at method to capture me.」

「What kind of trick did they actually use then?」

Kou prepared to listen intently.
The matter Asia was about to disclose would be able to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding the Nemesis warfront.

「You’re already aware that the Stones have transformed themselves into a single homogenous existence, and that they’ve completely forsaken their humanity, right? Since they aren’t human, normally, they wouldn’t be able to access us.
Normally, that is.」

「Yeah.
I’ve learned of that.」

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「Apparently, being a Stone is a serious bore.
They don’t possess the five senses after all.
However, they managed to come up with a new form of entertainment.
–That entertainment method is to install their data inside the minds of captured humans in order to enjoy temporary bodies.
The original soul and personality of the person is completely deleted.」

「Wha–!?」

It was a more shocking matter than Kou expected.
He didn’t think the Stones would actually erase people’s souls and hijack their bodies.

「Do the humans know about this?」

「They still aren’t aware.
Only a few humans can hear my voice.
This was the case even before I was captured and sealed.
Those who are able to faintly hear me are the A class Development Engineers.」

Asia muttered in a forlorn manner.

「After they’ve installed themselves in humans, can they also be considered as humans by then? The answer was yes, unfortunately.
That’s how they were able to access me.
They reverse-traced my data trail from the Interplanetary War era and managed to pinpoint the Fortress Areas where my data was sleeping.
They simultaneously captured them all and proceeded to seal me up.
They did so by ordering me to personally seal myself.」

Kou had finally understood something.
This was why the key to Asia’s seal was only known to Asia.
It’s because the Stones that impersonated humans made sure to set things up that way.

It seemed like the perfect seal since no one could actually hear Asia’s voice clearly, and humanity didn’t even know where exactly she was.

「So that’s why humans are being hunted down and captured unilaterally huh……」

「I did everything I could to help out you know? The Familiars, Therianthropes, and Nereids all cooperated to defend humanity in order to enact my will.
But humanity’s ability to defend itself had clear limits due to Sophia sealing the most advanced technology.
So, with the last of my power, I asked Okeanos to summon transferees to Planet Asia in order to revive lost technology.」

「And that’s us; people whose deaths remain unconfirmed in the time periods we lived in huh……」

「Yes.
This is the truth of what happened.」

「The aim of the Stones is to return to Earth, right?」

「Yes.
Their goal is to return to Earth and use our powers in order to revive it.
But they still haven’t found my main body yet.
Well, even the current me doesn’t know its location!」

「Complete concealment huh.」

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「There are several outcomes for humans who have been captured by the Stones.
They might be used as temporary bodies that the Stones will install their data to.
The ones who are particularly skilled would be used as pawns.
They might also be considered as breeding stock to produce suitable bodies for the Stones to install themselves to.
Others would be deprived of their thoughts and live as biological labor machines to manufacture and maintain Murders.
As for those who had no prominent skills to speak of……」

Asia hesitated to continue.
It must be a truly unimaginable fate, Kou inwardly thought.
He felt this was the case.

「They will select humans with high ability and good looks based on current aesthetic sensibilities from among the ones they captured, erase their souls, and install themselves to enjoy temporary lives as mock humans.
That is the true face of the hivemind lifeform known as the Stones.」

「Even I was not aware of what the Stones were like until Asia shared this information with me.」

Kou found it surprising that even Astraea didn’t know, but she was sleeping underground for more than a thousand years until Kou reactivated her, so he supposed it was reasonable that she was unaware.
It was only natural.

「Those guys are already just like parasites that infest and take over humans huh.
Isn’t it laughable though? After all, they originated from the idea of denying the concept of individuality.」

「It truly is ironic, isn’t it? They espouse the idea of denying the very concept of individual differences but still insist on selecting bodies based on aesthetically pleasing appearances.
For them, freedom and equality can only be enjoyed by those among their kind.
And the act of living itself has turned into their pastime.
That’s why I absolutely do not want the Nemesis system to fall into their hands.
This is also to honor Sophia’s will of entrusting the Nemesis system to the humans.」

「I feel the same.
I’m glad since I don’t have to feel guilty when I fight them in the future.」

For the first time, Kou had a clear picture of the enemy.

In the past, he only fought unmanned murder machines in order to survive.

「I already talked about this with Astraea, and there’s something we want to entrust you with, Kou.」

「What is it?」

「Power to fight with the Stones.」

「I understand.
Let’s hear it.」

Once he viewed the Stones as enemies he absolutely couldn’t lose against, a clear will was born from within Kou.

He realized it a bit late, but it seemed he had already taken himself as a true citizen of Planet Asia.

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