Everywhere I looked, I saw only white, except for the girl holding my hand. She told me she was number 99, and that she had been waiting with “everyone else”.
“Where is this…? And what do you mean, ‘everyone’…”
—we are inside of the World Tree. Open your eyes. Open up your heart… if you’re scared, just a little bit is enough… don’t worry. All of us are on your side—
Deep inside me, I knew she was speaking the truth. So she must have known, too, that I still could not trust, still could not let anyone into my heart.
But… even when I knew she was truthful, my door had been shut ever since I was born. I no longer knew how to open it.
Someone touched my shoulder. I turned around to see that it was a boy who looked about the same as the age of my current appearance. He was looking at me kindly.
Was he… number 01?
And it wasn’t just him. An Asian boy about ten years old and a slightly-older black boy were holding my hand in encouragement.
Number 17…? Number 08… ?
Their thoughts poured into me from their magic stones that I’d taken into myself, and my sight expanded as the world was painted over.
The ground was thick with green foliage as far as I could see, dotted with beams of dappled sunlight that had found their way through the green canopy covering the whole sky. Above the labyrinthine and enormous branches of the World Tree were many, many children. They all greeted me with a smile.
The secret alpha testers… the ninety-nine orphans who had died to the corporation’s betrayal…
There were kids from ten to fifteen years old, both boys and girls, of all nationalities and races. I only barely managed to recognize where they had been from by looking at the traditional clothing that they wore.
—number 13… you have saved us—
—you have saved—
—you have saved our souls—
The secret alpha testers spoke with gentle voices, full of warmth.
I see… so what I’d done hadn’t been for nothing, then. I did it… I actually saved them.
I closed my eyes, immersing myself in the warmth of their gratitude, the warmth of the sunlight.
The sun then darkened for a fraction.
—we’d let you be in pain alone—
—we’d forced our burden on you—
—we’d made you bear the resentment, the hatred, all by yourself—
“That’s not true!”
I was just trying to survive. I’d even told myself it had been for you, when all I was doing was justifying my vengeance.
“I… I don’t deserve your apologies…” I said, biting my lips.
The girl of number ninety-nine gently shook her head.
—we were the same—
—it hurt. It was unbearable. It was terrible—
—we died, bearing dark hatred for the world, cursing it—
As the other children followed up with their own words, the sun once more darkened.
But then… the light slowly returned together with its warmth. The ninety-nine secret alpha testers gathered around me, touching my hands one after another.
—but we were saved—
—you have freed us from our hatred—
—you have taken us away—
—from the darkness—
Their voices joined together as one.
—it is our turn to save you—
—take it. Take our final power—
[Shedy] [Race: Bunny Girl] [Archdemon Lv. 100] ・The demon of Laplace. One who had ascended beyond an Archdemon. [Magic Points: 338,000/338,000] 3,000 ↑ [Total Combat Power: 371,800/371,800] 3,300 ↑ [Unique Skill: <Causality Alteration> <Dimensional Manipulation> <Consumption> <Materialization>] [Racial Skill: <Fear> <Mist Form>] [Simple Identification] [Human Form (Wonderful)] [Subspace Inventory] [Dark Lady] [Final Evolution Available]
My vision blanked out. Once I could see again, the World Tree and the secret alpha testers were already gone, leaving me once again in a world of white.
It wasn’t the blind whiteness as before. Instead, everywhere I looked, I saw geometric shapes and lines with the same basic white tone, as though I was inside the world of cyberspace. So I wasn’t inside the World Tree, then. This must be my own personal mindscape.
It was the last bit of power given to me from all the secret alpha testers. This was probably where my final evolution would happen, then, and the reason why it looked like cyberspace was probably because I was an artificial demon, and the evolution process had based itself on that same artificial system.
I focused on my decision. Boxes of text appeared, floating in the air to my left and right.
[Demon Lord] ・The pinnacle of demons, a ruler of the Netherworld. The diametrical opposition of gods. The granter of the fruit of wisdom to mankind, and the devourer of their ripened civilization.
[Beast] ・The pinnacle of demons, one who takes the shape of an animal. Savage and cruel. A predator and a destroyer, eternally seeking conflicts.
[Devil] ・The pinnacle of demons, the traveler of dimensions. One who gorges on souls of humans, who understands and charms the hearts of humans, who grants otherworldly knowledge on a whim.
These boxes were filled with red text and were on my right. Next were the blue-colored boxes on my left.
[Draconic God] ・A supreme creature, one who has lived through an eternity to acquire a spiritual body. Possesses great wisdom and force of will, as well as immense power.
[Minor God] ・An intelligent creature who had reached the threshold of godhood. The protector of life, and the ruler of the cycle of reincarnation. Rarely is there a natural Minor God, as most manifest by stealing power from another god. Called a [Goddess] when female.
[True God] ・A Major God born from the minds of intelligent beings. A true god, one created solely for the sake of those who are both their creators and their worshippers. Possesses no physical form. Power drastically fluctuates depending on worshippers.
On the right side were demons, and the left were… gods? So I could evolve into these?
I was honestly surprised becoming a god was even a choice for me. I guessed I had the secret alpha testers to thank for that.
But could I win against Fiorfata as a god?
Among the choices was a Demon Lord, the same as Fiorfata, and the explanation mentioned being diametrically opposed to gods. If Demon Lords were godkillers, then I didn’t think becoming a Minor God would be much of an improvement from what I was already. Draconic Gods had the same problem.
True Gods were born from the thoughts of their worshippers, so I might not be able to keep myself as me if I chose that.
If I wanted power to fight Fiorfata, then perhaps I should choose to become the same Demon Lord as it was. Being a Beast or Devil might be good too, though I felt like a Demon Lord was the most balanced in terms of offense and defense.
Artificial or not, I had been evolving as a demon in the first place. I should be able to get used to the new power right away if I continued that line of evolution.
But I’d already made my choice. Not out of these six.
I chose the seventh option hidden among the others.
I had been a human who had no understanding of humans. I had only gained my insight into the hearts of others after discarding my humanity. From my wavering heart came a fragment of itself…
I took it. I grasped the white box of text hiding itself right in front of my eyes.
Then the white space that was my mindscape shattered. A vast world stretched out in front of me as I looked down on Yggdrasia, my new home.
I will protect this world. I will protect it for you.
[Shedy] [Race: Bunny Girl] [Joker] ・Dea Ex Machina. An artificial goddess born in cyberspace. Possesses the right hand of a Demon to destroy all, and the left hand of a Goddess to save all. [Magic Points: 500,000/500,000] 162,000 ↑ [Total Combat Power: 550,000/550,000] 178,200 ↑ [Unique Skill: <Causality Alteration> <Dimensional Manipulation> <Consumption> <The Divine Language>] [Racial Skill: <Fear> <Mist Form>] [Simple Identification] [Deity Form (Lovely)] [Subspace Inventory] [Overlord] [Goddess from the Machine]