d.
If I were a normal person, I would have lost my arm before I could even react.

However, I am a mind reader.

A moment before she swung, I thought deeply about what I should do.

 

‘Should I block it? No, she has the power of thirteen lives.
If I tried to block it, the rest of my body would be sliced along with my arm.
Dodge? No, the blade will be too fast.’

 

Even though I had the upper hand by reading her mind, the Aerial Blossom was too fast.
At worst, it would change from losing an arm to losing my head.

 

‘What else can I do?’

 

Nothing.

 

‘Wait, I’m gonna die? I thought I had at least a year left, but I’m about to die within a minute…?’

 

I couldn’t let that happen.

 

‘I need to survive.
I need to continue my worthless life somehow.
I’ve done so much to stay alive.
I’ve sunk to the lowest I could go in the back alleys! I didn’t do all that just to die here!’

 

“Ugh!”

 

I lashed out my arms.
It was a futile struggle, attempting to at least try to do something to live.

And those who seeked opportunities were the ones who received it.

 

「What?!」

 

Cling.

A clear sound similar to a bell echoed in my ears.
Waves rippled across the surface of the invisible blade, and the altered trajectory aimed a hair above my shoulder.

A spark flashed across the surface of the blade.
Chun-aeng could cut even air.
The gasses were caught on the blade surface, engraving a bolt of lightning into the air as they broke.
A moment after the spark, the sound of thunder pierced my eardrums.

Every hair on my body stood up.
I couldn’t tell if it was from the static or because I was terrified.

 

「He deflected Chun-aeng?!」

 

‘Huh? Did I survive? Arms, okay.
Head, still attached.
Pain, nonexistent…’

 

I lived.
The Aerial Blossom missed.

 

‘Wait, no.
Did I deflect Chun-aeng with my hand when I swung my arms?’

 

What exactly happened?

 

「He… didn’t even need to block it… And he changed the trajectory with only his finger? No way… He didn’t seem strong at all…! Was he hiding his strength?」

 

I read her mind and was able to realize what had happened.

I could see people’s thoughts.
Whoever it was, I could see why and how they were going to attack.
This was one of the few benefits of my useless ability.

When I read her intention to slice off my arm, I swung my arm instinctively.
The only problem was that the regressor’s blade was as fast as my thoughts.
Because of that particular overlap, the regressor’s blade barely touched the tip of my twitching finger.

It was completely unintentional, but Chun-aeng was a weightless sword.
It curved at the touch of my finger and allowed me to prevent myself from being struck.

 

‘Wow… I did it.
This is one of the biggest achievements in my life.’

 

Wait, back to the point.

The regressor snapped back, raising her blade.
The level of alert from before was completely different, as if she were about to face off against a deadly enemy. 

 

‘Crazy bitch.
Why the hell are you so scared? Shouldn’t I be the one who’s scared? I got attacked out of the blue here.’

 

“…I messed up.”

 

‘No shit you did.
I almost died.’

 

She continued to glare at me like a tense cat that was backed into a corner.

 

“An instructor sent to Tantalus would obviously have combat abilities necessary for the position… I apologize for underestimating you.”

“Aren’t you apologizing for the wrong thing?”

 

‘I’m thankful that she thinks highly of me, but this isn’t good.
If I get marked as her “enemy”, my life in every timeline will be threatened.
…Fuck.
It’s so unfair and enraging that I was attacked out of nowhere, but we have to work things out here.
We’re going to be stuck in the same prison for a couple more months.’

 

So, no matter how much I wanted to punch her in the face, I needed to head towards a positive relationship.

 

“You shouldn’t be apologizing for looking down on me.
Instead, apologize for attacking someone out of the blue! Do you lack basic manners?!”

 

The regressor frowned at the sudden sermon.
I shook my head, pretending to be disheartened by her actions.

 

“I understand your suspicion.
After all, something terrible happened just a few days ago… A riot leading to a massacre in the facility.
No wonder you lost faith in the State.
Your lack of trust is part of my responsibility as an official who serves the country.”

 

「I never trusted the state in the first place.
Who would trust a country like this?」

 

“However!”

‘I don’t either! Just go along with it!’

 

I Interrupted her thoughts.

 

“That does not justify your aggression towards me! What do you expect us to think of you when you display such antisocial behavior towards someone who came to help?”

“Came… to help?”

“Indeed!”

 

The Dog King had just retrieved the ball and placed it by my feet.
She was wagging her tail, waiting for me to throw the ball again.

 

‘Ugh, you’re interrupting my speech.’

 

I aimed the orb directly at the prison this time.

 

“Fetch!”

“Woof!”

 

As the joyous dog-girl followed the high-flying ball, I turned back to face the regressor.

 

“You all followed orders and did not escape the facility.
They say the purest light emerges from darkness.
Despite the chaos, you have all retained your morals.
As a result, the higher-ups of the State have taken an interest in the progress of your rehabilitation.”

 

「Well, the Dog King was waiting for the ‘promise’, and the vampire was just sleeping.
As for me, I just had some business to take care of in the abyss.」

 

‘She always has an excuse, huh?! Just take it.
Accept what I’m saying, for Christ’s sake!’

 

She loved playing devil’s advocate.
People like that would take any opportunity they got to come up with some way to counter anything other people would say.
I didn’t give the regressor an opportunity to come up with a rebuttal.

 

“That is why I have been deployed! In order to support your re-education, the State has sent me!”

 

It wasn’t a complete lie.
I was supposed to do manual labor here.
And the State did technically send me here.
Although, what they were looking for was a worker they wouldn’t care about surviving.

 

‘But if I focus on talking about myself…’

 

“So I expect great things from everyone! Just trust me and follow my advice, trainees!”

 

‘…It would make them think that I’m someone bigger than I actually am.
And if everyone believes it…’

 

「I can’t make sense of this guy.」

 

‘…I will truly become someone worth mentioning.’

 

“Woof!”

 

The Dog King approached me once more with the orb.
No matter how far I tried to throw it, she just easily retrieved it.
I just kicked the orb as hard as I could this time.
My toes stung from the impact, but the orb went further than before.
The Dog King panted as she chased after the ball again.

 

「That manner in which he treats the Dog King… and his ease in deflecting Chun-aeng… I can’t judge how strong he could possibly be at all.
As of now… I don’t think I can take him…」

 

‘Yeah, you wouldn’t be able to grasp my strength.
A strength that’s as insignificant as an insect.
It’s the life of a rat that you would never be able to imagine.
The strong can never understand the weak.
However, I know everything you’re thinking.’

 

Whatever it took, I succeeded.
I clenched my fist in joy.

Humans still had animalistic instincts.
If they met the unknown, they would stay wary and afraid.
Just as knowledge was power, the lack of it was a weakness.
Staying away from the unknown was the fundamental rule of survival.

 

‘She won’t attack me so easily like before.’

 

However, things would never move forward with such an attitude.
I needed to stay on a neutral footing, at the very least.
Putting on a soft smile, I held my hand out towards the regressor.

She flinched, almost cutting through my arm with the Aerial Blossom.
If she had used more pressure on it, my arm would’ve been cut like butter.

Yet, if I panicked here, I would be showing a weakness that could possibly be exploited.
I pretended to be relaxed as I offered her a handshake.

 

“For good future relations, let’s shake on it, shall we?”

 

She glanced back and forth between my face and my outstretched hand before turning away.

 

“…Hah.
Who knows what might be in your palm.”

“Hm? Weren’t you the one who attacked me? It’s strange how the person who swung the sword is acting like they’re the victim.”

 

Thanks to the regressor, I—who would normally only be able to read people’s minds—had just successfully read the future.
Just like a prophet. 

I could have died inevitably had I not known.
But it’s different now.

They said that the future was shy, and that it hid itself when seen.
Hopefully, it would never come back from hiding.
I didn’t need a shy-but-feisty future to deal with when it might end up killing me.

 

“Then let’s just do introductions.
You can call me the Instructor.”

 

I rapped my knunckle against my sternum as I promised myself.

 

‘I’ll survive at any cost.
Even if it means fooling fate itself.’

 

The regressor who had been so tense until now tossed her blade into the air before answering to my request.

 

“…Shei.”

 

At the same time, her inner monologue was whispered into my ears.

 

「I’ll watch for now.
At worst, I’ll just move onto the next run.」

 

Thankfully, she had decided to just observe.

People who had lives to spare thought differently, I guess.

Despite thinking that I was a danger, she was willing to observe.
Such was the flaw of someone who had too much leisure.
Shei raised her brow as she concluded her thoughts.

 

「…It worries me to stay in the same room as a frivolous man, but I doubt the others will give easily.」

 

‘What does she think of me? We have a literal dog and a corpse that’s been dead for a thousand years.
Does she think I’d be interested in something like that? I’m not some gross pervert.
I have normal tastes fit for a normal human.’

 

「And my crossdressing is perfect.
I look perfectly like a guy, so it’ll be fine!」

 

Oh…

Huh.
I see.

 

‘I need to live with a regressor who believes she’s passing as a man for several months.
This is going to be a pain.’

 

Mumbling inside, I tried my best to retain my smile.

 

—————

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