Translator and editor: SaltyTank
After seeing them out, only Jade and Prommel remained in the common area. Having to face the brawny man alone, she felt very anxious. Though, to be honest, his only frightening feature was his physique; he looked and acted like a nice person.
‘Hm… Where should we start? Let’s have a seat first.’ He signalled Jade to sit at the round table. ‘Right, let’s start with a body inspection.’
‘Body… Body inspection!’ Jade tugged her clothes.
Seeing her reaction, Prommel couldn’t help but chuckle.
‘Wait, no! There’s no need to take off your clothes, don’t be so nervous.’
‘You see, this is how I do it—’ Prommel said as he placed his palm roughly ten centimetres above Jade’s head.
Jade turned her eyes to peek above. His arm was shrouded in a sparkling blue aura, and blue particles rained from his palm onto her head and body.
The small lights permeated into her body without her sensing anything. Still, she couldn’t help but inspect herself, only to find a blue glow radiating from within her body. At around a distance of two fists, a hologram of her internal structure was projected onto the air. She could see her organs, her heart beating, her blood flowing; everything going on inside her body was now visible.
Although it was just a projection of blue light, it still reminded her of the tattered corpses back in her village. After all, there weren’t many chances to look at human organs given their technology. She shut her eyes tight, unable to bear looking at it anymore.
‘This is my power. Apart from healing wounds, I can also visualise the insides of people.’
‘The power you speak of… What is—’
‘Let’s leave this for later, Miss Jade. Turn over a bit please… Good.’ Prommel interrupted before she could finish her question, his eyes focused on the blue hologram. ‘Right, there’s no injuries on both the inside and outside. You’ve recovered splendidly. Ah, you can open your eyes too.’
Jade opened her eyes uneasily to find the hologram had already disappeared. She tested out her body by stretching, feeling relieved after feeling completely normal.
By the time she was done, Prommel had taken out a tiny object from his waist pocket. It was an azure triangular pyramid, something Jade had seen Hilde dig out from the gods’ skulls.
‘This is a “brain core”, collected from the monsters’ brains. It’s also their source of life.’
Jade was speechless for a moment. She knitted her brows and asked, ‘Just now, Andre mentioned feeding me…’
‘Yes, this is the thing.’
Jade could feel a wave of nauseousness hitting her, turning her face pale.
‘Tastes quite good once you get used to it though,’ Prommel laughed.
‘No… I don’t really want to know about it.’
‘Sure, I felt the same way as you did at first. Andre, that crazy fella, actually dared to eat such a thing. I’m not even sure if he’s a genius or dumbass…’
‘Yes, he’s probably the first guy in this world to eat a brain core.’
‘Anyways, from what we know, eating brain cores has two effects.’
Jade had yet to come to terms with being fed such a disgusting object, but she had to know more about it nonetheless. Suppressing her inner turmoil, she did her best to listen to Prommel’s explanation.
‘The first one, it changes your body structure by killing the cells in your body.’
‘Hold on! What, what did you just say?!’ His first sentence was enough to make her jump up from her seat.
Prommel reached out and calmed her down.
‘It’s the reason why you’re alive, but you’ll have to let me explain it bit by bit.’
Jade was shocked and confused, unable to comprehend what had actually happened to her body. Regardless of how she felt, it was a fact that she could not change. Her only choice was to deal with it. More importantly, she needed to know what she really was—a human or some sort of strange being.
‘Humans and those monsters called “gods” share similarities in appearance, but our internal structures are completely different. Upon eating a brain core, the special substances inside it will start to corrode the human body, gradually converting the body to be more monster-like. The most notable difference is that we’ll have significantly higher regenerative abilities and greater strength.’
Prommel paused to pull out two sheets of papers from the documents on the table. The first one had two humanoid drawings on it; one had wings while the other looked like a normal human.
‘Unlike humans, whose blood, muscles, and internal organs each had specific functions, the monsters’ tissues are complete entities on their own. Every tissue can perform all essential functions, meaning missing an organ or two doesn’t bother them in the slightest. It’s not really an exaggeration to call them immortal.’
Prommel pointed at the cross-sectional drawings and comparison diagrams on the paper and explained the differences to Jade. His finger rested on the monster’s brain.
‘So, to actually kill these monsters, we have to sever their heads and dig out the brain core to completely stop the body from receiving commands. It is only then could they be considered as dead.’
‘Why do you know all these things?’
Jade had only seen the gods twice, not to mention most people alive had never actually seen one before. Hearing Prommel speak of such things as though they were common sense, she felt bewildered.
‘The first thing to do when fighting a battle is to know your enemy. We conducted a few experiments a fews years ago, but I’m sure you won’t want to know the details.’
‘I suppose so…’
Prommel then put away the first sheet of paper and placed the second one in front of Jade. On it were more cross sectional diagrams and a neatly written title on one of the corners. She quickly noticed it was the Tunin language and read it out without meaning to.
‘Hm? You can read that?’
Prommel moved closer to Jade, his tone putting a bit of pressure on her.
‘Um, I used to know a Tuninese… Andre said there’s another Tuninese here, might that be Mister Prommel?’
‘Ha, unfortunately not. It’s just that I like their culture so I changed my name. The other Tuninese, is Marie over there.’ Prommel pointed to the chair in the corner. ‘Marie Noahide. She’s been like that for as long as I’ve known her. She only speaks to Andre and Hilde, but deep down she’s not a bad person.’
‘Is that so… That’s great, I thought she hated me,’ Jade said as she recalled Marie’s intimidating glare and heaved a sigh of relief. ‘Um, what does ‘Brynhildr’ mean?’
Jade’s knowledge of the Tuninese language was only limited to its phonetics. She could pronounce words, but could not comprehend the actual meaning most of the time. The reason why she felt interested in the title was because of Andre, or more specifically, the legend of the ‘god slaying sword’ whose existence had been denied by him.
‘It’s nothing important, just a scrapped plan, haha!’ Prommel smoothly changed the topic to the diagrams drawn on the paper. ‘After eating a brain core, our body will enter an ambiguous state between human and god. Body tissues and organs will be slowly corroded by the substance and have the tendency to integrate with one another.’
‘Like those monsters, organs gradually lose their specific functions and instead become individual complete systems. That’s why eating brain cores can save those who are about to die. Functions of damaged organs are replaced and taken over by the affected body tissues. The only difference would be how many cores you’ve eaten and how well your interior structures have merged.’
‘It can do such a thing…?’
‘It’s not about whether it can or not; these are simply the effects of eating a brain core. Wound recovery is just a bonus because the substance can corrode wounds more easily, replacing the damaged parts and allowing blood circulation to continue. You were most likely going to die under normal circumstances, which was why Andre saved you with brain cores.’
Jade simply nodded.
‘We’ve saved a fair bit of people in the past, and the previous record was two brain cores. You’re the only one to have survived eating three brain cores. Probably thanks to perfect timing and your body characteristics, the corrosion rate of three brain cores outdid your rate of dying without dominating your mind.’
‘So does that mean… my organs are particularly good at being corroded and integrating with the brain cores?’ Though Jade had a hunch, she still asked what she had in mind.
Faced with such a question, even Prommel hesitated before giving her his answer.
‘To be frank, yes, very much so. Even greater than all of us here, back when we ate our first brain cores that is. Please don’t blame Andre, he simply didn’t want to see someone die right in front of him.’
‘No, I don’t blame him at all… I’m very grateful for what he did.’
After all, Jade knew she was the one who made the decision.
Even if it’s such a world, do you wish to live?
Andre’s question emerged in her mind once again. This time, she realised the implication behind his words.
Not just to live like a coward in this world fated for doom, but also to have the determination to survive no matter what—even if it meant discarding one’s identity as a human.
Jade lightly sighed and slapped herself on the cheeks, trying to raise her own spirits.
Prommel silently stowed the papers and adjusted his seat.
‘Alright, we’ve spent long enough on the first effect. About time we moved onto the second one.’
‘The second effect, it’s the abilities you guys speak of… right?’
‘That’s right,’ Prommel shrugged and said with a tired smile. ‘We’ve become similar to those monsters, so receiving abilities similar to theirs is not much of a surprise.’
‘Does that mean I—’
‘Stop.’ Prommel grabbed her extended arm and put a stop to her actions.
Jade looked up to find that Prommel’s attitude had turned extremely serious, completely opposite of his relaxed self just now. His intimidating aura rushed to devour her. She involuntarily shuddered.
‘Once you’ve used magic, you can no longer pretend to be human.’
‘What… what do you mean?’
‘The source of those powers are these blue particles. We’re similar, but not identical to those monsters, so we can’t create the particles ourselves. Do you now understand why we carry brain cores on us all the time?’
‘To replenish the powers any time…’
‘Spot on. More importantly, this is a vicious circle. Our bodies will thirst for more and more of those blue particles, so we have to keep fighting those monsters to acquire brain cores. As if that’s not bad enough, the more we eat, the more our bodies get corroded. We still have no clue what’ll happen when we’re completely corroded.’
Jade stayed silent.
‘As long as you don’t use magic, you can maintain this ambiguous state. No need to survive on the blue particles, no need to fight the gods. Simply put, you can still barely pass off as a human for the rest of your life, though we’re beyond saving ourselves.’
‘Ha… Barely pass off as a human, is it? It’s… a bit ridiculous.’
‘But we don’t have a choice. When the time for us to use our powers comes, who would bother thinking about the consequences?’ Prommel said in a tone as though it had nothing to do with him.
Even so, Jade felt bad upon hearing it. She did not pity them nor did she feel down due to her ambiguous state. It was just that, the world itself felt like a farce.
‘I’m not telling you such things to rope you into hunting gods and brain cores together with us. It’s to let you understand your situation so you can make plans for the future. Is there anything more you want to ask?’
If possible, Jade wanted to shut herself in without knowing anything. That, however, was but a dream at this point. She had long since trespassed into the dark side of the world and could only face the reality.
There was this suspicion in her heart for a while now, and it was now a good time to ask about it.
‘It’s just a sudden thought. You and Andre… and Hilde also, seem to call the gods as ‘monsters’ instead. Why is that?’
Prommel was dumbfounded by her question.
‘Did Andre not tell you? Those things, they aren’t even gods!’