1 – Odysseus Gambit
When I opened my eyes, there was a woman standing in front of me. She was indescribably beautiful, but that was mostly due to her shifting form preventing me from getting a clear grasp on her image. In one second, she looked like a calm Eastern beauty with white jade skin and dark long hair. In the next, she was a Western beauty with blonde hair and a curvaceous body. From there, she shifted to countless other ideal beauty types.
“Hm.” She spoke, a voice that was a chorus of soft melodies. Like her form, her voice was indistinct. Though a single word was said, countless accents and pitches of voices emerged as she spoke. “You’re quite the strange one, aren’t you? Most people usually have an ideal in mind when they see my beauty.”
I was confused.
“Indeed, most are in this situation.” The woman nodded. “However, it seems like your case is a bit more justified. Let’s see… this form should serve well enough.” With those words, the woman’s body was covered in a blinding white light. When it died down, there was a teenage girl standing before me. Like her other forms, she was beautiful. However, it was a normal sort of beauty, the type that could probably be found if you looked around enough. To be more exact, she held the appearance of a Japanese school girl and was dressed the part with the stereotypical sailor uniform.
“There we go. Now, take a seat please.” She waved her hand and everything changed. Though she and I had been standing, in an instant we were seated across from each other on a wooden table.
Whether it was from the change in scenery or because I was faced with a clear form to focus on, I managed to get a hold of my thoughts. And by that, I meant I finally realized the exact scenario I had found myself in.
As if reading my thoughts, the teenage girl- no, the Goddess nodded her head. “That’s right. To put it in your own words… you’re going to experience an ‘Isekai’.”
A dark void stretching out into infinity. In the center of that, seated across from each other at a wooden table that was somehow lit within the black void were a young man and a Goddess.
The Goddess smiled and placed her elbows on the table, lacing her fingers together to rest her head.
I didn’t respond. Instead, I mulled over what she said.
Isekai. Though a Japanese word, from what I knew it referred to a sub-genre of stories and anime where the main character was brought to another world. That world was usually a fantasy world filled with magic, mythical creatures, and almost assuredly a Demon Lord or two. Exciting due to its difference from the decidedly magic-lacking Earth, but also dangerous for that exact reason.
“You’re quite the interesting one, aren’t you?” The Goddess tilted her head and then said, “Most of the ones I’ve transported from this world have either been excited or terrified. You’re quite composed, however.”
I still didn’t respond.
A Goddess. From her words, I was not the first person she transported from Earth. However, the question became how and when she transported them. Dead? Alive? Or in a state in between? And where did that leave me?
“Most of the time, I bring people over when they’ve already met their end, but I’ve transported a few who were still alive.”
I cut my thoughts short and stared at the Goddess.
She stared back, still with that soft smile on her face. It would have been calming, and to most it probably was when considering her beauty. But there was no way I could stay calm.
“It’s rude to read minds.”
The Goddess waved her right hand and said, “Sorry, sorry. I couldn’t resist.”
The Goddess’s smile widened and she nodded. “Very well. I, Goddess Serena of Asifant, will not read your mind from this point forward.”
A brief light flared as she spoke those words. It probably meant that she was under oath due to vowing on her name and title. At least, that would be what she wanted me to think. However, I had no assurances.
Thus, I stopped thinking.
“Now,” the Goddess said. “Let’s get down to business, shall we?”
“Hm… you’re quite the cautious type. I wouldn’t have thought that from how I saw you act in your daily life, but I suppose the true nature of a person only shows up when they bare their soul… In any case, to cut this short: you died.”
I closed my eyes and let out a sigh. I thought that might have been the case, but to hear it from the Goddess directly shocked me.
“It really was unexpected,” the Goddess said. “You could only really blame your death on bad luck. Your body was fine and your mind was stable. However, while you were sleeping, your apartment complex collapsed. Since you were on the ground floor, you died instantly beneath the rubble.”
“…How did it collapse?”
The Goddess shook her head. “Even I’m astounded. In all the years I have existed, I have never seen such a convoluted chain of events.”
I stared at the Goddess, waiting for her to continue.
Seeing my lack of reaction, the Goddess sighed. “Fine. I see that you’re not amused. Still, it was really strange. Basically, due to everyone else in the building moving in different directions at the exact same time, the main support beam for the building twisted. Then, a slightly strong wind shook the complex, causing the support beam to break.”
“But my room isn’t anywhere near the support beam?”
The Goddess nodded. “That’s right. And that is why I said you can only blame it on bad luck. It just so happened that the wind blew a pigeon off course and caused it to land on the roof over your room. In the end, everything came crashing down like a house of cards.”
…It was unlikely. Extremely so. Far too coincidental for my taste. But I remained silent, keeping my suspicions buried deep in my heart.
“And that’s the reason why I’m here. To be honest, I had planned to head over to Japan like I usually did to transport another soul, but your karma is just too interesting to pass up.” With those words, the Goddess’s smile returned. However, this time the smile was different. Rather than one of a calm beauty, it was that of a sly fox. “With you around, the world is definitely going to become a lot more interesting. So what will it be? Are you interested?”
I didn’t respond for a moment and considered her words. Then, I said a single word. “Why?”
“Why do you need to transport souls?”
“Ah, that.” The Goddess frowned. “Hm… to put it simply, I’m bored.”
“That’s right. It’s fun and all making a world and having your creations fight it out, but it’s boring when you know how it’s going to end. Sure it’s fun every now and then to drop in and help out some random people, but even that gets boring.” The Goddess sighed. “It wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t immortal. But I am, and so it is.”
“Then you transport souls from this world… just to amuse yourself?”
The Goddess nodded. “That’s right. Your world’s God is pretty lenient on that. As long as you want to go, there aren’t any problems. And if you want to come back after you die in that world, you’re free to do so. That condition applies even after thousands of thousands of years… mostly because your God wiped the life out of eight worlds that decided to not follow that rule.”
Again, I had no reason to believe the Goddess’s words. However, they seemed… plausible at least.
“So,” the Goddess said. “Any other questions? Or have you decided?”
“What other souls have you transported?”
“Hm? Oh, that. Well… pretty much every author of an Isekai story in your world is someone I transported once. After they died they must have decided to reincarnate back here. Some of those memories must have come back to them. There are a few others too that are there right now, but it looks like they’re going to recreate the same old scenario. I thought another hero or two might mix things up, but if it’s you…”
The Goddess smiled. “Well, it should be interesting no matter what you do.”
I was silent.
In the meantime, the Goddess didn’t say another word and simply stared at me.
Finally, I said, “Alright. Since I’m dead anyway, I’ll go along with your little play.”
The Goddess’s smile widened and she clapped her hands together. “Wonderful! Now I usually give each person I transport a special gift to spice things up… Alright, fine. You can stop giving me that look. It’s actually a gift from your own God that I can repackage for you.” She snapped her fingers and a glowing light appeared in front of me. It was a twinkling orb, almost like a star was condensed into the size of a baseball.
“You can call it… the infinite potential of humanity. Really, that guy is super skilled. Much better than me at least in making things. Maybe if I could have figured that out, it wouldn’t be so-“ The Goddess shook her head. “Anyway, when you grab that, you can use it to get whatever power you want. Time travel, teleportation, immortality… Well, I say that, but no one’s actually ever picked those. It might be just those guys in Japan, but everyone I transport seems to just pick a branch of magic.”
I allowed the Goddess to ramble on while I grabbed the orb and carefully pondered on what to choose.
“…You’re really something else, huh? Being this impertinent, being that cautious… well, I guess that’s why you’re interesting. Fun fact, I usually don’t tell people this much information before sending them off. You can think of it as a special benefit for amusing me.”
Amusement, huh? Indeed, to that Goddess that would be all this moment was.
So, because she thought that, of the possible powers I could choose, there was only one that remained. Especially if her words about the orb containing the infinite potential of humanity were true.
The Goddess blinked. “…What?”
I turned my gaze away from the orb and stared at her. “I want the power of memory. To be able to store every experience I have. To be able to recollect everything I experience. And then, to be able to maintain those experiences as long as I want, no matter how much time passes.”
Serena stared at the young man standing before her.
He looked just like every other young man she had transported in the past. Almond shaped and dark eyes. Black hair. An average build. Although he wasn’t from Japan like the others she had transported, he had similar physical characteristics.
But his personality was completely different.
She could have attributed it to the differences in culture. After all, the person standing in front of her was in a place essentially across the world from where she usually went. And she would have never seen him either, if not for the strange karma she felt around him.
Perhaps that explained his nature. Perhaps it didn’t. In either case, it was amusing. Especially upon hearing his request.
“Memory, you say?”
The young man nodded.
Serena couldn’t understand him. What use would there be for a perfect memory? It would indeed make learning things faster, but that couldn’t make up for a lack of starting talent or potential.
But then again, there were already enough baffling events surrounding the young man that another didn’t make much of a difference.
“Very well. Then, if you close your eyes, I will give you the power you wish.”
The young man nodded again. “Understood.”
“Now one last thing… is there anywhere you want to appear in the world? Or anyone you want to be? Reincarnation while keeping your memories is possible, as well as recreating your old body. I usually transport people near a village on the frontier, but you’re free to choose wherever you desire.”
Like before, the young man was silent. And then he said, “Send me to the most dangerous place possible.”
I stared at the Goddess, gauging her reaction. I was curious about something, but I quickly suppressed that thought. Not until I crossed over to the other world.
The Goddess stared at me for a while longer before breaking out into laughter. “Of course! The most dangerous place in the world… why not? I don’t know what you have planned, but it’s definitely going to be fun.”
The ground shuddered. Looking down, I saw that a vast portal was opening up. It was an ominous sight, an enormous vortex of energy and lights.
The Goddess stared at me one last time and said, “Good luck… come to think of it, I still haven’t heard your name.”
The ground shuddered even more and the vortex began rising. Countless sparks of energy gathered around me, slowly enveloping my body in light and obscuring the Goddess from view.
I paused, contemplated for a moment, and then said, “My name is Nowun.”
With those words, the vortex consumed me entirely and the Goddess vanished from view.
Absolute Memory LVL ?? – A unique unranked skill granted to Nowun by Goddess Serena through the infinite human potential gifted by Earth’s Creator. Grants the concept of ‘Absolute Memory’ to the user.
Information Concealment LVL ?? – A unique unranked skill recognized by Goddess Serena due to the user’s ability to withhold and conceal information even from her all-seeing eye. Grants the concept of ‘Information Concealment’.
The Nameless – Obtained by giving a pseudonym to Goddess Serena and refusing to present one’s true name. Due to this, the original name is discarded and one’s true nature becomes indistinct.
Otherworlder – Obtained by all those transported by Goddess Serena to Asifant. Grants language translation and basic knowledge of the world.
Karmic Anomaly – The title granted to one whose karma cannot be discerned. Effects are unknown.