Novel Yuusha Isekai! Youjo Suki! [Ch 1-144]

Discussion in 'Community Fictions' started by eharper256, Jun 28, 2017.

  1. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 132
    REWINDING


    I take in a breath, and grasp Aeris' hilt tightly as I stand at the designated start point.

    I wonder what will happen? Should an etranger even try something like this? Well, I shouldn't have tried many of the things I've done since I've been here... so it’s way too late for such meaningless platitudes.

    'Are you ready, Aeris?' I ask.

    'Ano... I know Aeris is supposed to face fear like a good spirit... but... Aeris is only five years old! What if I lose my memory?!'

    She makes me feel kinda guilty saying that... though her perception of time is as screwy as usual.

    "Well, we don't have to go, you know. Aeris is perfect just the way you are." I say as I pat her hilt again.

    There is a brief pause, and then she giggles.

    "Elijah-sama is weird! You need to be stronger and stronger! That's why Aeris was born, right? It was interesting... and before I realised, I was there and wanting to help you. And you need power... right, so... it’s okay. You need to face fear head on and kiss it!'

    'Right you are.' I chuckle.

    She's such a good girl. Spirit. Whatever.

    Right, well, if she is determined, I guess I have no excuses. I look back at the anxious looking girls and nod, giving them a thumbs-up.

    And I step forwards.

    Not much happens. A very slight shiver down my spine? I might just be imagining it, though. It’s rather anticlimactic, though.

    I start to walk.

    Suddenly, I am sat in the back seat of a car.

    No. Actually. Not me now. A younger me.

    Outside the factory. My grandmother is there, partly crooked out the driver seat window, her puffing fag smoking a column of black tar. I remember this. Waiting for my mother to finish her job, we would pick her up from the textile plant. Bizarrely, this mundane scene is my earliest memory. I was scrawling a strange curled shape on my spirograph, and it occurred to me, for some reason, how similar this scrawl was the columns of smoke identically coming from both the factory columns, and column stuck in my grandmothers crooked hand.

    This was some time after my third birthday, I think. It’s weird that this is what I remember, rather than the third birthday party, but that’s how it was.

    I keep on walking.

    My father, ruffling my head. A rare spate of shore leave for him from the merchant navy. I had just made him a disgusting cup of tea with hot water from the kitchen tap. He tolerantly drunk it anyway.

    I keep on walking.

    My good friend Patrick, us making a weird field base in a ditch with reeds that we scavenged. Me and him drifted apart in the college years, but for most of my school life we were inseparable.

    I keep on walking.

    I'm nearly seven, and I'm now trusted to be left alone at the weekends. So, I watch the Saturday morning cartoons. My love of these would eventually draw me to anime. Then I'm in the garage, playing the Atari ST. I love the primitive strategy and action games the most, all of them on dodgy pirate floppy discs my mother acquired. I didn't know different at the time though, and this was the beginnings of me, the semi-pro gamer.

    Memories fly by, fly through me. And then. They are gone. Things that shaped who I am, I realise the circle of unravelling is taking them. Each one I pass; each one I acknowledge.

    As I do, as I see my past choices, I turn at an intersection, and then the memory is consumed entirely. Gone.

    I walk faster. These things helped shape me, but they are not the final product.

    I go through my teenage years, university, my early years entering the workforce and the civil service after a brief spat in sales.

    Each step gets tougher. It is akin to walking against a snowstorm, this gradual unravelling.

    Finally, I reach the most recent events. Though it has been merely a few weeks, it has felt nothing but action, and that is the truth. I have found such wonders and treasures here.

    I realise that I need to hold on to something. If this unravelling consumes everything, there will be nothing to remake.

    I feel all the memories slipping away. Everything starts to turn to nothing. I take hold of the most recent events, cycle them over and over and keep them mine. Other things slip away ins...

    Who am I, again? I am me.

    What am I? No... that is irrelevant... I must not stop. I must press on. It will destroy me if I stop.

    But why. Why press on?

    I feel I must at least know this much to proceed. But I proceed regardless whilst questioning. Hesitation is worthless.

    Why do I fight? For this world? No... even though I have come to care for its inhabitants to a degree by proxy, I am not truly 'classic hero' material and probably never will be.

    For the girls? Ultimately... no... I don't. Doubtless that would be wonderfully chivalrous... and they are really great for me and I'm blessed by them, but I don't fight for them directly.

    For winning... being stronger, better? Nope, no way. Imperfection is a wonderous thing. If everyone was all about winning all the time, everything would be horribly cut-throat.

    Ah... you know what... its surprisingly simple and selfish. I like to see change. I like to watch myself have a difference. Being a hero and fighting... to me, these are means to an end.

    In my old life... well, it’s not like I disliked being a civil servant, having content days with constant work, having assurances of steady pay and pension. But as jobs go, it’s one of the most static, stagnant places imaginable. The rules and processes changed slowly and only with difficulty, and for someone who adores new sights and variety, I guess part of me would always feel dissatisfied.

    Ah! I get it...

    Yes, this is all making sense now. This process, this unmaking, it is destroying, rendering to nothingness. It is void. It is a test.

    You're there, aren't you, Thanatos?

    What you saw in me. It's this, isn't it? You hinted at it before. I can be a harbinger of change for you. Very well. We can find a mutual deal.

    There is a peal of hearty laughter.

    I take my final step.

    And I am disintegrated.

    ------
    Back after that delay. Sorry about that, dealing with last week took a bit of a toll on me, and then I had to rewrite this chapter twice.
     
  2. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 133
    ANCIENT SPIRITS LEGACY


    "Contracts are dangerous, etranger. As are names. Assumptions. Promises."

    "Because they bind things?"

    "Quite so. Things grow in strength, step further from chaos and nothingness, when these fetters are lashed."

    "So, you avoid them. But without them, it is hard to invoke change, right?"

    Right now, I honestly don't know how I am communicating with Thanatos. I was disintegrated, after all. I can't see or hear him, and I have no means of talking. I guess I must be in some kind of in-between state. Well... it’s best not to think too hard on it. Only madness lies down that road.

    "It is very good to have one so quick on the uptake. Such a rarity. Hmm... I see. Your world may be horribly lacking in magical power... but this is what fosters a higher intellectual standard? Interesting. Though all of these rights and democracies sound awfully tiresome. How does anything ever get done?"

    My thoughts and memories have been analysed again. I guess I should be horrified, but its old hat by now. Seria's thought spying already horrified me far more. Much to her amusement, no doubt.

    "Huhuhu... if only I had known that it would be so close to the worlds demise that one similar to my own master of yore would appear. I would not have wasted so many years attempting to find a replacement."

    "Your master was the first sage, right?"

    "Yes. I suppose it must have been obvious..."

    "So, is it true that he created magic?"

    "Huhu... that charlatan could not create anything as complex as that. He was a prodigy at adapting the works of others in unusual ways, and a man of limitless ambition, but limited creativity. A researcher from another world."

    "So, he ~was~ another etranger after all..."

    "Yes. Though when he arrived, this world was in a primitive state. Its humanity was tribal and barely discovering forging and agriculture."

    "Then who summoned him?"

    "No one. Like I said, he was excellent at adapting and improving the work of others. He came from a world which studied the magic of transferral, and actually succeeded. To a degree. He could not return."

    There is a moment of silence.

    "I do not know if Rah'lyah somehow planned everything, or whether it was mere whimsey."

    "The first dragon, right?"

    "The only dragon, rather. If this world ever truly had a real deity, Rah'lyah would be it. I was young when I beheld her countenance, but nothing else in my life has really ever given me fear, or even pause for thought, in the same way. She. I am sure it was a she. She created magic and spirits. As a random side project."

    As a random side project? I guess that concept is pretty scary.

    "So... I understand you likely put together the circle of unravelling. What did it do, in the end? Am I dead?"

    "Briefly. As you may have ascertained, this speech of ours is occurring in the briefest of moments. When free from its physical constraints, your mind is briefly able to achieve wonders. But this is only possible because your spirit is acting as a conduit for your life."

    "I owe Aeris again, huh?"

    "It is quite a bizarre specimen. But then, you are a bizarre individual as well."

    "I'll take that as a compliment." I chuckle.

    "In any case, we are running out of time." Thanatos' voice goes serious.

    "So... what is it you want me to do?"

    "Exactly what you were already planning to. Defeat Cultivator. The ideas his spirit has for this world will not be productive. It is ultimately a short-sighted youngster with delusions of grandeur. The corruption it is bringing will devastate everything. I do not believe it fully understands the implications."

    "Hmm... I thought it would be more complicated than that."

    Thanatos remains silent for a moment, as if pondering. I feel like I hit a nerve. So there probably is something else.

    "I will grant you a measure of my own strength. As a vessel, you would be inadequate to contain my essence without at least another thousand years of spiritual training, alas. But your spirits unique feature appears to mimic your own propensity for wide learning. It is able to absorb willing powers from others. I will expand that ability with my own endlessness."

    Oh. Oh! That actually explains some things. Did Aeris borrow Michaels power to heal Kali that one time?

    I guess he's not going to share anything else, and don't get any further answers, though. Sudden intense pain wracks my mind.

    Arrghhh...

    Everything warps around me, and I feel like everything is burning, stinging, freezing, crushing, and stabbing all at once.

    Assaulted by stimuli, things are not helped by a girl shape glomping me. Fortunately, as everything is still a white haze around me, and it appears that I am partly spiritual, I do not fall on my ass as usual.

    "Master-sama! Elijah-sama!"

    Aeris is suddenly hugging me, and I am naked. It feels like she has gotten slightly taller as her spiky metal hair is grazing my chest.

    I ruffle her head, and she looks up to me with her big mismatching eyes.

    "Thankyou Aeris. You kept my soul together, didn't you? Good job."

    She grins adorably, but also cocks her head quizzically, as if to say she wasn't aware of this. Perhaps she wasn't.

    Whilst she has always had jolts of electricity running through her spiky hair, I suddenly notice there are now occasional spikes of pitch black electricity as well. She has also gained a black streak in her hair. She really is getting all the cliché 'main character' traits, it’s quite funny. But it’s safe to assume this is the buff Thanatos has given her.

    "Aeris, do you feel any different?" I ask.

    She finally releases her clamp on me, and looks at herself, then sniffs her own arm. Then she suddenly gets tears in her eyes and her lip wobbles.

    "I... I smell like a void spirit... eww... noooo!!"

    She huffs and puffs, and flaps her arms, sending out streams of lightning and shards of metal.

    Then she sniffs herself again and sighs in relief.

    I can't help but laugh.

    "You sure got strong, huh?"

    She blinks repeatedly.

    "Eh? Urrrm... oh!"

    I can almost see the lightbulb click on above her head as she realises she was casually hosing out power on a whim.

    But before anything else can happen, a vortex suddenly opens up in this indistinct chamber, and we are both sucked into it.

    Aeris squeals as she suddenly transmutes back into a sword, and I grab her by the sheath as she flies towards me. My clothes rematerialize, and I feel like reality is reasserting itself.

    Time to go back then.
    -------
    I wonder what happened to Rah'lyah? And now we know some things about the first sage. Meanwhile, Aeris is being cute as usual. XD
     
  3. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE L
    PRINCE’S FREEDOM


    My name is Liron. I am the prince of Jeraldine. And it seems that, today, I will die.

    The demon has me by the throat, and I feel like the life is draining from me as I choke. The guardsmen couldn't stop it, it seems. My knight, Wayne, died getting me and father here. Father is now pinned down as well. No... he's probably dead.

    Hah... If only I had actually taken my fencing lessons seriously. I am regretting my foolishness.

    But it wasn't good for my foolish pride that my little sister would constantly beat me up. So I came up with the excuse that I needed to study to become a quality heir to skip out on the physical training.

    And maybe it wouldn't have been any use anyway. After all, we were betrayed from within, again.

    Everything starts to black out.

    ...

    ...

    ...

    Ah. I can see my own body. That's not a good sign, is it?

    Big sister Melody is crying over me.

    The demon is dead now. Dried right out to almost a husk. Right... sister was actually a scary powerful water mage, wasn't she? You'd think with how casual and lazy she was, she wouldn't be good at anything, but if she could be bothered with something, and put her mind to it, she could be a far greater genius than me or Cadence.

    Sometimes I was truly envious. Everyone praised me for my ability, but honestly, it was just because I put in twenty times the effort, and I was lucky enough to have great books and quality tutors.

    Honestly... I was truly distraught when big sister Cadence passed away due to that betrayer. She too was similar to me. Melody was just naturally a genius with numbers, and Aria naturally a master at fighting, so I couldn't really relate to them at all.

    Still, it pains me to see her cry... strange... I guess she is still my family after all...

    Time is strange for me at the moment. I swear she was just crying over my body but now she's shouting at someone who's just come in accompanied by a green haired man in armour. Ah, that is Kane Arnas, isn't it?

    I look away, and back at my body. My knowledge of medicine and light magic isn't good, but I don't think I am salvageable.

    Sister is suddenly over my body again, and she closes my eyes. Ah. Right. Maybe hanging around here is bad? It sucks that all my studying and effort all came to nothing, but why bear a grudge? At least I can actually relax now. And maybe me and Cadence can have one of our little chats again? That would be nice.

    As I think that... I am no longer hovering in the inner palace.

    Here, everything is strangely coloured. Garish. I never had much of a natural eye for art, but even I can tell this is unpleasant. Green skies and shifting black and purple ground.

    Come to think of it... right... there was a book that described this. This is what the Void is supposed to be like for most people. Those having near death experiences see it. I guess really dead ones do too, like me, its just they don't return to tell the tale.

    I have no body. I guess my soul or what-not has made its way here.

    Some experimentation allows me to float around quite adroitly. That's pretty awesome.

    I pick a direction and go.

    Bizarrely, despite the fact that I can fly like a bird... there is very little to see here. When you are dead... well doesn't the church of Sendervil claim you'll see some kind of ideals, then be reborn into the cycle?

    That certainly hasn't happened. I wonder why? Can I not even die properly? Sounds typical for me, though.

    After awhile, I come across a strange maelstrom of energy. I pause to inspect it.

    "Hmm... I thought as much. You do not belong here."

    What?

    Someone is talking in my head?

    "But how interesting. He will be pleased to hear of this."

    Suddenly, an insectoid creature is in front of me. Instinctively, I recoil.

    "Young prince of Jeraldine. How about I offer you a deal?"

    ----------
    Well, looks like Melody and Kako didn't make it in time? Oh dear.

    Poor Liron... he gets introduced only to get killed, and to then get offered a suspicious deal from a Void Spirit. But this one doesn't seem to talk like Thanatos, right?

    Yes, this one is pretty short as well, but in all likelihood, there will be a second chapter this week.
     
  4. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 134
    BEDROOM KILLER


    A massive burst of energy engulfs me. I get the feeling I am quite mutable right now, my appearance, that is. Is this what Seria felt? The feeling of infinite possibilities reaches out to me.

    I turn them all down. My appearance is me. For sure I could become some kind of super-bishie... but that would be hypocritical and shallow, right? And given this opportunity is from Thanatos... I'm sure something else would be paid in compensation. This is surely a moment of 'which one of these did you drop? The golden one, silver one, or iron one?'.

    Something I don't expect then happens. I feel like I'm suddenly stabbed in the brain. A whining noise occurs, and I briefly black out.

    Or not? I have a splitting headache, and as I crack open my eyes just a slight bit, the light makes me shut them again and grimace.

    'Level up! Level up! Level up! You have completed the Unmaking. You have been made anew in your old form. Bonus skill points have been awarded. 17 skill points gained.'

    What the hell...

    SEVENTEEN points?!?!

    But... right now... I should focus on something else far more important.

    Namely the fact that I am certainly not on a stone floor.

    Namely the fact that there is something soft, breathing calmly on my chest and upper right arm.

    Hmm... is this some kind of general anaesthetic effect, where time has passed but it seems like a less than a second for me? When am I having the operation, nurse?

    I manage to open my eyes again, and moving as carefully as possible, I crook my head to look at what it is.

    Curled up against me, like some kind of kitten, is Kaede. It has been a while since I've seen her with her hair down.

    Although she is wearing her ninja dress, it has ridden up in several strategic locations. Suspiciously strategic locations, to be honest. Especially considering that this time, there are no kunai and knives offering convenient censorship opportunities, I can only conclude this is a deliberate assassination attempt.

    It’s certainly enough to give any red-blooded man a heart attack, even if they didn't have my deviant interests. I mean, I am also on a large bed here, in a bedroom.

    Hoh... well, she really has changed, eh? But it looks like she managed to blunder in the crux moment. After all, she is either one hell of an actress, or she is simply, genuinely sleeping. The slow breathing, the slight fluttering of her long purple eyelashes as her eyes flicker in a dream, the calm demeanour. All these at once are hard to mimic.

    I smile to myself; and lower my head.

    I also lay my free arm down, and realise Aeris is there, still in sword form, as I brush her hilt.

    'Master-sama?...' I suddenly hear groggily from her in my head.

    'Elijah-sama!!! You're not dead! Not dead! Thankyou! Thankyou! Aeris knew you would be back! Knew it knew it knew it!' She suddenly exclaims.

    Ouch. My headache isn't any better...

    'Calm down Aeris. I'm back. I wouldn't ever want to let any of you down.'

    'Nnn! Right! Nnnnn!' I can almost feel her nodding furiously.

    Suddenly, there is the pitter patter of rushing feet outside.

    I decide to attempt to pretend to sleep again.

    Now Kaede wakes up, just in time to hear a door slam open.

    "Elijah!"

    It's Aria's voice.

    "Wait... what the hell are you doing, Kaede?"

    Kaede did wake up, for sure, but actually didn't move all that much, it was more that she seemed to just tense up in case of needing to react to an attack or something. Obviously, a honed instinct of hers.

    "I am... seducing Nii-sama, yes? I was given watch duty, yes?"

    I think Aria is briefly stunned to silence.

    "Hah... w-when did you become so audacious... jeez... ahem... well... you're not watching very well! He is awake!"

    "Eh? I... he is...?" Kaede honestly sounds devastated.

    Yes! Deceived the ninja! Hehe...

    "I know you are, Elijah! Stop pretending! I'm itching like crazy again!"

    Ah right... I levelled up. Busted.

    I open my eyes and sit up in a smooth motion, giving a shrug.

    "Eh... I didn't want to wake her up, she looked so serene."

    Kaede looks shocked and distraught... she squirms, and she still hasn't fixed her clothes despite now sitting on her knees. Its pretty erotic.

    Aria facepalms and rubs her eyes.

    "Your damn kindness..."

    She storms over, leaps onto the bed and crowds my space, glaring directly at me from point blank with her big azure eyes.

    "Stop. Fricking. Scaring. Me. You. Asshole."

    She slaps me.

    And then she grabs my face, pulls it back, and kisses me.

    So tsundere. But delicious none the less.

    "Shit! Fuck! We're too late!" A rowdy Kiku appears, flanked by the other three.

    They all begin to dash over as well.

    Well... this is going to get interesting, assuming it doesn't result in my premature death...

    ...

    ...

    ...

    Well, I have become a dakimakura for the six girls again. Nothing ero this time, it was more they're all relieved I wasn't in a coma after all.

    It seems that, as I reappeared in the circle, clutching Aeris, I instantly collapsed.

    Fortunately, it seems the circle had an emergency exit feature built in, and I was automatically transmitted to the start.

    Since then, I have been out for two days.

    Honestly, its rather frustrating that I keep losing time being unconscious. But at least this time I have three levels to show for it, so it’s actually an efficient use of time.

    In the meantime, the girls have stayed busy, exploring the rest of the first sage’s demesne. Upon discovery of this master bedroom and determining its safety, my body was dumped here to rest along with Aeris, who remained inert and shut down in the same way.

    And the girls agreed on a guardianship rota. Which apparently Kaede decided to interpret in a rather loose fashion.

    Still I guess it’s ultimately rather entertaining. And interestingly, none of the others went to pursue any sort of punishment, which makes me wonder if they're all guilty of something similar. Quite likely...

    I enlightened them all to the fact that the unravelling gave me several upgrades and probably gave Aeris quite a boost as well.

    We came to the conclusion that a further weeks training spent here would still be a beneficial use of time. Seria still had plenty of library to peruse, and Kiku thought it would be a good opportunity to give me my needed sword basics.

    Speaking of which, the next priority for me should be focusing on what I should use my skillpoints on, right?

    If Aeris has gained some kind of blessing from Thanatos, I wonder just what this will have unlocked?

    Whilst I'm here, now is a good time to check the skill forest, right?

    I couldn't have possibly imagined at that point what I was about to find out...

    --------
    Kaede's assassination attempt goes wide as she slips up and falls asleep at a crucial moment. XD

    Elijah gains a large skill point boost in the meantime. I wonder what he'll pick up!?
     
  5. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 135
    ADVANCING THROUGH THE FOREST


    Respeccing was suddenly available. At least I assume that's what it is. Each skill on my list that I had learnt from the Multivultus Scientica now had an 'X' symbol. Sadly, it didn't apply to my old Earth skills. Although getting rid of my Civil Service powers for points would be practical, I wonder if that’s not for the best, after all, as scrapping that would likely also remove several memories from my adulthood. Respeccing is scary if you think about the implications!

    But most surprising is the fact that I could learn Void magic, starting with 'Storage Beyond', and several new branches of thunder and metal magics have also appeared. This is very likely due to the boost from Thanatos, which has manifested as a bizarre corrupted skill without a description or respec option on the listing.

    Of course, there is always the option of continuing to follow my current, demolitions focused path. Considering I now had metal manipulation, I could probably create some unique bombs only I could arm using some kind of simple binary fuse with more advanced skills, and whilst I did balk at the high costs of further demolitions arts before, I can afford them now.

    However, my concern is that these types of advanced bombs are going way beyond the sort of thing I would have the ability to create here. I've been lucky so far that making HDX type stuff is plausible with some substitutions, though some part of me is aware that the non-industrial process I'm using is terribly inefficient and I'm not gaining as much as I could from a given batch.

    At the same time, whilst I want to gain some actual sword fighting ability to use Aeris' sword form correctly and give myself better self-defence, I don't really fancy going down the generic magic swordsman... I mean bladesward route, even if Kiku thinks it would be great.

    Some kind of versatile midranger is probably a good plan.

    For now, though, there’s an obvious one I won't miss terribly now: the basic staff combat skill. If I can change that up to basic swordsmanship, that would be a good use of points, right?

    So, I do so, removing Bojutsu I and picking up Kunst Das Fetchens I. Since Aeris is a longsword, I should use Earthen Renaissance longsword fencing, right?

    It goes through as I expected.

    As a check, I then try to remember the only time I've actually twatted something with a staff, way back in the beginning with the Forest Pygmy.

    And pretty creepily, I suddenly cannot remember that exact moment. Just before, yes, and after as well, with Aria's accidental dirty jokes and Kiku's chittering.

    But that bit... the memory has literally been unravelled. It's as scary as I thought. Even though forgetting the killing blow hasn't impacted my skillpoints... I should avoid using it too much.

    Well... I need the basic void ability too. At the bare minimum, that means I can store unstable explosives in a pocket dimension rather than always in my tunic and cape, or Rishya's bag. A good idea. A bargain for 2 points considering I get about five feet square of storage space!

    As expected, I then get extra abilities appear, including both 'Apportation' and 'Weight Negation'. But a new mystery '???' also appears that is connected to both 'Apportation' and 'Power Throw'. That really interests me. As I can now respec, no harm in checking it either.

    It reveals itself as 'Portal Projectile'. Oh! Kurono used that, right? That thing where she teleported her arrows mid-flight, keeping their momentum.

    Holy crap. Wait! With bombs... isn't that pretty ridiculous!?

    Five points extra in total? Sold.

    Maybe if Kiku teaches me sword throwing I can throw and teleport Aeris as well? The possibilities are endless!

    Hehe... if all else fails... toss a loli sword.

    Ahem. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. I should at least ask if she's okay with it first...

    Anyway. So, ten left... and there are other spells as well. Yet another obvious combo shows itself here. Summon and fire an iron stake... and then firing a directed thunderbolt. Won't that be drawn to the impromptu lightning rod?

    Picking up the lightning blast, Sky Splitter, I suddenly get a strange memory of little Seria again, a bit older this time, getting very happy that she hits a straw training dummy with a bolt and turns it to charcoal. Then I also appear to have a memory of a younger Kurono practicing Archery, and finally, a strange tanned bishie man slamming his palm and creating his metal spike... and throwing that like a Javelin.

    Well, there's the unintended side effect there as well that I can probably create and teleport Javelins. Bonus! Secret sparkle sparkle!

    That leaves four points. I'll hold onto those for a change, accepting I'm done. I might need them for swords and spells classes later.

    How do things look now then?

    ---------
    ELIJAH

    LVL 9 ETRANGER
    SUMMONED HERO OF JERALDINE
    ----------------
    HP>> 120/120 (=STR+END+50)
    MP>> 57/57 (=INT+PER)

    30 YEARS OLD
    (-6 YEARS APPEARANCE BOOST DUE TO SUMMON POWER)

    SKLPNT>> 4 (66 USED)

    STATUS>> ETRANGER REGENERATION (Permanent, +1 HP per Minute)
    TRANSLATION FUNCTION (Permanent)
    ----------------
    Strength 10 (+13)
    Agility 8 (+13)
    Endurance 14 (+13+20)
    Intellect 20 (+13)
    Perception 11 (+13)
    Charisma 13 (+13)
    ----------------
    (4) <<Civil Servant IV>> (Increases skill with Paperwork, treats Endurance as +40 higher when completing it; original skill)
    (7) <<Humanities Degree>> (Gives appreciation for Literature and Art, boosts Base Intellect by +5; original skill)
    (6) <<Anime Otaku EX>> (Has withstood pain to watch many animes, read many manga and LNs and WNs. Reduces Base Charisma by -2, Boosts Base Endurance by +5; original skill)
    (3) <<Gamer III>> (Has an extensive gaming knowledge and good skill level; not quite a Pro. Boosts Base Perception by +1; original skill)
    (3) <<Gamesmaster III>> (Wide experience in running Tabletop Roleplaying Games, +3 Charisma and Intellect when running a game or telling stories; original skill)
    (1) <<Hardware I>> (Experience in constructing own computers)
    (6+?) <<Lolicon EX-S>> (Can defensive support young girls, and take damage from them, with a +60 Endurance bonus. +7 Charisma when viewed by girls aged 11-15; original skill)
    (S) <<Protection of Earth II>> (+13 to all stats; boost as level rises)
    (S) <<Summoned Charge of Princess Aria Jeraldine>> (Mutual High Affection: Gains +15% XP gain when in close proximity to Summoner, Summoner able to request and receive ‘Protection of Earth II’ in times of need.)
    (S) <<Multivultus Scientia>> (Ougi of Earth: Earth's power is to allow all potential skills ever learnt by its people, and stored in its collective Akashic Record, to be learnt by its Etranger. Still requires Experience and meeting prerequisites, but no limit on total knowledge and acquired knowledge, and skills witnessed by the Earth Etranger get added to the collective memory as well, as an Earthling is witnessing them. Chant this skills name to activate the full skill-forest.)
    (1) <<Identify Other>> (A supernatural ability; allows viewing the status of others)
    (1+3) <<Improvised Explosives II>> (Allows creation of bombs with impact, lit, and mechanical fuses)
    (1) <<Explosives Compound Appraisal>> (Allows instinctual identification of explosive ingredients)
    (2) <<Explosives Chemistry>> (Allows creation of nitro-glycerine weapons from relevant improvised ingredients)
    (1) <<Kunst Das Fetchens I>> (Basic Theory of Longsword Fencing stances and movements.)
    (1) <<Combat Fitness I>> (??? training regime, gives a +10 bonus to Endurance)
    (2+3) <<Exceptional Vitality II>> (??? training fosters exceptional resilience beyond norms and appearance, +10 bonus to Endurance and bonus +50 HP)
    (3) <<Power Throw>> (Arms specialised in throwing pitches and shot-putts. Trebles throw distance.)
    (1+2) <<Precognitive Evasion>> (Chance to dodge even if unaware of threat, +10 to Agility for dodges made proactively, upgrade of Heightened Threat Awareness)
    (X) <<Thundermetal Spirit Aeris>> (A combined spirit. Though young, it is powerful. Regenerates 1 MP every two minutes. Increased regeneration inside a magnetic field.)
    (X) <<?? >01d 3M8n3M3n+>> (??)
    (X) <<Swordform>> (Aeris can transmute into an intelligent blade able to channel the users spells)
    (X) <<Minor Shock>> (Basic Thunder Magic, 1 MP. Spontaneously creates burst of low-level static electricity)
    (2) <<Spark Cannon>> (Foundation Thunder Magic, costs 6 MP. Fires a scatter burst of electric discharges, grounds quickly, but may paralyse.)
    (4) <<Sky Splitter>> (Thunder Magic, costs 22 MP. Paints own magical field and that of the target with ionic imbalance, creating a lightning blast fuelled by own Prana.)
    (X) <<Metal Manipulation>> (Basic Metal Magic, 4 MP. Can manipulate the density of metal items on an atomic scale, changing their dimensions. New metal cannot be created.)
    (2) <<Iron Spike>> (Foundation Metal Magic, 7 MP. Creates a stake of iron, around 3 feet long. Can be propelled by a prana explosion or thrown personally.)
    (2) <<Storage Beyond>> (Basic Void Magic, 3 MP. Can store up 5 Ft squared of items in void pocket. Cost paid on both storage and retrieval.)
    (2) <<Apportation>> (Foundation Void Magic, 6 MP. Can phase own hand through Void to manipulate items up to 10 Feet away. Cannot phase into or through matter, destination must be vacant space.)
    (3) <<Portal Projectile>> (Void Magic, 11 MP. After throwing or firing a projectile, intercept it with a portal which transmits to a destination portal up to 15 Ft away with any facing. The item maintains momentum. 1 item up to 3 pounds of weight maximum.)

    ----------------

    Pretty good... though I'm rather MP starved for spells like that thunder blast, at least Aeris regenerates slowly.

    Now then... I should probably get up and move around if I've been out for a while.
     
  6. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 136
    TOO MANY MIND


    Prying myself out of the girls without alerting them will be an impossible task.

    So, I could go full pervert and risk seeing if that works.

    But no, more likely that will turn into a dangerous situation. Although the harem anime dream of a sevensome is ambitious, I'd literally need the endurance of a porn star to pull that off...

    "Ah... you finished getting stronger again?" Aria suddenly raises her head and stares at me with a smile and lidded eyes. She looks kinda sleepy and cute.

    "Mmm, I did." I nod at her. "The unravelling mostly increased Aeris' power though."

    "Eh... ano... Aeris is stronger? Again?" The sword next to me exclaims.

    "Nnn... eh? I am? I am!"

    "Even your sword is confused by your weird power!" Aria snickers.

    This conversation has brought the others to attention. I notice everyone is now looking up expectantly.

    Seria rolls over and taps sword Aeris with a finger as her eyes glow slightly.

    "Kyaaaa!" Aeris squeals cutely.

    "Fufufu... so you too must have met that ancient spirit again. It truly has a strange degree of interest in this venture."

    "Too? So, Thanatos also appeared for you, Seria?"

    "Quite. Though mostly just observing me. I thought it a test." She nods.

    "Well... it spoke to me. It appears to support the destruction of Cultivator. Something about his Void spirit's plans and hubris threatening the world."

    "Really!?" Aria exclaims. "I don't know if that's a good thing..."

    "Um... I know it probably sounds a dumb question... but Cultivator has his own void spirit... and it has plans? Do spirits have plans?" Kiku asks.

    Actually... it’s probably not as dumb as it sounds. Especially when you look at Aeris (poor Aeris...).

    Seria furrows her brows and ponders at this information though.

    "I have started to think abnormal occurrences are actually just standard when the boy is involved. Then again, it -is- why I have come this far, fufufufu..."

    "Michael has plans. I think." Rishya looks shifty eyed. "I... I don't understand them in the slightest, though. Well... except the one to get me with Elijah-sama." She blushes.

    "Hence... it is a thing that more powerful or old spirits do, yes?" Kaede adds.

    We stew on that for a second. Seems a likely hypothesis.

    "All thinking. Less thinking!" Kali exclaims, balling her fists and jumping on the bed.

    I laugh. She's right. The quote of a samurai exclaiming 'Too many mind!' appears in my head.

    "Yeah, it’s probably not worth worrying about. So, there's a layer of plans in plans we can't begin to fathom. So what? At the end of the day, we just have a job to do, right?" I say.

    "You're so carefree, Onii-chan." Aria snickers. "But that's another one of your charm points, right?"

    The girls laugh.

    ...

    ...

    ...

    "Shit! No fuckin' way! That's crap, Nii! You'll just die fighting that way!"

    The training stick clatters to the ground, and I exhale harshly and rub my aching legs. Even with my increased endurance, Kiku's training is murderous. She pulls no punches, for sure.

    Yes, Kiku is going through basics first, so I'm not even wielding Aeris at the moment. Aeris has readopted girl form and is sat on a barrel swinging her legs and snickering at me being beaten up.

    For some reason, Aria and Seria decided to watch as well. Aria said something like 'I'm sure I can get tips from just watching Kiku!'. Seria... I have no idea. She is quietly reading a book whilst sat in a tall backed leather chair that looks horribly out of place in this gym-like space.

    It seems that Aria, Seria and Rishya can't manifest their spirits non-object forms like Aeris can. It seems linked to the void for some reason. Seria did briefly manage in the circle, of course. But since we know Thanatos was involved in that, I suppose that explains things.

    "Um... Nii... are you really paying attention?" Kiku looks at me under her eyes, smiling like the devil.

    Scary!

    "Y-yes ma'am!" I yelp.

    "Hmm... that so?" She puts her hand to her head and runs it through a twin-tail. She still looks dissatisfied. Her brows crease as her big green eyes stare at me.

    "It... it's not like you're lying... is it? Mmmmgh..." she puts a finger to her cheek and closes her one eye.

    "Um... it's just... Nii... I hate to say Kali's right... but you think too much. In battle... you can't have any thoughts besides now. Now. You. The enemy."

    "It... it doesn't matter how you fight. Why you fight. Who they are. What they did. When the sword is in your hand, all your thoughts are for the sword."

    She smiles wistfully and shrugs.

    "This is why Bladeswards are actually quite rare. Spells and spirits need you to think about them. Think about... well whatever it is you think about when you do spells. Um... I don't know what that is."

    I guess she's right. You imagine thunder to get thunder magic. Things like that.

    I nod.

    "But to be good at a sword..." she pauses.

    "I need to think about nothing else. Right."

    She nods. But then she squints and looks upset again, looking at her feet and twiddling her thumbs. It’s sort of cute.

    "Um... well... um... I guess that’s a lie though... at some point... your body becomes so attuned to your sword that suddenly you don't think about it at all. You gain a state... um... dad called it 'The Edge'. And then... only then... can you have space to think other things."

    Right... Kiku's basically a master swordsman. I'm fairly sure the blade as an extension of the self is a big trait in that. A combat trance is another.

    I wonder if I'm rather doomed in that regard then? Even though I say a lot that I shouldn't dwell on things, there's no denying the fact that I ponder all the time.

    I wonder if I could ever switch that part of me off and...

    Maybe I can. Whatever is this skill tree for if not that?

    Let’s check it out!
     
  7. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 137
    NOT RUSTY YET


    'Conscious Focusing' sounds rather promising. It is 3 of my points, but by the description, it is like the meditative state you see in martial arts and with those Buddhist monks.

    It’s the top result in the search anyways, and I've noticed by now that it's pretty good at getting close to what I need. I guess it’s picking up my thoughts rather than my search term being taken completely literally. Even that silly first search I did for Blade summoning honestly did its best.

    Well... increasing my actual sword fighting skills is probably pointless without this first. Unlike Kiku, I don't have the benefit of a lifetime of training that automatically gives her the right mindset.

    Actually, she'd probably hit me, if she knew I was thinking thoughts like that. I am likely trivialising her efforts.

    I take it. I get a headache briefly.

    I open my eyes again.

    "Okay, so I think I have something to help with that lack of focus." I say.

    Kiku blinks a couple of times.

    "Um... if anyone else said that, I'd think them just mad. But I guess this is Nii we're talking about. Hehe..."

    Aria and Seria chuckle off to the side as well.

    She shrugs, and hands me another training stick, taking up two herself and casually adopting her usual dual-wielding pose.

    I think about concentrating. This skill didn't come with a manual, but that should be a good start.

    Suddenly, a mantra of some sorts comes to mind.

    There is only the blade.

    I surge forwards instinctively.

    ...

    ...

    ...

    Without any thoughts in my head, I barely feel or understand what happened. I sure as hell can't remember. It seems like the ability turned off automatically though.

    Ouch. Crap, that smarts fierce.

    I'm on my ass again, and have snapped the stick underneath myself. I sigh and sit up.

    However, Kiku is wide-eyed as she stands with her blades to the side.

    She is silent for a moment.

    But then she grins and starts giggling to me.

    "Wow! That was fucking amazing, Nii! Hahaha... Sendervil's balls! You scared me for a second!"

    She bounds over and jumps at my lap. With some surprising agility she manages to wrap her legs round me in the process. Her feverish breathing and sweaty neck become a focus point.

    "Not a kilsel of hostility. Just like Dad does it! Hehe..." she whispers in my ear. "Well... your attack still sucked... but it’s really a scary awesome change!"

    Then she kisses me fiercely in her feverish state. Yikes!

    To be honest, I'm still rather exhausted from the training, but... hey, you can't fault my downstairs for reacting anyway, right?

    "Ahem. Boy, would you terribly mind not sparring to that extent? Especially with a captive audience." Seria sighs.

    "Eeep! Eh wot!? Fuck! Um...!" Kiku is broken from her trance, and suddenly almost backflips off me.

    I look around and see Aria is covering the eyes of a struggling Aeris from behind in quite a comedic scene.

    Seria is merely facepalming with her free hand.

    Aeris suddenly breaks out of Aria's restraint.

    "Eh? What was going on?"

    "Nothing you needed to see, Aeris-chan." Aria answers for me.

    Aeris looks momentarily confused, and then pats her fist against her palm knowingly with a grin.

    "Ah! Master was kissing the girl shapes again, right? I've seen it all before!" She nods sagely, pushing up her nose.

    Aria sighs in exasperation. I don't quite know what she was hoping to achieve. Although, in theory, if Aeris was technically created during my second harrowing... it means one of the first things she saw was probably me kissing and making love to Aria.

    Poor thing.

    "Un. But anyway, master really got it together there! I felt it! It was pretty awesome!"

    She jumps over, pirouettes, and bunches her fists excitedly.

    She's such a jolly little thing as always. I ruffle her metallic head.

    "Um... yeah... I... um... maybe we should call it a day there, Nii. I don't really know how much normal sword teaching will help you." Kiku sighs and scratches her head.

    I roll my eyes at her.

    "Nope. Don't start that again. The training was useful, Kiku. Even if I can take crazy shortcuts with some things, without the basics, I'm still gonna be hopeless."

    I nod and smile at her. She momentarily goes wide-eyed, but then nods and grins adorably.

    "Hah... well, maybe you should go and take a bath, Onii-chan. You kinda stink from all that falling over." Aria snickers.

    I laugh at her double pun and she closes one eye and sticks out her tongue.

    Seria just shakes her head with a whimsical expression.

    "Un... I... will... stay here..." Aeris looks shifty.

    "Why is that?" I ask.

    She has a difficult expression.

    "Rust." She squeaks.

    I laugh.

    I guess cleaning this small girl shouldn't be done with water. She is liable to rust and cause a huge electrical shock at the same time, I guess...

    But does that mean I should oil her? Would putting her against a grindstone be like a massage from her perspective?

    The implications are eyebrow raising. In many ways.

    Ahem. Well, Aria is right...

    My clothes need a soak as well, they must be 50% sweat right now, and my muscles surely need a break. I've already had the full tour of this place, and there is indeed a lovely Romanesque bath here, maintained in stasis by the magic of this place. It would be nice to give it a task after so many years of dormancy, wouldn't it?

    Little did I know what was about to ensue.

    -------
    Yikes, this one took awhile. Sorry about that, the end of July is by far the busiest period of work for me.

    I wonder whatever will happen in the bath. And should Aeris get oiled? ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
     
  8. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE ASK
    GIRL’S TALK


    "Hah..." I sigh.

    "Are you certain you wanted to do it this way, Aria?" Kiku wanders up to my side.

    I shrug and doubtless look whimsical.

    "There is no good way, Kiku. I'm just resigned to the fact that a good man is not something a young girl like me can keep to myself." I sigh.

    "Fufufu... Don't pin your dreams on a man, is it? Master always said this to me, but it is not something I understood until very recently with the boy." Seria quips.

    "Um... it is good advice, though... hehe... if difficult with Nii." Kiku nods.

    "It’s stupid, really. Elijah is... well... the opposite of what girls want, right? Not strong, not rich, not proud, not amazingly handsome." I say.

    "And yet the boy always defies expectations. Always gets knocked down and rebounds. Full of dreams. Knows just when to nudge you in the right direction. And if he was not so blastedly honest, I would honestly think him a master of guile and manipulation."

    Seria looks exasperated, but there is a distant fond look in her eyes as well. I doubtless have a similar look.

    "Um... to be honest, I am most surprised that Rishya suggested this way. She was ever so scathing when interrogating me before." Says Kiku.

    "Despite everything, Rish is a kind girl. The kindest. She helps everyone. I know that best of all." I smile wryly.

    "Fufufu... and because of that, the most terrifying." Seria involuntarily shivers.

    I never got the full story about why Rishya put the fear of the gods into the Sage of all things. But despite my curiosity, part of me constantly suppresses my urge to ask. It's likely a dangerous story considering it resulted in Seria losing her virginity. And I know myself that Rish's ability to bring out people's true feelings is horrifying.

    Kiku still looks moderately confused, but appears to also think better of asking.

    Suddenly, a metal face with mismatching eyes jumps into my vision and I recoil involuntarily.

    "Un... Aeris doesn't understand!"

    She nods, giggles happily, and dashes off again, flapping her arms as she dashes out the doorway.

    I had entirely forgot she was still here...

    "What the hells is wrong with that spirit..." Seria mutters under her breath.

    "If you don't know what makes you think the rest of us do?" I exclaim, raising an eyebrow.

    The two days after Elijah was out, his spirit never left his side. If we tried to move her, she would turn so heavy even I had trouble hoisting her.

    That sounds utterly stupid if I say it like that now. Of course a spirit won't leave its master in a time of crisis.

    Hah, I guess it feels different because spirits can't normally manifest like this. Can't normally leave at all. Rishya talking to Michael is rather abnormal already, hence her hiding it from most people. Only her grandfather, Yuuzu, and I knew about it originally.

    Having a permanent object residence is fairly normal, like Michael, and so is a spirit inhabiting your body directly, like mine and Seria's. But it becoming a separate entity?

    "Mmmm... I'd love to dissect it." Seria licks her lips.

    "Can you even dissect a sword? Is it really a girl at all?" I wonder.

    "Impossible to tell unless I try." Seria grins.

    "Eh wot!? Y-you c-can't do that!" Kiku exclaims, balling her fists.

    "Fufufu... I don't think the boy would approve anyway." Seria laughs and I join her. Kiku looks distressed. She's surprisingly innocent when it comes to Seria's type of humour, but I'm used to it from Melody.

    Elijah being in a coma really honestly did frighten me. I couldn't not slap him and then kiss him when he woke up. Losing two people I care about in the same sort of way was just too much.

    Kali actually knocked me out with a punt to the back of the head yesterday since I had rings under my eyes and wouldn't stop pacing a rut into the floor. She apologised when I woke up, but I finally got the message, and slept for a while properly.

    "I'm always worrying others, aren't I? It’s no good like this. I need to become more dependable. It's why I resolved to do this in the first place."

    Kiku looks at me with a gentle expression. I then realise I said that out loud. Gods!

    "Um... Aria, being more dependable... means being able to depend on others as well."

    Seria closes her eyes and nods.

    "Heh... I think... more than anything... all three of us has gradually learnt that in our time together, right?" Kiku grins, shrugging.

    I sigh deeply, then start laughing. The other two laugh as well.

    When we stop, we decide to go and prepare some food and continue our chat. Well... more like me and Seria will help Kiku prepare food, but alas.

    After all, Elijah, Kali and Kaede will be very hungry soon, right?

    ----
    I love interactions like this between the girls. I should do them more often.
    Also, they've grown awfully kind and magnanimous, haven't they?
     
  9. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE RAS
    STRANGE TIMES, AND STRANGER FAMILIES


    //Rishya understanding not//

    Shut up Michael. And don't suddenly try to regress to your old speech patterns.

    //I honestly do not comprehend your objective here.//

    Well... it’s pretty simple. I... uh... like to share. Everyone should have love in their lives.

    //Whilst that is admirable, it is not only exceedingly contrary to your prior behaviour, but undoubtably a huge lie. You are an awful liar, Rishya. Especially to yourself.//

    S-shut up. I...

    He's coming! Act natural!

    About now.

    I wander around the corner in just my towel. My hair wet.

    He looks up in alarm and stops rapidly.

    Damn, the timing was off slightly. I hoped to run into him and have it fall off. Tch. Nevermind. Straight to phase two.

    "Elijah-sama!"

    "Rishya? Crap... is the bath occupied?"

    "Oh! Erm... I just left. Ah! If you're going, take this with you. Its brilliant and makes you really soapy all over!" I bounce myself up happily and smile whilst offering the bottle of deep blue liquid.

    A slight glaze occurs in his eyes and he takes a deep breath. Brilliant. He's totally thinking about me being soapy and not the fact that I didn't answer the question.

    "Elijah-sama?" I cock my head at his hesitation.

    "Ah... no, that's great. I'll take it, it will be useful. Thanks."

    "Hehe. No problem." I smile again and walk on past him innocently.

    Yes! All according to plan.

    I don't think he suspects anything as I trot off happily.

    I suppose there is still a potential failure condition. Namely that Elijah-sama is very wary when entering the baths. But even considering his supposed danger senses, that is unlikely right now.

    Mission complete.

    //I suppose I will never understand human behaviours completely. Wake me if it is required//

    I return to room we girls have converted into a dormitory, and change back into my usual outfit, before returning to the common area.

    Seria and Aria are sat on the large table there.

    "Uhuhuhu... you two were kicked out of the kitchen already?" I snicker.

    Aria glares at me, and Seria shrugs.

    Aria has way too much strength for most fine cooking tasks. Even using a cleaver for meat is disastrous. And I heard the Sage was apparently making sandwiches for 200 years.

    "Well, you aren't any better, Rish. Didn't you mix up salt and flour once?"

    "That was Yuuzu. I just never entered the kitchen at all." I grin.

    "Mmmm... I'm not sure that is an achievement worthy of puffing out your chest, fufufufu..." Seria laughs, and Aria rolls her eyes.

    "In any case, all was according to plan." I pronounce.

    There is a clatter and crash and vile cursing from the kitchen. We chuckle at the actions of the terrible eavesdropper. Evidently Kiku was hoping it would fail. But she underestimates me.

    "Well, I didn't want to hang around to witness the result." I give a whimsical smile. "But if Kaede and Kali have any skill at this whatsoever, they will finally join us on this side of the fence."

    There is a moment's silence.

    "Just why did you incite this, Rish?" Aria says. "I mean... yeah... we agreed long ago that we should endeavour to remain on a fair playing field, way back in Hal-Castemour. But why..."

    "The boy sleeping with us all has become a matter of when, rather than if, has it not?"

    Its embarrassing to hear Seria say it, to be honest. I blush, but nod.

    "Hah... this is really ridiculous."

    "On the contrary, Aria, many tales imply Etranger have a natural aptitude towards collecting a harem of women. This is one thing that is nothing out the ordinary."

    "Well, except Elijah-sama's preference for a specific age range." I cackle.

    "Huhuhu... but, well... I suppose you are right?" I scratch my cheek. "Doesn't every girl dream of her own prince? Why-ever have I fallen in love with a pervert who groped me in our first meeting?"

    I sigh, and sit down with the other two.

    "I have questioned myself on this numerous times. Alas, strangely, I do not have an answer. But at the same time, I do not regret anything." I grin.

    There is a moment of introspection.

    "So, I guess, I am merely wishing to inflict this conflict of feelings on others. Does that make me a bad person?"

    "Not bad, just terrifying." Aria grins, giving Seria a glance, which she returns deadpan.

    "Isn't Arry the terrifying one? All the things you made me do as a child... are you surprised I ended up like this?" I say.

    She looks momentarily shocked, and blushes, with a hand behind her head.

    "Thanks for sticking with me all this time, Rish." She says, bashfully.

    I smack her on the shoulder, and draw her into an embrace.

    "Eh, well... we're annoyingly similar in some ways. We even have the same taste in men, apparently. And if I didn't take care of you, who else would you annoy? Ha!"

    We giggle together like the little girls we still technically are, even if we have prematurely become women.

    "Fufufu... actually, you are both terrifying. Moreso than ever as a tag team, doubtlessly. Perhaps I should study harder on how to be a reliable elder sister figure. Although, to be honest, Rishya would already have me beat."

    "In any case, you have your own charm as the sarcastic old windbag with far too much to say." I taunt.

    "Fufufufu... that I do." She laughs.

    I draw her into our hug. She momentarily resists, but then relents.

    And suddenly Kiku joins us, still holding a ladle.

    "Haven't we all become a strange family indeed? And soon, we will welcome our last two members." I say.

    As ludicrous as that statement is, no one debates it.

    Strange. Strange indeed.

    ----
    Yes, Rishya ~IS~ Terrifying. XD

    I suppose the girls don't act much like a typical girl-circle. In some ways they're more like a bunch of lads. But I like to think that their shared near-death experiences, and love, and peculiar circumstances in general, has bound them together in a weird way.
     
  10. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE KOML
    KAKO’S CONTEMPLATIONS


    "If... if only I had been quicker. I..."

    I take the bottle away from Melody. She tries to weakly claw after it, but falls over whilst hiccupping.

    "Your majesty, you cannot keep beating yourself up over this. Everyone did all they could. And it was, in the end, just not enough."

    Harsh, but it has to be said now.

    Melody starts blubbing tears again, so I rub her back for a while.

    Her vague attempt at drunkenness is ultimately futile in any case. Her water spirit is strong, and will purify her in barely a few minutes.

    "For now, you should just rest. It helps nobody for you to be in this state."

    She sighs and rolls over.

    "Can you stay and watch over me, Kako?"

    "Always and forever. Didn't I promise that many moons ago?"

    Her eyes shut gently.

    I guess her fatigue was high, as sleep takes her very soon after.

    I smirk and grasp her outlying hand, sitting with my back against her bedframe.

    I suppose it has been intense the last few days. Relief efforts haven't exactly given her time to grieve the loss of her younger brother, and the fact that her father has been crippled. But now that the funeral has occurred, and she is offered a moments rest, it is only sadness that waits for her.

    What’s worse, is that a permanent portal has appeared in the centre of what used to be the market square.

    Though nothing further has yet ventured out, everyone is overtaken with fear and unease. Suddenly, the capital is thrust onto the frontline all at once.

    And Melody is cast onto a stage she never wished for. As the only ambulatory royal left here, and with over half of the council slaughtered by the demons that assaulted the palace, she has been thrust into a position of authority to fill the void.

    Jeraldine is facing a very hard time indeed. This is likely its greatest trial yet.

    And all I can do to help is to guard, care and comfort her. I'm not a clever woman, nor an insightful one, and this assault has even made me question my strength.

    Father defeated the strong demon after all. He told me: 'I was surprised I had to use my full strength after all this time!'.

    Personally, that only made me anxious. That day he tested me to see my readiness for the tournament... where I felt like I was truly fighting for my life every second... that was still only two-thirds of his monstrous power that I barely managed to clear.

    And yet, at the time, I had the hubris to believe I had finally bested him after he said 'well done!'.

    I sigh deeply, and loosen my tunic. The refreshing breeze from the bedroom window is nice. I understand why Melody claims this sea-facing room as hers.

    I wonder how Kiku is faring right now? I wonder how her crush is faring as well?

    I stare at my own rough, calloused hand that is baring even more cuts since the latest incident, and smile wryly.

    I have never had time for a crush. I was so focused on my training, my duty, that I doubtless come across a cold and heartless blade of a woman.

    I snort. What madness takes the mind when it has time to become unfocused...

    Still, perhaps it is just the thing my little sister needs. Father said she has immense potential, but was always holding herself back.

    It’s probably true. I've learnt to recognise soldiers with similar issues. People who simply cannot bring themselves to fight, to kill, for their own sake, or purely for advancement.

    These people don't tend to make for good soldiers. You have to discipline and re-build from the ground up; or you have to give them something else to fight for. Honour, or duty, most of the time.

    The former takes a long time. The latter is nigh impossible to force on them: they need to have that tendency to begin with, at least in part.

    In my case, I wouldn't have made a good mercenary either. I needed the same thing. A focus for my skills. Knights have a lot of pomp and circumstance, but ultimately, they are supposed to be about protecting the people. And, in my view, protecting a good royal is equivalent to protecting the people. So here, I have a home.

    Melody is like having another little sister to protect. I was distraught when she chose to try summoning, and she failed. But I respected her decision. It was driven partly by hubris and madness, but ultimately, she was also trying to protect the people in her own way. All three of the princesses and the prince did. It is truly a great loss to be without two of them once more, where it was briefly back to three.

    Come to think of it, the youngest princess knows nothing of the goings on here. I do hope she doesn't lose hope when she finds out.

    Hah... my head isn't supposed to work this much. I'm tired.

    Listening to Melody's quiet breathing, I nod off...
    -----
    Poor Melody; since she woke up, she's still stuck in a tragedy... and she can't even get drunk properly... T_T

    Sorry if you were expecting something 'spicier' this week... but its coming.
     
  11. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 138
    ENTRAPMENT


    I avoided a close call there. Rishya was in the bath, it seems.

    Well, part of me is a little disappointed, of course. At least I got to see her in just a towel.

    Jeez, what's wrong with me? I've been out just a few days and suddenly my libido is at the max again. I mean, the two incidents with Kiku and Rish just now have surely not helped...

    Deep breath.

    Anyway.

    I wonder where this bottle came from? It's a deep blue and very much indeed recalls a bottle of bath suds or shower gel. Did the first sage invent it? How did the girls know what it was for? I guess it must have been in the bath stores or suchlike?

    I reach the changing area.

    As I expected, my clothes are very sweaty. It feels wrong to soak them in the bath with me, so I'll leave them here and wash them in the kitchen area I guess.

    This bath is truly something. I wonder if this kind of thing was the model for the baths in Rishya's manor? It’s got a similar vibe.

    The first sages magic must have been really great, maintaining and cleaning this place for hundreds of years without fail.

    I sit into the water and sigh in relief. My muscles are aching a lot from being beaten up constantly and then strained from my sudden attack and falling over in the end.

    Having a nice bath and a comfortable bed are blessings indeed, aren't they? It’s amazing how much we are spoiled in our modern lives with conveniences like that always available, but you don't truly miss it until it is gone.

    I let myself sink a bit, and bubble under the water for a moment.

    Suddenly, I get a dull flare from my danger sense, so my eyes flick open in alarm as I rise up again.

    It’s nothing...

    ...

    Oh. What?

    Riiight... literally nothing. There's a strange pair of gaps in the water ahead of me, and hanging drops and rivulets in thin air.

    "Kaede?"

    "As expected of Nii-sama. I should not have approached from the front, but..."

    She suddenly reappears. Naked. Her hair loose.

    "But this the optimal angle to launch a suicide attack, yes?" She gives a me a shy smile.

    I can't help but be stimulated again.

    "Hehe... lolicon pervert Aniki is very much. But suicide not attack. Is pincer of foolish scorpion."

    Something soft presses up against my back.

    Oh gods! I was ambushed by these two...

    Wait! What about...?

    No... Rishya was in on this all along. She never said the bath was empty, but I didn't think about it! That sly...

    Kaede has now completed her suicide charge up to my front, and two strong tanned arms from a Kali are restraining me from behind.

    "Well, you caught me... and I did make some ill-advised promises to you two, didn't I?" I sigh.

    Kali giggles.

    What the hell, who needs restraint anyway?

    I attack the willing targets.

    ...

    ...

    ...

    Ah... yes... there was that blue bottle, wasn't there?

    I stand up, retrieve the bottle, get back into the baths, pour some of the liquid into my hands and start to lather myself. I -really- need the bath now.

    "Aniki is amazing!"

    "Nii-sama is too much..."

    I successfully overturned the ambush in the end. I don't know if I deserve the praise, though. I'm horrendously exhausted, just successfully managing to disguise the fact at the moment. In fact, I decided that cleaning myself would be a good means to distract myself from falling asleep.

    It seems these two have interpreted it as me having extreme stamina, though.

    Maybe it is pretty extreme? I survived the terrors of Rishya and Seria's libido, after all, and this is the fourth incident. I'm now an accomplished loli-hunter.

    I laugh.

    For sure, six months ago this would have seemed a feverish delusion. But it has occurred after all. Crazy. I'm still reeling at the implications.

    In any case, I can't forget now why I'm really here. Its bloody marvellous that I have six lovely girls, but at the end of the day, I need to be stronger for them. To fight! So, I need to give that my all! Ganbere! Faito! Faito!

    "Uwahh... Aniki's eyes with burning ambition... shuddering much made me. Amazing."

    Kali slides into the bath next to me. Her purple eyes are shining with depth, and as she stretches, one really gets a full eyeful for her exotic beauty. Her sweaty toned muscles on tan skin are truly fabulous.

    "How are you feeling, Kali?"

    She suddenly frowns.

    "Muchly I... no..." She stutters and shakes her head, her brow creasing.

    Kali then gets a queer dark expression that mildly scares me.

    "Ahem. You are an insufferable cunt, Elijah. You have actually disgraced me forever."

    Oh. What.

    I blink. S'tavi speech again? All to curse me?!? W-What?

    She keeps up her stare and I wonder what I did... was it too much? I... cripes... I've fucked something up after all... damn... I...

    "Bwahahahaha!" She bursts into a guffaw.

    "Yes! That expression is fine. We're okay after all."

    What. I was trolled?

    She laughs again, but then her eyes narrow once more, seeing my confusion.

    "In all seriousness... it is a woman's duty to bend her desired man to her will in S'tavi. I was overpowered physically, which was a blunder... but I think this is still fine." She grins.

    Oh... right... the matriarchy thing. I see... she has to have dominance over me, eh? Well... I'm weak to cute girls, so for sure, that's not a problem.

    "Nii-sama... is an easy kill in that regard, yes? You need not worry." Kaede smirks as she also finally manages to shuffle over and plop herself neatly into the water.

    "Wow... I'm so poorly respected by you all... hahhh..." I sigh.

    "Huhuhu... that isn't so, Nii-sama. You are irritatingly highly respected. Would we do so much for you otherwise, yes?" She gives a surprisingly animated smile with upturned eyes.

    I like this slightly more emotional Kaede. It’s a long way from the doll like existence I first met. She's still as pretty as a doll though. Her pale skin, slender figure with long legs, and slight ribs showing under her chest is a fantastic contrast to Kali.

    Speaking of which... I suddenly hear Kali inhale sharply.

    "Y-You! W-why in the name of the Meenaora's twelve talons are you speaking S'tavi!!"

    "Urrm... doesn't it always sound lik...”

    I stop as I turn to Kali. She has wide eyes and really looks shocked.

    "NOT. YOU. ELIJAH. Kaede."

    Oh. Whaaaat!?
    --------
    250 thousand views and 250 posts with this one... that's some interesting correlation. I guess there are still alot of ghost readers still hanging around here, though its hard to tell with how few comments I get here sometimes. Heh...
    In any case, Kaede and Kali are finally ticked off the list. Good for them. Kali decides emotional blackmail counts as having dominion over him. And Kaede has learnt fluent S'tavi all of a sudden?!?
     
  12. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 139
    FOUND IN TRANSLATION


    Kaede is... speaking a new language? Suddenly the ninja linguist showed herself? Secret technique: Rosetta-jutsu! Hehe.

    Wow. I'm such a dork. Haha. I look at Kaede.

    She scrunches her eyebrows as she looks between me and Kali.

    "What are you talking about? I am speaking normally, yes?" She says, carefully.

    Oh... oh my. That answers everything in an instant.

    "Kali... talk in S'tavi again. Say anything to Kaede."

    "You are a foolish tortoise that has lost its shell." Kali says, straight faced.

    I have to avoid snickering.

    "Why am I a tortoise, yes? I am... ah..."

    I nod, and cross my arms.

    "As I thought. You have both inherited my translation power. You can now understand any language, and appear to be speaking what is most convienient to the listener."

    The girls look at me in shock.

    I nod again at them, and scratch my chin.

    "How strange. I wonder why its happened now? And is it just you two?"

    "Is it not now... because you have had sex with all of us, yes?" Kaede grins in terrifying manner.

    I cough as if I recieved an emotional gut-punch. That was on my mind, but I didn't want to say it.

    "Hmmm... hmmmm? Wow! But isn't this a wonderful thing? Yes, yes. I will no longer seem such an idiot to the rest of you! I can speak less like a mad tourist!? Amazing!"

    I will kind of miss your crazy broken English, though, Kali. Your sausage jokes won't have the same impact, surely?

    Still, I get it. It must be frustrating to her to not always be able to express herself. And she is now free of that shackle.

    "So... you can more adequately answer questions such as what your favourite things are, yes?" Kaede asks.

    "Oh!? I was asked this kind of thing before?" Kali looks mystified.

    "Indeed, yes. You are always frustrating Kiku-sama by saying your favourite food is 'yes, please!', and that your opinion of her meal was that 'it was enough.'" Kaede snickers.

    "Favourite? This is a word that only exists to express a preference for clothes or weapons. Hmm... Oh. Oh! That is quite a disgrace! I... I should apologise. There are about ten words for 'food' in Tessan, right? But they are just 'food' in S'tavi. Food is not something we like or have favourites of. We have food. We eat it. One is a truly stupid tortoise to refuse what limited food there is in the desert. It is why I wish to bring sausage and other wonders there!"

    That... actually explains alot.

    Thinking about it, this is a bizarre scene, two naked girls discussing linguistics. Woah...

    Ahem! Its not the time to get excited by strange undiscovered fetishes.

    Even so... this is wonderful from my perspective. These two are probably the less talkative members, and suddenly they are chatting like good buddies.

    "The wonders of language... bringing us all together." I say my thoughts out loud, with a smile.

    "And sex, aniki. Don't forget the mind-altering sex." Kali laughs. And Kaede follows.

    I get winded again and cough up something.

    "It was good sex, don't worry. Sausage was premium quality." Kali laughs again.

    She's doing this deliberately now.

    "Ahem. Well, the ultimate test awaits. We should talk to Seria. If you two suddenly appear to be speaking ancient Syjillian to her, we'll know for sure."

    I mean, I could also identify each of the girls as well, but that's cheating and I can't use it in rapid succession that often without giving myself a headache anyway.

    And the reaction will be worthwhile.

    Gosh, we're all expert trolls around here, aren't we?

    Still, these two nod.

    I get my back washed, and reciprocate for these two. The combined power and technique joint scrub is a thing I kind of want every day. Yikes!

    I'm still goddamn tired, but I guess I can keep going. The post-coital wave of fatigue has passed now. I wonder if smokers always go for a fag afterwards because it helps them get past that wave? It's been a male weakness forever, hasn't it? Who knows.

    We re-clothe ourselves and make our way out to the halls. A tempting scent of fried bread and some kind of Megarum broth is presumably indicative of Kiku at work again.

    We decide to follow it, and we find a body sprawled out over the dining table. Rishya is laid out there from her seat, her curly blonde hair splayed everywhere.

    Its not a crime-scene though, as she suddenly she comes to life.

    "Awah! I nearly fell asle... Elijah-sama!" She nearly topples backwards.

    "You were... errr... quite a long time. Hehe..." She smirks whilst windmilling her arms to restore her balance. Its a quite comedic scene.

    "All thanks to you." I flick her forehead.

    "Ita!" She cries. I laugh and ruffle her hair.

    "Fufufu... whilst bullying her is entertaining, boy, you should be thanking her for her kindness." Seria suddenly appears.

    "Her setup was indeed terrifying, yes..." Kaede notes.

    "Rishya should not be Little Yuuzu. She's honestly way scarier and weird than Yuuzu. A seven taloned Meenaora with a bloody beak indeed." Kali nods sagely.

    "Hehe... it... it wasn't much. It's only fair, right?" Rishya blushes.

    "Hahhh... your insane concept of fairness never ceases to amaze me." Aria suddenly appears, seemingly lugging a huge hot-pot. Well... lugging implies she is having trouble with it. Obviously she isn't, but her slamming on the table indicates its weight.

    "Um... this is for everyone. Its very good for increasing stamina!" Kiku has a bright expression and a weird smile.

    Stamina?!? Ah... this really was a conspiracy after all.

    Yeah... these girls are scary.

    "Wait. Just hold on one damn minute." Seria has an eye twitch.

    Here we go.

    "Is there something wrong with the food, Seria?" Kiku has a quivering lip moment. It is quite an adorable thing. I wonder if she practiced it?

    "No... no! Wait, yes. No! That's not. Gahh!"

    Suddenly she glares at me and I can't control myself and laugh. Her eyes go wide along with her mouth. Then they settle and she groans.

    "Sendervil's cock! You're kidding me, boy!"

    "Afraid not." I smile.

    She facepalms with a smack.
    -----
    Bwahaha... that was funny chapter to write. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

    Though Kali has lost her machine translation speech pattern?!?!? Noooooo.... XD
     
  13. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 140
    STRANGE MENAGERIE OF SOULS


    "What is it!? What it is? Is it a ghost? A bad spirit? A good spirit? No, wait, that's Aeris! But is it what? It is what! Huh? Aeris is confused."

    Aeris dances in from somewhere talking nonsense before confusing herself and stopping with a quizzical expression.

    This appears to have derailed Seria's thought train again. Good job, you are a good spirit!

    I pat her on the head and she giggles, forgetting her confusion.

    "Boy... you are an insufferable prat from time to time... what have you done!?"

    "Master-sama is bad? Kissed all the bad girls? Bad master!" Aeris kicks me in the shin.

    There is a clang noise.

    Yes, I kissed all the girls and they made me cry. Ouch. Oh god. It’s like getting clubbed by a cricket bat straight on the leg.

    I almost keel over. If I didn't have my higher endurance, I swear a hit like that would have broken my weedy office workers leg.

    "Uwohhh... Arrr... Aeris p-please don't do that again."

    Seria laughs, though. Slapstick for her at its finest.

    "Kicking is for baddies though?" Aeris cocks her head. "Nn... okay! Kicking for baddies that are not master only!"

    Seria and several of the others are now snickering... le sigh...

    "Ahem... it seems you all now have my translation power." I finally explain.

    "Ah!" Seria's eyes briefly glaze over. "Of course. It’s actually obvious. Fufufufu..." She puts a finger to her mouth. "Mmmm... is it really that your power is shared with all of us due to your incessant perversions? I wonder... fufufufu..."

    "I... uh.... it certainly seems plausible." I scratch my cheek. "Sharing magic power through intimacy is a standard idea in my world."

    Well, at least in fiction anyway.

    Seria raises an eyebrow.

    Then, Aria suddenly appears with a queer expression.

    "So... does everyone also get that... uh... protective mode you gave me?" She fidgets with her fingers and looks under her beautiful blue eyes.

    "I..."

    I stop myself. 'I honestly don't know' was the honest answer I nearly produced. But I think, in this case, Aria's insecure... so maybe a white lie is for the best.

    "You're my summoner, so maybe not? I'd love for you to always protect me. And... we promised to be monsters together, right?"

    Aria smiles a warm and adorable smile, and shies away. I think that was the right answer here.

    "Ufufufu... what a flatterer you are, boy. It’s actually quite gross, you know?" She gives me a terrifying smile as well.

    "Of course, Master Eri is very important as well. We would be mute and blind without your incredible intellect."

    She rolls her eyes with a 'humph!' and flicks a twin-tail dismissively, but somehow, I think that was also the correct response.

    "Elijah-sama... handing out such praise is dangerous with that old bag's already towering ego." Rishya mentions, sidling up to us.

    Seria cackles and Rishya snickers. Aria simply rolls her eyes.

    This lot really do have a strange relationship now, don't they? It still makes me smile.

    "If that's the case, I'll just have to praise Aria more, won't I?" I laugh, ruffle her head, and draw her into a hug.

    "Ah..." Aria blushes. "Elijah... you..."

    "I what?"

    "No... it’s all good." She smiles again.

    "Niiiiiiiiii! Me too..." Kiku forces her way into my hug. It soon becomes another group hug.

    We then sit down to eat Kiku's stamina food. It is certainly filling; heavy on the thick broth and Megarum meat and mushrooms.

    "It is wholesome. Heh. This long mushroom is familiar." Kali says, hoisting a phallic mushroom piece from her pot.

    This makes Kiku swear and blush, which was probably the intended reaction.

    "So... I meant to ask before... did Kaede actually attempt the unmaking afterwards?"

    "Ah... it suddenly was not a high concern, yes? I was... too concerned over Nii-sama."

    "More likely she was scared, fufufufu... though we all were... somewhat. Fortunately, we were all assured that you were not dead, at least, due to that irrepressible spirit of yours."

    "You're a good girl, Aeris." I praise her. She's sat at the table chewing on a dagger she's found somewhere. It’s a bizarre sight.

    "Nn! Aeris is a veeery good spirit!" She raises her nose and puffs out her chest.

    "Um... she could stand to work on her modesty, though." Kiku says.

    I laugh.

    "I may still attempt it, yes? There is still time." Kaede nods, returning us to the original subject.

    "Mmmm... do you truly feel it will help with the other jutsu's you have described to me? From what I can ascertain, they are indeed a non-spiritual phenomenon. I am very concerned that the unmaking will just flat out kill you." Seria taps her cheek.

    "That reminds me, Thanatos told me that having Aeris hold onto my soul as a conduit is what allowed me to come back at all. If that's true... you should listen to Seria's warning. I don't want you to die, Kaede."

    "Ah... nii-sama..." She looks shocked.

    "That shouldn't be a surprise, should it?" I smile.

    "Ah... no, it’s not that. It is simply..."

    She stops, closes her eyes, sighs and puts a hand to her chest.

    "My chest aches somewhat. But it is no longer a terrible thing, yes?"

    "Are you sure your chest isn't aching because of being rubbed too much? Mine was, hehehe..."

    "Rish!" Aria clouts her.

    "Huhu... maybe it is that as well, but both are caused by Nii-sama's callousness, yes? So, there is no difference either which way." Kaede laughs slightly.

    "Truly, the miracles of sausage have no equal!" Kali raises her arms in praise, and all the girls laugh this time, whilst I can only shake my head with a wry smile.

    Well, I guess all's well that ends well. But now, I must focus on honing myself. It will be a harrowing few days, but the time limit is approaching quicker and quicker, isn't it? I hope I can make it before anything really bad happens.
    ----
    A bit slice of life, this chapter. Poor Elijah; its a bit late for hoping nothing bad has occured, but he doesn't know that.

    Sorry this one was late, I was distracted by Two-Point Hospital.
     
  14. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 141
    THE RESULTS OF EFFORT


    "Um... how does this help with swordsmanship?" Asks Kiku.

    "Mmmm... not for yourself, perhaps, but the boy will be using Aeris as a weapon, yes? It is therefore just as critical to understand the properties..."

    "...of the weapon. Yes, I get it now. I had to subtly change things in my own style when Nii bought these swords for me." She nods.

    I kind of understood already, but the full explanation never hurts.

    It has been five days now, and I've finally stopped making a fool of myself fighting Kiku. My skill with the trance like mode has increased, and I now have awareness when using it, albeit dimly.

    At the same time, Seria has continued drilling me in magical attunement exercises that were now possible with a manifest spirit.

    All of this has allowed me to exchange ten blows with Kiku yesterday. I've still not hit her, though. However, this was enough for her to approve me using Aeris finally.

    "Aeris, if you would."

    "Un! It’s about time, master-sama!" She snickers, changes into a sword, and flies into my grip.

    "Then, boy, see if you can control the lightning fully, like you say."

    I take a deep breath. Yes, something completely not evident from just identifying and watching Seria in battle is that this whole time, she has had pristine control over the intensity and shape of her lightning.

    Those times I thought I had saw a new spell, like that Plasma Ball recently, were not new at all. She was simply manipulating the thunder spells she knew very carefully. In that case, she was keeping it in an endless loop without grounding it, like the Ouroboros snake eating its tail, which continually caused it to recycle and ever increase its voltage and amplitude as extra spiritual power is poured in.

    My nerd self decided to classify this as her using Dungeons and Dragons style metamagic. A 'Maximised Energised Concentrated Arc Splitter', if you will.

    By thinking of it this way, I had soon got the basics down of the process in just a day, stunning her into a frenzied libido again, which was difficult to survive.

    But I managed. This will be the first test using Aeris directly. Let’s hope this crazy plan will work.

    "What I seek is Thunder! Arc Sever!"

    I swing Aeris in a shoulder diagonal slash, the main one Kiku has drilled into me, and as I do, the entire Air is severed, sending out a blade-like pulse of electricity.

    It worked!

    Was the chuuni phrase necessary? No, of course not. But after I said it 'accidently' once... well okay I always wanted to try it once. Much to Aria's amusement, Aeris liked it so much she was practically pirouetting in joy. So… I shrugged and carried on doing it. Embarrassing? Well... who needs pride anyway?

    'Bang! Slash! That was good, right master!?' Aeris' voice resounds in my head.

    'Yep, it was great. You're a very good spirit.' I praise her.

    'Un! I am a super spirit!' She buzzes.

    In any case, I'm satisfied with the result, for sure. The training dummy was split as if being slashed, and then an electrical explosion tore it apart from the inside with an ear-cracking peal of thunder.

    "Um... it’s a good job these dummy things gradually fix themselves. But... um... it’s pretty fucking good. Yep. Too pissing slow in a pitched swordfight, but we've already discussed that." Kiku nods sagely, stroking her cheek, and twiddling her hair, which is down at the moment.

    Indeed, after these few days, Kiku decided, with some annoyance, that I wasn't really Bladesward material from the get go. That would require years of training I don't have, and I think her elder sister is also a benchmark I couldn't possibly live up given the stories she has told.

    Even scarier is that her father isn't even a Bladesward, but could routinely trounce the elder sister, so ludicrously obscene was his regular blademastery. A potential father-in-law from hell, for sure.

    "Boy... you're utterly mad. Mages with your aptitude level almost never create their own variants." Seria shakes her head, but her wide eyes and wry smile colour her as being amused. It's funny I can tell these things, isn't it?

    This was the first time I showed off what I'd been thinking about with Aeris. It seems like a nice attack. It combines all of Aeris's good points!

    "Hoooh... that was super, Elijah-sama!" Rishya claps.

    "Like the Storm Rukh of Salt Lake." Kali nods, waggling her finger.

    "A noble strike indeed. Hides its lethality until the last minute." Aria smiles.

    "Wonderful, yes." Kaede agrees.

    At least the peanut gallery was impressed. The two masters less so, but even that tough crowd was forced to begrudgingly acknowledge it.

    "Um... Yes... I think Elijah should focus on things like that. You are right... we simply don't have enough time to make you a competent swordsman in less than three years, never mind a week." Kiku gives a harsh judgement, sighing, and giving a defeated, if happy smile.

    "There is another thing as well." I smile.

    I hoist one of new batches of vials I made this week. Given the availability of the Sage's supplies, I'm confident these are somewhat more potent. Moreover, these are putty, detonated by a shock from Aeris.

    And there’s the other thing...

    "That dummy in the tower for archery practice... I choose you!"

    I point dramatically at it... and then throw in a completely different direction.

    The girls look really confused as it sails off towards the field.

    But of course, I intercept it, and place it suddenly up high, and spark it.

    The tower erupts in blinding white fire.

    That’s how you use portals!
     
  15. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE KAY
    CHASING DREAMS, GOING HOME


    Well, we'll finally be at the capital by nightfall... shouldn't be more than thirty minutes... thankfully. A week by carriage from the coasts is never a great journey.

    "Kuro. Wake up." I prod her cheek. Twice.

    She doesn't react.

    "Jeez, this woman sleeps like the dead." I puff out my cheeks.

    "Wahahaha! You've only just figured that out, Yuuzuchi? Nishishishi..."

    "S-shut up Alicia... by the way, why the hell are you wearing that eyepatch?!"

    This giggling bat is Alicia. She's a self-proclaimed weapon master and though she's another girl in her twenties, she acts like a perverted old man, like Kurono does. It’s hardly a surprise they're old friends and lovers.

    I guess I'm in that category now as well. Ugh.

    "Doesn't it add a certain 'warrior-like' flair?"

    I give her a flat stare.

    She shrugs and takes it off, revealing both of her predatory yellow eyes.

    "Eh, you're so picky, Yuuzuchi." She stretches, bouncing her ample bosom. "Why are we even coming to the capital? Kuro has never been like this before..."

    "It has something to do with the void, I think. She didn't... couldn't... really tell me why she was so rattled by it. But it certainly gave her a fright." I explain.

    "Magical spirit stuff then." Alicia looks mostly nonchalant. "Not exactly fun pillow talk. Or is it?" She grins.

    I sigh.

    "You shouldn't huff and puff so much, Yuzuuchi, it spoils your beauty." Her grin widens.

    I roll my eyes.

    Honestly, I did wonder if I wanted to come back. Facing grandad and Rishya's grandad after all this time is scary.

    I suppose it could be worse, I could have gotten pregnant by a vagabond or something. Do I have to mention I became a lesbian with a Hal-Castemour Countess?

    "You're always worrying about so much, Yuuzu. Aren't you like... the descendant of a famous knight and the prime minister of something? You're practically royalty."

    "My little sister is actually best friends with the youngest princess. They were the ones who saved us from that Skull Beast, funnily enough." I muse.

    "Oh! Right... I heard about that... I... its... I wish I could have been there..."

    I blink. It’s the first time I've seen this upbeat thing so remorseful. Her head is down, hidden behind those odd salt and pepper bangs of hers.

    "Man... I go off on a journey to become stronger to protect Kuro and I come back to find she nearly died in the interim... heh... that would have been ironic."

    "I'm actually more surprised you're not mad that she collected another strumpet in the process." I shrug at her and smile.

    "Wahaha... Yuuzu's no strumpet. Don't worry, despite how she keeps going on about her 'paradise', Kuro's actually a really kind and dedicated girl. And, she's got good reason for her tastes."

    "I'm well aware. Honestly, she's way more admirable than me. Hah..."

    "Admirable? Nah. Don't let her hear that! Her ego's already something else! She's just got a more brutal motivation than most. Ever notice her being very happy about bandit hunting quests?"

    "Yeah... way too much." I giggle.

    The carriage suddenly comes to a stop. Apparently, this is sufficient to finally wake Kurono, with a start.

    "Is there a problem?" She suddenly says loudly.

    "Ah. I'm sorry, milady. The roads are very busy here." The coach driver replies from behind the screen.

    Alicia has already opened the door a crook, and nods back to Kurono.

    Kurono visibly relaxes as Alicia shuts the door again and sits down. Alicia really seems like a bodyguard. Well... sometimes.

    "There's a line of merchant wagons and stagecoaches as well. People are walking in the side gate freely though. I wonder what the hold-up is?" Alicia says.

    Kurono stretches and grins.

    "Well, fancy a walk, ladies? I need something to wake me up anyway."

    It’s actually not a question as usual for her, as she is already getting down the steps.

    Blasted woman.

    ...

    ...

    ...

    "This... this is quite bad." Alicia comments.

    I can't help but nod with a grimace.

    I've never seen my home in such a state. I honestly never thought I would.

    Carriages are delayed because the inner-city roads are in no condition to welcome them.

    Many of the streets are wounded from pitched magical battle. Caked on blood still occupies patches of road. The market is the quietest it has ever been.

    Hardly a surprise. An ominous shadowy portal occupies the place where there was once the old imperial monument. A contingent of guards stands vigil there.

    It flickers and oozes in a frankly disturbing manner, seeming like a crack in reality.

    Kurono's eyes are shut, and she has a terrible expression.

    "The prelude to a demonic assault? Is that what you felt?" I ask.

    She opens her eyes and looks at me blankly.

    "I don't know for sure. But probably."

    She has been quiet the entire time in the city. This is the first she has spoken.

    She turns away from it at last, and we move on.

    We reach the mercenaries guild building, which remains a hive of activity even in this quiet. A sort of refugee hospice and command centre has been set up in front with tarps and benches, and my spirit reacts to the almost continual swirl of light magery there. Survivors are apparently still being found in trapped rubble. The healers here look haggard and exhausted, mirroring the general feel of the city.

    I feel the urge to help them out immediately, but I'm not totally naive. At the end of the day, they are still mercenaries. It is likely they have been hired for a job even if their intent was altruistic.

    Then, something entirely unexpected occurs.

    Guards flank the entrance suddenly, and the ever-distinctive Princess Melody comes out.

    Unlike Rishya with the younger princess, I was never selected as a playmate or anything, even though Melody is my age. It seems the stunning middle princess was always bookish and not in need of one, so I heard later in life.

    She is escorted by her knight, Kako Arnas, another female celebrity in the capital.

    I wonder why they're here?
    -------
    It's another Yuuzu chapter!

    Work is really hammering me at the moment. I'm writing Yuusha Youjo on my commute, would you believe, which is the reason for the slowness of updates right now. Sorry about that.

    The next one will be Melody again, then we'll be back to Elijah.
     
  16. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE M4
    UNWANTED MANTLES


    I suck at royal duties. I never wanted to do things like this. I always thought Cadence would be the next Queen initially, and then it seemed like my little brother might even be a king eventually. I always thought I’d make myself a hanger on with uses in numbers and the treasury. But when I'm quite literally dropped into the fire, what choice do I have but to blunder through?

    I sigh.

    I've just paid the wages for the mercenaries aiding in disaster relief. I could have got an adjutant to deliver them, but with morale as it is, I thought it best to make a personal visit and give a few words of thanks to those assembled.

    It did seem to have some effect. Kako's father nodded in assent at my attempt, and I got an applause.

    The city is still reeling. Though I was unconscious for much of it, Kako said that the capital always had a worry at the back of its mind about the war, but was assured that it would never get this far.

    Cultivator has certainly crushed our hubris there.

    We've had numerous strategy meetings about what to do with the remaining council members, but none have been decisive. The only benefit I've managed to secure is that the remaining nobility have finally moved a majority of their troops off to the front lines or here to the capital, rather than zealously sitting around their estates wasting time. Even Cadence couldn't manage that before. Though it’s only a couple of thousand, mostly green troops, that's still a reinforcement we needed. I've received several missives of thanks from the Duke of Blood, who is now planning a counteroffensive.

    Kako thinks we should also lead an assault through the gate, but few have her reckless courage and masterful skill, and I don't want to consign her to a useless death.

    On the other hand, the ominous gate hanging around is a grim reminder of the invasion. We should eventually do something about it.

    We leave the guild. Outside, I am somewhat absorbed in thought, but I'm not so out of it to not notice Kako pause for a moment.

    "Is something the matter?" I ask.

    "Ah... no..." She stops.

    "Then, there is something." I look where she is. A pair of noble girls is... ah, I know that one, vaguely.

    "Ah, I see, isn't that the Prime Ministers adopted daughter?"

    "Mmm... yes, and the girl I fought in the final to become your knight, Alicia Baraz-Argent."

    Oh right. I do have a vague recollection of her as well. Mostly the fact that she confounded others by using an entirely different weapon in each match she fought. No one knew her specialty.

    "Well, we should greet them." I stride over to them. Its good practice for 'the walk' anyway.

    "Lady Ashensalve, yes? And... ah, you are Countess Cairne, right? Is Alicia Baraz-Argent your escort?"

    I barely recognised the Countess at the last moment. The Curse Countess of Castemoure. Probably an undeserved title, but she is distinctly gloomy looking, I guess. Hard to notice as a. At first glance, I thought her a ranged supporter for Alicia. But then, the tip off was that her outfit is distinctly a mixture of practical and glamourous, rare if she was from the same background.

    "Your highness." They all say and bow in unison.

    "You may rise." I say, mildly inclining my head.

    Honestly its tiresome anyway.

    This is quite an eclectic group.

    "I'm honoured you recognise me, Your Highness. I haven't been to the capital for a few years." Says the Countess.

    "It’s nothing." I dismiss it. "What brings you to our wrecked abode?"

    "Ah... its... well, I am void attuned. I got a feeling I had to come. I don't know why. It is... probably that portal. Must be. When I left, we still did not have news of the capital's attack in Hal-Castemour." She makes a strange expression.

    A void mage? Suddenly her title becomes more relevant. And perhaps there is something useful in consulting void practitioners about the portal? Goodness, I had been distracted so much by my duties that I didn't even consider this simple idea.

    "Me and the Countess had recently become mercenary partners, your highness. And when I heard the news, I also felt I must check up on both of my grandfathers."

    Yuuzu Ashensalve had become a Mercenary? I was completely unaware of this. I suppose the travelling cleric gear should have been a giveaway, though.

    "I am indeed the bodyguard. It is good to see you again, Ser Arnas."

    "The feeling is mutual, Ser Baraz-Argent" Kako nods in return.

    "Ah, well, I didn't win, did I? So, I am no Ser. I'm a commoner after all."

    "I would happily knight you, given your skills." Kako lets out a rare smile.

    I don't let it show but I'm actually shocked. Kako praising someone's ability to that level? I don't remember much of the fight, honestly. After all, I have practically no sense for it. But it was much longer than Kako's previous bouts. Hard fought? I guess that is indeed a skill worthy of praise.

    "You will be pleased to know that Prime Minister Mullight is as spritely as ever, Lady Ashensalve. I hear he had to restrain your grandfather from donning his old armour during the attack." I titter appropriately.

    "Hah... that old fool..." She puts her palm to her face, but is smiling slightly.

    "Well, in any case, I appreciate anyone able to help with the recovery effort." I nod.

    "Countess. I am also in the process of putting together a team of void attuned mages to help investigate the demon’s portal. Would you be interested in leading it?"

    She looks momentarily stunned, but then bows.

    "Ah... it would be my honour. It is why I came, after all."

    "Then, will you be staying at Lady Ashensalve's estate? Will I be able to contact you there?"

    This one's a huge assumption on my part, but these two seem close for some reason.

    This time, the twin-tailed blonde girl is stunned and looks down, but then raises her head.

    "Um... yes... I'm sure Grandf...Duke Mullight will be able to accommodate the Countess."

    "Good. I will be in contact in due course."

    They bow again, and I stride away after they leave, appropriately managing 'the walk' again to my waiting carriage. We are soon underway to the palace.

    "It’s news to me you're organising a portal investigation." Kako looks at me with upturned eyes.

    "Of course it is." I roll my eyes. "I decided it just now. Or rather, lamented the fact I had not already thought of it."

    Kako laughs.

    "You know, Melody, you might be better at this rulership thing than you first suspect."

    "I..."

    My mouth works without sound.

    "Garmere's ass..." I curse and glare.

    Kako just continues smiling in mirth and I want to hit her. My free time and laziness! All gone! Why!?!


    ----
    Yes, Melody, you're inadvertantly good at this, even if you don't want to be.

    Hahaha... poor princess just wanted to be a NEET that did sums for people on the side to score living expenses. But no such luck.

    Got this one out a bit quicker fortunately. Elijah chapter again next.
     
  17. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 142
    C-C-COMBO BREAKER!!


    "Well, I'd say you've actually come quite a long way, boy." Seria says, smirking.

    "Um... we all have... perhaps...?" Kiku adds.

    Yes, it’s not only me of course. The girls themselves have been working on their teamwork and techniques with the facilities available. Though I was first to show off, I don't doubt the fact that I am about to eclipsed in every way possible by the girls. It’s part of the reason I did it now.

    "Ufufufu... perhaps I was arrogant to the extent of my own strength. This awakening... and then teamwork. It appears there was a sky beyond the pinnacle after all."

    "Still arrogant, then. Hehehe..." Rishya laughs, and Seria gives her the stink eye, but then also laughs.

    "Well, shall we?" Seria grins.

    Oh? They're doing a combo attack or something? Though I've been trying to keep track of everyone, its tiring and difficult at the best of times, and doubtlessly over the last week I swear I've been misdirected and manipulated by cunning, horny, lolis at every conceivable step. And, being as I am, I have blundered into every possible honey trap and been shamefully distracted at every turn.

    A shamufural dissprayy? Yeah, probably.

    Well, never mind. I'm interested to see what they pull off with their frankly queer relationship. I sit down in the peanut gallery in the space left by Rishya, next to Aria. Aeris bounds over like a cat and inhabits my lap space with a jump that is rather painful considering she weighs at least 80 kg despite being just four feet tall. I hide my grimace and stroke her metallic hair though. Aria apparently notices and looks concerned though.

    Seria and Rishya start off by holding hands. How lewd. Ahem. I'm sure it’s for power channelling or something?

    "Un, it is, master. Michael and Seryamerya are synergising."

    I think Aeris can read my thoughts sometimes. But as I think that, she merely cocks her head in a 'shaft tilt' to me quizzically, then turns to watch.

    And it’s worth a watch.

    In case lightning and lasers splitting the sky was not enough for you, these two have decided to one up the old fantasy game favourite, chain lightning.

    A powerful looking blue laser zaps out from them, and initially looks like it will miss, but before impacting a wall, it literally makes a right-angle turn. Then it curves and spins like a pirouetting dancer, intercepting and melting targets considered its enemies like a homing missile. Then it shoots directly over to me, and though it scares a few more days off my life, just passes right through me and the girls, and makes me feeling suddenly revitalised again before suddenly doing another about face turn and vaporising a dummy in an explosive finish.

    Yikes. Their new combo attack honestly puts Aeris' new little tricks to shame. Not that Aeris minds. She is just whooping and giggling and praising her big cool siblings Michael and 'Seryamerya'.

    "Phew... that was quite a workout. Did you enjoy it, Elijah-sama?" Rishya does a cute 'leaning forward' pose that is rather erotic and reminds me of...

    "Mmmm... you need to work on your lines, you said the same in bed yesterday, didn't you?" Seria snarks.

    Oh right.

    "Y-y-you were watching!?" Rishya suddenly looks aghast.

    "Um, I assumed you were quite aware that Seria was scribing in the room at the time, Rishya? It wasn't an arrangement?" I ask.

    Rishya goes bright red and Seria cackles like the mad old woman she really is.

    "You! We agreed not to..."

    "Mmmm... not to overlap times. Did I interrupt? I don't believe I did... fufufufu..."

    Rishya panics and opens and closes her mouth.

    "It ~is~ the first rule of being a lady of the court, Rish, 'watch out for loopholes'." Aria states, casually chewing on a dried ration stick.

    Defeated by her own negligence, poor Rish gives up on arguing.

    They then briefly explain that, apparently, Rishya provides power regulation, and Seria the aiming in this case.

    Kaede and Kali then proceeded to show us an interesting agility fest. Apparently, Kaede using a fire jutsu with Kali's own Meenaora arts allows the two of them to create some powerful blue flames they say were inspired by my thrown bombs. Seria was enthralled by yet another weird use of magic power.

    On top of that was the silliest trick yet... Kaede throwing a Kunai at Kali who punches it mid-flight, ricocheting it into the target with the power of a shotgun blast.

    Kaede didn't like this one because it wrecked the Kunai into shrapnel, but Aeris suddenly danced along, sniffed the scrap, grabbed it whole despite it being embedded into stone, and it melted and reformed without issue, pinging out. She then presented it jubilantly back to a surprised Kaede.

    Similarly, Aria and Kiku showed us something new. Aria charged into a dummy, impaling it and pinning it hard to the ground, allowing Kiku to rapidly flash step around it in a blur. As she stopped, the poor thing exploded along about seventy delayed cuts. I'd almost say it was overkill, but who know what powerful things the demons will field?

    After that, there was something else as well. Apparently, inspired by what I was doing with Aeris, Seria also figured out enchanting weapons for the other girls, and let them try it out. Aria, Kiku and Kali were happy with this, allowing them to perform thunderclap like electrical strikes with their attacks, though Seria said it would dispel itself after a couple of strong hits, and Kiku's dispelling technique would obviously cancel it.

    Aeris, being the sword herself, could sustain it perpetually, of course. The fact of which made her take on a smug posture.

    The day after, we all prepared to leave the place that had been our home for a couple of weeks. Though I was still nervous, I agreed that the time had come for us to finally start making progress towards fighting Cultivator directly.

    So, our next stop was back to the capital, at last.
    ----
    Eeep! Two weeks... (bows like a Japanese 'We Apologise for the Inconvienience' sigh).

    The same problems apply as before; namely that work is now smashing through my time, and apparently now also giving me some cases of writers block. Which is very unusual for me.

    Bear with me; at the moment I can't guarantee much of a schedule though, apparently.
     
  18. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE CHAPTER C6
    A PUZZLE SOLVED


    I sigh as I stare at the empty council chamber.

    I am now almost all alone, in terms of true supporters. Doubtless there are now half a dozen plots to remove me from my position. Discontent is rising rapidly, as it has been over two weeks since the permanent portal was opened, but we have yet to follow up the initial attack.

    I am deliberately holding them back. Not to instil a false sense of security or such. This is the reason I feed to the others, but I don't underestimate the humans that much.

    But there is no need in the short term. The leak of spiritual energy across is enough for me. Slowly, surely, the capital is looking slightly less barren.

    Alas, if only I knew of this method sooner, the blood of so many demons would not be on my hands.

    Of course, one does not simply halt a war in full swing, especially one where we are seemingly winning. And I cannot look back now.

    So, an exhausting three hours have been spent explaining battle arrangements to the council.

    My brother did indeed do a good job, all the way up to his death. Encountering an aberration like the Sword Saint can't be helped. I have learnt by now that there is not much I can do to truly scratch the strongest humans. They are walking disasters given form. I wonder if they realise just how terrible their very existence is to the world. How much pain they give it.

    At least there was a single great boon. The male heir was killed, and on top of that, has become a vessel for my spirit.

    That is integral to the next part of the plan, in fact. It has been the glue that holds this entire process together. I have heard that only female humans of this bloodline can act as summoners, but I often questioned how and why that would be the case.

    Blood having significance in magic? That is popular myth. It is not so... it matters only in a handful of circumstances, like helping to bind a spirit quickly. I suppose it can be manipulated by powerful water spirits in the same way as powerful fire spirits being able to manipulate flammable objects to a degree.

    So, is it in the gender? Not so. Besides reproductive capabilities adding a slight bias to the types of spirits attracted, there is again no change.

    No. It appears to be an aberration in the soul itself. Perhaps even in the code that makes it a royal human.

    I do not fully understand it. Were I simple scholar, I would love to spend my years researching it.

    But as a wartime leader I must purely think in terms of what can be gained.

    And that is...

    "Are you finished moping?"

    I turn to see the shadowy figure. It is always in flux. Both human and demon and beast.

    "Is it ready?" I answer with a question of my own.

    "You are infuriating, my sage. But yes. It is done."

    "Then we shall start immediately."

    "Are you certain? Your power is barely coalescent. This could kill you."

    I blink. After two weeks...?

    "Yes. The recovery rate has become almost non-existent."

    There was a cost then. For a ley-line creation of my own. I sigh.

    "I can't hesitate. This is the only avenue remaining now."

    "Are you sure? Did you not just express your contentment with draining the other side?'

    "It would be remiss of me to truly consider that a permanent solution."

    "Yes. And that is why you are the Cultivator."

    I am reminded of my solemn duty once more. This spirit is always testing me for that. To fall into hubris is to lose my role. It is why that, no matter my fury, I must always try to stay calm.

    I ascend to the highest apex of the castle, and from there, across the crag bridge, into the Eye of The Snake, the natural surface formation of Malacke Metal that demons once worshipped in more primitive times, and where the Sage of Metal once resided.

    Where a vast spherical chamber lies, sheared perfectly into the green mineral.

    It is now replete with swirling violet energies. Green and Purple. Forty members of the Agon Priesthood stand, chanting furiously. They look exhausted.

    In the middle, a female human is skewered. An ex-soldier, I think. Hard to find, in fact. But its blood has apparently sufficed after all, running along the grooves of this magic circle, glowing with a feint luminosity. It thrashes, a gag halting its silent scream, and forcibly fed void potions halting its untimely demise.

    I move over to it, raising all of my arms, attuning myself to this formation once more.

    This will finally work.

    I add my own low hum to the chant. My spirit stares for a moment, and then empowers the process.

    I start to feel sweat on my brow and delirium starts to take me. I lose connection with the world and step briefly into the tepid darkness of the void. Unlike some, however, I am used to this feeling. I endure it. I communicate my desire, let it pour from me, let all of my power sustain me.

    It is only barely enough.

    But it is enough.

    I step back into the physical world and there is a deafening explosion of power. The human female subject vaporises into a fine red mist, and a torrent of thunder smashes me off my feet.

    I stand and shake my head from a daze. It seems the priesthood have also been vaporised.

    The components were shoddy, so the cost was higher than expected.

    But.

    I feel the amazing surge of magic.

    In the middle, a glowing figure descends.

    It worked.
     
  19. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 143
    DUCK DUCK GOOSE


    We finally ascend up to the sandy looking chamber where we first arrived. It looks as it did before, with little changed, besides the fact that the entrance to the First Sage's abode is now as plain as day.

    "Don't you need to prepare for the transfer, as you have in the past, Seria?" I ask.

    "No. This entire chamber is fascinating. It is far better built than several other destinations, and this is one of richest spiritual points in the world, it seems. Mmmm... in the ages past, though, none of the points needed the preparation, so perhaps this was a superfluous construction at the time? I cannot say."

    Right... teleporting armies were a thing in the past before the worlds magic began to deplete.

    That’s the other issue here, isn't it? Even if we stop the demon invasion, and we co-operate with whatever the agenda of Thanatos is... however will we be able to save the world?

    Cultivator is probably doing what he feels is necessary. Though of course, I don't think any human could possibly condone these methods. Culling strong people and forcing summons to free up power is a seriously severe solution, isn't it?

    Whilst I'm pondering along, it seems Seria had already set up her transfer formation. That’s so obscenely fast it rather supports her earlier spiel.

    "Nii! Let’s go." Kiku scoops up my hand whilst I'm distracted. Since there is no notice from the others this appears to be another pre-planned agreement. When Kali takes up the other I assume it has something to do with how these were unconscious when we arrived.

    This time, when we warp into the void, everything seems a lot more distinct to me than on the previous trips. The weird shifting greens and purples of the void. This time, me and the girls also appear as shimmering light in the void as well, rather than me feeling and seeing nothing besides the shapes of hands in mine and the swirling chaos. I also feel the protective presence of Aeris more solidly, wary of everything.

    I guess actually being there once does that.

    There is also no chorus of unintelligible voices this time.

    I do get the impression of being watched though. I entirely expect that to be Thanatos, though I have no proof.

    "+h3<3 15 50m3×h1uG 5Tr4Ng3..."

    Consider me corrected. I hear a strange voice at last. But this one... it sounds like Seria. And it’s not entirely unintelligible. I sense the uncertainty in her tone.

    "Seryamerya! Do not follow that route! It’s strange! Its full of dead spirits!"

    Ouch. Aeris... volume please. But I guess she is trying to get through to Seria's spirit. Sounds urgent, so I'll let her off.

    Suddenly, the whole axis shifts in lurch and we are heading an entirely different way. I think. With how featureless the void is, it’s hard to tell. I wonder what happened?

    Another few moments pass, and then light suddenly blinds me for a moment, then fades.

    We've arrived.

    To the familiar wall of crossbows in the summoning chamber.

    I'm sure this chamber must have an advance warning system considering how prepared they always are for us.

    Fortunately, it seems that this time, Kako has a better handle on her men. None of them unleash on us.

    Kako is actually hard to notice because there is also an obscenely beautiful silver haired woman next to her, clad in a flowing blue robe that nonetheless is formfitting in all the important places, much like the one Yuuzu wore, though this version is clearly more ceremonial and unpractical.

    "Whaa!? Mel!! Meeeelllll!"

    Aria shoots by me like a bullet, her similarly blue cape flowing behind her.

    Ah. This is her big sister, Melody. She must have recovered whilst we were away?

    I can finally confirm it was D... DD? Well from the glomp hug alone I can...

    Ahem.

    Aria's lovely older form that I saw briefly a while back appears in my mind and transposes over Aria as she hugs her sister. You can admire the similarities. Though I actually liked Aria's version better. Probably some bias involved there, but the spikier hair, smaller chest, and spunkier smile are serious bullseyes for me.

    Heh. I'm hopeless.

    Melody is rubbing Aria's head gently as they separate from a brief but intense hug. The rest of us walk forwards towards the other princess more gradually, giving them space.

    "I'm truly relieved to see you safe, Aria. You..." she pauses, narrows her eyes for a moment "...you've really grown up whilst I wasn't looking."

    I freeze, and a shiver runs up my spine. I gulp to myself. Does this woman have scary intuition?

    Aria cocks her head and smiles like a cherub.

    "Yeah! I'm much taller, right? And I'm way stronger. Though it’s all because of these girls and Elijah, to be honest." Aria happily titters. Is she unaware? No… wait…

    "Right, you certainly are. It seems the Ser Etranger has left quite the piercing impression on you."

    Melody's voice is as melodic as her name. She looks up at me with a shining smile, but unlike Aria's, it absolutely doesn't cover her eyes. These blue pools are windows into an abyss.

    Yep. I'm dead.

    But then, Aria sighs. Her entire demeanour changes to practically a battle posture.

    "Yes... he certainly has." Her tone is now as flat as her chest.

    Melody suddenly appears shocked and her gaze shoots to Aria, who has crossed her arms.

    "Is ~this~ really the first thing you're saying as soon as I'm back, Melody? This? When I haven't seen you in months. This? When I was worried sick about you and summoned instead. This?"

    Gods. Aria. So cool. I fell in love with you all over again.

    Wait. So… I do love her now, huh? Huh.

    Well. It was inevitable...

    Melody is truly stunned from this denouncement, it seems.

    But then her ample chest moves in a deep breath and sigh. She shakes her head, and then produces a small but genuine smile.

    "You really have grown up. I'm sorry. I... I didn't realise this was actually your resolve after all."

    Aria huffs for a moment.

    "Hmm... hahhh... you've always been too protective of me. I guess I was an irresponsible brat for a long time though. Can't be helped. I forgive you. Just... make sure you lay off that in future. I'm no longer a little brat to be coddled. War... war does that to you..."

    She unfolds her arms, and then pats Melody on the shoulder this time. It seems that Kako is looking on in amusement at Melody's constantly shifting face.

    "Haha... I broke your lovely stoic face again, Mel. Next, you'll be lazing around in public. Bwahahaha...." Aria guffaws. "Anyway. I'll introduce everyone to you..."

    Then Melody's face goes straight and serious and it suddenly seems like bags appear under her eyes as her head droops slightly. In a moment, she has lost all of her imperiousness.

    I feel something terrible is about to happen.

    "Before that, Aria. There is something you must know. It is about Liron. He... he's..."

    -----
    It seems Elijah narrowly dodged being gutted by Melody thanks to Aria. XD

    However, poor girl's about to get a metric tonne of recent events dropped on her as well.

    And WHAT. What is this!? Another chapter the same week!?! Yep. This one almost wrote itself. I think I'm finally carving past the writers block. Whee!
     
  20. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 144
    A CUNNING BLADE


    We observe the rain outside the palace from this gallery type room that overlooks the market.

    "Hmmm... this place really got ruined, didn't it?" I say to no-one in particular.

    "There was a lot of fighting here, yes?" Kaede adds, finger to her lips.

    "Kali did not see this place before, but it been has sapped of life. Places have a spirit too, the Meenaora says. And this one is like Void spirit." Says Kali.

    It’s true. The main street beyond is quiet and eerie. People shuffle along quietly and morosely, keeping to themselves, where there was once a lively bustle.

    Though it is clear that several clean-up operations have already occurred, the city feels wounded.

    "We were too late after all..." I sigh.

    "Do not beat yourself up, boy. We have been moving forwards all the time. It is merely that Cultivator continues to bound ahead. It is a clear move to combat morale." Seria notes, sat next to me, twiddling her twintail whilst reading a scroll she found somewhere.

    "Eh wot... it’s just evil. A soldier who cannot trust they are keeping their home and family safe feels worthless." Kiku looks angrier than I've ever seen her, flexing her fist.

    "Isn't that precisely the point, Kiku?" Rishya raises both her hands in a surrendering posture.

    "Fucking bollocks. It is. But even so. Even so." Kiku stomps.

    "Speaking of which, don't you two want to go and see your family?" I ask Rishya and Kiku.

    We heard that Yuuzu had come to capital following Kurono. It would be interesting to see them again.

    Kiku shakes her head. "I'll wait for Aria. Kako is very busy being the Princesses aide right now. And Dad is helping with the clean-up. It’s not the time for fun."

    "Hmmm... Yuuzu and grandfather have better things to do right now. And of course, I will also wait for Aria. I should have gone with her, honestly, but... but this is something she needs to do alone with her sister I think."

    These girls are so tough. I really admire that. I also really wanted to go with Aria but had the same thoughts as Rishya.

    Even so, there is general sense of vexation in the room. To an extent, we're all to blame for playing around a bit too much. Could we have done things differently? Probably not... but everyone is somewhat affected by that seed of doubt.

    Aria went off with Melody to the Royal Mausoleum to see her older brothers tomb and then visit her father's sick bed.

    When she heard, I don't think she could believe it. Neither did I. It’s actually looking at this scene that's really making it sink in for me.

    So much for having a year or so. Its barely a couple of months and the capital has already been sacked.

    Well, it could have been worse. There was a clear goal in the invasion, so it left a swath of destruction in the city centre and marketplace, but the outer districts are mostly untouched. The impact was amplified by the timing, surprise, and the unfortunate congregation of people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Melody waking up was a mixed blessing, though I'd not tell Aria that.

    //I'd agree, boy//

    I look up in surprise. Seria's gaze is fixed on me. Right. Been awhile since did her Sage mind tric... actually she's probably doing it all the time she looks into my eyes.

    //Ufufufu//I told you before//It’s not something//I use superfluously//

    //I only have your word//To go on with that//

    I smile wistfully whilst enunciating my reply more coherently.

    //Ooh//Fun//Electric!//Talking//Whatc'ha//Doing!//Is it funsies?//Tell Aeris!//

    Electric talking?

    Seria gets an actual eye twitch at Aeris suddenly getting involved. Then she sighs.

    "Boy, I'm honestly staggered at how quickly that spirit of yours works things out considering how she presents herself."

    Seria suddenly saying something strange out of nowhere startles the other girls briefly, though Rishya shakes her head as she apparently understands quickly. Which, by the way, clues me into the fact that she probably communicates mentally with Seria a fair bit.

    "How I present myself? Aeris is cute? Cute and clever! Best spirit!"

    She talks as a sword at this point, laid out carefully on a lush sofa by herself. But I blink for a second, and there is a metallic girl there, who leaps up and starts pirouetting on the spot to emphasise the cute part. The sofa cushions sink considerably under the new weight and make an ominous creaking noise.

    "She's still working on her modesty, though." I retort with a shrug and a wry smile.

    "Muddy sty? Isn't that for piglets? I'm a sword, not a swine, master-sama." Aeris giggles.

    What.

    Kiku suddenly bursts into laughter.

    "You wot? Fuck me, Nii, your sword like stupid puns as much as you do."

    "Wellll... they say a man’s 'weapon' reflects his personality." Rishya giggles with an 'ohoho' type inflection.

    "I think that is a discussion of Aniki's sausage again, though? Little Rish and Kiku sure love sausage!" Kali exaggeratedly exclaims.

    "As if you can talk, Deli-Kali! I heard all about you from Kaede." Rishya replies.

    "Gah... defeated by sausage wielding ninjas once more! The deli-kali-tessen is robbed! Pillaged!" Kali plays dead suddenly.

    I think Kali would actually make a good actress... actually... no a stand-up comedian who did sausage jokes and martial arts routines... wouldn't that be amazing?

    Seria is so wide eyed at this exchange... and probably also reading my thoughts, you'd think her eyes would pop out. Kaede is laughing as well.

    As the girls frankly, hilarious exchange continues I just don't know what to say. I think Aeris is gradually being influenced by everyone. Much like a child would be, I suppose.

    I guess that’s one way to clear the air.

    'Un! Too much static. Stuffy air. Needed grounding, right?' Aeris' voice communicates to my head. She is silently smiling now.

    You really are a cute and competent spirit, you know?

    'Ehehehe. Aeris knows Aeris is brilliant.'

    'You could still work on that modesty though.'

    She sticks out her copper red tongue.

    Sadly... the mirth doesn't last forever.

    There is a knock on the door. Ser Kako strides in, looks around at the girls, partially paused dead in a catfight of sorts.

    "Hmmm. Princess Aria isn't here, then? I suppose she has run off somewhere after all." Kako says, deadpan.

    Well. Seems my summoner is missing. That won't do. That won't do at all...

    -------
    It's probably a secret Aeris chapter. Doesn't it seem like she's getting smarter all the time? Who needs this 'Muddy-sty'? XD

    Seria's mind tricks turn out to be electrical after all... I wonder how she does that?

    And oh noes, Aria is missing?!?