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Life in Vain: Jobless Reincarnation (Mushoku Tensei)

It was a freak accident. Someone ran the light at an intersection and before I knew it... my world turned black. But I didn't die then. Instead, I was forced to lament and regret over all of my failures. Lament about how this so-called genius was lower than dirt even at the very end. And that should have been it. After my consciousness faded, I should have disappeared. But I woke up. A different world, another life. A fresh start. This time, for sure...!

HappyVainGlory · Anime & Comics
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208 Chs

Child – Unwinnable Fight

[author] Arthritis and subzero (in Fahrenheit) temperatures do not play nice with each other. Energy's been at a low this past week for me because of that, so I've been focusing on getting through the days for law classes and work while resting up instead of writing. Sorry to worry. Things are better now, and it looks like the weather's going to warm up, so hopefully I can get back to a good writing rhythm.

But damned chronic health problems... getting older sucks.

Sorry for the wait. Here's another long chapter to make up for it.

[/author]

White crashed against Orsted as Sylphy's icy attack reached him.

At the same time, a crimson blur shot through the air and slashed towards Orsted's neck. My sword, flying out at close to light speed just like the attack Ghyslaine used on me.

It connected. But instead of doing any damage, sparks flew out. The edge of my sword bit into Orsted's neck, but nothing happened. As if he was made of steel, all my sword did was bounce off.

And the reason for that was clear.

Faint silver and gold threads, barely visible beneath the already bright glow of Orsted's mana.

I didn't know how it worked, but he was reinforcing his body with mana. And not in the way Ghyslaine and my dad did when they fight.

Those two flooded their muscles with mana to move faster and hit harder.

But Orsted...

I could see it. Myriads of tiny mana threads, just like silk or spiderweb. Those wove around every strand of muscle in Orsted's body and into his bones in an intricate mesh. And while I couldn't see all the details, I was sure that there were more than a few tapping into his nerves as well to increase his reaction speed beyond the ordinary physical limitations.

My sword flew through the air and back into my hand.

Orsted didn't move, only watching me with his golden eyes.

But that made sense. He didn't need to move if he had that level of insane defense.

...Though it was an insane level of defense that could only be done because he had so much mana. If his mana wasn't so dense, it wouldn't even be a tenth as effective as it was now.

After all, woven string wasn't as strong as woven steel.

But while impressive, it was a problem.

I grit my teeth and continued running forward, sword in my left hand. As I did, I wracked my head on what to do.

My sword skills were far from enough to engage in close combat. But at the same time, he was definitely too fast for me to take the time to cast spells. And while I was... about 70% sure he couldn't see mana, he definitely could sense it in some way.

So I had to distract him. Engage him enough to where I could use that time to set up powerful spells to pierce through that protection.

Except... Did I even have anything like that?

Unlike us mere mortals, Orsted didn't seem to have a squishy human body.

And as if to prove my point, Orsted raised his right hand in the midst of Sylphy's blizzard and formed a fist. After that, he swung it down. The moment he did, the snow collapsed, falling down to the ground in a heap around him.

It wasn't like before with <Disturb Magic>. No, this time was pure physical strength. A shockwave that shoved everything down because of his attack, not a dispersal of the mana behind it.

And that was what I had to match.

Not beat, match.

Because there was no way I could beat him right now. In a few years, maybe. If I had time to set up a trap and lay down formations, yes. But a straight fight-

A white blur. Not from Sylphy.

The sound of shattering glass. At the same time my body instinctively moved to the side and swung my sword.

Sparks flew as my crimson blade bit into Orsted's outstretched hand- No. It didn't bite into the hand. Rather than my sword's edge piercing Orsted's skin, his hand was eating away at my sword's edge.

My eyes widened and I quickly flooded my sword with mana to counteract it before blowing myself away with a gust of wind.

Orsted straightened, glancing at the sword in my hand before looking up to me. He didn't say a word, but the faint glimmer in his eyes showed he was... mildly impressed.

But that was it.

He gave me a break, as if waiting for my next move.

But we both knew it. If he pursued, it would have been over.

I saw a few more magic barriers form around me to replace the few that Orsted shattered. And at the same time, I saw icicles fire towards him from behind. Sylphy, trying to get in some sneak attacks.

Orsted didn't move. Again, he didn't need to. The icicles shot towards him like bullets, but they just exploded into glistening dust, not even scratching his coat.

He just waited for my next move. Ignoring Sylphy and Roxy completely, he looked just at me.

I took a deep breath and then focused. My sword flew out in front of me again, held as if an invisible warrior was fighting alongside me.

...It wasn't enough. Against ordinary humans, probably. An attack that fast with my sword as reinforced as it was could cut through the average person. Maybe sufficient to fight off against a small platoon.

But it was a similar issue with Master Roxy. While good against numbers, it wasn't enough raw might to counteract someone like Orsted.

So I needed to think outside the box. Just like when fighting against Ghyslaine.

No. I had to be smarter than when fighting with Ghyslaine.

Because while Orsted was humoring me right now, tides could turn in a single moment. He was someone who was entertaining a whimsy right now. But he was also someone who could change that whim at any time and go back to just eliminating me because I knew about Being W... or Hitogami. Whatever that guy was really called.

So think.

How do you beat an invincible opponent like this with your limited resources?

In terms of mana density, we were about equal. Since I was still recovering, he had the edge, but even at full, it would be a stalemate.

I was outclassed in terms of physique and physical range because I was still just a child. And in terms of technique... that wasn't even a question.

Orsted could freaking use his hand as an actual sword. He was a guy who took Bruce Lee's philosophy about training every part of his body literally.

Like seriously. I could even see faint traces of mana threads in Orsted's hair, meaning that even *those* could be lethal weapons if he decided to use them. Like, he could probably rip one off and throw it as a projectile.

And from his casual stance... and the fact that he didn't have a weapon on him, I really didn't want to test that hypothesis.

The only advantages I had on him were that he wasn't going full force against me.

Yet.

And that I had a repository of knowledge about various techniques and physical phenomena in my head as well as theories and systems that weren't conceivable in this world due to a divergence in technological advancements.

...Only, considering how strong that guy was, the number of things I could use...

"Well," I muttered. "Let's start with what I can see."

I didn't have time to waste. If I wanted more, I had to buy more with effort. So then, to impress him enough to give me more time to think...

I focused inward.

My mana wouldn't cling to my body. I could hold it in place, but it was basically like water spilling through cloth.

But seeing Orsted gave me an idea.

I couldn't replicate that intricate meshed network he had. That would take up way too much time.

But I *could* do something similar. At least in theory.

Pulling out countless threads, weaving them together through and over my muscles. Off-setting the physical load my body had to deal with by adjusting in real-time with a control module, similar to how I did noise cancelling...

A faint thrum of power. My body immediately felt lighter than before. More limber.

At the same time, there was a synergy between me and my sword. Maybe it was because I was wreathed in my own mana... or maybe it was that weird effect where tension improved mana power and control, I could feel the sword as if it was an extension of my own body.

But I didn't have time to think.

Perhaps recognizing the flow of mana as a threat, Orsted immediately shot forward again.

This time though, I could see it.

A faint ripple as his coat fluttered behind him. His entire body barely moving while his fist was outstretched to strike my head, giving the illusion that he was teleporting.

In a fraction of a second, his fist would connect.

I... probably wouldn't die. But I would definitely be incapacitated.

So before then.

My blade shot forward. Crimson blurred at the same time as Orsted's body, aiming for his eyes.

He noticed and then subtly turned his head so that the blade would strike the left side of his temple instead of his eyes.

But he kept moving. His eyes continued to track me as he continued advancing to attack.

It would still connect. I would still be struck.

So I moved as well.

-The circle and the line. The underlying principle in martial arts. And a principle that I had seen repeated in the Water God style since I started learning sword fighting with Dad.

A linear attack was defeated by a circular defense. And a circular attack was defeated by a linear defense.

Of course, like could clash against like, but that required equal force and skill.

I didn't have that, so I had to take advantage of the difference.

Orsted's attack was force directed in a single attack vector.

So, like when I stalled Ghyslaine in water, I had to divert that attack vector.

I pivoted on my back foot and grabbed Orsted's outstretched arm. At the same time, muscle memory from practicing Water God and half-remembered memories of tai chi flickered through my mind. I bent down, twisting my body forward with Orsted's momentum but also diverting it an angle to toss him over me.

It worked.

Whether because Orsted wasn't expecting me to act like that, or because he allowed it, the guy flew over me and spun through the air.

As he did, I slashed out with my sword again, directing it with my mana. A flurry of rapid slashes performed at supersonic speed, aimed at Orsted's weak points.

Upper arm, collarbone, windpipe, temple, diaphragm, rib, groin, thighs, and then a stab through the heart.

Those were my targets.

Targets that were immediately blocked as Orsted's limbs blurred in mid-air to parry all of them. And with the last, my sword was knocked back towards me, spinning like a top to cut me in half.

But I wasn't worried.

Instead of stopping my sword, I whipped it around me to attack Orsted again.

This time, he smashed it directly with a fist and shattered the sword, sending steel shards falling to the ground.

All of this, within the span of a single second while Orsted was still falling down to the ground.

Insane.

The fact that I could perceive him moving at all, and the fact that he was freely moving on such miniscule time intervals.

I couldn't stop and marvel at it though.

My movements were straining my body. As trained as I was, and as much as my rough copy of Orsted's mana reinforcement technique helped, I lacked the years of experience and time to be proficient at fighting like this. My body just wasn't accustomed to fighting at such a level.

But I had bought time.

Like how Orsted was moving in fractions of seconds, my awareness had expanded as well. Instead of perceiving in seconds, I was perceiving things on a smaller timescale.

...Wasn't entirely sure how this was all working though. Probably a combination of mana and nerves aligning and creating an extrasensory phenomenon to shift perception in a subjective manner, giving the illusion of time slowing down.

But that didn't matter.

What did was that I could move faster. And that didn't just mean my body.

I didn't know how it was for others, but for me mana moved at the speed of thought.

That didn't help much when my opponents moved faster than I could perceive. But when they didn't...

I focused.

One wasn't enough. Five wasn't enough. Ten wasn't either.

If I wanted to break Orsted's protection, I needed an attack that could go beyond it. And something like that...

My sword was already moving at a supersonic speed, and Orsted didn't even care. He moved faster than it and even managed to shatter the blade.

So a 'slash' wasn't enough. The force was too diffuse to cut through his mana reinforcement.

Maybe if I was bigger and had more mass to weave with mana to generate more force... but I didn't.

But sheer mass wasn't enough either. If I tried to send a block of iron at him or some giant boulder, even at high speeds, Orsted would just cut it apart.

No. The only hope I had to break through that reinforcement was to focus everything on a single point.

Except, focus what?

Metal, stone, and other physical matter wouldn't be sufficient. Maybe if I could create something like tungsten, it might work. But I didn't know how to make iron, let alone tungsten. Manipulate it, sure. But make? No way.

Wind? No. Too diffuse.

Water? Same issue.

Fire? Maybe. Except that I didn't think I could make one hot enough for it to be a problem to the guy.

Lightning? Possible. But my gut was telling me he would just bat it away.

Not only that... but Master Roxy had tried it all when she attacked earlier with her <Magic Arrays>. And I was sure that I couldn't do much better than her in that regard.

Plus, even if I did... it would be my loss if I somehow managed to seriously injure or kill Orsted. That guy seemed to be against Being W as well, and the only person who would win if one of us died was that insidious bastard.

So those were out.

The lethal techinques I had in mind like creating a vacuum and filling it with poison gas, diamond dust, and other things to attack the guy on the inside were out too.

No, I needed something else. Something that showed power without being pure lethality. I just needed a proof of concept. A way to show him that I was someone worth fighting alongside. That I had the potential to grow to be an ally against Being W.

So.

A repeated magic circle, spiraling in a a three-dimensional pattern. At the center of it, a single crimson bead. My mana, slowly condensing to form a single bullet.

It was the same basic principle as the first spell I learned. <Water Ball>.

But instead of forming water, it was my own mana. And instead of one magic circle focusing on converting mana to water, it was a myriad of magic circles focusing on solidifying my mana to a physical form.

It was possible. Mana crystals and mana stones existed, so it was definitely possible to crystallize raw mana into a physical form. And when it did, that physical form carried the properties of the mana that made it.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl. In the corner of my eye, I saw Sylphy frozen, snow flickering around her as she prepared another attack. A few steps away from her, Master Roxy held out her staff, watching with fear and trepidation in her eyes as she stared at Orsted.

But even as time was slowed to a crawl, Orsted moved at normal speed. He landed on the ground and then turned to look at me, his eyes widening in shock.

I dashed to the side, maneuvering so that my projectile would shoot out towards the mountains instead of anywhere important.

Orsted turned as well and quickly started to chant. And as he did, I felt a ripple of the disruptive magic he used earlier.

But before the second word could come out, I fired.

A single beam of pure red light aimed at Orsted's right arm.

A sure hit. It definitely was on target and faster than anyone could react. The moment it fired, my attack was bound to connect.

But Orsted still managed to dodge. Not completely, but enough.

Instead of the center of his right arm like I planned, Orsted moved enough to where my attack struck the side instead.

Blood sprayed from where my mana bullet connected, shredding through Orsted's mana reinforced muscles and flesh.

And then, off in the distance, I saw the peak of a mountain explode, snow tumbling down in an avalanche.

But that was all.

With all my prep, all I could achieve was a glancing blow.

I heard something crack. At the same time, the limberness I felt in my body and the hyperfocus I had slowing time to a crawl vanished. In its place, I had a pounding headache and felt like my body was made of lead.

Orsted glanced at his right arm, watching as crimson spread along his pure white coat. After that, he slowly turned back to look at me, a thoughtful expression in his gaze.

I felt my body start to give out, but forced myself to stand, glaring defiantly at Orsted.

I couldn't show weakness now. Not after putting on that play. So-

"The mana in that attack was on par with Laplace." Orsted started walking towards me.

"Rudy!"

Sylphy called out and tried to attack again with a barrage of snow.

But Orsted just flung out his hand.

A sonic boom erupted and then Sylphy flew through the air.

"SYLPHY!" I screamed and tried to run towards her. But I couldn't. My limbs didn't cooperate and just collapsed beneath me, forcing me to kneel.

Fortunately, Master Roxy was prepared and quickly moved to catch Sylphy as well as heal her.

But this fucking guy! Hurting Sylphy...!

Should I just off him?

No, that was definitely what Being W wanted. But...!

"The ability to reproduce the Saint Dragon Battle Aura, even in part, also shows your worth." Orsted took a step forward again, looking down on me.

I raised my head and glared at him.

"Rudeus Greyrat." Orsted stared at me and said, "The one who inherited Laplace's abilities and will." He held out his hand and said, "Join me. Not as a follower, but as-"

A sudden silver flash. A knife, thrown through the air at Orsted's back.

It crumpled, bent like it was made of tinfoil.

Orsted paused and turned around.

I did as well and saw Mama Lily standing there, holding knives in both hands and a sword sheathed at her left side.

She wasn't alone either. Mom was standing there as well, her hands out and chanting.

It seemed like the two ran out after all the commotion.

My eyes widened. "Wait! Mom! Mama Lily! Don't-!"

"...<Water Ball>!"

A water ball shot out from my mom's hands. At the same time, Mama Lily threw her knives.

Orsted turned to face both and muttered, "Lilia and Zenith Greyrat... are the same. But to not fear me at all... It seems to not be a coincidence. Then-"

The knives and water ball collided with Orsted. But like with everything else, they had no effect.

...What the heck even was this guy? A Po*emon? Did he have <Wond*r Gua*d> or something?

My attack *definitely* disrupted his reinforcement. But he still shrugged those off like it was nothing.

Mama Lily pursed her lips and then drew her blade. At the same time, my mom pointed at Orsted and said, "Stay away from my son!"

Mama Lily nodded and said, "I will not let you harm my child!"

Orsted blinked and then turned back to look at me. After that, he smiled and said, "It seems you are well-loved. Enough to unite those two women who were fated to be at odds with each other."

It was a genuine expression. Like he received a pleasant surprise.

Of course, on his face it just looked like a sinister smirk.

Mom and Mama Lily ran forward. In the back, I saw Master Roxy finish tending to Sylphy and then look towards Mom and Mama Lily. Her eyes widened and then she let out a sigh before resolving herself, holding her staff out to fight as well.

Faint cries echoed in the distance. Norn and Aisha, probably disturbed by all the ruckus.

A mess. This was a giant mess that wouldn't end well.

It seemed like Orsted realized it too since he started to frown.

And then to top it all off... From the direction of the Citadel of Roa, a silver blur approached at blinding speed before colliding with Orsted.

He quickly stepped back, shoving off his attacker and moving to the side.

At the same time, his attacker moved to stand in front of me, physically blocking Orsted from moving towards me.

And as for the identity of Orsted's attacker...

"Sorry I'm late. Dad had to tie up some loose ends first." My dad rested his sword over his right shoulder and looked back towards me, his face uncharacteristically serious. "Are you alright, Rudy?"

"No. I'm not alright." I glared at him and said, "What kind of Dad knocks his kid out for a week after forcing him into a life-or-death fight with some unknown swordsman and thinks the kid will be fine?"

"Haha... Yeah. Messed up pretty big there. Dad's never been the smartest, you know? But you can yell at me later. Right now..." He looked at Orsted and said, "What are you doing here, Dragon God Orsted?"

I blinked. "Wait. Dragon God?"

Orsted stared at my dad. After that, he glanced at my mom, Mama Lily, Sylphy, and Master Roxy... and then he turned to look at me. Staring straight into my eyes, he said, "This is my mistake. It seems that the situation has turned hostile, so I will seek you out once more in the future. Until then, think carefully on my words, Rudeus Greyrat."

With that, Orsted vanished.

No, it wasn't that he vanished. Instead, he quickly dashed away, heading towards the mountain that got its top blown off from my attack.

Seeing that, my dad lowered his sword and frowned. But he quickly put on a smile and turned towards me. "Well look at that, Rudy. Seems like your old man's strong enough to send even the Dragon God running away with his tail between his legs!"

"Uh-huh." I glanced towards Mom and Mama Lily slowly walking towards us. "Then since my dad's so great, he won't do the same now that his lovely wives are coming to have a long talk, right?"

My dad blinked and then finally noticed my moms approaching. Sweat started to form on his brow and he laughed. "Ahaha... Right. Definitely won't. But, er..." He looked back at me and said, "This is completely hypothetical. But say that Dad managed to hook you up with a super hot wife for the future. Do you think your moms would be mad?"

"Wait, what?"

"Think like double Ds, top-class noble beauty... and unlike most noblewomen, she'll be super fit and actually good to tumble with. Ah, and of course you can still have Sylphy. Just like your old man, you know? If it's you, I'm sure you can handle at least two women."

I blinked, scattered bits of info slowly starting to connect in my head.

My dad running off, showing back up after saying he was running a coup... now rambling about a 'hot wife'...

Strength came back to my worn-out body and I stood up. After that, I reached out to grab my dad's shirt and said, "You fucker! Tell me you didn't sign a betrothal contract or something to some noble family to help you run the coup!"

"Ahaha... M-Maybe?"

"YOU DID WHAT!?"

That wasn't me. That was my mom.

It seemed like she heard him.

My dad turned to look at her and held up his hands. "L-Let me explain-"

Mama Lily glared at my dad and said, "Paul. I'm disappointed in you."

"L-Lily. Honestly, if you just let me-"

I let go of my dad and stepped back, glaring at him as well.

But the moment I stepped back, Mom stepped forward, grabbing his shirt just like I did. "What about Sylphy!? Who gave you the right to decide that!?"

"U-Um..."

Mama Lily stepped forward as well, crossing her arms. "I thought that you had matured, Paul. No, that at least you were better than those Asuran nobles who sold their children off to curry favors. But to think you would do that with Rudy as well..." Her eyes turned cold and she said, "What of Aisha? Did you sell her off as well?"

Mom's eyes widened and she glared at Paul. "You had *better* not tell me you signed a betrothal contract for Norn as well."

"I didn't! I promise! And really, it's not that bad! Just... let me explain." My dad looked at me and said, "Come on, Rudy. Help your dad out a bit. Rudy? ...Rudy?!"

I turned around and waved the back of my hand at him. "We'll talk later. I have a lot of things I want to say to you, Father."

Silence. And then my dad let out a sigh and muttered, "Well. Guess I should have seen this coming."