In a certain location found in the vast space constituting the universe, one could find a part of it act as a separate dimension. This so-called dimension houses multiple beings that wield power on the levels of gods. Of course, that was because these beings are actual, living, breathing gods. It is only known by a singular name, which was the Celestial Plane. Within a certain part of this plane, one would find a floating white cube.
Inside this cube was a woman whose appearance and body could be said to have reached the pinnacle of beauty. It was if she was made out of finely chiselled marble, complimenting the white walls inside the cube. Her hair was pitch-black, mesmerizing like the void that constituted the majority of space. On the other hand, her irises and lips were of a crimson red hue, making anyone that looked at it feel like she was seducing them.
Then again, she wore a white dress which seemed to balance out those characteristics, radiating an aura that made her look like a radiant goddess of purity. However, she was no radiant goddess of purity at all, with her personality that could be summed up in one word, bipolar1.
There were times where she would act sweet and lovable, radiating an aura that made anyone want to rely on her. There were also times where she would indifferently torture living beings, either for pleasure, entertainment, or to stave off boredom. She would unhesitatingly put them in a living hell, ignoring the incessant curses that came out of the mouths of which she tortured.
Of course, there were also times where she would show both sides at once, putting living beings in a state of confusion, making one wonder which one was the real her. Taking her name into consideration, one would surely think that that personality quite suited her.
Her name was Kurohana, a being well known as the goddess that had superb control over the Law of Reincarnation.
At this moment, she was currently looking through a glass orb she had bought from somewhere, scanning through the nigh-infinite amount of living beings dotted throughout the whole universe. The reason as to why she was doing this was because she needed a suitable living being to become the main soul of her future masterwork weapon. A weapon that would allow her to wield power surpassing her peers of the same level.
Just as she was swiping left to the next living being on her glass orb, the image that was being shown on the orb had transformed into darkness in an instant, with a few words appearing not long after.
"Hmm…? Lumina wants to call me?" Kurohana could not help but wonder as to why a goddess on the same level as her would call her at this time, seeing as the Celestial Plane was in a state of peace. Nevertheless, she accepted the request, the sight of a cute woman that looked like she was in her twenties appearing on Kurohana's orb soon after.
"Yoohoo~! It's been a while since I last saw you, Kurohana~" The energetic voice of Lumina started to resound from the orb, making Kurohana scratch her head as she replied soon after, "We met like a few hours ago in the Hall of Greater Divinity, Lumina. Anyways, what's the reason for calling me?"
"You know me very well, right~?" Lumina asked in response, before continuing, "I have a lot of connections throughout the Celestial Plane, especially the gods at the same level as us."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Kurohana replied in slight annoyance, waving her hand to and fro as she added, "Get to the point."
"Well, I've heard some rumors from the other gods that some low-level demons have been invading their private worlds. Just wanted to tell you that you should make sure that your world is free from demons, seeing as you're one of the best blacksmiths in the Celestial Plane," Lumina decided to not beat around the bush this time, getting straight to the point with a light smile on her face. "I also wanted to tell you that if you need help setting up protection from those demons, you should call me sometime. My control over the Law of Light is not something to scoff at, you know~"
"I'll keep that in mind," Kurohana responded after a few seconds of silence, ending the call between them abruptly without saying farewell. She then sat in silence for a while, pondering over Lumina's words as she softly muttered, "Since only low-level demons are attacking, for now, I shouldn't worry that much."
"Let's get back to searching a suitable soul for the main material of my magnum opus." After saying that, she went back to looking through a list of suitable living beings on her glass orb, eventually stopping on a certain living being with a slight grin on her face.
"Hoh? That kind of experience…will surely be invaluable."
"You'll be the one then."
As if it was some sort of heavenly judgment, the house of a certain person was struck by a huge bolt of lightning, around twenty times as big as a normal bolt. Due to the size of the lightning bolt, it was a given that the house would be turned into charred bits and ashes…as well as the person who lived in it.
A few seconds after the lightning strike, an incorporeal blob gradually manifested over the huge pile of ashes and charred bits, an aura of confusion radiating from it.
"What the heck happened?" At this moment, the incorporeal blob was still quite clueless as to what had happened, only realizing what had happened after looking at its surroundings.
"…" After looking at his house, which resembled a landscape bombarded with nukes, Aurus was at a loss for words. He also tried to look for his body, to which he had failed to do so. Eventually, Aurus let out a sigh muttering to himself, "Is this my punishment for playing ISE too much? If so, don't you think this is too much of an overkill, heaven?"
The acronym that Aurus had mentioned was the MMORPG he had poured most of his time and effort into for quite a great portion of his life, named Infinite Stick Evolution. Although the name of the game sounded quite grand, it had lived up to its name, allowing players to play with an individualistic style, with there being near-infinite possibilities. This was what drew Aurus into the world of ISE since the infinite possibilities of the game made him feel like he was the main character of the web novels he had read back then.
"If I knew that I was going to be punished, I would've tried to reach the existence level of Divinity far earlier," Aurus said to himself, slightly filled with regrets. "I wonder what's going to happen to me next?"
Just as he asked this question, an invisible vortex appeared a small distance away from Aurus, sucking Aurus in with a faint swoop sound. Although he did not know that he was sucked into a vortex, the feeling of something pushing and pulling on his body made him quite nauseated. This feeling also made him realize that something related to his body was happening, though he could not figure out what it was. Fortunately, that sensation only lasted a short time, with Aurus appearing in a place that was distant from where he was a few moments ago.
While calming down his senses after going through such a nauseating experience, Aurus could not help but steal a few glances at the surroundings, slightly shocked inside that everywhere he looked was pure white. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, hell even the girl in front of him was pure white.
Wait a second…a girl?
"Who are you?" Although he was quite confused as to where he was, seeing as there was a human in front of him, he could not help but become vigilant.
As for the girl in front of him, she could not help but lightly chuckle at Aurus' question, replying with a light smile, "I'm Kurohana, the Greater Goddess of Reincarnation. You're currently in my haven, this big white space you're currently looking at."
"Wait…what?" Hearing the girl's response, Aurus could not help but become confused. "You're the Greater Goddess of Reincarnation? And this white space thing is your haven?"
"Yep." Kurohana nodded in response.
"Am I dreaming or something? Is this death of mine a dream in disguise?" Realizing how farfetched his current situation was, Aurus could not help but mutter.
In an instant, an overbearing aura radiated from Kurohana, making Aurus feel like he was in an area where the only two beings that existed there were him and Kurohana. Not only that, the feeling of imminent death even radiated from her body, also making Aurus wonder as to what he had done wrong.
Fortunately, that only lasted for a short while as Kurohana asked, "Is this enough proof for you to realize you're not dreaming?"
"Y-yeah," Aurus hastily replied, slightly afraid of Kurohana.
Nonetheless, Aurus had no idea as to why he was brought here and so, mustering his courage, he asked her, "A-anyways, why did you bring me here?"
"I have brought you here to give you another shot at life," Kurohana replied to his question, before adding, "You have two choices to choose from."
Raising one finger, she continued, "The first choice is for you to be reborn through the six paths of reincarnation, which means that the chances of you becoming one of the six is equal. A celestial, an angel, a human, an animal, a ghost, or an asura, it's basically up to luck if you get reborn as a human again."
"What about the second choice?" Aurus could not help but ask, his opinion of the first choice being bad. Of course, if the second choice given to him was worse, then he'd pick the first one.
Raising another finger, she answered Aurus' question. "The second choice, although you won't be reborn as a human, you would have a way to become human. That is…"
"You would be reborn as a stick."
"…" Aurus was silent for a bit before responding, "Are you mocking me because I've been playing a game about sticks for a great portion of my life?"
"No, not at all," Kurohana shook her head with a smile. "To be honest, I think that it's quite nice, seeing your devotion towards one game makes me think you're a hard worker."
Obtaining a rare compliment from a goddess rather than an insult, Aurus' fear towards Kurohana slightly lessened as he looked at her in a slightly new perspective. Nevertheless, he had a question in mind related to the second choice.
"Say I choose the second choice. What can I do as a stick? Just hope to be swept away by the wind? If that's the case, how would I turn into a human?" Aurus asked her, to which Kurohana replied with, "And this is why I praised you for your devotion towards that game."
"I'll be giving you two bonuses if you choose the second choice. Both being related to the game you were playing," Kurohana added.
Hearing that there was a bonus if he chose the second choice, and not only was it one bonus but two, and those two bonuses were both related to ISE, Aurus could not help but ask, "May I ask what those two bonuses are?"
"The first bonus will allow you to live your life like you're playing the game," Kurohana replied with a light smile. "Since you've reached quite a high level in the game, you have an idea why I told you it will give you a way to become human, right?"
"Mm." Although Aurus just responded with a short grunt, he was quite eager to choose the second choice in his mind. Living his life like a game, that was just a dream come true for him!
"How about the second bonus?" he continued to ask, to which Kurohana replied with, "The second bonus is related to the speed of your improvement. Hmm…using the terms from the game you play…the experience you need to level up your skills will be halved…is that correct?"
"I CHOOSE THE SECOND CHOICE! I'VE DECIDED!" Aurus shouted without hesitation after hearing what the second bonus had in store for him. Although he would have chosen the second choice even with just the first bonus, he knew that with the second bonus, he would be able to get back to his previous standing at a faster speed…as well as live it out.
"I see." Kurohana nodded in response with a smile, before making a few gestures with both of her hands, glowing threads of formless energy appearing around Aurus' incorporeal blob not long after. These threads then transformed into a bubble that covered Aurus, the light they gave out gradually intensifying.
With the bubble of formless energy surrounding Aurus' body, Kurohana finished making gestures with her fingers before saying, "Well then. Let me congratulate you on being reborn as a stick. I also wish you the very best of luck!"
Just before the bubble of formless energy radiated light that covered the whole inside of Kurohana's space, Aurus shouted out two words.
Soon after saying that, the bubble of formless energy had disappeared from Kurohana's space. Any trace of Aurus being in her space was gone as well.
At this moment, Kurohana let out a sigh before snapping her fingers, conjuring a chair that she sat on soon after. Afterward, she willed the glass orb she was using a while ago to come close to her.
"Hehehe." As she gestured with her hands one more time, infusing a bit of energy towards the glass orb in front of her, a grin could be seen on her face.
"And with that, let's start the nurturing process, shall we?"