Feeling warmth grasp his hand, Takeru clenched his teeth.
Even inside pitch black darkness, she told him he wasn't alone.
When he opened his eyes, he was standing in darkness.
Beside him, his azure partner was holding his hand.
Takeru looked up at the darkness.
"Currently we are inside a sea of Hyakki Yakou, we are captured but are not receiving erosion. It appears Ootori Sougetsu had you receive mental contamination."
"This place is inside Host's dream, a world inside your mind. Using our contract, I have blocked all interference from the outside."
He remembered that part. Within time that seemed like eternity, Takeru tasted loneliness that seemed like hell.
It was Lapis who saved him. He was saved by her warmth.
He decided not to let go of this warmth any more and strongly squeezed her hand.
"Let's go back. Can you wake me up?"
"Yes. But before that... let's talk a little."
Lapis let go of Takeru's hand, just to entangle her fingers with his and hold it again.
When he grasped it back, Lapis looked back up at him. Her pupils were shaking slightly and she moved her lips as if trying speak up.
"...What is it?"
He asked, and her pupils shook even stronger.
Lapis answered with a trembling voice.
"Actually... there is one way... to save the world."
Takeru's expression stiffened.
This should have been good news.
The reason he didn't rejoice, was because Lapis' expression wasn't too nice. She stared at him with an expression making it seem like she could burst into tears any time.
Takeru asked with intention of accepting any answer he could receive.
"Tell me. How, are you saying we can save the world? I will do it, no matter the method—— "
It was when Takeru put a hand on his chest and spoke to persuade Lapis.
"——You and Mistilteinn will become a substitute for a God."
Another presence has appeared inside the darkness.
It was a white-haired woman wearing a white robe.
Looking semi-transparent, the woman floated in the air like a ghost.
"Do not worry. As I am now I have no power to interfere with you in any way."
It wasn't like he trust her, but recalling that he was in a world inside his mind, Takeru released his vigilance. She went missing after his battle with Orochi, but she did survive after all.
However, considering that all interference from outside has been blocked by Lapis, it must have meant that Lapis herself has invited Mother Goose to this world inside his mind.
"What's your motive? What do you mean by "substitute to God"?"
Despite trying to chew through Mother Goose's words, Takeru couldn't figure out what she meant.
"Kusanagi Takeru-san. Do you remember what goal we had in mind as we took action?"
Of course he remembered. Orochi acted in order to revive his older sister, Kusanagi Mikoto... no, in order to make it so that Mikoto's death never happened, he contracted Mother Goose and stood against the world.
Remake everything and invalidate the past.
Turn the world into a blank piece of paper and remake everything from the start.
It was because Takeru didn't accept that, that he fought against Orochi.
"...Remaking the world was your goal."
"Yes. Or to be more correct, to kill Ootori Sougetsu and through fusion of Orochi and me, acquiring the 《God's Vessel》."
Kill the God and become the God.
That was Mother Goose's and Orochi's goal.
Even Takeru, who wasn't especially smart, understood what Mother Goose tried to tell him.
"............Are you telling us to do what you were unable to?"
She said it as if it was natural.
He didn't think she was joking.
Both Gungnir and Mistilteinn were both Sacred Treasure.
"We Sacred Treasures have had our properties mutate upon the world's reconstruction. But although we have acquired personalities which were not inherent to us, or original shapes did not change. Even Mistilteinn, a replica created by the old humanity, should be able to become a vessel."
"I have taught Mistilteinn the operative procedure for 《Deification》. If you kill the God in our place and attain Godhood, you will be able to save the world."
Mother Goose spoke while coldly looking down on Takeru.
Attain Godhood. Takeru didn't know what that exactly meant.
But he knew that it wasn't a good thing.
"...You must be joking. As if we'd become a God to blank the whole world. Even God doesn't have the right to take away the past from the world."
Even if it was painful, Takeru wished for the past.
He wanted to move on into the future while shouldering the past.
"Just replacing the God will not turn the world blank. That choice will be left to you. It is up to God to decide what he does to the world."
"If you wish for the world to remain as is, then you just have to become the God and make it so."
Takeru couldn't feel any discontent or hesitation in Mother Goose's voice.
He furrowed his eyebrows. It was because he wasn't convinced by what Mother Goose said. Their goals were too different for her to help them out like this.
"I don't know... But are you all right with that?"
"I have already been defeated. My body will soon collapse and my soul disappear shortly after. If Ootori Sougetsu is to destroy this world, I'd rather prefer to entrust it to you two."
Mother Goose spoke flatly, without any sadness in her voice, spoke of her thoughts.
But then suddenly, she narrowed here eyes and her cold expression was tinged with humanity.
"Also... I have been entrusted this from host. He said that he would like me to leave you hope, in case that we were defeated."
"He left a message. "This means you really mastered everything this time. Accept it, you dumb disciple"."
Or so he said, she added and quietly closed her eyes.
Takeru made a dumbfounded look. That message was very like Orochi. Short, rough, and included all his usual habits.
"Until the very end, he was an incomprehensible person."
Mother Goose muttered as she recalled Orochi.
When she thought about it, there were several strange things he did. When Takeru was temporarily captured in the Magic Academy, he told Takeru to "Deepen his ties with Mistilteinn", back then he was admonished that there were too few merits in it for their own goal. The fact that Orochi silently saw off Takeru and others back to the outside world, also seemed puzzling in retrospect.
Orochi should have known that Takeru will become his enemy.
And yet he trained Takeru, showing him future. Even after losing his life he had entrusted them with hope. In the end, he assumed several things that might happen and left Takeru several things.
Takeru faced down and squeezed his lips.
...Really... he's always, always doing whatever he pleases...
An image of Orochi smiling like a mischievous kid has passed through his head.
...Even though he came at me with no mercy...
He recalled the sensation of how Orochi ruffled his hair with a rough hand.
...And yet... he always does stuff that makes me unable to hate him...
Takeru recalled the smile his master made when he was being cut down.
I can only be grateful to you now... it's too much, Master.
His squeezed fist crackled.
The second time he received qualification for mastering the style. When he learned that he hasn't been taught everything there was in the Double-Edged style, Takeru felt a little dissatisfied with Orochi. He was ashamed for calling himself an initiate despite not being taught the secret arts.
But now, he was finally acknowledged by Orochi. By surpassing the wall called "Orochi", Kusanagi Takeru was able to move on.
Now that he was acknowledged, he couldn't find any other words than those of gratitude.
There was no choice but to accept the will of his master. Rather, was there any other way to fulfill his reckless wishes other than by becoming a God?
Lapis had returned the strong grip Takeru had on her hand.
Takeru softened his grip and looked at her. Unchanged, she seemed uneasy. He also didn't think everything would go so easily even if they become a God.
"Let's say we become a God, what happens to us then?"
"Even if you use 《Deification》 you won't become a perfect God. In the end you are just a demon and a Sacred Treasure's replica, your quality is simply notwithstanding. It's also impossible for you to become a living god like Ootori Sougetsu. He only could become one because of an error resulting from the collision of worlds."
"Once your and Mistilteinn's souls fuse, you will lose your existence as an individual. No one will be able to perceive your existence and existing merely as a soul, you will watch over this world."
"In other words, you will exist as merely a concept of God in this world."
He was prepared for this to an extent. The side effect of God Hunter Form was a fusion of soul and sublimation to a non-human existence. Deification also has to have drawbacks to it as well.
Originally in Norse Mythology 《God Hunter Forms》 was means for gods to kill each other and 《Deification》 existed to take the seat of the chief god for the individual. Explained Mother Goose.
He simply accepted the facts.
If we become a God, we won't be able to be together with our little sister.
If we become a God, we won't be able to be together with our comrades.
If we become a God, no one will be able to perceive us.
Only capable of watching over the world, they would continue to exist forever.
Definitely not. Not happening.
————But was there any other way for them to save the world?
Takeru closed his eyes. He could tell Lapis put all her strength into her hand holding his.
Think. You have to think. I might not be smart, but I have to find a way.
Think. Think, think, think.
"...It's okay, Host. You just have to be honest with yourself, that is all."
Lapis weakened the grip on Takeru's hand.
"Let's resist without becoming a God. Even if there is no way out, Host always pulls it through. You have kept overcoming various problems so far. So this time too——"
She unwound her fingers and was about to let go.
——But Takeru has gripped her hand once again.
——Strongly, while vowing not to let go of it ever again.
He opened his eyes and made a troubled smile.
"No. We won't find another way. If that guy remains as a God, we'll end up destroyed."
Hearing Takeru's words Lapis was shocked, rendered speechless.
While holding Lapis' hand, Takeru declared to Mother Goose.
"That's why I'm going to become a God. It's fine."
Just like that, he made a declaration not even a child would do, deciding his own fate.
Mother Goose quietly opened her eyes, and Lapis,
"——There is no way it's fine!!"
She got angry at him, making a voice he had never heard before.