Ch.1 - A new path gifted
"So this is death." I said to the void before me with resignation.
'To think I would die this day.' I internally mused before thinking back upon my final moments.
Explosions all around.
Screaming men and women.
Guns firing into the crowd.
And in the heat of the moment, my blood pumped through my body as adrenaline surged, roaring at me to not just stand by and wait for death. To protect those under my charge. Hence, like any follower of the path of the warrior, of honor, I stepped forward to protect those I had sworn to.
In that haze of combat, chaos and blood, I took my pistol and drew my secret combat knife to slay over a dozen terrorists that day.
I managed to save a good number of people too. Important people for the future.
Not everyday one organizes security to a world summit as the it grew ready to tackle the growing problems of our age.
Space exploration itself had nearly started wars as battle lines were being drawn and blocks of nations fought for the new and abundant ressources within the grasps of humanity. The situation grew even worst when private enterprises began forming almost independent entities, challenging established nations, adding further tensions to an already precarious situation.
It was only with the discovery of a derelict space craft, of clear alien origins, did the nations of the world realize that maybe fighting one another when aliens existed wasn't the best idea that they decided to hold a summit to decide the Earth's next step for humanity as a species.
And during this time, fools believed it to be the perfect chance to strike at the world's leadership to create chaos for their own ends.
It could have been any number of people responsible really: from overly greedy corporations too enamored with their power and fearing restrictions to shortsighted rebels, terrorists, anarchists or extremists against the belief of leaving our planet.
But as the one in charge of securing the safety of all those present, I led the fight with gun in hand and, when I ran out of bullets, with my knife.
All until I was finally caught up in an explosion from who knows where.
That was the day Captain Masamune Kureha died.
When the youngest Captain in Japanese history, recipient of The Order of the Golden Kite, 2nd class, Hero of the Pacific-Chinese war, and chosen field leader for the first allied global force, died.
The day I died.
"Indeed. A death fitting a warrior." A deep, but stern voice which held some measure of approval sounded from around me.
This caused me to try and look around, but in my unknown state currently floating in a void, I was at a lost.
"Worry not little one. I mean you no harm. I fact, I wish to reward one such as yourself." The voice said, although I could hear a hint of amusement from my current dilemma. "Souls like yours get rarer and rarer as worlds age, or at least age without any sort of apocalypse which turns back the clock on a civilization, so I get a little curious."
"And what happens to me now that I have obtained this curiosity?" I warily asked as I felt completely helpless, but this doesn't mean I would act like a coward.
"Well, since I like what I am seeing, I do believe I'll take you." The voice said as I could almost picture a near savage grin on its unknown face.
"Take me?" I asked with a mild sensation of dread.
"Yes." It answered as a form coalesced before me.
The being was humanoid, as in two legs, arms with hands and fingers, a proportionate torso and a head. Then some details began fading surprisingly it seemed to be wearing a black Shihakushō like from...
"Bleach?" I inadvertently voiced aloud as some of my nerdier side was brought to light in this odd situation.
Everyone needs a way to unwind and mine was comics, either from the homeland or the west.
"It is one of my preferred universes. Us aspects tend to simply chose our physical representations, but this one resonates more with what parts of Death I represent: Reincarnation, the cycle of souls, battle and purification." It explained as its head began taking the shape of a handsome, of pale Asian man with long black hair and eyes.
He wasn't in anyway intimidating, in fact he made me feel like a new beginning instead of an end, but my mind and instincts clearly wouldn't only listen to this feeling as I understood what it just said. An Aspect of Death, or maybe an embodiment of multiple aspects was more accurate according to it.
"And what does a being such as yourself want with me?" I asked it as I readied myself for anything ranging from being erased, sudden reincarnation or becoming a toy to a being so out of my understanding that I could do naught but accept it.
"Initially I thought about having you reincarnate in one of my Bleach-verses as a Shinigami. I believe you would do rather well there, but then you see, a few of my fellow aspects from across the Omniverse began grooming champions which have been sweeping our little contests and I thought 'why not do something different?'." The aspect explained with a small grin as it looked at me.
"And then you popped up, with so much more potential than a simple warrior. A leader. A thinker too. And maybe, if you had the chance, a king." It said with a flourish. "And I just couldn't help but think how far you could go with the right opportunities. So now I've got a deal for you."
"What kind of deal?" I questioned with some measure of curiosity.
I couldn't do anything regardless and being a 'champion' at least sounds like an opportunity for more.
"I send you to one of the worlds under my purview as a newborn. Your choice, but it needs to be one where you believe you could reach the top in something in. You get three boons: One special ability, one power and one regarding knowledge or skill." It explained with a strange feeling of excitement leaking through.
"And what is this matter of a champion?" I immediately asked as this was the matter which worried me the most.
"Oh that. That comes after. And by after I mean when you die again." It answered seriously. "When that happens, no matter how long, you become a champion for my sector of the afterlife and join in on the proper competitions between afterlives where aspects like me have some of the only fun available to us: Universe Gambling."
"And these competitions are what? Mortal Kombat style?" I followed up grimly.
"Sometimes, but nothing is permanent since you would be linked to my afterlife. It's not always combat either, sometimes it's inventing competitions or cooking ones, it all depends.
My only criteria for this is you putting in the proper effort to reach the top in something depending on the world you chose. After that, you join my team, get some champion benefits, better residence, loved ones get to join you, essentially your own little slice of heaven in between competitions.
There's a minimum participation clause which says you have to serve at least as long as you've lived in both lives, then you could relinquish your title, but you'd also lose a good deal of the benefits. Something to think about."
The answer left me rather baffled honestly.
"So this is for... gambling?" I sort of asked myself as I tried to just wrap my head around this revelation that entities like it gambled universes like that.
"Indeed. So... are you in Masamune Kureha? Are you willing to challenge the peak of a world and then face the best of the best from the omniverse?" It asked with a challenging smile.
'Well shit... he knows what kind of person I am.' I thought as his blatant bait bangled before me, his words ringing in my being.
"You already know the answer." I answered with a smile which only emerged when I was challenged.
It showed up when I first deployed during the initial conflicts between Chinese forces and Taiwan. It showed up when I held forward position with troops I rallied after our officers died. It showed up when I stormed through fortresses with my men. When I faced death countless times in those years. And when I finally faced my death, I know I died with that same smile.
"I did know it. But I just wanted to make sure I really had you and that smile tells me everything." It replied as it matched my smile. "Honestly, if I didn't snatch you up using my authority over Japanese souls of this universe, those Valkyries would have scooped you up as fast as possible."
"Good to know I'm so popular even in death." I jokingly said as I remembered the god awful paparazzi from my life as a 'Hero of Nippon'.
"Well, souls with true potential like yours are rather rare, even rarer are the ones which were already tapping into some of it." It explained briefly before waving its hand. "Regardless, time to begin your selection. Choose the world."
With that, a light grey, holographic screen appeared before me with a rather extensive list of worlds.
Many were variations of others, like the many Bleach-verses I wasn't too interested in.
I saw a few Shaman Kings which did tempt me, it has some pretty cool concepts in the manga, but Hao is a true monster until he gets some sense slapped into him right at the end.
Not touching the DxD-verses.
No Naruto unless whatever the hell Boruto was gets excluded.
Dragon Ball is a hard pass.
The more mundane and generally Harem, pure ecchi, more female oriented and the unknowns are rejected.
But then I saw two options which tantalized my interest.
DC comics and Marvel.
"Which versions of these two are available?" I asked It.
"I have a few DC-verses, but best one would be Golden Age Earth-2, while I have an interesting Marvel-1916 which is kind of my middle ground between the three most known Marvel Universes of 616, 1610 and 199999."
"Well now... isn't that interesting?" I murmured with a growing smirk as storylines flashed through my mind.
"I take it you've made your choice?" It asked with a knowing look as if this was its plan all along.
Not surprising coming from such an entity, but I was fine with this. Marvel had many opportunities to offer, it was just a matter of finding out the balance of the three once there and staying under the radar while building up my power base.
"Yes." I simply answered as I selected Marvel-1916.
"Good, good. Now the starting point." It said as a new screen appeared with boxes for country of origin, date of birth and the likes.
From what I could see, I could theoretically be born in the stone ages.
Not that I will chose this, no matter how much prep time this would give.
'Let's see here... Japan, as beside it being my homeland, I believe it would be a good starting point for what my current plan can achieve.' I thought as slowly pieces of my initial path fell before me.
"If I wished to be an Imperial Family member, would that be possible?" I asked the aspect.
"Yes." I simply replied.
"Good, then..." I spoke under my breath as I entered my desire to be born the son of Crown Prince Akihito, on July 7th, 1967.
That selection did lock out the option to chose my specific birth place, but it should be worth it.
"Interesting. A bit direct after I spoke of my belief in your potential to be a ruler, but I can see the benefits of this move." The aspect said as a new screen appeared. "Now for the boons."
This was where I would make or break my future.
'Unseen. Sage force. The full knowledge of Nathaniel Essex.' I entered with hope.
"Isn't this a peculiar list for a warrior." The aspect stated with a ponderous look before it began grinning. "Specify the Unseen aspect so I can make sure I'm giving the right boon."
"There are too many all-seeing individuals, scrying methods, peeping abilities and the likes, I want to be free of them." I explained as best I could.
It was a sort of double-edged ability. They could simply overlook me as an anomaly, there are certainly enough of those in Marvel, or they higher beings could smite me as an unneeded variable.
"I can do so up to a certain level, such as abstract entities and the likes, but beyond that you will be hidden." It replied with a thoughtful look.
"That will be more than fine. Thank you." I appreciatively told the being.
"As for the Sage Force, that just needs a bit of tweaking, and the knowledge will be added slowly as well. Beyond this, you will retain your 'self' as it were. No point in choosing you and then having you get lost in that amoral tool's mind or the Sage Force after all." It further explained, easing my mild worries.
I had believed my own will alongside the Sage Force would have allowed me to assimilate Essex's knowledge in relative safely, but now I had a guarantee from an Aspect to ease my mind.
"Then I shall endeavor to not waste this opportunity you have bestowed upon me... my future lord." I respectfully said as it truly has been accommodating with my requests.
"It is a relatively small effort on my part." It waved off, but I felt some acknowledgement of my words regardless. "Now, as all this becomes implemented, you will essentially be slumbering until your new body reaches the age of 3. It will allow you to pass the newborn stage without any sort of awkwardness.
No man such as yourself would make it through those years of humiliation intact after all." It mildly joked as a teasing grin appeared.
"My thanks. With this I will at least possess minimal control over my body." I quickly spoke as I hadn't thought of that.
'Thinking too far ahead and dismissing the first steps... what a blunder.' I secretly thought.
"I do Hope you enjoy yourself Masamune Kureha. Go for the apex in this new life of yours. Do not chain yourself in the clothing of a soldier when you can be so much more." It said with a waive of its hand.
And with that, I felt myself lose whatever form of consciousness I held and began to eagerly await my awakening.