AN: Edit as of 03/22/24. I removed the beginning scene as someone pointed out it hurt the story, and I agreed. If there are any discrepancies, it's because of that, but I think I got everything.

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Disclaimer: I don't own any source material.

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Chapter 1: The Beginning.

Barcelona, Spain.

A baby's cries rang loud and proud through the halls of a small old clinic on a hill at the city's southern edge, away from the hustle and bustle of the city's ambiance.

The doctor and owner of the clinic, an elderly man, along with two nurses, stood around the woman giving birth.

"WAaaaaa!"

"It's a boy!"

'Yay!'

The confirmation of gender was the first thing Hei heard upon waking.

Big red eyes looked around in a strange numbing shock at everything around him. 'I…I really got reborn?' His mind was hazy as his baby body had expended its energy through birth, and he couldn't control his reaction to cry and flail.

"Waaa!"

His eyes watched in continued shock as an umbilical cord got cut, then felt it as his body was rinsed in warm water and could only stare on as he was wrapped up like a dumpling and handed over to who he assumed was his mother.

A beautiful woman with long dark hair and red eyes stared down at him with love on a hospital bed. Her hair stuck to her worrying pale skin, matted with sweat as she watched him cry in a sort of fascination.

Her beauty wasn't undone by her ruffled state, and even through his watery gaze, Hei could make out facial features that were almost…inhuman. But it was her eyes that drew him in, shining with a light that called to his soul.

And as her voice came out in a hoarse whisper, somehow, his frantic body calmed enough to silence his cries. "My little boy, I've waited for you for so long…." The smile that lit up her face was filled with wholehearted love. "I'm sorry daddy couldn't be here, but he sends his love." Water bubbled up in her eyes as she looked down at him with a pained grimace. "He wanted to be here. But it seems he got delayed."

A nurse tried to step forward in concern. "Ma'am, you really should...-" A waved hand from his mother had the woman going silent and stepping back with a vacant gaze. The action alone paled his mother's face even further to the point of worry, but Hei had no time to focus on that as she wrapped a necklace around his little head. A thumb-sized shadowy gem with dim blue lights glowing within, wrapped in a cord of some kind of natural thread. "Always wear this Hei; it will bring you luck when it is most needed."

With eyelids growing heavy, a silent tear fell down her cheek as she leaned in to kiss his brow. "I wish I had more time, but it seems I'm going to be delayed as well." A choked-back sob echoed in her throat as she held him close, like he was the most precious thing in her entire world. "Grow big and strong, my little Hei; mommy loves you. Never forget that."

Baby Hei watched on as her eyes closed for good. One moment her red eyes filled with love seared themselves into his soul, and the next, they were gone like a celestial body being plucked from the heavens above, stealing the heat from his limbs with the rising cold only kept at bay by the lingering warmth of the stone around his neck.

An urgent beep rang through the room from a heart monitor, snapping the nurses out of whatever daze they were in as they rushed forward in a panic.

And as one of them reached forward to take him from unmoving arms, a final whisper left his mother's lips that only Hei was close enough to hear as her heart slowed to a stop. "I love you, Hei ****...thank you…. for being born."

That was the last thing Hei heard his mother say. And when the emotions his hazy mind rapidly began to understand filtered into his baby body, it instantly began to shut down from the stress.

When next he woke in a plastic cubicle, alone and wrapped in warm blankets, he processed what happened and cried. Unheeding of the nurses who came to try and calm him, he cried.

00000

Time moved on after that fateful day, and with no next of kin coming to get him at the clinic, Hei was sent off to an orphanage that could care for him deeper into the city.

With nothing more than partial memories of a past life and a faint, yet firm, memory of something telling him he was being reborn in an anime world with a random power, he was lost.

He was on his own. In a world he constantly feared would spring something on him until he realized where he was and what power he was given. Plagued by the memory of his mother's last moments.

It was a shitty start to a new life.

All he had of her was the necklace she gave him, the memory of that final moment, his first name, and his mother's first name.

Ilayda. No last name was given, but she was thought to be Italian or Turkish by her appearance. The clinic he was born in had scant little information about her. And oddly enough, they asked very few, if any, questions about her. He didn't even know where she was buried or what happened after he fell asleep after his birth, only that it was the last he heard anyone speak of his mother.

But what was he to do with that information?

Before all this began, he was a solitary park ranger, and that didn't train him for the harsh realities of being reborn from scratch with no support.

So, with nothing else to do but get lost in his thoughts, Hei focused on scouring anything he could find and listened in on as many conversations around him as he could, all to figure out what the hell his situation was.

Where was he? When was he? What was he?

Fortunately, it seemed he was a normal human.

Unfortunately, everyone around him seemed to speak Spanish, and he did not know Spanish. 'I could have taken a language course at any time. Would have taken me months to learn Spanish back in my first life, but I just had to take Latin in high school to get by. I don't even remember anything from that class.'

Despite his mental maturity, his body was still young, often bleeding over the effects of a youthful biology onto his mind, and that was beside the fact that he didn't have direct access to learning materials.

So he listened in on nurses, nuns, employees, and volunteers. From the safety of his crib and into his toddler years, he did what he could to pick up what was being said and referred to.

Reading was even more challenging. He had to keep hitting stuff with his baby hands until someone would be kind enough to repeat a word to him enough times for him to get it.

It wasn't easy, he was no genius linguist, but he progressed with time.

The only thing that truly bothered him was the fact that he was able to understand his mother's words, despite his lack of language skills, but without more information, he couldn't figure out an answer.

He thought his last name might have been in Spanish, but when he made enough progress in figuring out what people were saying, he realized she hadn't been speaking in Spanish at all. Including the fact that the clinic he was born in didn't know his last name, and that his mother's body was buried without questions asked for some reason, he was left with a mystery he couldn't solve.

So with no other choice, he put the minor mystery aside to focus on the here and now.

Time continued to pass, and no matter how much he progressed in the language, nothing popped up to tell him he was anywhere else but Barcelona, Spain. Nothing strange stuck out; there wasn't any glimpse from newspapers he could see of anything but a typical modern earth setting.

'Except that I was born in 1987. Being reborn a baby was weird enough as it was. Being reborn a baby in the late eighties in a different country is even weirder.'

He was born in March of 87', and as he learned the language and grew in the new world around him, he got comfortable with his new self. Staring in a mirror at three years old, he could only frown at what he saw. 'I'm starting to forget what I used to look like. Hell, I feel like I'm missing parts of my first life altogether. At least my first name was the same in both lives.'

One life bled into another, and even when he still lived in his first life, he had trouble remembering parts of his life. There wasn't much he wanted to remember from that life. Nothing particularly special. A life of solitary mediocracy, without achieving much of anything, without anyone or anything he truly held dear.

'But I don't want to forget my mother's face.'

One of the few things a child his age had access to was drawing materials, and Hei decided he would draw his mother's face so he would never forget it. He only ever had a moment with her, but that single moment gave him more familial love than he ever had in both lives.

His pictures could have been better, but with dozens and hundreds of attempts, he managed to keep his memory alive. Although, the sad looks from the matrons around him were things he could do without.

A certain one named Ms. Ana particularly took an interest in ensuring he was fed and happy.

Despite his heritage making him look less like those around him, no one truly bothered him about such things. He had black hair, red eyes, and slightly paler skin than those around him. But time in the sun darkened his pale skin enough to blend in just fine.

Thanks to the time period and the poorer state of his orphanage, he could move around and learn without being closely monitored by cameras or nosy staff. Ms. Ana was his only challenge, but she didn't hover over his shoulder if he told her where he would be.

He wouldn't say anything a child shouldn't know or say, but he had no inclination to act and babble like a child if he didn't have to, and by the time he was three, his watcher had learned he was mature enough to wander off inside the orphanage's walls without getting into trouble. She had numerous other duties to attend to, after all.

Hei knew that and didn't want to bother her when he didn't have to. She was a kind woman who didn't deserve to deal with a bratty kid. So he used that time alone to attempt everything he could think and be capable of as a child to activate his mysterious power, and as the months and years passed, he slowly began to get frustrated.

He tried everything from spiderman poses to magic words, meditating to empty his mind and try to sense internal energy, to standing on his head and making weird gestures.

Dozens of attempts went by, but no matter how many times he failed, he never gave up searching for methods to try to figure out where he was.

Part of the reason why he was that way was that he had a mystery hovering before his eyes he wanted to solve. He knew he had a power but had no idea what it was and wanted to know.

Another part was survival, wanting to know what world he was in so he could make a plan without dying a painful death.

A third part tied into his mystery mother and father, but he put them to the back of his brain due to a lack of clues.

And the final part was simply building good habits.

They say bad habits only build more bad habits, and good habits help build more good habits.

And for the former park ranger who lived on site of his patrol area in Alaska, a man who had died having led a mediocre life, to a natural disaster of all things, he found a surprising amount of will to be better than before pushing him along.

'I let procrastination fuel me and achieved nothing. I saw it happen, I knew I was procrastinating, and yet I did nothing to change it. That's why I took the job as a park ranger. It let me live alone and at my own pace, without a care for the wider world that felt colder than the snowy environment I found himself in.'

He connected more with the wilderness than he ever did around other humans in a social setting. And that time alone had pro's and con's. He might have lost even more of his sanity out there, but he had learned how to build positive habits to stay progressive in that time.

And now, he wanted to give his all in his new life with a healthy body.

He was given a second chance. A real one. It wasn't a fantasy. It wasn't a sick joke. He didn't want to make mediocre choices anymore. He wanted to be something more. To be strong, in a way the first version of himself could only dream of.

He wanted to be his own man. And the knowledge of being inside an anime world where supernatural elements had to exist excited him like nothing else. 'I chose to be a Park Ranger because it gave me the most freedom from the rest of the world. I could live and work in nature without having to think or speak too much. But I didn't control my own life. It was snuffed out in the blink of an eye, and I was nothing to the greater powers of the world. I wasn't even a threat to a random wolf or bear without a gun. I want to be strong enough to be free to live as I please.'

His motivations were not uncommon. Although, the allure of fame and fortune didn't entice him.

He was greedy for power to control his own fate.

And being in an anime world opened the door of possibility that wasn't possible back on modern Earth. Opened a valve of motivation he had never felt before. 'If I could figure out what world I was in, that is.'

He grumbled for years, trying to figure out what he had, with the only clue being an odd birthmark on his pointer finger.

But it wasn't until almost five years had passed since his birth that something finally happened.

One odd chilly day in December of 1991, while sitting alone in the orphanage library, a small dusty side room that wasn't often used by the kids who preferred being outside, four-year-old Hei had just tossed aside another history textbook in annoyance. 'There's nothing in there! It's all the same history as my world. Did I end up in some rom-com anime world? I only saw a few of those, and now I'm really regretting it.'

He groaned with his forehead against the table's surface, turning his thoughts to his power rather than the world. 'What else have I not tried? Do I need to set up a life and death scenario or something? I really hoped I could avoid that concept.'

It was a common cliché in anime for power to awaken at the moment that death flashed before their eyes, but knowing that and consciously doing it without reassurances were different things.

He would do it if all else failed, but he wasn't eager to jump into that risk just yet.

He idly played with the gemstone necklace hanging from his neck as he bumped the table with his forehead in annoyance. 'What else? Think brain, think.'

The gemstone beneath his fingers began to glow softly, and Hei's head rose and fell in a rhythm.

The repeated tapping of his head shook the table. The table shook the bookshelf it was leaning against. And the vibrations being sent through the wood were inching an old dusty book off a top shelf until it fell and slammed down onto the table with a loud noise, effectively scaring the crap out of an unsuspecting Hei.

"What the-!" Hei fell backward off his chair in surprise and got a lungful of dust to accompany the pain of falling. Coughing and grumbling with watery eyes, he pulled himself up to eye the book that had fallen with a stink eye.

The annoyance of his fall fueled him, and as the entire focus of his mind came down onto the singular object of a book, he said aloud a single word with a strong enough intent to change his life.

"Book."

Hei had only half a second to realize something was going on when his ring birthmark began to shine in an eerie blue glow, and before he could act to shield his eyes, he was momentarily blinded as a flash of light lit up the dim library alongside the sound of shattering chains.

With each shattered chain, a wave of energy dispersed into the air, beginning to stretch far and wide. And unknown to Hei, the necklace gifted from his mother went from a dim glow to a beating pulse with a strange symbol glowing within, producing an effect that Hei would only come to realize long into the future as the energy wave sent out was altered by a moment of probability, moving in a direct line rather than a wild splash in all directions.

0000

A few buildings over from the orphanage, a certain old man was eating at a café when the sound of a chain shattering reached his ears.

An old, wrinkled brow rose in surprise. 'Hm?' The old man focused his sense and felt the broadcasted energy wave, unaware that it was only coming in his direction. 'A Sacred Gear awakening? Here?'

A conflicted look crossed the old man's face before he sighed and went to stand. 'I told her I would wait for a sign, and if that's not a sign, I don't know what is.'

Calloused, scarred hands grabbed at a cane as knees creaked from the effort it took to rise. He dropped some money on the table and waved to the waitress who was coming by. "Thank you, Lara."

The younger woman smiled back at the balding stern-eyed elder. "Anytime, Mr. Lupa. Don't be a stranger, you hear? Ole Becky would come up out of the grave to smack me if I didn't make sure you were well-fed."

The older man paused briefly at the name before giving the woman a stiff nod and stepping off to cross the road on shaky legs. 'Don't get lost in memories you old wolf. Look forward, I have a final job to do.'

0000

When Hei finally managed to blink the spots out of his eyes, he noticed two new things in his immediate surroundings.

One, his ring birthmark had actually become a real ring. A beautifully engraved dark metallic silver ring with a red gem in the center glowing softly.

And the second was the large grimoire hovering above the ring weightlessly, with two italic words printed on the cover over the background of a crescent moon.

{GREED ISLAND}

Hei could only stare silently for a long moment as he took it in.

The title struck a long distant memory of his, and his brow furrowed in thought. 'Greed Island? Isn't that from…. Hunter X Hunter?'

He tried to bring up old memories of the show, one of the few he had actually watched in its entirety. 'Yeah, that's the one. I liked that show. Killua was my favorite character, but this can't be the Hunter world. I'm almost sure that Hunter X Hunter wasn't set on a modern-day earth setting. The continents were all different.' He had spent little attention on anime in the last years of his first life, but he had enough time in the previous four years to try and recall everything he could. 'So, if it's not Hunter X Hunter, where am I?'

His gaze trailed onto the floating grimoire, and he hummed in thought. 'Book. I said the word 'Book' out loud, while focusing on the mental image of a book with strong emotions. Are those the activation requirements?'

That thought alone bothered him something fierce, to know that for all his attempts, that's all he had to do this whole time, but he pushed his annoyance aside and let it go. 'No matter how simple the answer was, I still had to discover it without a hint, so I can count myself lucky.'

With nothing else to do, he reached for the grimoire and brought it closer to study it.

The book was thick, broader at the spine than his young palm, with a silver backdrop and glowing red symbols trailing over the cover in patterns he couldn't understand. A gem in the center of the cover, between the two cursive words, matched the one on his ring as he held it side by side to get a better look.

'I can barely feel any weight.'

The book was light as a feather in his palm, and if he let go, it floated there on its own. He played with it momentarily before reaching for the cover, unlatching a chain lock to pull it open. The second he did, however, a feeling like a gong striking his head rang out, and a resounding voice echoed through his mind.

[Hello there, young one.

If you are hearing this, know that it is only a recorded message. I am the God of the Christian bible; I know not what your name might be, but… I'm leaving this note as an insurance of sorts.

If there is anything I have learned, it's that nothing is absolute in existence. There are always infinite probabilities of anything happening, no matter how small the odds are.

Slim odds like someone gaining knowledge of something beyond this universe, or the odds of being a transferred resident of another universe to this one. All while also being born with this particular Sacred Gear.

Odds so small, yet odds that still exist. I have witnessed such odds come to play enough times to not tempt fate.

In this world, many races coexist, with humans being the unfortunate bottom of the ladder, so to speak, in terms of inherent power. Feeling sorry for such a creative and progressive race, I chose to make many tools to grant a select few humans the strength to fight back.

These tools were named 'Sacred Gears.' Tools that would bind to a human soul through reincarnation and stay with them until they passed away, before moving on to another soul at random. Whether said tools awaken or are useful to the individual is a matter of luck and chance.

And that brings us back to this particular Gear. At my height, my clairvoyance grew strong enough to peer into other universes. Dimensions. Realities. A genuinely fascinating feeling of exploration was opened to me. On one such trip, I came across the world of Hunters, particularly focusing on an energy-based game called Greed Island.

The concept intrigued my crafting side, and before I knew it, I had built a prototype based on Greed Islands mechanics.

Only after making it did I realize how strange it was, one of my more unique gears. Still, since I did not intend to destroy it, I tossed it into the reincarnation cycle with the rest and let fate do as she did.

However, I set a requirement for a user to activate it. They had to recognize the name 'Greed Island.' Meaning it was doubtful for anyone to ever activate it, and less likely for it to be abused. I had set enough world-breaking tools loose as it was. But if you are hearing this, then against my expectations, it truly did get activated. In such a case, I congratulate you.

The power of the Gear will scale with your own energy levels; perhaps if you grow strong enough, it could gain the potential to match my Longinus grade gears, my greatest creations, but you would have to find your own way forward to reach that point.

I did what I could to bend some rules and make the Gear as realistic as possible to what I based it on. But the mechanics in this reality only let some things work; some cards were changed, while others were removed entirely.

The grimoire holds three types of spaces, not counting the activation square and video screen on the first page. Designated Card spaces, Spell Card spaces, and Free Slots.

I could only apply 40 Designated Cards, 20 Spell Cards, and 40 Free Slots, for a total of 100 card slots.

On every new year's Eve, one of each Designated Card is allotted to the grimoire. Designated Cards do NOT stack.

On the Eve of every new month, one of each Spell Card is allotted to the grimoire. Spell cards DO stack.

Free Slots allow you to turn nonliving things into cards. Just hold the item and say 'Store' with the grimoire out to turn it into a card. To revert a card, say 'Gain' or leave it outside the grimoire for sixty seconds.

If a Free Slot card is outside of the grimoire for more than sixty seconds without being activated, it reverts to an item automatically. If a Designated or Spell card is not activated in that time, they are wasted.

Once a Free Slot card is turned back into an item, it may not be reverted back into a card a second time.

Similarly, an item that holds the energy of another owner, or an item beyond what the user can physically lift will require more time to be turned into cards. You may figure out the exact process on your own time.

Like most of my Gears, I left some wiggle room for the Sacred Gear to grow and adapt to the soul of its user both in aesthetics and ability. No two users would find an exact replica of the same Gear. That's one of the beauties of humanity, shining in their endless individuality.

I wish you the best, young one. May you live long and prosper.]

'Did he just quote Star Trek? God, how many dimensions did you peek into?'

The recording ended in a faint echo, and as soon as it entirely left, Hei was hit with an intense sense of vertigo from his first time having someone speak in his head.

It took him a solid minute to shake off the feeling while kneading his forehead. 'That wasn't fun. I'm thankful he left a message for me, but I don't want others having such easy access to my mind like that.' He shook his head to shake off the fuzz and focused on the grimoire again. 'Maybe the book will have something for that?'

The points labeled in the message stuck clearly in his mind, and as he got a good look at the book, he realized how things work.

The back of the book's cover was taken up by an LED-looking screen, with an insertion slot for a card below that, next to some buttons like arrow keys. The pages themselves seemed to be made of rough parchment, with lines of cards appearing on each page.

Five to a page, with one in the center and one in each corner.

The first 40 were the Designated Cards, labeled from one to forty, with descriptions on the cards themselves for a variety of effects.

The following 20 were the Spell Cards, labeled from one to twenty, with similar descriptions.

And the last eight pages held empty outlines for places that Free Slot cards could go.

'So many cards. So many ways to use them.' Hei marveled at them all. 'It's hard to recall, but some of these are just like the anime showed, while others are unrecognizable. I wonder if this God saw the actual world of Hunter, or if he saw a world with the anime? If he could see other worlds, does that mean I could go to them one day?'

Such thoughts floated through his mind as he took in the lines of Designated Cards and slowly began to read through their descriptions with gradually widening eyes. 'This…'

Hei was so lost in his own world that a knock on the library door made him flinch back to reality, backing up over the chair he had knocked down earlier. "Hei? You in there?" The matron's voice drifted through the door and spooked him enough to trip over the chair and fall over with a crash. "Hei?!" Her voice rose in concern as the door handle shook from someone trying to open it.

"I'm fine! Just tripped." He rubbed his abused head in annoyance. 'How much head damage am I going to take today?' A quick whispered 'Book' sent his grimoire back into the ring before he unlocked the door and came face to face with a worried Ms. Ana, the matron who had been caring for him for a few years.

"Are you ok? What have I told you about locking doors mister?"

Hei wilted a bit under the look and turned away. "Not to. Sorry."

She huffed and bent down to see a scrape on his chin while pulling out a napkin. "Good. Now let me see that. Does it hurt?"

He fussed away from her hands. "Ms. Ana, I told you I'm fine."

She chuckled and finished wiping his chin, happy to see it wasn't anything serious. "Boys. So much energy." She stood back up and ruffled his hair. "You have a visitor Hei. An older gentleman came by, he says he was a good friend of your fathers."

Hei blinked at that. "My father? But I don't know who my father was…." He trailed off as said visitor stepped up behind Ms. Ana and narrowed his eyes.

The matron followed his gaze and started slightly with a hand to her chest. "Oh, geez, Mr. Lupa, I didn't hear you walk up."

The older man chuckled and waved a hand as Ms. Ana's gaze grew slightly unfocused. "My apologizes dear. But do you think you could give me a moment with this young man?"

Ms. Ana seemed to nod without thinking too much into it, but some priorities pushed through the woman. "That's fine. Hei, would you like me to stay with you?"

Hei saw the old man's brow furrow as well as Ms. Ana's vacant gaze, reminding him of what his mother had done to the nurses at the time of his birth, and shook his head quickly. "….No Ms. Ana… but thank you for offering."

Ms. Ana didn't seem to notice his pause and smiled down at him. "Such a polite boy as always. Mr. Lupa, you can join Hei at the table; I'll come by in a bit to check up on you two. And no locking the door." She finished with a pointed look at Hei, who flushed and looked away.

The older man nodded slightly to Hei as the matron walked off. "Quick on the uptake. Good. That young lady must be very committed to her job to push through my mental suggestion like that."

Hei didn't know what the man wanted just yet but chose to be civil, seeing as there was little a four-year-old could do in his case. "Ms. Ana is very hard working." He commented while trying to hide his hands behind his back, nervously rubbing at the ring he had just discovered.

Mr. Lupa hummed and removed the hat from his balding head as he walked inside and shut the door. "Admirable, I had no desire to use a stronger compulsion. It tends to give people headaches if used carelessly."

The comment earned him a thankful nod from Hei as he uncrossed his arms unintentionally. "Thank you for not hurting her."

"I had no intention of doing so; my purpose here is not for violence." The older man said amicably as he put his hat down on the table, and in the blink of an eye, Hei found the tip of a walking cane poking his hand. "I came to talk about that. But turn it off, child; it's broadcasting energy like a flare in the night sky."

"Wait what?" Hei looked between the ring and the old man in worry. 'So I attracted this guy? How do I turn it off?'

Mr. Lupa grunted while lowing his cane, seemingly understanding his confusion. "It's part of you boy, just will it to turn off."

Hei tried to focus on the memory of his birthmark, and as he did, he watched in wonder as the ring melted back into his skin, returning it to the mark he was born with without a sign of its presence. "Wo."

The older man nodded and moved a chair to sit opposite him with his hands resting on his cane's handle. "Good, a fast learner. Do you know what you have on your finger child?"

Hei shook his head in mock innocence, trying to play it off, and his guest scoffed. "You're a few hundred years early to try lying to me boy, don't try, it's a sad attempt."

Hei's brow twitched as he realized child innocence wasn't getting him out of this one. "Fine, yes, it's a Sacred Gear."

"And how do you know that?"

"There was a message when it activated."

"Did that message happen to include the gears name?"

Hei narrowed his eyes at the older man. "And why should I tell you that? Who are you, old man?"

Instead of being offended at a young child questioning him, Mr. Lupa smirked. "Got a bit of wisdom in there, huh? A backbone too. Good, don't give information for nothing, always trade piece for piece. If you can't lie then change the subject or stay silent. You can call me Mr. Lupa, I am a retired mercenary."

The helpful, if sudden, advice surprised Hei enough to lower his rising guard. "….And what does a retired mercenary want with me?"

Instead of answering, the old man just raised a brow, and Hei got the unspoken message of equivalent exchange. "It's called Greed Island. Now, what are you doing here?"

Mr. Lupa rubbed his chin with a thoughtful look. "Hm…you don't seem to be lying. Must be a rare one if I never heard of it." He cleared his throat and slammed down his cane with an audible thump. "As for my purpose being here, I am looking for a successor."

"A successor? You just go to random orphanages to look for a successor?"

"No, I do not. Up until a few years ago, I have been putting off my task of finding an apprentice with excuses that don't apply when someone broadcasts their Sacred Gears awakening not half a mile away from me." The old man's look somehow gave Hei a sense of disappointment, making him feel like he had done something wrong, but he went on after a short pause. "I have amassed many skills in my life, and I wished to pass them down to another before I lay down in my grave. No, it's more than a wish; it's a mission. Unfortunately, my requirements are hard to fulfill, and the few options I had didn't pull through."

Hei blinked at that and tilted his head in curiosity. "What requirements? And what happened to the others?"

"They didn't pull through." The dry tone in which it was said bothered Hei, but the older man held up a hand to stall his response. "Wait a moment, before I pitch my offer, I will ask you an important question."

Hei nodded slowly and listened. The man didn't seem to care for flattery and was being quite direct.

"The matron tells me you're a smart child, and by our conversation so far I know you're more than your age makes it seem, the eyes don't lie and that is no mind of a child. Don't look at me like that, you're not that special, it's something I've seen a few times before, I don't care about whatever caused it. I only have a single question, and I don't want you to play dumb."

Hei's heartbeat sped up at the accusation but fell flat at the ladder part. 'How common is it that it's not a big deal?'

His unspoken question went unanswered as the old man narrowed his eyes. "What do you want most in life?"

"You realize I'm four, right?"

"Semantics. I don't care if you're four or four thousand as long as you have the mental maturity to answer the question honestly."

Something in the older man's posture shifted, and Hei suddenly felt himself faced with something more. Like a weight settled on his tiny shoulders and demanded the truth. He went through a few possible answers in his head until he decided to just be honest. "I want to be strong."

"Why?"

"To be free."

"From?"

"Everything."

A simple question with a simple answer. Yet both held deep meanings.

The room descended into silence as elder and child stared into the eyes of the other, assessing the worth of the words spoken until the weight of the moment passed, and Mr. Lupa relaxed his posture. "Good answer." He lifted his cane and pointed at Hei's hand. "Listen, child. Hei. You have a few possible paths before you. You already sent out a beacon when that awakened, and through the following few minutes, so like it or not, you will have to make a choice, and soon.

First, never activate that Gear again and go about your life. Make friends, go to school, find love, and live a mundane human life. You are unlikely to be bothered again if you can avoid detection for the rest of the day.

Second, keep using it while trying to continue your everyday life, and you will soon find one of the dozens of groups in the world finding you to sink their teeth in. Some are good, and others are bad. But all have a price.

Third, keep using it without caring for a normal life, in which case you have a fifty/fifty chance of getting away depending on what your Sacred Gear can do. Although, you will struggle without a proper teacher. The world isn't kind, even if that's a Longinus on you."

The older man paused to let that sink in, ensuring Hei understood his words' importance, and Hei took that chance to speak up. "Who says I couldn't make it on my own?"

A dry chuckle rang out as aged eyes focused on him. "It's certainly possible. But is that what you wish? On one path, you would have to live two lives, and on the other, you would be on the run until you joined something. Always worried and toeing the line of things you can't control. Do you have the knowledge to achieve your wish without help? What price will that future help cost? Make sure to think about such things when you ask such questions."

Hei grumbled at that. Past experience as a park ranger didn't help him all that much at the moment. "I'm assuming there is a fourth option?"

"Aye. The other path is to take my offer and come under my wing. Inherit my skills and carry on my legacy. Let me fulfill my final mission in life."

"What legacy? Who are you supposed to be anyway?"

A tooth-filled smile was his answer, and suddenly Hei felt a feeling of dread freeze him in place, unlike the weight he had felt before, and much more like the feeling of standing before a predator. Not one at the apex, but one staring at you through the shadows of a cold forest night. "You may know me as Mr. Lupa. Accept my offer, and you may call me Teacher. And in time, if you pass my training and survive to come out the other end, so too will you be known as Lupa. Become my successor, inherit the name of Lupa. Reject, and I never come back. My price is to give your all to inherit everything I can pass down. What you do after that is solely up to you. The choice is yours."

An aged, scarred palm reached forward, and Hei's vision became full of only that palm. To take the hand and go into the unknown he could see, or to reject and trust things to work out with the unknown he couldn't.

He swallowed thickly and hesitated. "If I reject, you'll leave?"

"Promptly."

Hei's eyes trailed up to the old man's gaze, and while he wouldn't ever say he had strong instincts before, something told him the old man wasn't lying to him.

His eyes fell back to that palm, staring at it long and hard, weighing his options, and finally, he made a choice.

00000

At the same time Hei and the old man were having their conversation, another being far away in a different dimensional plane from Earth was forced to make a choice of his own.

Michael, leader of the archangels and first son of heaven, sat calmly at his desk, going through paperwork as usual.

The true enemy of every faction leader.

He had the appearance of a handsome young man with long blond hair, green eyes, and soft facial features radiating a sense of kindness.

Coming from his back, twelve golden wings stood out prominently, signifying his role as a leader rather than the usual white wings of other angels.

After the fall of the god of the bible, Michael had taken on the job of watching over heaven and working to keep things in order to the best of his ability.

And one of the responsibilities that fell to him was watching over the Heavens System, an automatic system that dealt with sending Sacred Gear's into the reincarnation cycle and monitoring them for activation or mutation. It didn't so much as track them as it did study them like a science project while keeping certain rules enforced.

It was during one moment as Michael pondered over a file while biting on the end of a pen that a notification from the Heaven System reached him.

"Hm? A new Sacred Gear awakened? Father's gift to mankind sure is prospering." He sighed audibly and put down his pen. "They seem to be awakening more and more these days. I hope they find kind souls to use them."

It was then that he noticed a second notification that appeared with the first. A voice recording waiting for him to activate it. 'Hm? A message in the system? But that could only come from…. father?!' Michael stood with wide eyes, unheeding the paperwork he was messing up on his desk. 'How long has it been since I've heard his voice?' A deep sense of longing panged through his chest as he reached for the message. 'I wish I could share it with my siblings, but I'm unable to adjust the set parameters to the system.'

He mentally accepted the message with awe, but the words that followed twisted his face into an expression that would make his devil counterpart proud.

[Son, I left this message in case one of my experimental gears awakened.

It's called Greed Island.

Do me a favor and keep an eye out for its user.

I uh…. I didn't expect it to ever be activated, so um… well…. It could end very badly, or it could be perfectly fine. Depends on the user.

Just wanted to give you a heads-up.

Love you, son.

I hope this thing never gets used; I just made it for fun…..]

The last line was said in a mumble, and Michael assumed he wasn't meant to hear it. He stood there silently for a long minute before lifting a hand to the bridge of his nose and sitting back down. A budding tear in his eye that wasn't related to his initial joy was wiped away. 'I'm not sure whether to be happy at hearing his voice or sad over what he said….. Damn it father! You and your bad habits again! I always have to clean up the mess!'

Before he could lament further, his office door slammed open, and his brother Raphael rushed in. "Michael! Hurry! Gabriel and Serafall got into another cat fight! We have to stop them before they destroy Paris!"

Michael's head hit his desk with an audible thump. 'I give up.' He sighed and reached for his coat. "Better to go before they destroy another national monument."

The idea of cleaning up his father's mess had been overrun by his desire to keep his sister safe and out of trouble, and by the time Michael recovered, dealt with his troublesome sister, cleaned up the mess of his desk, and finally remembered his father's message, the Sacred Gear user was long gone.

Chapter end.

AN: Hope you enjoyed the new version. Let me know what you think.

Quick Note: Just search for my author name. 'Curiosity44' to find a link to my QQ thread. I got links to Pat and Discord there.