AN: Hey all. I hit a wall on Part 2 of this chapter and its gonna take me a few days, so I figured I'll just fuck it and post Part 1. Chapter 11 won't be a very long chap as you can tell by the title. Hope you all enjoy.


Chapter 11 Part 1: 4 Days to Recovery

'Breathe in with the world.' The air stirred as a gentle breeze blew by as Hei and the world breathed as one.

'Feel the flow of nature.' He closed his external senses and heard the dull thump-thump of the earth beating.

'Sense the energy that goes unseen.' His body was swimming in energy. Natural Energy of the hot spot he meditated upon pulsing in tune with the beat of the earth in rich hues of green. Demonic Energy of the Underworld swirling in chaotic reds. Neutral Mana in more solid bubbles of watery blue. Silvery strands of soothing Lunar Energy streamed from the moon above and were pulled in by the Moonstone slab of stone he sat upon. It all practically suffocated him once he opened his inner eyes to the world around him.

The world was alive, and his mental eyes opened to it as his sense bloomed outward in a two-hundred-meter circumference. Triple the distance from before that night. Most of the information he took in was automatically translated to background noise by experience, as he willed his focus to various things in his surroundings.

Experimentally, he focused in one direction and watched as the circle became more of an oval, stretching half a mile into the woods with a large change in clarity compared to weeks before. Like going from watching a video at 240P to 360P. Not an amazing clarity, but a definite improvement. 'Is this a benefit of having more mana?'

Shaking off his idle thoughts, he returned his focus to himself. 'Follow the threads.' His mana core pulled on the energy around him like a weak vortex, pulling fishing line thin strands of Mana, Natural Energy, and interestingly enough Lunar Energy into his pores, through his mana channels, and into his core.

He followed those threads, letting his external sight fall away as his awareness focused inward. The swirling colors of energy flooding through pipelines into the vast chamber that was his core.

Hei's mental self materialized within that core, coming to stand on the floor of a dome-sized chamber covered in dense mist that barely let him see an inch away. Frowning at that, he flexed his will, and the mist rapidly receded into a massive sphere of blue gas floating above his head in the center of the dome.

With the mist gone, there wasn't much else inside for him to see besides the cavernous walls pocketed with marbled moonstone, the greyish metallic iron flooring, pipeline-like openings spread through the walls, and the large cloud.

Threads of energy flowed through the pipelines in a mix of blues, greens, and silvery whites, trickling in like mist, slowly pooling on the ground before drifting up toward the floating cloud. The blues joined the larger cloud, the greens hovered around it, slowly changing color, and the whites drifted to the moonstone.

Hei knew that with but a thought of summoning his mana, it would rush to his will and flow from the cloud into the pipelines like an eager puppy.

It wasn't the first time Hei had been within his core, yet it was the first time he had looked since before he buried Mr. Lupa. He looked around at everything and hummed to himself. 'The changes are dramatic.'

Bending down, he knocked on the floor and heard the firm, crisp ring of metal. 'Leone said the core was a mental reflection of your current state. The floor was a mix of concrete and veins of iron before, yet now it's fully iron.' He couldn't find a trace of concrete anywhere. 'I'll have to test my body out later.'

Looking up, he eyed the moonstone along the walls. 'Those have grown larger.' Moonstone brought him a sense of peace and focus, and he used a few ingots to make a meditation slab.

However, it was one thing for his core to reflect how it soothed him, but for it to grow in such amounts was curious. 'It's growing from the Lunar Energy.' He could see the silvery threads of Lunar Energy flowing into the moonstone spots, yet felt no threat from the change and put it aside to focus on the massive cloud of blue gas. He stared at it with a complicated gaze, knowing internally that it wasn't even half its current size before Mr. Lupa's final gift.

Hei took a deep, shuddering breath and centered himself. 'Enough moping. It's time to move forward like you wanted me to.' He reached a hand up and felt the metaphysical weight of his mana. 'I'm not stopping here. I'm going to reach Ruby, Diamond, and beyond. Watch me, Old Man.'

The massive gas cloud pulsed, responding to his will, and broke off a fist-sized ball of dense gas to float down into his palm.

Hei stared at it in wonder and recalled the lesson Leone had explained long ago.

Sitting beneath the waterfall in her training area, Hei sat in Seiza and focused on one of Leone's rare, beneficial lectures.

{"Ignoring the need to grow organically to handle more significant amounts of energy, the change from Tier 2, Low-Class to Tier 4 Mid-Class isn't just about having more power. It's a difference in quality.

At Tier 2, individuals absorb energy slowly in a gas-like form. It's the weakest, most inefficient, and takes time to collect, but if you're creative, you can generate interesting effects. Tier 4, however, is where our inner energy takes on a liquid-like quality. It's denser, runs smoother, is quicker to respond, can be channeled in higher quantities, and can pack some real punch behind whatever method the individual developed as a Tier 2.

Once a Tier 2 reaches max capacity, they enter Tier 3, where they must convert the gas within their core to a liquid. This is where humans have it easier, as energy resists change once within our core. It wants to be used, not changed. Neutral Mana is the easiest to work with. In contrast, Demonic Energy can actually lash out at devils, requiring them to go slow and steady. Every energy type has challenges, but humans relying on neutral mana have an easier time at this stage."}

It was always interesting to see Leone be serious. But that had more to do with her being so hungover that she wasn't in the mood to mess with him.

Taking her lesson to heart, Hei focused on the ball of gas before him and imagined it compressing inward. It began to shrink slowly, with the light blue color darkening as it got smaller. After a few minutes of concentrating on it, the shape had entirely changed into a large drop of liquid.

Hei's hand dipped under the metaphysical weight. It was only a fifth of the size of the cloud, yet far denser and a deeper hue of blue.

With a flick of his finger, the drop flew through the air toward one of the pipelines as he flexed his will, calling on it and immediately grunting as his mental projection almost broke. The drop of liquid mana shot through his veins like a comet, nearly ten times the speed of the gas and far more responsive.

He looked up and watched in fascination as it exited one pipeline and shot into another, reaching every corner of his body and revitalizing him.

'Talk about an immediate difference.' Hei reached out and called it back to him, seeing it shoot out and return to his hand at a third of its original size. 'Burns out pretty quickly, though.' Yet even as he watched, the drop of liquid sucked in the blue gas passively and returned to its original size. 'Huh. No wonder Mid-Class's don't take Low-Class's seriously.'

He dropped the liquid mana and watched it hit the floor. There, it slowly dented under the weight and formed a tiny pool only inches wide. Looking back up at the cloud, Hei winced. 'This is going to take a while.'

A few minutes later, Hei's awareness returned to the real world with a slight groan. 'Right, trying for a car-sized portion was too much to handle.' The second his focus wavered, the compressed gas exploded outward and returned to its former size.

"Having fun, Brat?" An amused voice rang from the side, and Hei sighed as he rubbed his head.

"Hey, Leone."

"Hey yourself." The blond feline sauntered up with her usual smirk and crouched down in front of him. "Playing with converting your mana, are you?"

"You can tell?"

"Mhm." She gently pushed his hand off his forehead to put her own there, and a moment later, Hei felt the soothing effects of Senjutsu pushing away his headache. "Hurts like a bitch the first few times, but you get used to it." She removed her hand and made a wavy motion. "Scooch over."

Hei gave her a deadpan look, considering the stone slab had more than enough room for both of them, but still acquiesced. His butt moved to a cold spot, and Leone shamelessly took his warmed one. "Are you really that petty?"

"Yes." She reached over and pulled him into a side hug. "How are you feeling?"

Hei huffed and shifted his weight to get comfortable. "Better. How about you? You've been asleep for days."

"Bah." She waved her free hand lazily. "Just needed a good cat nap is all."

"A four-day day cat-nap?"

"Some cats are just better than others."


The two matched gazed and chuckled, sitting in comfortable silence for a few minutes before Hei broke it.

"Thanks for coming for me, Leone."

"Anytime, Brat." She ran a hand through his hair. "Just remember you can always come talk to me if you need to get anything off your chest. Bottling up pain helps no one."

"It always worked for me." Hei mumbled and looked up at the full moon. "I know it's bad, but it works."

"And how did that work out for you?"

"Not great." Hei sagged. "I acted like a real brat, didn't I?"

Leone scoffed in humor. "You are a brat, Brat."

"You know what I mean."

"And you don't realize what I mean."

"Hm?" Hei blinked in confusion and turned to look at Leone, who hadn't met his gaze. "What do you mean?"

"You're a Reincarnator, aren't you, Brat?" Hei's muscles tensed for a moment before Leone flicked his head. "Relax, no one's around for miles."

"…..How did you know?"

"Ha! Anyone with a working brain and enough life experience could tell. You're not even thirteen, and you act and think like a man three times your age. Do you think I wouldn't notice? Hell, I bet the Old Wolf figured it out within the first month of meeting you."

That hit close to home, and Hei couldn't help but grumble at the old man's habit of calling him out for his shitty poker face. "So what? Does it change anything?"

"Nope~." Leone teased and pulled him in tighter. "I couldn't really give a shit who you were in your past life. It's not all that uncommon for sacred gear users to manifest memories of past lives. Some of them call themselves reincarnated heroes or some shit, but they're just a bunch of brats. I'm pointing this out now for a different reason."

"Which is?"

"To remind you that you're still a kid, Hei." Leone looked down into Hei's eyes, her golden pupils staring into his red ones with earnest concern. "No matter how mature your thoughts are, no matter how intelligent you become, you are physically still a child, and that affects your mind. Those hero wannabes I mentioned? I've heard of dozens of them committing suicide because their young minds couldn't handle the memories of their past lives or suffered identity crises. In time, you'll grow older, and this won't be an issue, but you have to remember that your mind is quite fragile at this point in your life."

Hei's eyes flashed in recognition at her words as he looked down and really thought back to many of his actions over the years. He could see patterns, actions, and choices that were made rashly and out of character for himself that he always passed off as whimsical decisions. The possibility of her words ringing true worried him, and he tried to buy himself a moment to process that. "Is that why you were so worried about me?"

"I was worried cuz I care about you, Brat." She playfully chopped his head and chuckled at his growl. "You grew on me like a rash, and I'm stuck with a troublesome little brother now. But yeah, I was worried the pain you were under wouldn't be taken well, and I was right." She tilted his chin up to look her in the eyes, easily seeing the conflict within him. "You never experienced familial love before, have you, Hei?"

"I…" His throat closed up for a moment. "No." He shut his eyes to refocus and felt the words pour out. "I can't remember much from my first time around, but I was an orphan and lived a lonely life. I had no one, and no one looked for me. In this life, my birth father apparently died before I was born, according to my birth mother, and she died within seconds of holding me for the first time. I was an orphan for a few years before the old man found me." The admission felt like a weight falling off his chest.

He wouldn't ever mention the deeper aspect of his first life, such as how this entire world was a work of fiction back there, that was better off buried deep within him, but admitting the rest felt freeing in a way.

"I thought so." Leone sighed and leaned back on her free hand as she kept her other around Hei's shoulders. "Losing a parent isn't easy for anyone. Even if you lived two lives, Lupa was the first one to earn the title of parent in your eyes. When he died, I feared what that did to you, considering your physical age."

Hei could understand her worries and shared her sigh. He rested his head on her shoulder and joined her in looking up at the moon. "I don't like the feeling of losing people I care about, Leone."

"No one does."

"Then why do we come to care about others?"

"Because a life without anyone to care for is a lonely thing. You should understand that considering your past."

Hei suddenly recalled the same moment, seen hundreds of times through his first life's eyes: the scene of returning to a dark home with no one around, going about his chores and returning to work like clockwork. He had no one. He sought no one. He purposefully ran from the challenges of life to live in seclusion.

But more than anything, Hei realized he had grown numb to his own pain. The old him was a husk of a human being, surviving more than living. It was what drove him to want to be strong in the first place his second time around. But he never realized how utterly lonely he was back then.

Now, hearing Leone's words, he could only agree with her. "Yeah. Yeah, I do." He grunted in annoyance. "I still don't want to lose anyone."

"Then become stronger." Leone shrugged.

"It's that simple."

"It's that simple."

"I will."

"I know you will."



"Don't die."

"Heh, we all die one day, Brat."

"You know what I meant."

"Yeah….yeah, I do."

Leone leaned her head atop Hei's own, and the two simply let the moment wash over them until Leone breathed in and sat up. "Want me to show you what you were doing wrong with converting your mana?"

"How do you know I was doing something wrong?"

"Ha! That was a good one."

"I was being serious."

"You didn't come to me for help, so of course you'll do something wrong."

"Wow, ego much?"

"I will break you."

"How considerate my big sis is."

"Shush, you."

The two fell into an old routine under the gentle rays of moonlight as Hei took another step forward toward not just recovery, but growth.


"Yo, Ghis. You busy at the moment…." Hei's voice trailed off at the entrance to Ghislaine's hut as he spotted said Amazonian woman in the middle of skinning the head of what looked like a dinosaur. "On second thought, I can come back."

A spear landed in the doorpost before Hei could even turn away as Ghislaine's voice drifted over. "Stay."

"Yes, ma'am." Hei had to resist the odd desire to salute.

He stood there silently as she finished a precise cut at a slow and steady pace, peeling away the rough hide from whatever unfortunate beast had crossed her path.

Hei took that time to inspect her hut. Unlike Yoru's central building, Leone's disposable shack, and Chloe's mad scientist lab inside a giant hollowed-out tree, Ghislaine had seemingly built her hut to last out of piled stone.

A large circular space with hand-crafted furniture, a burning hearth, and what looked like a pit filled with furs instead of a bed. The floors and walls were decorated with a wide variety of leathers, skins, and trophies, going up two stories just to hold all of them.

In the center of it all was a work area where she focused on her projects.

Outside stood another smaller hut, which Hei knew was her personal smithy. She had once used it to teach him some of the finer details of the metals he worked with.

His head snapped back to her when she exhaled and pulled away a section of hide, the tough beast's skin falling away without an inch of meat stuck to it. Ghis turned his way and pointed her chin at a bench. "Sit."

A wind stirred from how fast Hei followed the command, leaving Ghis to blink in confusion. "Didn't mean to interrupt."

"You did not." Ghis focused her sole eye on him, taking him in for a long moment before nodding. "You look better."

"Feeling better." Hei smiled and scratched his cheek. "And I have you to partially thank for that." He took a breath and looked her in the eye. "I just wanted to come and say thank you for coming for me; it meant a lot."

"No need." Ghis shook her head and picked up a rag to wipe her skinning knife. "You are our cub; I am your elder and teacher. It's my role to teach and protect until you are grown."

Hei felt his cheeks flush slightly in a way only Ghis could inflict on him. "Not everyone thinks like that."

"The thoughts of others do not concern me."

He had heard those words from many, always spoken more as a mask to hide their insecurities, yet when Ghis said it, he couldn't question its truth.

"Right…" He sat there, oddly unsure what to do or say next.

Ghis tilted her head at his fidgeting. "You are unfocused."

"I am?" He blinked at her serious gaze and sat up straighter unconsciously. "I guess so?"

He had been wandering a bit. Chloe's healing process took three days, but she clearly instructed him off any form of physical training for another four days. He spent the first day with the villagers and triplets and the second meditating on his mana with Leone guiding him, yet even he was too mentally exhausted after everything to keep converting his mana for hours on end.

So, in a way, Ghis was right. He was wandering and didn't know what to do with himself without training or a mission.

She hummed in thought and before Hei could realize what was happening, her hand clamped around his head. "You think too much."

"Um…Ghis….this kinda hurts."

She ignored him and lifted him off the ground before plopping him down before the head of the carcass she was working on. A knife was placed in his hand as she pointed at a section she hadn't touched. "Skin."

Hei looked at the knife and then back at her in confusion. "I thought you already taught me how to-…"

Her eye darkened. "Skin."

"Yes, ma'am."

Hei's knife came up on the hide, and he frowned at the resistance, having to take a few moments to find the right angle to penetrate, and then grunted further at how thick the hide actually was. 'This thing was way above my current level.'

Ghis's hand came to rest on his shoulder as she pointed at one spot. "The grain changes patterns; begin here." Her calming baritone rang in his ears as he fell into a familiar trance, absorbing her teachings and clearing his mind of distractions.

It took him only moments under her direction to make a clean cut as Ghis hummed in approval. "Good." She patted his shoulder and turned to continue her own work. "Never stop seeking improvement; there is no limit to a skill. Keep going."

Hei blinked as she cut into the hide with precision to be marveled at and shook his head. Choosing to just follow her instructions and keep working.

His hands moved before his thoughts did, and soon, Hei felt the world fall away as he focused on a singular task. Ghis's voice drifted over, entering his ears without disturbing his flow.

"When the mind becomes messy, focus on a singular task. Do not rush, nor hesitate. Let the thoughts fade and find peace in this moment."

The minutes passed, and then the hours as the two worked in near silence, breathing in harmony as the skin of the mighty creature fell away.

Only when he found no more hide to skin did he return to himself and blink at the light of the setting sun coming through the window. Ghislaine stood to his side, rolling up the last piece of hide to carry to her tanning racks. She hefted the tons of weight like it was nothing and gave him a glance. "Good. Your mind is clear."

"I guess it is." Hei spoke softly, still feeling the lingering effects of that trance.

Ghis smirked and bent down to affectionately rub her head against his own. "If you find yourself lost, come here, and I'll refocus you."

Hei smiled at her touch and bowed his head in respect. "Thank you for your guidance."

"Mn." She flicked her tail toward the door. "You have things to do, no?"




It was a simple exchange, but not one that needed to be overcomplicated. Hei walked toward the door and paused to say one more time. "Thanks, Ghis."

A grunt behind him was all he needed to hear as he left and stepped onto the path back to the village. His hand reached into his pocket, and he removed his phone. He idly flicked to the text message he had received a few days before.

[We need to talk.

Carlos ]

'I guess there's no point putting this off.'

He had time to kill, and it seemed a visit to the Continental was necessary.

End of Part 1.