This is not an otome story. This is a military story.
At 2 the MC poisons her whole family. (and yes, she did hesitate. 40 people died in the meantime). At 6 she gets caught up in her first battle.
Her guardian, well aware that her lands are in proximity to an increasingly belligerent country, makes her undergo harsh governance and military training, which she accepts without questioning because she's smart enough to realize the reality of her situation, and also because she feels that it is her responsibility to restore the domain that was devastated by her family.
The fact that she's a reincarnator? Irrelevant to her, mostly just 'someone else's memories'. The otome setting? Give it up, the MC is more on the path of becoming a cold-blooded military leader than a fluffy love interest.
The story details the MC's life year-by-year as she assist in restoring her devastated territory, faces increasing military aggressions, navigates the world of aristocrats (having taken over her father's title), and deals with conspiracies within the territory, all while hoping her guardian doesn't keel over of old age or overwork too early, as she's still a mostly powerless child.
Although good-intentioned, the MC is unfortunately also too smart and calculating for her own good, resulting in serious trust issues and an inability to accept goodwill and compassion when it's actually present, even though she thoroughly needs it. As a result, she becomes increasingly cold-blooded... hence the summary of the story.
The story starts slow and is hard to get into at first, but it's quite a poignant read. Be prepared to read it for what it actually is: a psychological/military story, or you'll be seriously disappointed when you don't find any fluffy otome romance nor easy achievements.
Update: At ch. 205, the story is finally moving into the period of the 'otome game'. That may sound like a long time to get to that point, but the development until now is truly worth noting.
Unlike your average Isekai story, the MC isn't a stand-alone genius. On the contrary, it is quite clear that she was propped up by people more experienced, better connected, stronger or more skilled than her (and they still are), and they themselves only came into contact with her in the first place due to geopolitical and military circumstances surrounding her territory (like her Guardian). In fact, even now, it is clear that some of the people around her are pushing their credit onto her.
But that does not diminish the MC's accomplishments. The MC was trained and supported by monsters, only because she showed the corresponding hard work and tenacity. Even if the military family she is close to were the ones to come up with a particular military strategy for example, she was still the one charging and executing the strategy at the frontlines. Even when she got subordinates to help her with territory management, she was still working hard to research new ways to help her territory. Even when a plan of hers involved the participation of another noble, it's okay, she came up with the plan, she personally faced several of the people involved.
Most importantly, this method of development connects her more closely to the characters, the world and the plot. The MC isn't just some otherworldly tourist here to play Sim City with her superior knowledge. She's a part of this world. She is deeply affected by the plight of the people in her territory, the wars and the deeds she has to accomplish on the battlefield, the political machinations and the loss of people close to her. For everything she accomplishes, she's also had to give up something, and to protect her territory, she paid the price in terms of reputation and what she was willing to do with her own hands. And yet, as she faces all these, the bonds of bonds of trust, friendship and family that she does develop with the people who stand by her side feel that much more concrete and precious.
The story isn't perfect: there are ups and downs, slow moments, and some interactions feel a bit forced. But they are followed up with intriguing plots, shocking moments, poignant interactions, satisfying accomplishments and even some hilarious misunderstandings, that make it well worth the 200+ chapters just for the 'main' plot to start.
There's a lot to say, so I'll just focus on what really makes this stand out:
1. A solid and diversified world that resists easy, 'one-size-fits-all' solutions:
- The world is full of characters more powerful than the MC, not to mention in the grand scheme of things, numbers do matter. In fact, many of the MC’s companions surpass him in their domain of competence. The MC can't just beat up one person after the other.
- The world is quite advanced. In his first life, the MC tried to use his modern-day knowledge, only to realize that a. anything worth inventing had already been invented and b. the rest has better alternatives in this world.
- Complex and diversified societies. There are over a dozen socio-political models across races, with further fractioning into different factions/individuals with their own agendas as well as open or hidden alliances across factions. Also, it makes -sense- for things to be the way they are. This means MC can't just replace everything with a modern-day social model and be done with it.
- A ruthless, profit-based underlying backbone. In a war for survival, anything goes if there's profit involved, be it land, resources, power, belief or even souls. Allies will betray you if it’s in their interest to do so. Petty internal interests will block your allies' actions. Open lies will be propped up as the 'truth' as long as it's convenient. It's not that 'good people' don't exist here, but profit moves the world.
However, the MC's 'system' has already revealed to him where all this is heading though: several waves of upcoming conflicts, each larger than the last, then boom, game over for everyone. With no easy solutions at hand, the MC is an ant trying to prevent a series of car crashes. This leads to...
2. The diversified plot writing
At first glance, the MC appears to be a silly, goofy, happy-go-lucky guy (skeleton). He even views his past revenge streak (where he nearly destroyed the world) as an ‘embarrassing chuuni phase’ (not often you see That sort of attitude).
But the story increasingly reveals that he is, in fact, a ruthless manipulator. Faced with a world where the strong oppress the weak and where his own country was destroyed by war, betrayal, and lies propped up as truth, the MC decided to become more ruthless, more cunning, more underhanded than his opponents, and does not hesitate to resort to experimentation/dissections, scams, stealing, threats, betrayal, blackmail, negative propaganda, assassinations and conspiracies.
- Lack power? Okay, he's slowly building up his power the normal way. His ‘creations’ are far from normal however.
- Lack people for your new system? Shamelessly poach the followers of other religions.
- Lack technology? Steal it. And steal the researchers. Then sell the resulting technology back to the country you stole it from.
- A group of internal decision-makers are giving you a hard time? What, just find a reason to kill them.
- The decision-makers of allies X are taking their time? lol, drag the trouble straight to their doors, see whether they'll drag-out their decision-making process then.
- Want to stop the successive waves of conflicts which will end in the destruction of the world? Change some of the opposing factions from within from the grounds-up. Form alliances (willing or forced) where you can. Beat up immediate threats, then forcefully integrate them. Identify sub-factions within opposing factions, make deals, then let them handle the rest of their side. Ignore factions that either don't need help or don't benefit the cause. Having thus preserved Eich's forces as much as possible, force them all to face the real threats.
- Reputation in the drains? Apparently being notorious is convenient too!
What’s interesting in all this is that the MC is actually an idealist, who wants to save the world and make it a better place. He just refuses to do it alone. He knows that the means he’s chosen are despicable, and he fully expects to be punished for it, this last point being something he's completely serious about.
In parallel, he 'sows seeds' for a better future:
- He releases the information he has about the future in steps.
- He sets up new systems of beliefs or new mechanisms that will either protect the weak, gradually erode the problematic Church of Light, or simply coerce third parties into fighting the just fight thanks to pure incentives.
- He accelerates technology/magic advances. Sometimes, this is by sharing the fruits of his own research. At other times, it's by setting up new bases of development: he uses the system to identify key researchers, points them in the right direction, gives additional ideas based on real-world technology trends, provides them unconditional resources (often knocked from ally countries), then lets them do their thing.
- He sets up all sorts of nations and alliances. The world is full of old foxes, some of whom oppose his plans, but also some who, once they are convinced that their interests are aligned, make even bigger contributions to the MC's plans than the MC himself.
The MC never copy/pastes knowledge from our world, instead everything is custom-made for Eich. The result is the foundations of a veritable series of social, technological and political revolutions, except once he’s painstakingly set up the foundations... he lets go.
The MC doesn’t want to become a hegemon himself, he wants his creations to grow on their own (only giving advice from time to time), even if he isn't sure whether the ‘seeds’ will grow, or how exactly they’d develop. However, this enables his systems to truly become independent forces, and for his subordinates/allies to truly mature as leaders, some even walking further than the MC on the paths the MC had set up. This is his answer to changing the flow of ‘history.’
Even with all this, there’s still more to the plot: the MC also goes on quests to further his own power, or has to participate personally in wars. His opponents are often quite cunning too: the MC’s many back-up plans often prove to be necessary when a whole string of troubles and opportunities pile in at the first signs of war. The story also often goes in-depth into the worldbuilding or the situation of individual characters. All this makes for a very diversified story that never becomes repetitive.
3. Daring, weird characters designs
That all sounds quite dark so far, right? It is, but the story is also quite hilarious. The author cheerfully deconstructs and reconstruct your usual fantasy stereotypes, leaving you laughing at the worldbuilding (holy knights are poor blokes who can't get a girlfriend because they're broke, magicians in their tower are basically geeky shut-ins, that powerful ancient undead dragon is still alive because he's an expert at shamelessly sucking up to whoever is most powerful at the moment), not to mention the characters themselves are so boldly weird themselves that you'll soon find your standards for what's acceptable falling lower and lower (when there's a 'Beifeng' standard, everything else seems so tame!) The MC laments at the fact that there are no normal people around him, blatantly ignoring the fact that he’s quite abnormal himself.
The story is cheerfully narrated through the POV of the MC, who is in constant comedic skits with the 'System' and later with his 'pet' Harloys. And there’s always something to whine about, since the MC happens to be a walking magnet for bad luck (broke/virgin/huge bounty on his head) and weird people. The MC himself is full of antics, whether he’s laughing gleefully at the misery of others, conducting experiments with the enthusiasm of a mad scientist, shamelessly running away from opponents stronger than him (‘Shame? What’s that? Can you eat it?’) or diligently avoiding paperwork. His companions, in turn, feel a mix of respect and ‘want to beat him up’ towards him, and although he can’t lie, he’ll frequently mislead allies and opponents alike with half-truths.
But don’t get me wrong, even though the MC scams his companions, he is also extremely generous, and his allies always do end up profiting much more than they lose thanks to the enormous amount of work he puts in. Told through his POV, the story alternates between a mix of humor and epic, with you occasionally realizing what the heck it is you’re reading and mourning for your falling morale standards. After all, according to the MC, people who are insane don’t realize that they are insane, and the MC has very much become insane.
Now for the negative points:
- There are a few plot points which... developed differently from what I expected. In particular, it feels like Karwenz just pops up every several hundred chapters just to make things more difficult for the MC, which is frustrating to read (I’m quite satisfied with the conclusion though). There are a few other plot points like that: the conclusion is a rare non-rushed conclusion (for a Chinese novel) that ties up all the elements that need to be tied up, but there are a few points you wished you could see more of. Maybe they’ll get addressed in the sequel.
- There are a few points where I lacked confidence in the direction of the story. It did always pick back up however. Some readers have also noted the huge amount of info dump. There were a few moments where they did feel annoying to me, but that’s usually when they occur at particularly tense moments. Overall, I’ve found them entertaining, not to mention crucial to understanding the plot of the story. I like this a lot more than when authors gloss over something and expect us to accept it ‘just because.’
- The romance feels like it’s incomplete. Again, perhaps this will be addressed in the sequel, but if feels like there’s a lack of closure on the MC’s side.
- The story is not particularly ‘politically correct’ and makes fun of just about everything, which may make some readers uncomfortable. To such readers, I recommend taking a step back and noting that just about all the characters in the series are weirdoes, but that specifically in this story, such weirdness doesn’t matter (unless you’re at Beifeng level) : no matter what your personal preferences are, you can still be a high-ranking, respected and contributing member of society, not to mention kick ass.
It isn't really a story focusing on an ugly character who gets a lot of hot guys to fall in love with her in the game despite that. Rather, it's about a beautiful girl with a top family background in real-life who hooks up with a good-looking guy with similar family background. They're playing the same game, and he's the #1 player in-game. The guy eventually recognizes her in-game but she doesn't.
She logs into the game from time to time and triggers a few core quests in-game thanks to that. That's it.
The game itself, if it were real, is hilariously badly designed. The core quests and quest items essentially get monopolized by the main character and a few other players, so if any of these players were to decide to stop playing, the whole story would be ruined. It doesn't really help that the main character herself (and even the male lead) only log on from time to time, and always log off at very timely hours (like, what about all those players who play non-stop? Is this a pay-to-win game for rich guys to be hoarding so many top spots?).