Disclaimer: I do not own Mushoku Tensei and all rights to Mushoku Tensei belong to its respective owners.
Chapter 1: A Life of Regret
Regret - that word summed up the raging well of emotions I felt as the world around me darkened. Only the smiling figures of Sylphy and Roxy before me offered any comfort.
"Aah, Sylphy, Roxy… Damn, you sure are as cute as ever…"
Memories of my life began flashing quickly before me. They say that a dying man can see his entire life flashed before his eyes in but mere seconds.
I was reminded of Sylphy, my beautiful wife, who had given me solace in her embrace when I was searching for a way to regain my confidence as a man. The mother of my only child, I had abandoned her in my grief as I fell into depression following my beloved Roxy's passing.
In the end, unable to stand my behavior any longer, she chose to go with Ariel on a doomed mission to the Kingdom of Asura.
The sight of her cold, naked body displayed alongside those of Ariel's other followers in that city square on that day, the scene of those jeering crowds of vermin as they flung rocks and insults at her - even after I had turned that city square into cinders - that one scene was forever seared into my memory.
The grief I felt that day was superseded only by my anger. Anger at Sylphy for leaving me, anger at Ariel for bringing Sylphy along to her death, anger at the Kingdom of Asura for taking Sylphy's life, anger at the crowd who were jeering as they desecrated her remains, but most important of all, anger at myself.
My own self who had betrayed and abandoned Sylphy when I should have been by her side, my pathetic self who had failed to protect her and failed in his duty as a husband.
I too failed to protect Roxy and doomed her when I listened to that vile, villainous snake who called himself a god.
Why did I ever believe him, I wonder, when my first instincts were always to suspect him?
Clearly, such a shady creature – who appeared in my dreams right after a world-changing event as the Metastasis Incident was – can't be up to any good.
In the end, I still cannot fathom the motivations that led him to want Roxy and her unborn child dead. Perhaps he simply enjoyed being an evil god, laughing at the sufferings of mere mortals. Perhaps it was because he enjoyed the experience of entrapping the naive man that I was, feeding such man hope with one hand while taking everything he had with the other, all the while laughing as that naive man fell into despair when the world around him crumbled.
In the end, I ended up killing Cliff too. Cliff, my friend who had even abandoned his Church and his future in order to help me. And with that death, I had sent his pregnant wife, Elinalise, into despair.
And for what purpose? By the time I returned, Roxy's lower body had already crystallized. Roxy, my teacher, my Master, my savior, my wife.
She, who had believed in me, was no longer alive.
I had failed her.
Eris too...That Eris who had faithfully shadowed me through the decades of my life. I never realized what she had thought, what she was thinking all along, until it was too late.
In the end, she gave her life to save my worthless self, taking a fatal hit from Atofe's subordinate, Moore, that was meant for me.
The anger and sorrow on Ghyslaine's face as she berated me, I can still vividly recall it as if it was yesterday.
I've never understood Eris until the end, or rather, I've never tried to understand her.
I didn't give her any of the comforts she deserved. Even if those comforts were something beyond what someone like me could have provided, I could have...I should have at least tried to give her that. If nothing else, at least a shoulder for her to lean on.
Clearly, the only thing I've learnt from her sacrifice was that I was certainly not someone who deserved her long years of dedication.
What had started as a misunderstanding on my part had snowballed into fatal ignorance. But even so, I should have at least tried, I should have at least made the effort to understand her.
I have failed Eris!
If Master Sauros, Master Philip and Mistress Hilda knew what I had done, I'm sure they would definitely be incapable of finding it in themselves to forgive me.
When the Metastasis Event happened, Eris lost her entire family. All the relatives she could count on were no longer around. Yet I failed to become a bastion of support for her just as she had been for me. She who had sworn to become strong enough in order to protect me.
In the end, I had failed her utterly.
Adding to my list of sins and regrets were what became of Aisha, Zanoba, Ginger and Julie who were all cruelly murdered for no other reason that the fact that they had followed me, a worthless man who cannot even furnish his friends and family with a decent guarantee of protection. I had failed them too.
In a way, it was a laughable example of how low one can fall in life.
All these memories remained engraved in the very depths of my being. In the end, there was nothing left of me but regrets and anger. And I was reduced to but a single overriding ambition, vengeance.
That desire for revenge fueled me for decades as I searched in utter futility for a way to get back at the one who had brought great harm to all those I had ever cared for. In my last desperate attempt to satisfy my thirst for vengeance, I had even leapt through time in order to warn my past self of the kind of future he would have were he to stay the course.
Unfortunately, the imperfect time leap meant that I had only a short while to say my piece before my body expired.
I had given my past self a summary of my past as well as my diary. I wonder if he would even listen to the advice of a suspicious old man. Well, it didn't matter anyway.
I only did that as a last whimsical act of a bitter old man with neither the ability nor the time to exact his own vengeance. It was just for a small amount of pointless personal satisfaction. In the end, no matter what the past me does doesn't change the facts of what I had done.
The only thing I can do now is reminisce in my regrets.
The pregnant Roxy who had crystallized and died of Magic Stone Disease,
Sylphy who left me and was killed along with Ariel and her supporters in the Kingdom of Asura,
Eris who had died protecting me,
Cliff who was killed by poison during our escape from the Holy Kingdom of Milis as well as...
Zanoba, Aisha, Ginger and Julie who were mercilessly butchered by Milis' Order of the Temple.
They had all existed and had all lived.
Perhaps, it was more accurate to say that the Rudeus I met after travelling through time was the Rudeus of an alternate universe, the Rudeus of a different world line. No matter what he did from the time I met him, it won't change the fact that I had killed Roxy, Sylphy and Eris, along with everyone else that mattered to me.
But I at least hoped that he could give that damned Hitogami his comeuppance!
While I was lost in reminiscence, I suddenly found myself in an empty white room. Instinctively, I was on guard.
"Is this...Hitogami's realm?" I thought, preparing for the possibility where I won't be able to control myself from trying to strangle that damned queer the moment I saw his disgusting, mosaic visage.
Of course, I knew that it would be a pointless exercise anyway, since I cannot touch Hitogami in his dream realm even if I wanted to. I had tried before.
Hitogami, however, never showed himself.
But there was another person in front of me.
A haggard, tired-looking young man, wasting himself away on bottle after bottle.
The brown-haired drunkard with dead eyes who sobbed in sorrow in between his drinks.
I knew this man, I knew him very well indeed.
That's right, this man was the younger me after my return to Sharia, a scant few nights after I had found Roxy dead. It was the me who returned too late, despite having gotten Cliff killed in the Holy Kingdom of Millis. Yet, instead of cutting my losses and providing a reassuring presence to Sylphy and my family after such a tragedy, I had turned my sorry self into a drunkard, hopelessly searching for comfort at the bottom of countless bottles.
I ran away from my responsibilities.
Worse still, the younger me of that night ended up sleeping with a whore I met in that bar.
I betrayed Sylphy's trust, and ended up sending her away to her death. With my own two hands, I had destroyed my family.
"Why aren't I good enough...?" Sylphy's words the morning after still haunted me. I remembered it clearly, I made her cry.
After that, my already broken family was irreparably shattered into pieces.
The man before me fell suddenly, with a bottle still in hand. While touching his left cheek, he looked towards me, dazed and confused. I had punched the young man there with all my might.
Of course, this tired old body of mine wasn't all that it used to be anymore. But it doesn't matter, I proceeded to mount the sorry bastard, confused as he was, and pummeled away at his pathetic face.
"Why?! Why did you abandon Sylphy?! Why didn't you go after her?! When you were reborn into that world, didn't you swear to do the best you can?! Was Roxy's death, was Cliff's death not enough for you?! Because of you, because of your stupidity and your utter incompetence, Sylphy died!"
I kept punching away at the disgusting trash before me.
The young man didn't make a single sound through it all. However, the edges of his lips began curving upwards, he was smiling while tears fell from his eyes.
The bizarre spectacle left the me speechless, I couldn't bring myself to punch the broken man anymore.
"Isn't it obvious old man? You already know the answer yourself!"
The young man before me said amidst tired laughter.
He was laughing...no... I was the one laughing. Rather, I was no longer where I was anymore.
Finding myself lying on my back, with a bottle in my right hand, and my left covering my face, I found myself laughing hysterically at my own self. I was laughing at the trash NEET who wasted away his second chance, ending his life as a piece of trash who killed everyone that mattered to him.
"I know that already..."
I slowly got up, my face groaning under the pain of those punches I had received from my own reflection. The bottle in my hand felt heavy. Still, I resolved to throw it as far away as I could.
Upon hearing the clanking noise of the broken bottle, I sat down cross-legged on the floor of the empty white room.
Before long, many more Rudeuses across the different phases of life appeared before me.
There was the Rudeus who was about to challenge the Immortal Demon Queen Atoferatofe, the Rudeus who failed to apologize to Sylphy after betraying her trust, the Rudeus who couldn't eliminate the Millis forces who were chasing after Cliff, Zanoba and himself. There were many other scenes, scenes that clearly showed and reminded me of where I had failed.
However, one scene in particular caught my attention.
It was a scene of the happy Rudeus who was smiling, surrounded by his family. There was Sylphy who was cradling Lucy, the pregnant Roxy, Aisha, Norn, Zenith and Lillia surrounding him. A picture perfect scene of a happy man blessed by those around him.
The reason why my hands failed to protect any of them, it was so obvious after all.
It was because I was a contented, weak-kneed, naive slacker.
I had never intentionally sought power, save only enough to keep up with others around me. I had never intentionally sought wealth, save only enough to maintain my comfortable lifestyle. I had never intentionally sought knowledge, save only enough in order not to fall behind.
Everything I did was merely the bare minimum needed to maintain the comforting bubble I called 'home'.
I was contented to live in my weakness and my ignorance.
My sloth killed those whom I loved.
In the first place, did I truly love Sylphy, Roxy and the rest of my family?
No, I certainly did love them, there was no question about it. In fact, I believe that my feelings have yet to change even now.
Though if that was the case, why did Roxy die?
Because the Hitogami tricked me into setting loose a disease-carrying rat that indirectly infected Roxy?
No, that wasn't the reason. The disease was treatable with God Class Detoxification magic.
So why did I fail to get Roxy the written copy of the God Class Detoxification spell in time?
Because I was discovered by the guards of Millishion's Cathedral?
Because we were chased by Millis' knights?
Because the battle with them rendered the teleport magic circle we were to use for our return unusable?
No, it was because I failed to kill from the beginning.
Had I eliminated my pursuers from the very start, we wouldn't have needed to fight so close to the teleport magic circle.
I certainly had the ability to do that.
Yet when weighing Roxy's life against my reluctance to kill, what I had once pretentiously believed to be my own brand of morality, my false sense of morality was still heavier.
I failed as Roxy's husband then...no...I suppose it was then, that I no longer deserve to call myself Roxy's husband anymore.
In the end, I had put my own prejudice on a higher pedestal than her life.
In the first place, had I worked hard enough to learn God Class magics, including God Class Detoxification magic, Roxy would have certainly lived regardless of the disease.
Sylphy too, why did she die again? Because she ran away from me and followed Ariel into the Asura Kingdom's power struggle?
Was it because I had slept with a prostitute and betrayed Sylphy's trust?
That may have been the final straw, but Sylphy was likely wavering even before that.
Was it because I had forgotten and abandoned Sylphy, choosing instead to indulge in my depression and sorrow following Roxy's death?
Does that mean I had loved Roxy more than Sylphy?
It was the uncomfortable question I had been reluctant to ask myself. I've certainly liked to think that I loved both my wives equally.
No, that wasn't it. It wasn't because I loved one over the other.
It was probably because deep down, what I loved more than anything else or anyone else, more than Sylphy and Roxy, was my picture perfect bubble of an intact and happy family.
This picture perfect happiness playing in front of me was always my greatest love.
It was because I had been obsessed with the idea of a perfect family, where everyone is happy and fulfilled and no one gets hurt or die untimely deaths, that when such a dream ended with Roxy's passing, I could no longer function nor care for the world around me, and I abandoned those still alive then who had counted on me.
Perhaps, it was because in my first memorable life as a disgusting NEET, I had never felt the happiness of being surrounded by a happy family. Well, even if I did have such a life once, I certainly cannot remember it.
That reasoning too...might have just been another excuse.
Regardless, it was an established fact that I was the one who transformed one tragic disaster into an irreparable nightmare.
Roxy died, Syply died...and Eris...
What a joke!
What an utter failure!
Everyone who had ever loved me as a man had died untimely deaths!
Eris too, I never did provide her with even a day of happiness.
She who had lost her family and ended up dedicating herself to become strong for me only to see me reject her outright because of my ignorance and reluctance, my worthless prejudice!
Still, like my own shadow, she continued to follow me and protected me, without myself ever realizing it.
Even when I came to hate her, even suspecting her of being Hitogami's apostle, she never stopped protecting me, through countless years and years.
Such boundless dedication, wasted on my worthless self! Yet, she continued to trudge on that perilous path. It was as though she was an unwanted Dark Knight, I couldn't help but fall for her all over again when I thought that.
Yet, her reward was a thankless death.
In the end, I, Rudeus, had repaid that love and zealous determination with death.
I was too weak to challenge Atofe and her crew.
No, rather, I had never seriously sought to become strong enough to challenge those who stood among the titans of the world. It was because I was content even with my weaknesses, believing that I could make up for it somehow or another.
My lackadaisical attitude had left those around me paying the ultimate price.
Had I really believed that I could win against those I challenged with such half-assed determination? Such sloth had eventually proven fatal.
No doubt, it was my sloth that killed Eris. It was my sloth that killed everyone. It was just like what that insane, Archbishop character from that anime said as he kept going on and on about how the MC's sloth was what killed those around him.
That was certainly true for me.
Unfortunately, unlike that MC, I know that I'm not some fictional anime Main Character who gets to reincarnate every time I screwed up and died.
But still...It hurts...It really hurts...
To think that being so powerless could hurt this much...
Even when I knew that there was nothing else I could have done, the bounty of regrets I had accumulated can never subside. The memories of my failures continued to carve itself into my heart.
As I continued wallowing in my regret, all of a sudden, there was only darkness.
The white room and the Rudeuses before me were gone and all around there was only an endless pitch black.
'Is this hell? That'll be good too. Certainly, I deserve ending up in hell,'
I stood up and scanned my immediate surroundings.
Certainly, ending up in hell wouldn't be a bad idea. After all that I had done, going to hell would perhaps be a fitting chance for atonement.
Of course, I once again realized that my sins were not something I could easily atone for no matter what punishment I would face. But, being punished would perhaps provide me with a small degree of self-satisfaction. I would do anything for that.
"Child of Man, dost thou wish to fix thy mistakes?"
The sudden voice booming and echoing around have caught me by surprise.
"What?! Who are you?!"
I shouted as I looked desperately for a source of the voice, to no avail.
"What We are is irrelevant. Now answer! Child of Man, dost thou wish to atone for thy sins? Dost thou wish for a chance to undo thy mistakes? Hath thou any desire to relive thy life once more?"
'Relive my life once more? Is he implying that he can turn back time, or place me in a similar alternate universe? What a ridiculous notion...Though I was reincarnated from another world, so mayhaps it was not all that ridiculous...And if what the owner of this Voice offers is indeed possible, then what? Do I want to fix my mistakes? Do I want to atone for them? Who? Me? Can my mistakes even be fixed? Can what I have done even be undone?'
In the first place, whoever this voice belongs to is suspicious. What guarantee do I have that this isn't some kind of trap, or a practical joke set up by the Hitogami himself?
There's no way to tell.
For all I know, if I were to give a positive answer to that, he might suddenly come out and say "Gotcha! Did you think it would be that easy? Stupid!"
But...what the hell, it didn't matter. For decades, I had long thought that no matter what I did, it won't change the fact that my actions, my failures and my regrets were all established facts that could never be changed. Even if this turned out to be an attempt by that abomination to rub salt on my wounds one last time, I couldn't deny that the allure of atonement was certainly something I found to be attractive. And then there's that...
Even if it was all just for my own self-satisfaction...I'll take it.
"Isn't it obvious?! Of course I'll take it. Even if it doesn't change what I've done, if there is even a minuscule chance that I can absolve myself from that sense of powerlessness that has haunted me for so long, if there is indeed a chance for that, I don't have to think twice!"
"I don't know who you are, or what you are. I don't know if you're even capable of doing what you're implying you could do. I don't know why you would even make such an offer. But if I can go back to redo that life once more, if I there is even a chance that I could have my vengeance, I'll take it!"
I shouted at what seemed to be the endless empty void. An answer in that booming voice returned almost instantly.
"Rejoice Child of Man! For We have found thee worthy of bearing Our Name. To be so cruelly hounded by a being thou cannot even begin to fathom, yet continue to nurture furious vengeance with such one-mindedness had left in Us a deep impression. Thy life itself is a story fitting of a Tragedy! Yet We hath wanted to see thee bring a different conclusion, and make thine life worthy of an Epic! We are XXXXXX, the God of XXXX. We have deigned thee worthy of Our Blessings and thou shalt hath Our Blessings. May thou turn the wheels of the World and bring down the Hammer of Justice upon the Foul One! Now, go forth my Champion and claim thine righteous vengeance!"
As the Mysterious Being voiced his last words, I suddenly felt as though I was falling into an endless abyss. Not that one could tell by simply looking as the world around me was nothing but a neverending pitch black. Yet, the terrifying sense of falling from a great height was there.
As I continued to look around, there still was not a even a trace of light.
No there was one.
Just one faint glimmer of light in the direction I was falling to. A faint glimmer of light that slowly became larger, until eventually the darkness was no more.
But here, I was suddenly assaulted by the memories of my lives, both of them.
I could suddenly vividly recall once more, as though it had just happened, the memories of my First Life. My parents, my siblings, the bullying I experienced in my days of youth, my life as a worthless NEET, as well as all the games, books, literature and articles I had ever come across were brought back to me, newly refreshed in my mind.
I too remembered once more, all of my Second Life, the moment I was born to two loving parents, the moment I first met Roxy, the moment I first went to the outside world, the moment I first met Sylphy, the moment I first met Eris and the each of the moments when I found them and everyone I cared for dead before me.
Such a furious assault by the recollection of my own lives, both of comedy and tragedy has left a swirling mix of emotions within me.
But amidst that mix a flickering flame was finding new life, as though fed by all the joys, all the hatred, all the anger and the sorrows in the world, it was transforming itself into a raging inferno. In the eye of the storm, the wind-fanned flame now threatened to burst forth.
And here, I've decided to renew a solemn vow, that I shall not rest until I have my vengeance! That I would do anything to accomplish that!
As my fall through this world of light continued, a spot of darkness became visible in the direction of my fall. The darkness slowly became larger and larger. The world grew dark and then there was none.
Thanks for reading. This is my first ever fanfiction, but feel free to comment and criticize. Constructive criticism are especially welcome as I'm always looking to improve. Many more chapters to come. Be warned however, that this story will focus much of its energy into exploring and expanding the world of Mushoku Tensei, dealing with the intricacies of politics, economics and warfare as well as the introduction of revolutionary technologies. It will have less focus on adventure and quests. So if that isn't your cup of tea, well...Also this story's Rudeus will be a whole different beast compared to Canon Rudeus given his long decades of bitter experience, so be prepared for a cynical realist character with a penchant for cunning. I may also change the Rating to M in the future for...reasons.