seeing her look depressed over a failed spell, I thought back to all of my failures. At that stage in my career, a single note of encouragement could have made all of the difference. I found myself unexpectedly sympathetic to the young witch. With I sigh, I walked up to her and grabbed her hand.
“I want you to know, that you shouldn’t give up.”
She looked up at me, her pale face turning slightly red. “I-I shouldn’t?”
I shook my head. “There is only one way you succeed and get what you want.”
“Wh-what’s that?” Her eyes were as wide as teacups.
“Push forward. Destroy the competition. And do anything you have to succeed.”
“There is competition?” There was a flash of anger on her face.
“There is always competition! But if you want it badly enough, you won’t let them get in the way of what you want!”
“Go forth and take what you want. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong.”
“Especially me! Now, go, chase after your dream!”
“Y-yes! I will!”
I pulled away and then walked over to the car. The girl was practically humming to herself, skipping back into her house. She was almost acting like a maiden in love. Well, that was my one good deed for the century. Perhaps, in a few hundred years, she’d be a capable witch, and setting her on this path will reward me with good karma. I certainly needed it.
Mother, sitting in the driver’s seat, glanced at me with a grin on her face.
“What is it?”
“She likes you.” She smirked.
“Did you finally say ‘yes’?”
“We’re merely acquaintances with a similar hobby. I gave her some advice. That is all.”
“Okay… sure.” She didn’t seem to believe me, but I didn’t care to convince her either.
The pair of us drove for about five minutes until we pulled up into a large store. Once we got inside, mom turned to me.
“I’ll be in the back.” She said. “Get what you need, okay? I’ll meet you at the entrance once I’m done.”
As she walked away, I approached a nearby employee. They were easy to spot because of the uniforms. I was impressed with the size of this store, but I quickly realized it wouldn’t be easy to find the items I needed.
“You, servant,” I said, walking up to a scrawny guy.
He blinked. “Um, may I help you?”
“I need alchemic ingredients.”
“Ingredients? You know. Newt’s eye, sulfur, lapis solaris, lye, ginseng.”
“Ah, spices are in aisle four. You might be able to find lye in the detergents in aisle six.” I looked at him for another moment, and then turned and walked away.
I found the aisle and then started glancing through the items. I found I could read the writing of this world, and I was able to find a fair amount of ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised. If this world had no magic, I wondered why it had so many different ingredients being sold. After scouring the spice aisle and selecting a dozen different items, I also looked through the detergent aisle and picked a few more. I had to read the ingredient lists to find things that contained what I wanted in them, as not everything was pure. That wasn’t too big of a deal for me. I could make due.
I continued to grab ingredients, having gotten a cart from the front. At this point, I wasn’t looking for anything specific, just walking down the aisles and randomly grabbing things that looked useful. I ended up gravitating toward the back, where I noticed a door slightly ajar leading into a back room. Curiously, I walked over to the door, where I promptly heard my mother’s voice. I glanced in to see an office. There was a bald, portly man behind the desk, and my mother was standing in front of him, tears running down her face.
“I’ve already told you ‘no’, what more do you want from me?” he said angrily.
“Please…” She said tearfully. “I need this job. My son’s illness caused us to accumulate a lot of hospital bills, and I can’t afford to not be working right now.”
“If you couldn’t afford to not work, then you should have worked!” he shot back. “You tried to take off the time. I need someone more reliable.”
“It won’t happen again!”
“if you don’t leave my office, I will get security.”
“Please, I’ll do anything!”
His hand was heading toward the phone, but when she said that, it stopped for a bit. “Anything?”
“Please…” she said again, apparently too upset to notice the sudden change in his demeanor.
“Then… maybe we can come to some kind of arrangement.” He spoke, his voice dropping slightly.
“Arrangement?” She asked, wiping tears from her eyes, only just starting to calm down.
He stood up, a smile forming on his face. “Well, how about this. If you… do me some favors, I’ll see about helping you as well.”
“Favors?” She asked, just as confused while he walked around his desk.
He put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m a very lonely man. My wife hasn’t been very loving lately.”
“O-oh…” She started to finally realize what he meant, taking a step back and pulling away from him.
“You do want your job, don’t you?” He took a step forward again. “All you have to do is say yes.”
I was just about to storm in, but then my mother surprised me.
“You pig!” She slapped him.
“Get out!” He roared. “You’ll never work in this town again!”
Mom was already running out of the room. I turned away and turned a corner just as she burst out the door. She was crying as she ran away. The man was still yelling explicative, but he stopped when he reached the door, seemingly realizing he might be heard by customers.
I reached into my cart and started to open several ingredients. Pulling out a mortar and pestle, I began to grind ingredients up. I chanted as I worked, moving swiftly, and with practice. A few people walked by, but quickly walked the other way, terrified by the aura I was putting off as I worked. I couldn’t figure out why, but I was furious. I didn’t think I had been that furious since the white mages had condemned me.
When I finished the recipes, I poured them into little baggies and stuffed them into my pockets. Just as I finished my final one, a woman walked up to me.
“Sir… you can’t do that here… and you’re going to need to pay for those.”
“There is always a price to everything,” I responded, pulling out a pinch of something and tossing it in the employee’s face.
She sneezed, and then glanced around like she was confused.
“Do you need something?” I asked irritably.
“Ah… no… sorry… I just forgot why I was here.”
She turned around, looking like she was in a daze as she walked away.
I then turned and walked into the room my mother just came out of, closing the door behind me. The fat man was back behind his desk, but he looked up when I walked in.
“What do you want? Are you that new hire I called in for an interview?” he demanded.
“My mother was the woman who just fled here,” I stated.
“Your mother?” he sneered. “So, you’re the boy who was just sick?”
He stood up, pulling the sleeves up on his arms and exposing two large meaty things. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing boy, but believe me, you’re going the regret it. I’ll give you one chance to get the hell out of my office. Otherwise, I’m going to put you back in the hospital.”
I looked at him with disdain. This little man was going to do something for me? I had lived a life surrounded by demons. They were seven feet tall, nothing but muscles, and ate human flesh. How would I ever be scared of some bald little fool like him?
“I’ll be giving you one chance. Give my mother back her job.”
“Or what?” He sneered, approaching me with his chest puffed out.
“Who said I was giving you a choice?” I responded, lifting my hand and blowing.
There was a puff of smoke that hit his face. A moment later, his expression went from a sneer to complete fear. He stumbled back.
“Wh-what are you?” He cried out.
“The human mind is such a vulnerable thing. A few simple ingredients and you can make someone forget the last few minutes, feel incredible pleasure, or unbearable pain. This concoction causes someone to feel fear. I wonder what you fear, Bob.
“F-fear toxin? Batman?”
Batman? So… he fears a creature that is part man, part bat. Interesting.
“Very well then… I will be this… Batman!”