Chapter 4 – Follow-up

They had tucked me in on a cot near the hearth in the village elder’s house, covered once again with Arken’s blanket. After Melione hand-fed me a simple meal which Tiana’s tastebuds told me was barley gruel, the girl kept watch until I fell asleep.

I woke to find something feeling odd. It was still some time during the night, but the hues didn’t look right. Neither did the people. All five of my companions were here in the main room of the house, and sound asleep. Normally, someone would keep watch in our party, anywhere that wasn’t a secure inn or castle. This hovel didn’t qualify as ‘secure’.

A scraping noise from the hearth drew my attention. Completely out of context, the woman from the ‘HR Department’, decked out in her skirted business suit, was squatting near the hearth, using a poker to stir up the fire a bit. The side slit in the skirt was revealing the top of a thigh-high stocking and a peek at the bare flesh above it. It seemed a little too sexy for someone involved with heaven.

She looked over at me.

“Are you adjusting to your new identity?”

“I’m not okay with it,” I griped. “I’m not some kind of closet transsexual.”

“No. Although it is difficult for us to understand, given that gender is nothing more than appearance to us, I understand this issue is important to mortals, so I do not expect you to be ‘okay with it’, as you put it. However, this was the best match for you. It is a world populated by species of people that are familiar to you, and heroic requirements come up often here. Heroes are much more difficult to place than other relocation subjects, as the choices for them are far fewer, so it was a fortuitous opportunity.”

“Couldn’t I have reincarnated anywhere? It’s not like I was a career hero.”

She tipped her head, considering the question, then nodded. “I shall try to explain. When a hero dies, we must follow certain rules. First, if their soul was ready for the afterlife, we must let it pass on. If their soul is not ready for the afterlife, but it fits a need for a higher category than hero, we must pass it to that department. Otherwise, if the hero is still needed where they are at, then we request a miraculous survival. Such might have been the case in this environment, but the original Tiana qualified for one of the previous options.”

She had been counting those options on her fingers and now reached number four. “The final option is to place a hero who died after completing their labors as a substitute for a hero who died before the need for one has passed, or where a need is approaching. That is your situation now.”

I nodded my understanding, but then asked, “Then can you explain something to me about that? They made me stay in bed once we got back, so I had a lot of time to lay here and think.”

Pressing her glasses back into place, she stated, “You realized the timing was wrong. The writer observed, then wrote the latest volume in Japanese, then it was translated into English, where you finally read it. Despite all that, you became conscious here the very second the latest volume ended.”

“You can read my mind or something, can’t you?”

“More or less,” she admitted. “The explanation is that we are not tied to time as firmly as mortals. As long as restoring causality doesn’t become too complex, we can make small excursions such as this. At the time that you died on Earth, insertions into this earlier time were still fairly elementary in scope.”

Did that mean that, at this time, I’m still alive on Earth?

“So why are you here? Are you checking up on me or something?”

The woman shook her head. “No. I came to address a pressing issue. We reincarnated you into a body that was not able to survive. This is despite the young magician’s actions and your, ah, instinctual self-preservation measure.”

I winced, remembering what I had done to Melione. The original Tiana had always tried to feed on people as little as possible, yet I had done it as the very first act after waking.

“I’m really sorry about that,” I said, then frowned. “Did you say I’m not able to survive?”

With a shove to her spectacles, the woman declared, “It seems our relocation decision was accepted because your companion had a legitimate chance to cure you. Sufficient medical knowledge is not available in this world for the girl to understand what specific injuries she needed to heal, but she might have managed via luck.”

“But she didn’t,” I supplied.

“You suffered fatal traumas to the pancreas and liver, as well as bowel lacerations. She stopped the bleeding, but did not succeed in healing those organs. You are surviving for the moment thanks to the mana you borrowed from her through your blood feeding.”

The woman set down the poker and placed her hand across my forehead. “It is far too soon for you to return to us, so I am permitted to perform a miraculous healing. Since your companions do not know you are still dying, I can do this without causing any disturbance.”

I felt the healing magic again, but this was an onslaught of intense heat rather than Melione’s gentle warmth. I closed my eyes against it as my consciousness wilted.

# # #

In the morning, I woke to the sound of my party members already up and having their breakfast at the village elder’s table. Melione was shaking me awake to check on me.

They had let me sleep, because of my injuries, but I no longer felt bad at all. I felt fine.

It looked like a beautiful day. The previous day had been cloudy and miserable, perfect weather for a fight with a dragon. The fire had been stirred up in order to allow the shutters to be open despite the morning chill, granting a view of cloudless blue sky.

But I made the mistake of sitting up while still groggy. I stared down at the bags of flesh on my chest. Before it could register what I had just done, Melione squeaked and quickly pulled my blanket up to cover them.

“Sweet Goddess, Lady Tiana! You truly are too unguarded in the morning!”

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It was a scene repeated from the previous volumes. As a reader, it had seemed like a frivolous bit of fan service, but apparently it was the original Tiana’s actual nature. And I had acquired it perfectly.

Melione had developed the habit of sticking close to Tiana in the morning when they slept in the same room as the men, thanks to Tiana’s zombie-like morning stupor. As a commoner, she had expectations of Tiana as a noble girl and wanted her to live up to them.

I seemed to be drawing on Tiana’s memories now. The people I had worked hard to identify the previous day were suddenly familiar to me. I was surprised to discover that Arken was ‘Uncle Arken’ in her mind. Lacking any extended family, Tiana had called her mother’s friends ‘Uncle’ and ‘Aunt’, and that was how she knew him. This was information not found in the published story.

Only allowed on

Was this what the ‘HR Manager’ meant by, ‘adjusting to your new identity’?

- my thoughts:
Yes, indeed. The HR Manager was not a one-time cameo role. We will see more of her, from time to time.
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