Novel Yuusha Isekai! Youjo Suki! [Ch 1-151]

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 AA4
    YOUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER...


    "Father... Brother..."

    I hug my knees to my face.

    It feels like everything is gradually taken from me. But honestly, I don't know what to feel.

    I'm sad...? No... Angry at myself... because I actually ~don't~ feel sad that he's gone. I didn't feel anything when Melody said he died, and that... that made me feel rotten.

    Brother was a quiet sort. It’s not like he was a bad brother to me, but... he was smart. I was his idiot little sister, and Cadence was clearly his favourite sister among us three. I hardly ever saw him. When I was digging up insects in the garden and scaring Rish. When I was beating up girls three times my age. When I was picking my nose behind the back of my etiquette tutor. He was always studying dutifully. I always wondered why. Wasn't Cadence going to be the next Queen?

    So… It wasn't hate. Its... he was just in a different world.

    It’s funny... maybe the reason I didn't want to address Elijah with his worlds word for big brother was because I associated it with Liron? Though I'm still calling him that after we've become lovers... Haha... isn't everything just a messy jumble in my head?

    What is a lover and what is a brother and what is it that I am really fighting for again?

    I summoned... because I was the only one left who could. Because I didn't want my big sisters sacrifice to be for nothing. Because at my heart I knew I had a royal responsibility to protect a place I loved.

    But I was so scared, when Melody was carried out on a stretcher, when Cadence was betrayed.

    Isn't that why I got Elijah, though?

    He has no useful skills. He had no combat experience. He's a closet pervert with a preference for cute young girls. He is arguably the worst possible result.

    But he's never let me down. Always acted the stabilising figure for me. Even as he is drawn away by the others, he always tries to give me time and consideration and love.

    He wasn't the hero the country needed, but perhaps he was the one I wanted. Is that why I summoned him? It is... isn't it?

    Ha! What a bozo I am.

    I manage a dumb grin. I'm the picture of a stupid girl head over heels for a bad man, aren't I?

    And so are the other girls, right?

    Well, there’s one queer old lady mixed in there as well...

    I really envied them all at one point. Even though they had become new friends and compatriots in a battle we had little hope for.

    What even am I anymore? I see myself in my memories and I barely recognise her. The ‘her’ Melody recognised wasn't me anymore, and when she tried to coddle me and threaten Elijah that just made me cross.

    A past me wouldn't have even recognised Melody's subtle attack. And I realised that when I prepared my response. It shocked me.

    I also thought I trained hard when I was a girl. Maybe the instructors coddled me as well, though... I knew nothing until Kiku showed me ~her~ daily training. Her father exposing her to that... and her seeing that as normal... but then Kiku wouldn't be so skilled if not for that and her natural talent. It gives her body a sculpted look I'm a bit jealous of too, to be honest.

    I had to keep up with her to create our new combo attack after it became clear Kali and Kaede, and Seria and Rishya were working hard. We did something slapdash with the time we had, utilising our strengths.

    I hesitate to say I'm grown up, even if, by standard chauvinist accounts, I have been 'made' a woman.

    That’s all wrong.

    Sex doesn't make you a woman. It does stop you being a girl, though. It’s an uncomfortable limbo... the wait between the two... but maybe I'm almost there.

    You know what... I'm thinking about all sorts of difficult things these days, aren't I?

    Elijah's needless pondering has bled off into my own behaviour. I was once a girl who barely thought of anything or anyone.

    Head full of clouds, body made of spears, eh?

    Well... maybe that’s actually still the same after all.

    "You have changed a lot, I think." Elijah is suddenly... where?!?

    He hoists me over his shoulder suddenly. Ehhhhhh?

    And he slaps my butt.

    "Kyaaaaaa!" I let out an involuntary squeal from surprise.

    "Bad summoner. Don't go jumping onto the roof. You idiot." He says, deadpan.

    Whilst I'm still dazed, he switches his holding position and I'm now in a princess carry.

    "At least my princess wasn't in another castle." He snickers. There is probably some joke here I don't understand again.

    But I don't care.

    Right. I do remember Liron after all. When I was five or so. He showed me how to weave two daisies together. I put a crown on his head and giggled. And he smiled, pat my head, and said my crown was better than any gold one he could have. It made me very happy. But even then... he was not even seven and the weight of the crown was on his mind, wasn't it?

    I start bawling.

    I'm now... of all times... overcome with emotion.

    "Brotherrrr! Cadencccce! Daaaad! Mellll! Leannnnne! Ellliiijaaahhh...!"

    It apparently took the stupid actions of my fake brother to remind me of the kindness of my real one after all.

    Such an idiot.

    I carry on bawling without care though. After all, my man has me in his arms...
    -----

    Aria didn't manage to escape to another castle after all. XD

    She has realised that she has inherited Elijah's ability to overthink everything as well... how distressing! I guess her character development is both subtle and extreme at the same time...
     
  2. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE KU
    VOID DETECTIVE


    I stare at the gate that appears to swirl into a point of depth. Unlike the usual flashy mages’ transportation spell, this is... meek. The only indication that it once hosed out a demon assault is the destruction of the city around it. If it were not so cordoned off, and was in the wild, you might not notice it at all.

    Then again, void spells are rarely flashy despite the extraordinary effects.

    Contrary to this, and to the silence of yesterday, there is a team of void mages now milling around, taking measurements of ambient spirits. Most of them the fairly weak sort. It can't be helped with most of us. There are few writings on the subject of our magic, and even fewer tutors. I guess it doesn't surprise me that the princess practically leapt on me for assistance. I am a relatively strong Void Mage, and I know how to lead people, though the second part is something I never really wanted. Not that I mind the task as such, this is more interesting to me right now and I get to try to find out why this thing summoned me. My estate can manage itself for a few months without my input these days, in any case. After all, I wouldn’t have been able to become a mercenary and hunt down bandits if it didn’t.

    "I have to say, I didn't expect such support from the princess." I mutter to myself. "It sounded like she was bluffing before... maybe I'm getting rusty... or is this just the power of royalty?"

    "It is both, right? Kurono always was a rusty sort, whereas silver things are sometimes competent."

    Who the heck talks about me like that?

    I swivel around, quite cross.

    "Uwahhh! How scary! Kurono could kill foolish scorpion with glare alone!"

    "Kali!?"

    "One and the same. Or is the same as the one?"

    Surely, one cannot mistake this deeply tanned and toned girl wearing queer bandages and a queerer smile. But when did she seriously increase her capacity to speak Tessan? And when did she lose her sense of childish... oh... it’s probably...

    I sigh.

    "You... came to see me... now?"

    Kali has widened eyes and scratches her cheek.

    "Is a day for foolish questions? Also, day for cold spikey Kuro? Is blood day as well? Really picked wrong day... what a blunder..."

    I almost splutter at her ability to leap to incorrect conclusions.

    But instead, I can't be mad at this girl of all girls, and my splutter turns into a snigger, and then a chortle behind my hand.

    "Ah good. I am getting better at this 'bomb defusing' thing. Aniki is rubbing off on me? Well... all sorts of rubbing did happen, I suppose." She grins.

    This bloody girl.

    "I have no idea what you see in that pervert. But it’s good you're happy, I guess."

    "Kali is indeed, surprisingly happy. Kuro is not the only one surprised, I guess? But enough of that... how is Yuuzuchi?"

    Yes indeed... how is Yuuzu? I would like to know myself. She is very good at concealing her true thoughts sometimes. Wears her emotions on her sleeves, of course, and is even more impulsive than this punchy girl. But her true thoughts...

    "I think she's fine. She was trying to escape seeing her grandfather. But I forced her to go."

    Kali looks at me under her eyes whilst smiling. Opposite to Yuuzu, it’s very clear what this one thinks, and it creeps me out.

    She shakes her head.

    "Kuro is foolish scorpion. Yuuzuchi is probably nervous that she succumbed to your charms. She does very much concern herself with what her grandfather thinks, you know. And you have left her stranded in the desert. Haaaah..."

    Oh.

    I didn't even think about that. I have long since stopped caring what people think and I assumed she should simply connect with her family at any chance she has.

    That was probably negligent of me.

    "Kuro also brought Alicia to see Kako as well, right? Such thoughtlessness. Not sure if Kuro deserves her many cute girls after all..."

    Yes. Okay. Damn this bloody girl.

    "Uwahhh... there’s that scary look again. Heh... well harsh Kuro teaches harsh lessons like S'tavi. Reminds me muchly of mothers training." She nods and crosses her arms.

    I... I didn't want to be some martial arts teacher! What are you making me! I have bad memories of people like that. They remind me of the hell I went through to become a competent noblewoman in absence of my parents and people who loved me.

    But isn’t this laddish prodding exactly why I find Kali amusing?

    Wait.

    Suddenly this jiving is interrupted in an instant.

    I feel the portal is reacting, and my gaze instantly snaps to it.

    The others are slower by a hair, but immediately, with a crack noise, I withdraw a firework I had an alchemist make for me, light it, and send 50 feet upwards with momentum.

    In less than ten seconds of it going off, two mages and a whole legion of troops surround us and the square, and I have drawn my bow. Kali has also taken on a deep posture, and even lacking her gauntlets, I am imagine her to still be threatening.

    Early warning is the least we could do in our job here. But to think there was so little time...

    There is a pop noise. I train my sights on the portal.

    Suddenly, two women fall through, carrying two men. One is tanned with dark hair, and the other has flowing blonde locks. They look positively starved and exhausted.

    The black haired one looks up and her eyes go wide. Then sighs as her hands shoot up in surrender.

    "I'm sorry. I knew I shouldn't have used that door. But I'll explain everything."

    Hmmm? This girl is also a void mage, isn't she?

    "Oh! I know these ones! They're mercenaries." Kali says. She has now completely relaxed.

    Well... isn't this a strange thing.

    ----
    I'm sure everyone's forgot about those poor S-Ranks by now... but I didn't XD. They've evidently been stuck a couple of weeks in the void.

    Yes, its late again. This time, its because this chapter went through numerous versions I just wasn't happy with. It also started from Kali's perspective as well, but I thought it might be time to have a brief time in Kuro's head. The whole thing flowed better this way.
     
  3. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE Y4
    BELATED HOMECOMING


    I walk through the halls of this manor I have not seen in over a year. Very little has changed, it seems. Though, there is a single change. No cute little girl with similar curly blonde hair to mine, but red eyes, greeting me with a lovely smile.

    I wonder if Rishya is doing well with her crush. I chuckle. I always thought she might well fall for the same man as the princess. With something like the Sage of Thunder hanging around her as well, I dread to think how strong she... and 'Michael'... have become.

    Secretly, in my head, I also started naming my spirit 'Angelica' recently, after my first doll. Probably another sign of my ever-increasing madness.

    I make a wry smile to myself. I wonder if my near-death experience really changed me, or whether it just made me less controlling of myself.

    I make my way through the crowds that mill around the manor. This is another significant change. With the damage to several palace facilities and death of many council members, the estate has become a sort of temporary emergency headquarters for the relief effort.

    I reach the hall. My grandfather, and Rishya's, are here, managing people back and forth. I put this off for a day, pretending I was busily helping Kuro, but in the end, she made sure I came back.

    She is such an idiotic woman. I honestly baffle myself with my decisions as of late.

    I muster up my most dignified voice to speak to the old man in white knight’s attire matching his beard.

    "I'm back, grandfather."

    He looks up from the document he was reading in shock, and he looks rather angry.

    "Yuuzu!!!" Grandfather suddenly shouts. I shut my eyes and grimace at his commanding tone.

    But a further rebuke doesn't come. Just as I crook my eyes open, I am hugged.

    "I'm glad you're safe."

    Uncle Douglas has noticed me as well. He has dismissed the clerk talking to him, and has crossed his arms, nodding is the background.

    "She has become even more beautiful, in fact." Uncle says. "She now looks so much like Kana, its untrue."

    "You old fart, have you gone blind? Kana had dark hair." Grandfather lets go of me and heckles uncle.

    "Did she? Huh..."

    Grandfather rolls his eyes. Uncle Douglas always makes jokes like this. Something about a past trauma regarding dark haired women, he claims, renders him incapable of seeing non-blondes, or something? It’s no wonder Rishya has a twisted sense of humour as well.

    "He is right, though, you have got more beautiful."

    "Please, grandfather, that’s embarrassing."

    "Is it now? Well... you can't just wander off for a year and not expect something like this when you return."

    He looks cross again, but he shakes his head to rid himself of it. He looks me up and down, then sighs.

    "You must have survived a few scrapes, for sure. Gone is the naive girl that left, though she looks similar. You have a palpable battle sense to you now, girl."

    "I... I do?"

    Grandfather chortles.

    "The fact you don't even notice as well is a good thing."

    "Well, good for battle. Not so good for a being a noble wife!" Uncle laughs.

    "Hah... well..." I stutter. "Wait! That reminds me! Why did you give that armour to Rishya's boyfriend, uncle! It was my betrotha..."

    The temperature of the room drops a few degrees and I shiver slightly. What was that?

    "Ho... you saw Rishya and her... boyfriend? Do tell."

    Urk. I actually have no grounds for that assumption. Little girls always have crushes and here I am leaping to the finish. I am sorry, ser etranger, I'll set the record straight.

    I spend some time talking about what I recall from my journey. I leave out certain things. Like me having an affair with Kuro.

    "Hoh... it sounds like you have learnt a lot after all. Didn't I tell you it would be for the best?" Says uncle, to my grandfather.

    "I don't really want to hear that from the man who was bawling for days about his granddaughter leaving the nest."

    They glare at each other and I can't help but laugh. Did I miss these grumpy old men? Crazy... I have really gone crazy...

    I continue to guffaw until I'm red in the face, and I set them off as well.

    I bet the others in hall are looking a strangely at this scene.

    Ah well.

    "Ahem. To answer your earlier question, my dear, I rather felt sorry for the lad. He reminded me of your father. No real skill, but earnest. Dense to the ways of the world, but pointlessly kind. Nevertheless, very much able to stick up for what was important for him. It almost seemed wrong to not give it to him. He appreciated it a lot and is probably still wearing it now, but as a dowry, it would rot in a storeroom for years. No armour of any renown deserves such a fate."

    That... was surprisingly detailed.

    Like father? He was? Huh. Well I guess in some ways that’s the case. I only remember father in passing for the first six years, but he was an eternally low-ranked knight who mysteriously married into the prestigious Ashensalve line. My mother was stubborn or someth...

    Hmm...

    It’s not like I'm similar to her or anything!

    "A-anyway... I g-guess that’s fine then." I stutter.

    Grandfather and uncle laugh again.

    I really am going crazy.

    -----
    I'd like to come up with some great excuse for why this one is also late, but unfortunately I was just procrastinating playing games, as work is now less busy coming up to xmas.

    Can I get Aria to 'tee-hee' and knock her head with a tongue out cutely as an apology? No? Damn.

    My productivity should hopefully rise at Xmas as it did last year. We can all hope.
     
  4. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 145
    SILVER SHOOTING STAR


    "Does this make Melody the heir now?" Aria wonders.

    She shuffles up next to me, lying on my lap. She looks dishevelled, but this time I haven't done anything to her or anything, her crying did this. Though it has left a wet patch on my trousers. I hope it will dry up...

    "If it works like most monarchies in my old world, that would be the case." I say, gently.

    She turns to face upwards, her silver hair over my lap and her deep blue eyes staring at me. They're still red around the edges from her crying before.

    "Did your old country have a king, then, Elijah?" She asks.

    "A queen, actually." I smile wistfully. "I suppose all civil servants, like me, technically served her. She was kinda old by the point I started work though. I've only seen pictures of her."

    "Oh. A queen, huh?" She looks into some unfathomable distance.

    "My country was kind of strange, though. The queen doesn't have much power. The prime minister and the parliament do. They're about a hundred men who sit in a posh green room."

    "Eh!? But why have a queen then?" She twitches.

    "I always wondered that myself as a boy. It’s because it’s an old family line and it’s good for tourism, I think."

    "I really can't imagine such a frivolous thing. Don't that make arguments over things that need to be done?" Aria's brows furrow.

    "All the time!" I laugh.

    "What?! You're lying then?"

    "Nope. It takes ages for those guys to get anything done. The Prime Minister changes all the time as well if the people dislike them."

    I continue with my slapdash explanation of the British government. Aria honestly has a look of horror that grows worse as I go on.

    "That’s all just crazy. I'm not a smart girl, but I think even Melody wouldn't be able to understand how that worked."

    "Democracy is the worst kind of government, except for all the others we have tried." I quote.

    "It’s just the worst if you ask me." She sticks out her tongue.

    "You're probably right." I agree.

    "Eh? You think?" She looks wide-eyed.

    "Yep. A wise king or queen or emperor is generally better. The voting thing is supposed to avoid problems with potentially stupid and wicked heirs, put the best one in power, but all it really does is turn it into a juvenile popularity contest."

    "My head hurts." She shuts her eyes, but she has a gentle expression. "I shouldn't have asked about boring politics things. I really am just better swinging a spear."

    I laugh and stroke her hair. It has gotten slightly longer during the journey.

    "Yep, Aria is best just like she is, as a cute musclehead."

    She opens one eye.

    "I want to be annoyed at that statement, but you're right." She snorts, and then she giggles.

    "This is nice. If only we could have met under more normal circumstances. Things all seem out of order... ah! Not that... I'm unhappy with..."

    "I know. You're also right. It’s a twisted situation, and I'm a lout."

    She stares at me.

    "Heh... you're such a strange man. But I'm also a strange girl, right?"

    I laugh.

    "A monster, you might say."

    She glares and pouts for a moment, but then laughs for a moment.

    "Needs a monster to fight a monster. Didn't you say that once?"

    "Did I? I don't remember saying that..." I blink.

    "Hn... I dunno..." She looks confused. "But that’s true for sure. This is... why I am like I am. Sendervil has plans for me. Heh... even if Sendervil was never really a god in the first place... hn... its honestly a good thing that I was never hugely pious."

    Right... we did find out the so-called gods were just the first few sages. Man, I should have realised this could have a serious impact on the girls... should I talk to Rishya about that at some point?

    Suddenly she squirms in my lap, and starts to get up.

    "What's wrong?"

    "Nothing. It’s just we need to get moving, right?"

    "Are you sure you're okay?"

    "No. I'm not. I don't know if I'll ever be. Even so, I have to move on." She says, her face twitching slightly.

    "You dummy. You don't have be as easy-going as me. You can be spoilt from time to time." I ruffle her head.

    She grins.

    "Elijah, I've been spoilt and naive my entire life. Its... it’s why I was a fool and started this mess in the first place. An idiot like me who didn't do much of anything before except swing a spear... suddenly summoning? A huge risk to my life. Throwing everything away... I think I realise just what a fool I was now."

    She stands up and stretches. The sun is gradually setting behind her as she does, giving her silvery hair a golden halo. I realise it’s grown a bit. Her hair... no... all of her. That older version I saw briefly... I feel like I can see a mirage of it again.

    A wind gust blows gently, and she brushes her hair aside. Her sapphire like gaze settles on me and her eyes smile.

    "Hey! I should charge you a myriad for such a look." She titters.

    "I'd be a poor man by now then. Worth every coin, though, investing in the silver princess market." I retort.

    She laughs again.

    "It’s nice to strong, loved, and valuable."

    "Isn't it just?" I nod.

    She pops out her hand to me to help me up. This feels like it’s the wrong way around, but I guess she's by far the stronger one.

    I grab it and stand up.

    It’s time to consider our next move.

    ----
    Aria has actually grown alot I think. Though poor girl never does well in the polls (laughs).
     
  5. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 146
    REUNION PLANS


    We go over to the tent that has been erected by the portal. As soon as I came back with Aria, we were soon rushed off our feet again before we could even say anything, as a soldier sent by Melody urged us to come over here.

    Indeed, under guard, but being treated as guests, are those S-Rank mercenaries that helped us back in Hal-Castemour. Fortinbras, Esraye, Jeanette and... Darion, right? The two guys seem groggy and sleepy, and the girls dishevelled and exhausted.

    "Mmm... I see, so Kuro was studying the portal, and then these guys popped out?" Seria says to the guard, flicking a twin-tail.

    "I'm sure the mercenaries guild has already identified them, but I can confirm they seem to be the same ones." Aria nods.

    We go over to them. Seria immediately cackles as they look up at us.

    "Fufufufu... I'm impressed, ladies. Honestly. Navigating the void is no easy task." She grins.

    "Hah... who... oh... the underaged Sage..." Mutters the blonde girl, who looks up over the bags under her eyes.

    "Jeanette... is this thinking a wise thing to let out?" Esraye says, though her eyes shift.

    "Ah..." Jeanette puts a hand over her mouth.

    "Mmmm... its fine. I will allow it. After all, it’s not like I came to help you two. My priorities were with the boy and these girls, but it does not truly excuse allowing a soul to be stuck in the void." She shakes her head.

    "I am truly, honestly impressed, and glad, you were able to survive." Seria bows slightly.

    The two mercenary girls look at the sage acting humble and seem surprised, but their expressions do seem to soften. I suppose I would be surprised as well.

    I feel a little bad myself. I did spare them a thought initially, but then everything with Aeris happened.

    Speaking of which.

    'Hello! Hello! Mr. Scythe! Wake up!'

    Esraye suddenly looks at me wide eyed. Her gaze then drops to my sword. Err... to Aeris...

    'Nn! Yes! I am young! Aeris is only 51 months and 215 seconds old! Wow! You're a 1 year old? That's amazing!'

    It seems that, this time, I can't hear the enunciation of the scythe in question. But I can guess at the content of the discussion being related to metal spirit's and their hilarious misconceptions of time.

    Esraye looks back up to me.

    "Your spirit child. It speaks itself?"

    "It does. I named it Aeris."

    I suppose Aeris having her awakening technically happened after we, and the mercenaries, were sucked into the void, didn't it?

    Esraye narrows her eyes.

    "Spirits speaking. I have seen once. In the fire. All it wanted. Was to eat. Be careful. With spirits that talk. In Aarotir. They are not... normal."

    There is a moment of silence.

    'Master-sama... is Aeris... not normal?' Aeris suddenly asks quietly in my head.

    Hah...

    Of course, you're not normal. Normal is boring. Aeris is brilliant. And unique. Special. My special spirit.

    'Ah! Nn! Of course!' She happily titters.

    "Girl, that is purely superstition." Seria rebuffs her.

    Esraye glares over to the sage, her previous wary expression returning.

    "Esraye-sama, the sage does mean well, yes?" Kaede surprisingly steps forwards.

    They stare at one another for a moment.

    "You sure have become more assertive, little blade." Looking at her, Esraye shakes her head, and manages a small smile.

    Did something happen between them before... ah... when Kaede was sneaking still... hmm...

    "Mmmm... still; superstition has warped roots in common sense, much of the time. One certainly should not underestimate a conscious spirit. It is undeniably powerful in that case, after all." Seria nods with her finger to her lips.

    That proclamation appears to settle down the tanned metal mage.

    "In any case... how did you escape, yes?" Kaede asks. "I have been briefed in the basics of the void, but I was not conscious myself for my own escape."

    "Honestly... it is mostly. Jeanette in this case." Esraye answers Kaede.

    "Another thing of renown for her to boast about. Heh..." Darion suddenly quips.

    "I should have left you there... but I like Esraye-chan too much." Jeanette gives her brother a flat look.

    "Ahem... well..." she goes on and starts to explain.

    "First of all, although it is a realm of nothingness, it is also malleable. The void spirits are not intrinsically malicious as such, but just seek things to consume, much like death itself. It is interesting in how much the movements of the spirits there form patterns, such as..."

    I let her carry on to Seria when she starts drawing complex magical formulae in the air immediately out of my league. Kurono also listens in to this. I don't doubt this is important, but...

    'Don't worry, master-sama. Aeris doesn't understand maths either. Why can't 1 + 1 equal 11?'

    Ha! If my spirit says so. I'd love to get a science boffin from earth in to study spirits, though. I think that there is so much more this world could learn from more proper scientific method. But I can see the merits of the Sage like system as well, for sure.

    In any case, before this, I was trying to think about what our next move will be.

    Well... maybe it’s actually my first move? Everything up to this point was preparation to make a move. And in the meantime, Cultivator has been doing solitaire. I'm coming in a terrible board state. It’s like one of those chess problems you read in the newspaper puzzle section.

    "Um... Nii..."

    Always hated those things. Because they only have one proper solution.

    "Um... hello? Nii!?"

    What can do to pull off a successful objection here, and start a turnabout? Is there really anything I can do to stop this inevitable tsunami...?

    "Hey! Listen!" Kiku suddenly shouts.

    "Oh... Kiku... you're a fracking genius! That's it!"

    I grab her hand and leap up happily with her.

    "Eh? Eh wot?!? Ehhhh!?!?"

    Thank you, annoying tutorial fairy reminder. There is precisely one thing I can do.
    ----
    Sorry for 145/146 being late posted here (they've been on RRL for a week). This was entirely due to internet access at xmas being awful.


    Anyways, I wonder what it is Elijah feels he can do to interrupt Cultivators plan?


    Stay awhile and listen. :p
     
  6. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE AY
    A RELUCTANT HEROINE


    "You... a demon, is it?"

    A large demon with six arms looks at me with a whimsical, appraising expression.

    It squints, and then nods.

    "I am the demon lord, Astartes Torvath, the Cultivator. What is your name?"

    I laugh, and stand up from this uncomfortable crouching posture.

    "Not falling for that, buddy. Who gives their name when they're summoned by a demon?"

    The demon tenses. It looks strong?

    I'm not sure about it. But... considering I'm naked, exhausted from battle, and now apparently without the Basilisk's Tongue, I may have issues. My hand to hand combat is rusty, and most of the Prime Blood is depleted. I don't even think I can use my eyes.

    "But since discussion is difficult without a moniker, call me Aya. My... name... is Aya."

    There is a snapping sound of a rupturing spell. Heh. Figures. Control by true name, triggered by 'my name is'. Man, I feel underestimated.

    "It seems you are quite a savvy human, after all." The demon smiles.

    "Savvier than you, at least." I taunt.

    My vision focuses better now. I seem to be healed and strengthened by something? The summoning? Ha!

    It seems I can move somewhat freely, but I am contained in restraining magical formation. It’s not a bad spell, to be honest, but it is written without purpose, thought, or pride. It is magic without a soul. Dead. A mere construct fulfilling a duty set for it. And it is made for blocking humans. I could bypass it... with a little time. I should keep the demon talking.

    "Do you not have clothing? I'm sure I don't need to worry about you ogling me, but I am a guest." I say, opening my arms. But a portion of my mind divides off, and starts counter-spelling my restraint.

    "A mage!? No... you aren't even a human, are you? You are... something else..."

    Well damn. He noticed straight away.

    An oppressive curtain of power comes down on me, and cuts off my active meddling. I pull back my mind in time to avoid severe backlash, but I still receive a powerful crack of power. I fall back on to my knees from the agony. My head. Urk.

    This guy’s power... its aided by a spiritual force? An amplifier? And its nature... is void and darkness? But also, preservation?

    You can actually learn a lot by surviving a magical attack. But generally, it’s not something you try. Because it requires surviving a magical attack.

    Fortunately, it seems he held back. I circulate the dark power around and out before it controls me.

    I cough up some phlegm. It is black and wriggling. I sheath my fist in a sonic vibration, and smash it like the bug it is. The skin of the back of my hand burns from its corruption. But the prime blood flows, and quickly, the contaminant is incinerated in blue fire and my flesh is restored.

    I flick it off, grin, and stand up again.

    "You really want to frickin' control me, huh? Not if I can help it. If I survived the inquisition, I can survive some two-bit self-proclaimed demon lord. Hell, you don't even have any minions!"

    The demon now looks truly frustrated. Good job, Maria. You were supposed to keep it talking.

    Aha! It doesn't matter. The formation holding me shatters. I really am underestimated.

    In an instant, the Prime Blood increases my strength twenty-fold, and I launch forwards like a stone from a cannon.

    Well. I'm rusty, but it seems this one is untrained entirely. It doesn't even try to block my grab. I grab at the demons’ neck and immediately throttle it to prevent it incanting.

    No! Somethings wrong! I throw it away full force.

    Even so, something severs my wrist.

    Tch.

    I grab the severed hand with the surviving one before it spins out of reach, and reattach it with the Prime Blood.

    I then immediately leap aside instinctively. Space itself is rent in a line, disintegrating some of the floor. And again. Twice more. Some of my magenta hair is severed.

    I realise he never hit the back wall when I threw him. He teleported!

    I dance left and right, avoiding literal dimensional shearing slashes.

    Ah. Goddamnit. I was corralled. I realise too late. I stepped into a restraining circle again. Of my free will. That one will be inescapable...

    I let out a string of curses as ethereal chains slam me to the floor. I underestimated his frightening ability to silently cast so many spells at once... shit...

    "Hmm. I believe we are both guilty of underestimating one another." The demon says.

    Damn... this circle is also a thought-reader?

    I force my head up and spit at his clawed feet. I remove my thoughts, concentrate on rage.

    "You have a tremendous tenacity, Miss Aya. Enviable, in fact. Powerful too. I realise it is futile to control you now. So... how about I instead give you a deal?"

    A deal with a demon is almost as useless as a deal with the arch-cardinal. But what choice do I have, now?

    I hesitate, but then I nod.

    "I doubt you'd honestly trust any real contract I could offer, so I won't. I'll simply ask you a single thing."

    I feel the restraint on me loosen. I can sit up. So, I do. Wearily.

    "How many lives is the world’s survival worth?"

    "As many as it takes." I answer immediately.

    "And if I told you, from years of study, that humans were the main cause of the problem?"

    "Then the problems should be culled." Obviously... what a tiresomely obvious question... wait...

    "It seems we're not so different as you may imagine, Aya." The demon chortles.

    ... ... ...

    I see.

    I guess good summoning rituals select optimum choices. Those desired by or compatible with the summoner. There is, after all, no love lost between me and humanity in general. I was one of them, once, perhaps. But though I still resemble a woman, am I not closer to a demon, for all I have done in my life?

    Once, I was a highwaywoman. Once, I was a courtesan. And then, a blood hunter. The best. A rags to bloody rags story if there ever was one.

    I killed the rest of my kind to make us stronger. There can be only one with the prime blood. One to protect the veil. Only the strongest could survive.

    And I survived.

    My entire life has been one of conflict. I have been betrayed by humans again and again, and now, on my eleventh hour, about to die, I find myself saved. In a new world, summoned to aid a demon lord, the sort of thing I once destroyed.

    I am Maria Aya Kray. 'The Blood Overlord.' 'The Basilisk of the North.' 'That Filthy Vampire Bitch.' I have been called many things. But a hero was never one of them.

    It is delicious irony. But what isn't, in life?

    Perhaps I'll listen, if just... for a moment.
    ----
    I'm not sure that's a good idea, Aya.

    Fun fact for you: Maria / Aya is a long-running favourite NPC of mine who shows up in alot of my tabletop RPGs if there's ever space for a powerful legendary vampire in the setting. XD

    This particular Aya is probably from Airoter, a Renaissance Bloodborne/Darkest Dungeon-ish grimdark setting, so is probably her at her scariest. She looks like this:
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  7. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 147
    THE FLOWER DEBT


    I have a small, elite force. I haven't had nearly enough time to make myself into an invulnerable Level 99 protagonist. I'm not a proper Isekai hero, I'm just a lolicon gentleman. There is just one-way forwards.

    Kiku still looks bewildered as I flap her arm and down.

    I let it go. Fortunately, my antics have gone mostly un-noticed or ignored this time; only Aria appears to be grinning at me.

    "Sorry Kiku, what was it you were trying to say?"

    "Eh... oh... um..." Her eyes swim and she gulps.

    "It was just... Nee-chan is coming."

    Or rather... Kako is right here again, escorting Melody, who looks rather exhausted. I guess she is doing a lot of running around right now.

    I notice Aria has crept closer to me as well. I don't sense any impending doom right now, so I'd estimate its overly cautious of her, but who knows?

    Melody walks up to us. Well... struts regally. It's not right to just call it a walk, really. I begin to bow like everyone else present except Aria and Seria, but Aria stops me with a sudden grab to the arm.

    "Aria... you seem to be well." Melody says, eying me.

    "I am." She responds.

    There is a moment's silence. Well, this is awkward.

    "Ahem. I don't think I... introduced myself before, your majesty. I am Elijah. I am... your sisters summon, and by her grace, also her lover."

    I feel like I sweated a small stream whilst pushing that out, but it needed to be done. Even though Melody has a relaxed pose, her dead stare at me is really intimidating.

    But I can't back down here. I keep a level expression and stare back into Aria's sisters’ eyes.

    I have to say, while the blue of Aria's eyes feels like staring at beautiful, carefree summer sky, Melody's eyes are like unfathomable dark oceanic depths. A deeper, harder to read blue.

    She looks to Aria.

    "Aria, you're an idiot."

    "Yes. I am." Aria smiles. Melody blinks.

    ...

    "Aria, you're an idiot." Melody repeats.

    "Yes, I am. Do you want me to say it three times to make it a curse, Mel?" She smiles, and takes my hand.

    Melody sighs, and gazes back at me.

    "Hah... I suppose I don't have any choice in the matter anymore." She turns away, taps Kako on the shoulder, and strides over to the mercenaries, who immediately bow.

    Well... that’s not approval, but I'll take a small victory over nothing at all. I prevent myself from breathing out in relief.

    I then notice Kako has a strange expression and hasn't followed her princess. She is appraising Kiku, it seems.

    "Kiku... you have new swords. And you have really grown stronger, it seems." She suddenly says.

    "Um... you're about to suggest a duel, aren't you, nee-chan?" Kiku says, and then she takes my other hand.

    Kako nods wordlessly.

    What? I feel like I missed a part of a conversation somewhere.

    "Its as father predicted, then." Kako says. "It goes to show I have no womanly sense. But I can see you have been training him. He is now standing like one of the trainees, and has less openings. And he has your oldest sword. It is watching over him. I can see all of that." She suddenly gives me a long appraisal.

    I shudder like I've been the target of my own Identify Other skill. I guess this is what it feels like? It’s similar to what we all felt with that old bat, Violet.

    "He can use his spirit, right?" Kiku suddenly asks.

    Huh?

    "Of course." Kako nods.

    Kiku scratches the small scar she has on her forehead, and twiddles with her fringe hair for a second. Then she turns to me, lets go of my hand and pats me on the shoulder.

    "Ok... Try not to die, Nii. I do love you, after all."

    Eh wot?

    "Fufufufu... the boys’ perversions are catching up with him now." Seria cackles in the background.

    "It was inevitable, yes?" Kaede adds.

    Hold up! I gulp.

    "K-K-Kiku... are you saying I need to fight..."

    "I think you're getting off easy, actually. At least you don't have to fight father for my hand."

    Kiku smiles sweetly. But I can only feel bile rising in my throat.

    Wait. Wait. Wait.

    "I'll have you know, ser etranger, I don't intend to be merciful to you. It is both the princesses order, my fathers will, and my own desire. You need not beat me, but you must meet a minimum requirement to have the hand of my cute little sister and her majesties cute little sister." Kako explains, leaving no further room for doubt.

    'Uh oh. That Earth spirit is reeeeallly fired up, master-sama. It’s even making rumbling noises to me! Ew! Stop that! That's rude!' Aeris suddenly mumbles.

    As Aeris says, though Kako's green eyes are unwavering, I swear a fire burns inside them. It seems I haven't yet won a victory after all. Or is it a pyrrhic victory?

    Well shit.

    So much for future plans. First, I need to survive today...
    -----
    So... Kako is being selected as a champion to test Elijah's skills; and is carrying the wishes of angry fathers and big sisters everywhere. However will Elijah cope?!?
     
  8. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 148
    A DUEL FOR HER HAND (x2)


    'It's fine, master-sama! We can beat that rude earth spirit!'

    Aeris has confidence at least.

    No, I need it as well, don't I?

    I will win. That is all.

    Compared to the minnow I was, I am now a veritable shark. Even staring down this other mighty shark, I cannot be afraid.

    Kako is stood across from me, and has both of her bastard swords drawn, her eyes closed.

    The palace duelling ground has been appropriated for this match. Personally, I'd say it’s not very good ground for me. It’s a flat square, coverless, and there is a mere 20-foot distance between me and Kako.

    But it has stands for a peanut gallery on either side. Melody is on one side with a bunch of knights and even Kiku's father, and Aria and the other girls are on the other. It appears Kuro is on that side as well for some reason.

    First of all, Kiku's conclusion from my week of training is at the forefront of my mind. "Do not fight any proper swordsman up front, Nii. You aren't even at a novice level even with that concentration power and your... um... body... they... um... are like, not bad on their own, but they're not meshed together."

    I'm not the sum of my parts, in other words. Such is the danger of buying things with the skill tree, I guess. A real fighter would develop themselves in conjunction with their fighting skills.

    Aeris. We'll be going with plan gamma.

    'The fun one! Yay!'

    I hold her in front of me, and brace into a posture that looks like I'm about to bound forwards.

    "It looks like you're ready. Commence on the whistle." Says an old nobleman called Ross that I've never seen before. He appears to be adjudicating. Seria was cross that she was not considered trusted enough to adjudicate, but... I think I can see where they're coming from.

    The whistle sounds.

    I immediately jump from my posture into a diagonal forward roll, and clear my mind. Everything slows down.

    It was a good idea after all. A sword sails over my head by just an inch. Even committed to her attack, she adjusted to that degree. Scary.

    I spin up from the roll and swing Aeris wide at the legs near me. It shouldn't hit, but her length extends mid-swing and her tip grazes the edge of Kako's greaves with a resounding ting as she leaps backwards.

    Here it is!

    I let go of Aeris mid-swing in full momentum and a portal appears.

    'Zoom!' Aeris giggles.

    She comes flinging out spinning around from behind Kako.

    Unfortunately, Kako doesn't land straight in the swords’ trajectory. Somehow, just her left foot sinks into the ground, tilting her entire body 20 degrees.

    Aeris grazes the side of her neck-guard only, and I snatch her like a boomerang as she returns.

    Just in time, as Kako's foot bursts out the earth with a bang, and she launches another strike outward. I'm forced to desperately parry. I stagger under the force of the blow that feels like catching a cannon to the face. Holy crap.

    'Ow! Ow! Ow!' Aeris cries.

    Focus! Now!


    The blades spring with sparks. That's normal, right?

    But where the metal touches this time, its suddenly more than that. A thunder-shock passes through the blades into Kako with a 'krakoom!' noise.

    By reflex, she momentarily pulls back and I take the opportunity to get the hell out of dodge. The shock jitters her slightly, but it is grounded out by her Earth spirit.

    I expected as much. Further thundershocks will be ineffectual. I leap backwards twice and almost lose my balance.

    My eyes start to strain and my head starts to throb from all this concentration. This ability is starting to fray at the edges...

    Shit! A banging warp noise scares me to attention. A flash step! I see Kako's figure dissolve like a wisp.

    "Don't focus on the shadow! It always goes forwards!" More Kiku advice resounds in my head.

    She's going to appear right in front of me at this rate. Nothing else to do but...

    I let the balance I was previously correcting stop correcting itself and fall on my ass by my own accord. This is bad... no!

    As I land with a clang on the back of my breastplate, the forward thrust is changed into a plunging strike as she comes out of flash. Crazy woman.

    A bastard sword lands to both the left and right of my neck.

    I let go of the concentration.

    "It’s over!" The adjudicator roars. "In the duel of Ser Arnas vs. The Etranger, Ser Arnas is the wi..."

    "It’s a draw." A low, resonant voice interrupts him.

    It's... her father? He's sticking up for me? Melody looks shocked at him.



    At least he noticed.

    "My daughter could not land the strike without her own throat being slit. The etrangers blade is in the air before her."

    Kako suddenly pulls up her swords, and steps back slightly, carefully. Her expression becomes a wry smile, and she nods.

    A small trail of blood runs down her neck-guard as she turns to the stands. There is a sound of shock from them.

    That's right... Aeris appears stabbed into the ground next to me, but her tip has emerged from another void portal right in the way of Kako's neck.

    She reaches out her gauntlet and grabs the tip of the blade, barely visible, next to a shimmer in the air, as proof to those assembled.

    'Hey! Hands off, buster!' Aeris whines, sending out sparks from her tip, but that only serves to prove the issue.

    Kako snorts a laugh at this resistance, and let’s go.

    "I agree with my father's ruling. This man is hardly a swordsman, but his variety of tricks caught me off guard several times. I apologise for shaming you, your majesty." Kako bows.

    Wow, she really is knightly, huh?

    "Yahoo! Pffft! Bleeeh!"

    Suddenly, Aeris stops being a sword, and turns into her heavy metal girl form whilst presumably taunting Kako's spirit.

    Unfortunately, she lands square on my chest and the shock of her huge weight knocks the wind out of me. And then I'm dogpiled by other running girls...

    Urk. I survived... at least...?

    ---
    Well, it was all tricksy nonsense abusing Aeris's powers, but he managed to make it through.

    As we might be aware from the previous chapters, Kiku's dad has probably already basically accepted her being taken by Elijah, though he wasn't aware of that... lol...
     
  9. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 149
    HOW IS THAT A SNEAK ATTACK?


    "Um... so what is your plan now, Nii?"

    "Beating up foolish scorpions for food!" Kali suggests randomly.

    "That is just what you like to do, yes?" Kaede retorts.

    "I don't like it as such. Hated it at the time. But still, memories give only good feelings for reasons."

    "Nostalgia, is it?" I wonder out loud. "I think we all have that as we get older." I nod.

    "Don't I know it, fufufufu..." Seria cackles.

    Kiku is puffing out her cheeks for being derailed so I decide to swing us back on topic.

    "Ahem. The plan is simple. It’s been made a lot easier by this portal, actually."

    There is a moment of silence.

    "Boy... you cannot be suggesting a straight attack through the portal, surely?" Seria looks incredulous.

    "Ahahaha." I laugh. "I'm not quite that suicidal. I’m planning a sort of sneak attack. But first of all, we need to talk about how there's something a little odd. After making that portal... there has been no follow-up attack at all, right?" I explain.

    "No, there has not, Elijah-sama." Rishya answers.

    "Does that mean... he can't use it freely?" Aria queries.

    There is another pause.

    "No. The portal is permanent and is actually drawing energy across to the other side. The grey dull weather constantly is possibly due to this. The spirits here are all being affected by the void." Kurono suddenly pitches in.

    We are now in the palace meeting room where I first talked things through with King Legato, though Melody is now sat where he once did. Yuuzu and Kiku's dad are also here, as well as a woman with odd salt and pepper hair I've not seen before.

    "So, rather, the question is why is he ~not~ using it?" Yuuzu asks.

    "Mmmmm... we already came to the conclusion that Cultivator is fighting due to the failing magical energies of the demon lands and has some plan to make the leylines widen, and introduce more essence of the void into the world."

    All those not of our party gasp after this revelation. Melody seems especially shocked.

    Seria goes on to explain the idea behind the crystal flowers that form from dying void spirits, which eventually increase power concentration and then over time may turn into other spirits.

    Interestingly, Yuuzu and Kurono seem to be most interested by this.

    This leads Seria to add several formulae and magical anecdotes I didn't understand. Melody and Kurono then both ask several questions during the lecture that extend things for over half an hour.

    Aeris has started making snoring noises. Evidently, there is much still going over my head with magical lore, but I suppose that's to be expected when I've only had a basic crash course.

    Funnily, it seems that when Melody steps back from her emotions, she is quite an intellectual after all? But she's still pointedly ignoring me like a schoolgirl for the most part.

    I take the opportunity to interject again in a moment of silence. "It’s fairly clear that Cultivator wants the portal to continue existing. He wants to breach the void as often as possible, bring prosperity to the demon lands, and curtail excessive magical use. Hence the war with humanity is as much a cover as anything else."

    "Mmmm, the lengths gone to are excessive, which leads me to the belief that it is equally important for the facade to seem real to casual inspection. He is sending his people to war, after all." Seria says.

    "He has spared no effort in this cover, yes?" Kaede looks frustrated. "This is why my village was destroyed?"

    I nod sadly. I guess she was unconscious when me and Seria were talking about this initially in the void.

    "Um, we can assume your master might have investigated the war in detail, right? That's bad for keeping this operation a secret." Kiku also nods, understanding the strategy involved.

    "In any case, what does all of this discussion have to do with your plan?" Melody asks, crossing her arms across her large bosom.

    I nod. It’s a fair question.

    "There's just one other thing I want to confirm with the Countess."

    Kurono raises an eyebrow at me.

    "Objects can be freely transmitted and stored in the void space, right?"

    She blinks.

    "Yes. Items without spirits are preserved as they are, status and momentum, the moment they enter... ah!"

    Well, she has experience with this idea already. I think she understands how useful a large- scale void transfer tunnel could be.

    'Backstab with a ballista!' Suddenly Aeris wakes up. Not sure if she was actually sleeping though... the snores were probably just her discontent with being bored.

    She's obviously picked on the plan, though.

    I grin.

    "Great!" I now turn to Melody. "Your majesty, does the palace guard have a ballista?"

    She looks incredulous. She's smart, but I don't think she's figured this out.

    "The palace does not. But I can procure around three from some of my sources." The gravelly voice of Kiku's dad sounds.

    I jump as I almost forgot he was here. Does he have an ability to suppress his presence or something? He smiles sinisterly and I shiver.

    "But whatever would you do...!" Melody starts.

    "Oooohh!" Aria suddenly bangs her palm with her fist. Ha-ha, the baka princess figured it out first. "You're going to fire one of your bombs attached to a ballista bolt!"

    "Precisely. More than one, actually. I'll show people how to make them, and fire barrages inside!" I grin, and rub Aria's head.

    Kurono explains to Melody and Kako about my vials. They can hardly believe the idea of an exploding arrow.

    "In fact, it should be more powerful than the one I used on the Skull Beast, and I can make fuses for them now. Funnily enough, this sort of thing is what navies in my world used to fight each other. Cannons. Missiles. Though there's no way l can make those, this is a reasonable slapdash alternative."

    "And, with the chaos that it creates, we can then use that as an opportunity to slip in, yes?" Kaede suddenly adds.

    "Hoh, a diversion, and a way to subtly cut to the heart of things. How very like Elijah-sama!" Rishya laughs behind her hand.

    I love these girls being so quick on the uptake.

    It might take a couple of days, but this is the plan.

    -------
    Well, it makes sense for Elijah to stick with the tried and tested bomb-on-a-stick, right? XD It's worked for earth militaries for centuries, so why wouldn't it work now?

    Sorry this one took a while. My PC died last week, so I spent most my spare time that week getting new parts together and then building it.
     
  10. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE ARN
    ARNAS FAMILY REUNION


    "Its... um... been awhile since we've done this... right?" I say, laying out a light dish I prepared for these domestic disasters.

    They start munching away silently. They look like they're about to say something, but...

    It quickly becomes a scene of devouring instead. Still, its enough to bring a smile to my face. Feeding people you love is similar to protecting them.

    Of course, with how insanely strong my dad and sister are, I had no way to know that. At the time I just clung on to it, because it was all I had.

    "This is amazing! Kiku! Y-you... what even is this...?"

    "Tarsis Roots." I grin.

    They just stop.

    "No way..." Kako looks shocked. "T-there's no way a ration food like..."

    "Um... hehe... theres apparently a popular way to prepare a similar root vegetable on Ni... Elijah's world."

    Dad and Kako look at each other and then...

    Then, bizarrely, dad's face twitches, contorts, and out of no-where, he starts crying!

    "Eh wot!? Wha- what's wrong, dad!?" I exclaim, and I dash over to him.

    "You... you're too young to be married!"

    ...

    ...

    "Eh?"

    ...

    ...

    "Um... when did I get married? How did I miss such a crucial part of my life, Dad?" I say, deadpan.

    I rub the scar on my forehead trying to comprehend what is happening.

    "You've done... eh... things... with the etranger though." Kako blushes.

    Oh my gods. Seriously? I used to look up to this big sister... but is she really such a blushing maiden?!

    I snicker.

    "And if I have?"

    "I'll kill him!" Dad suddenly leaps up. Even if he's the strongest man in the kingdom he doesn't look very threatening right now...

    "If you do, I'll never forgive you." I say, smiling sweetly.

    Suddenly its like he never cried at all. Weird. I never thought he was such an actor. I blink.

    "Fuu... Kiku... you grew up so much. Your eyes are like your mothers now." He sighs.

    "You're certain that you're fine playing as one of six? The church of Sendervil won't wed you, you know."

    I sigh. Why are we back to marriage again?

    "The church of Sendervil didn't wed you and mother either, right?" I say.

    "Of course not. I'm the realm guardian." He shakes his head. "I'm not allowed to swear myself to an individual."

    "Actually, dad, you've never explained what that means. Are we spirits or something?" I query, thinking of Aeris-chan.

    He looks under his eyes.

    "Nope. You're just human, I'm afraid."

    "And what about you, dad?" I press, noticing how he phrased it.

    He snorts.

    "Hanging around that Sage has made you too sharp, Kiku." He sighs. "Very well. Hah... I guess I should say something... you two are old enough. It's a stupid story, so I'll give you a condensed version."

    "A long time ago, when I was a lad, I was obsessed with the sword. So I left on a journey to become even more powerful. Those days travelling were... unpleasant... in retrospect. Eventually, though, I found a cavern, deep in the mountains of Jeraldine. And in the depths of that dark cavern, was a man. He called himself Aurelius."

    "The Sage of Light?!" Kako exclaims. "So those Elixirs you gave me and her majesty!"

    He nods at my sister.

    "Would you believe, girls, that at that point, I had been wandering the continent for over fourty years. I was an old man."

    I think me and Kako can't understand this. Dad looks in his late thirties.

    "The light sage was trying something in the darkness there, away from their tower. And a convienient mouse to test the experiment arrived." He gives a bitter smile.

    "I stayed there for three years. And when I left, I looked like this. I have been artificially granted something similar to Sendervil's real blessing that your friend, the little princess has. This version has a cost, though. I am literally tied to this land, to Jeraldine. It sustains me. The sage realised this was too much, and aborted the experiments afterwards. As thanks, I received a case of more regular elixirs."

    "Does that mean... you literally can't leave the country?" I ask.

    "That's right. I can't even go on ship, or use a ley-gate. I can't even be on a higher floor of a building for very long." He laughs. "It's like a sickness that suddenly takes hold of me. After all, I would be nearly ninety years old at this point." He grins.

    "In any case... after that, I decided to return to the capital. In barely two years, I was the guildmaster of the mercenary guild. They called me a genius, but I'm actually a sham who has sixty years of mindless swordfighting under my belt. I'm an old fart that just won't die. The church of Sendervil decided to call me the Realm Guardian."

    "For some reason, that didn't dissuade the previous guildmasters foolish daughter, Kirin from falling for me, though. I guess you naturally like older men like her, Kiku." He snorts.

    Me and Kako are both stunned to silence that our dad is actually old enough to be our great grandfather.

    "Did he also buy those swords for you?" He suddenly asks me, motioning to the blades leant against the wall.

    "Um... yes... and... it seems his spirit was made partly from one of my swords." I say, smiling.

    Maybe I'm a bit delusional... but isn't Aeris like my and Elijah's child, thinking about it?

    But as I do, dad clouts the top of my head.

    "That's the path of madness. Stop that."

    Uh... he's probably right.

    "That's my girl." He changes to a head-pat instead.

    "Keep your head, as I've always taught you. This will be just as trying for you as battle, this route you've chosen. But I'll allow it."

    "Thanks, dad." I smile again.

    Should I be checking back in...? But no... Kako got the day off and I wanted to as well... I've probably still got the rest of today to spend with my family before we begin, right? I wonder what we can do today?
     
  11. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE RYS
    GET OUT OF THE CLOSET


    "Heh, its nice to be together again, is it not?" I say, reclining in my old favorite chair. "It's not as though I dislike getting lost in dungeons and the void as such, but being able to enjoy a nice cup of wine in the manor is truly delightful."

    "You don't miss things until they are gone. Its true." Yuuzu nods.

    "Is there something the matter Yuuzu?" I say. She is looking at me apprehensively.

    "I was thinking this before... who are you and what have you done with Rishya?" She says.

    Grandfather and uncle also look on with a difficult expression, like they are lamenting past mistakes.

    "Whatever do you mean? Surely, you cannot be implying I lack in any way?" I laugh.

    "Fufufufu, I see your bullying streak extends even to your family." Seria cackles. She is somehow consuming an entire sofa by herself despite her diminutive figure. She is laid on her side, eating snacks.

    "And why are you here anyway!?" Grandfather barks.

    "I'm mooching off a former students hospitality, of course." She says, shamelessly.

    We both laugh.

    They don't seem impressed though.

    "Ahem. I asked her to come along. The sage is a good friend." I state.

    "Mmm... Comrades in 'arms and philosophy', one might say."

    "Ugh. How terrifying. What have I done?" Grandfather laments. "Its like Rhiannon all over again..."

    Seria merely cackles and reaches up to pat grandfather on the shoulder. "I understand your grief, boy. There are always forces at work beyond your control."

    I laugh.

    "Beyond even Seria's control! Even she couldn't account for lo~mmmpphhh!"

    I am suddenly gagged by a blushing Sage. But I carry on laughing with my eyes at least, amused by how innocent she can still be.

    //I believe the expression is the pot calling the kettle black.//

    Shut up Michael. I am fully aware of my frustrating loss to an annoying man. And I am willing to admit I am lost in the wicked fury of love.

    "In any case, Yuuzu, aren't you very lovey-dovey with Kuro now? Don't think I didn't notice?"

    Yuuzu suddenly spits out her tea and starts wheeling her arms. I can't help but laugh.

    //Actually, I told you their spirits had intertwined power//That was a leap of logic on your part//

    Looks like I was right though, Michael. Actually, I truly wonder about the impact of void and light spirits combined power? I wonder if I can use Aeris as an experiment?

    //Aren't you beginning to think like Seryameya's master now?//

    Eh. Hnn. Okay, that could be a scary path.

    Great-uncle and grandfather are glaring at Yuuzu, with a friendly, yet scary, 'please explain?' expression. Seria appears to be in rapt attention to what is going to happen. I'm actually feeling a little sorry for doing this to Yuuzu, but she wasn't going to come out the closet of her own accord, and its bad to let this fester and lie to our grandparents. Its my healers duty, right?

    Huhu. I'm becoming rather like Elijah in appreciating the power of blunt instruments in conversation, aren't I?

    //Interesting//

    What is?

    //I was considering the ramifications of you wielding a large mace in combat//

    Hah?

    "Urm... well, it just kinda ended up that way..." Yuuzu suddenly splutters, interrupting my rebuke to Michael.

    It seems she cracked under uncles stare. She held out pretty well, to be honest. Uncle sighs.

    "You realise you're the last Ashensalve heir, Yuuzu? You're nearly seventeen and still unmarried, and no matter how you feel about Countess Cairn, you are surely aware that a ducal title cannot end like this."

    "I... yes..." she looks distraught. "B-b-but, what about Rishya having an affair with the etranger!?"

    Oh. Here we go, about time. I was waiting for a parry. I thought she was nearly beyond hope.

    Unlike her distraught panic, though, I sip my tea and look up under my eyes and cock my head, as prepared. Seria is guffawing at my act in the background but I ignore her.

    "What about it? Even if the senate isn't fully supportive of the old ideals, Jeraldine was built on the back of Etranger's work and we have a long relation with summoning. He is at least a duke in effective standing, moreso if he defeats Cultivator. And even if he marries Aria, being a mistress of the Prince Consort means my children can still be acknowledged as Mullight heirs even if I remain unmarried formally."

    Yep. I have thought this through. Well... I didn't at the time... but don't underestimate a noblegirl's self preservation! I calmly sip my tea. Seria does a thumbs up in the background.

    Swords back in your scabbard, Yuuzu. Well... hmm... isn't it a collection of scabbards in her case? Hehe...

    //I thought this before//But aren't you actually quite//

    The pervert? Yes, I did notice, Michael. Who am I and indeed what have I done with the old Rishya? I feel like my memories of that girl that I was are strange and alien these days.

    ...

    In any case, the grilling of Yuuzu continues and I keep to myself as eventually a promise that she will entertain potential suitors is extracted from her. I really do feel sorry for her, but despite her will, she is still required to do this much.

    I realise Elijah meant we should spend time with 'families and leisure' because we were approaching a kind of point of no return. Alas, its more like tying up loose ends and taking out the laundry for me.

    I think I'll just be happier when I'm back with Aria and Elijah, to be honest? Alas...

    //It is indeed lonely without the others//

    Oh? Fufu... when did you become such as softie?

    Hehe... well, a spirit resembles its contractor. Oh well, I guess I will at least visit the school later and say hi to other acquintances and boast about my adventures, but unlike how I would have been before, I honestly don't see myself getting much pleasure from it.

    Still, if nothing else, an afternoon of nostalgia awaits.

    I sound like an old woman. Maybe Seria truly is a bad influence. No, she definately is. So is Elijah.

    I'm a real bad girl these days, aren't I?

    And I like it.
     
  12. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 150
    PLAYING WITH STRINGS


    "Oh... this is actually better than I first thought!" I say.

    Melody nods and swishes her hair as if to say 'well duh'.

    "I had several ideas with regards to the mathematical precision of ballistics and the efficiency of constructing efficient attack devices when the war first started. It is unfortunate that production of them is so low." She explains, scratching nose and puffing out her already bulging chest.

    Err... ahem... It’s easy to forget this buxom girl is also a genius for her time. Scary.

    Well, in any case, if there was anything worthy of the title 'super-ballista', it’s this. Melody has created a monstrosity with metal strings, precision sights, a pulley-based crank reload mechanism, and winch for drawing new bolts in from a hopper. There are probably other parts I don't understand as well, as I was never much of an artillery guru.

    "Why wasn't this deployed when the demon attack occurred, Mel?" Aria asks, looking cross.

    "Ah, yes, I did enquire into that..." Melody crosses her arms. "It seems that whilst I was unconscious, this was forgotten about and languished in storage. Unfortunately, the palace quartermaster died in the attack, so this decision couldn't be questioned in retrospect."

    Aria still looks cross, but accepts the explanation. It’s understandable. After all, if something like this could cover a choke point, wouldn't it have bought more time for Aria's brother and father?

    "Well, it will get used to cause some damage to the other side now, at least." I say.

    "That is my hope, yes." Melody smiles. But there is bloodlust in her eyes too. Scary.

    Then she raises her brows, and suddenly, Aria is at my side in a strangely defensive posture. Melody laughs. I feel like something just happened that I don't fully understand.

    "You need to stop that, Elijah, jeez..." Aria whines.

    "Uh? Stop what?" I ask.

    "Hoh? I see now." Melody chuckles. "How precious."

    Then she taps her cheek with her index finger, and explains "It’s quite simple, Etranger. You say what you honestly mean. And you have a remarkable talent for saying the right thing at the right time."

    I suppose my boss used to say the same thing in the old days. Even though I was a middle-man pen-pusher, I didn't spend long in the lowest ranks.

    It never worked on women for me before, though... I just usually got flagged as that 'nice/funny guy finishing last' and discarded by all but the queerest of girls.

    I nod after pondering for a moment.

    "Also being at the right place at the right... well... okay, maybe not. I should've been at capital to help I suppose."

    "You're doing it again." Aria sighs. "If I didn't know better, I'd have thought you were trying to flirt with Mel this entire time..."

    She gives me the stink-eye. I shrug and she sighs.

    "It’s not the intent, I assure you. I've said before I don't fully understand it myself. And you know best of all how much I've come to fall for you." I say.

    She puts her hand on my cheek and smiles bashfully.

    "How cute." Melody says with a hint of annoyance.

    "Eeek!" Aria jumps. Apparently, she temporarily got lost in the moment.

    "You really are too easily swayed, Aria. I don't understand how you ever managed to survive so long."

    "Something something super strength, I think." She grins.

    Melody rolls her eyes and whispers 'muscle-head' to herself.

    "In any case, next stop is the royal alchemist's workshop, yes?" She continues.

    I blink.

    "Y-you have one of those?" I ask.

    "We do now. The market workshop was destroyed, as was its master. But his apprentice and most of the equipment was salvaged. I read the reports about you using some kind of concoction and thought it wise to research into it. Let’s go."

    Aria looks gobsmacked as Melody marches off.

    "Eh? This strangely hardworking Mel is really scary..." she says.

    I pat her shoulder.

    "I think everything changes when exposed to things like war."

    She sighs, and we walk after Melody.

    ...

    "Well, it is indeed better equipped than what I used up until now."

    I mean, that’s actually a serious understatement considering I had portable glassware in an inn as the standard, with Rishya's dad's old hobbyist equipment as a highlight.

    The workshop also has several guys toiling away at their own mixtures.

    "I had them start on some of ingredients you provided earlier." Melody says.

    It’s actually pretty strange, in retrospect, how much support I'm getting here compared to before. They basically shipped me off with nary the clothes on my back before.

    Well... I also see what Melody is doing here, of course. I'm sure all these helpers will be prying into the technique I'm using.

    If I was a real clever guy, I'd probably worry about the implications of being the one to deliver the knowledge of gunpowder to this world's humanity. But alas, I'm just a fool being carried along by the whims of fate.

    "Well, I guess I should get started, then."

    I give Aria a quick hug.

    "What are you going to do?" I ask, releasing her.

    "Training. Of course. I've been negligent the last few days. But I have to be at my strongest, right?" She answers.

    "Isn't what you've done until now enough, Aria?"

    "It's never enough, Mel." She forces a smirk. "There's always something stronger."

    Melody looks briefly morose; but then nods.

    I share a final look with Aria, then spin away from her.

    Well. Here we go, this is it, the biggest project I've done yet.

    Impromptu shells, now with blasting caps, mounted on ballista bolts, coming right up.

    "Yay! Do we get to make it?" Aeris suddenly chirps in my head.

    I crack my fingers.

    Yes. Yes, we do.

    -------
    CHAPTER 150!

    Well, Elijah Chapter 150. With all the sides its actually 220 chapters (this is interestingly coincidental, that there are a nice round 70 sides too), but eh, whatever.

    Also, I know it sucks, but as I'm sure you've realised, fortnightly chapters are going to be the norm at the moment; with quicker spit-outs possible but unlikely. I am sorry for this; but its all I can guarantee right now.
     
  13. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    SIDE KAKL 2
    FUTUREPROOFING


    "I'm not entirely sure why you feel the need to bring me on this venture, yes?"

    "Pshah... like its healthy to leave you to brood by yourself. And no, guarding Aniki in stealth is not allowed. He even said so. Besides, aren't we like battle sisters?"

    My arguments are flawless, Kaede. You can't get out of this one! You're an essential part of my plan.

    "We have completed a singular operation together, with the aid of the countess, yes?"

    "Aren't you forgetting the bath ambush?"

    "I..."

    Hahaha! Her wide-eyed look and blush are great! Hmm... that’s... strange. I think perhaps I suddenly understood part of Kuro-chan...

    Well, even if I understand it, it doesn't mean anything.

    "And haven't we been developing synergistic attacks?"

    She has a difficult expression, but nods.

    "Well, this is plenty for us to become battle sisters."

    I bang her on the shoulder and she manages a thin smile.

    "Now! Let us begin our quest for sausage! Hoooo-raaah!" I shout, pumping my fist.

    "Huu~" she manages, lacking enthusiasm.

    I turn and start marching down the street, and she starts to follow at my side, with a prim and awkward looking shuffle. I think she has forgotten how to walk normally, and can only skulk.

    "However, I still do not understand my use in this matter, yes? If it is about evaluating cuisine, surely Kiku is a better choice, yes?"

    I nod.

    "If I were looking for the best, yes. But that is not the quest." I reply.

    She tilts her head.

    "You will understand as we go on." I grin.

    ...

    ...

    ...

    "I do not feel that man can be trusted either, yes?"

    "Oh? Hnn... why is that?"

    "He was clearly looking at you with less than virtuous intentions, Kaliasta."

    "Hnn... is that so? I do not notice such things. I am always the subject of stares in this part of the world."

    "I... I honestly cannot imagine being so... visible..."

    "Hah! I do not mind. This is one of the Meenaora's tests that I have already passed with flying colours."

    "The tests?"

    "Young girls who wish to learn the fighting arts in the S'tavi... they must be able to cross fifty klecksels of hot coals whilst naked in front of all of elders." I laugh, puffing out my chest. "A matriarch cannot know shame or hesitation when facing danger. Those who do, they cannot be leaders."

    "It is culling the chaff, yes? I had many such tests myself..." she nods.

    That’s a vicious way to put it. I wrinkle my nose.

    "But I guess we shall cross him off too. We cannot have such behaviour. I am already a claimed woman, huhuhu."

    Kaede smiles creepily at that statement, creasing her brows. Then she shakes herself out it.

    "We have visited all the local merchants dealing in food transit now, yes?" She states.

    "Yes. It is sad. No merchants willing to take sausage to desert." I lament.

    "It was basically explained that it was unfeasible, yes? No profit to be had..."

    "There is truth there. S'tavi do live in remote place. Few aware, fewer willing to cross distance and brave the angry scorpions."

    "I imagine the cold storage to also be an issue, as explained by the merchant Issac, yes?"

    "Yes, I am a foolish tortoise to not consider preservation aspects. There is still much to learn if I ever become a merchant myself." I grin.

    "I see... was this the real goal of the operation?"

    "Hm? I do not know what you are talking about?"

    Kaede looks under her eyes at me murderously for a moment, but then shakes her head and smiles quite sweetly.

    "You did not expect any success today, yes?"

    I stretch my arms above my head and regard the lukewarm afternoon sun. It is quite strange how this land is so much cooler than home, when it is nary ten days walk. Although I suppose this is further north from where I walked to. Hal-Castemour was still fairly hot most of the time. These magic journeys are still really strange to me.

    I yawn loudly, like a desert cat.

    "No, I didn't." I finally answer. "I'm not really a fool. Setting up a business like this is not something I can do on a whim."

    "Then?"

    "Even if it’s a waste, I'm raising information for a future I could follow. I still could be a merchant in the future."

    "I see."

    "It is only a dream I had when I was young. I thought after I left, that I would keep travelling, see the world, like my father’s tales. Be a peddler or such. And yet, it turns out I was happy in a single place. My mother will laugh when I finally tell her!"

    "I see."

    "What about you, Kaede?"

    She is silent for a moment, looking as if pondering a life or death question.

    "I haven't really considered my future. I do not believe I ever have, yes?" She has a difficult expression.

    "Ha. I knew it!" I laugh, patting her shoulder.

    "I am made for killing, yes." She says.

    "Yep. You are. All of us girls are, to an extent. But is that all you can do?"

    "No." She sighs.

    I roll my eyes because she doesn't have any follow-up.

    "And what else can you do, then? What do you like?"

    She looks wild-eyed for a moment. "I was... I did like... raising the plants for poisons... I do like... gardening?"

    I can't help but laugh nervously at her definition of gardening. But I guess it’s something.

    She looks angry at me.

    "I'm sorry for laughing. It’s a very noble job. Heck, I'm a foolish tortoise for thinking a muscle head like me can do business!" I laugh again.

    She looks away.

    "I think you can do business, Kali. A merchant does need to be shameless and rambunctious, yes?"

    I laugh again.

    "That was the most insulting compliment I ever got. Ha!"

    "Are we not supposed to be honest, if we are... battle sisters?"

    "Right. We are. And we should" I laugh once more, and pat her on the back.

    It is like teaching a Meenaora chick that is has wings, with this one, but I don't dislike it. All of these girls have funny quirks, don't they? As do I.

    "Let’s head back, yes?"

    "Lets" I grin.

    ----
    Kali and Kaede are 'battle-sisters' now. Kali says so. Her quest for sausage fails, though. XD

    Annoyingly, I've been sick with man-flu for over two weeks now, delaying doing basically anything productive that entire time. I'm still streaming and coughing now, though its finally a bit better this weekend. Thank the gods.
     
  14. eharper256

    eharper256 Purveyor of Dubious Medicinal Elixirs [since 1885]

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    CHAPTER 151
    INTO THE JAWS OF HELL


    I yawn slightly. It was quite a long night, but the preparations got done, and a got a good night’s sleep in the end.

    It’s the moment of truth now. I guess we won't actually be to know if it was successful until we emerge the other side, and that’s by far the weakest link of the plan. It might well be the portal on that side was built miles away from anything useful and we'll just be setting fire to a field uselessly. It might even be we deal no damage and walk straight to our deaths.

    There’s a few too uncertainties for my liking, but I couldn't think of anything better.

    As I watch some siege engineers bolt the two ballistae down, I sort of wonder why Cultivator didn't consolidate his advantage from the attack on the capital. He has grievously wounded the king, killed the male heir, and wrecked the cities morale with that attack. A solid play for sure, but as a prelude, it would be better still. It suggests he is strapped for resources himself?

    "Boy, snap out of your reverie, its starting." Seria quips.

    I nod. From what I heard, the girls enjoyed their 'leave', if you can call it that.

    I look at ballistae. Melody is sat on a raised podium nearby, now dressed in leather armour and a metal helm, holding a gilded sword and a white wand. Dressed for war. She nods to the soldiers, then over to us.

    Seria starts practically going Super Saiyan. Outputting a magical power so intense that her surroundings have erupted in blue fire... no... it’s still lightning, of course... plasma.

    Though its rather intimidating, I step closer to her, and so does Kurono.

    Are you ready, Aeris?

    'I'm tired...' she moans, her sword form at my waist rattling in her sheath, but she obliges. I am dyed with tendrils of darkness. Kurono outputs a massive amount of shadowy power as well, far larger.

    'Un... Daeche is much better at this Master-sama.'

    I'm assuming 'Daeche' is Kuro's spirit? Well, we are just a backup here, don't worry, Aeris.

    After analysing the portal with her team for some time, Kurono discovered that treating it as a regular leygate was dangerous. It appeared to be made of void spirits, rather a mixture of the others. It was a good thing Seria avoided it when we came out.

    So, with her help, we're convincing it that we're also void mages. Or specifically, we're disguising Seria so she appears as a Sage of Void whilst she opens it.

    Another rather slapdash affair, but it seems to work... the portal changes from a surface of calm black water to a roaring vortex sucking light in... like a black hole.

    Suddenly, the ballistae take that as a cue. There is a crunching 'ka-pow!' noise followed by the roar of passing shots to either side of us. If I didn't know for sure they weren't firing at us, I think I would've have just needed the brown trousers.

    There's no way of telling if they're actually reaching the other side and detonating, but we did do a test firing last night that was very successful, so I'm pretty confident about consistency.

    I watch the left-hand ballistae as two soldiers rapidly winch the bowstring back with 'heave-hoes'. As they do, the mechanism also lifts a bolt from the hopper into place automatically.

    Its barely 10 seconds to get it operational again. And a second thunk and whoosh sends another pair of exploding bolts into the portal.

    After that, another squad of six archer soldiers march over, sending a few waves of arrows in for good measure. I didn't suggest this part, but it’s a meticulous thought by Melody, I guess?

    We continue to channel power to cover another five shots... but Seria looks angrily at me after that. Looks like that’s all the cover we can manage... time to go.

    I raise my arm to the girls. Kiku and Aria's weapons come out, and we dash to the portal as a grimacing Seria strides up with us. Kurono is starting to look rather exhausted as well.

    We all link hands as per usual leygating procedure, and in we go.

    This time, the process is different to usual. It’s dark. Nothing to be seen. No voices. Just the feeling of Kali and Aria's hands, and the voice of Aeris.

    She is muttering "Un... I am blackness. I am darkness. We are shadows. We are hidden. No sight. Any sight. Hide from view. Look away. I am blackness..."

    Though it sounds like her having a chuuni phase, I'm sure it’s actually her working hard at pretending we're void mages. It must be hard on her, honestly, with how strong Michael and Seryamerya are... let’s hope Kurono's power continues to aid us this far.

    Then... after what feels like an eternity... something happens... a dim light, and then a flash.

    And we are here... the land of demons at last. I stare around and blink.

    It’s a mess.

    To say the least... the bombs have done something. The entire area is a sea of blue-white fire, the effect of the incendiary. And here, it is night now, allowing the flames to cast eerie shadows.

    But the most disturbing part is bodies. Some demons are still waving around screaming. But just at a glance, there are four dozen. We appear to have chosen a fortuitous time to strike, even if it does make waver slightly.

    But we stay quiet. Kiku does an arm signal straight out of a commando repertoire, and points over to a forested area to the left. I nod, and the girls follow. Except Kaede, who disappears suddenly. I expect her to be scouting ahead.

    Well, we're here, first part of the plan went off without a hitch. I didn't expect that... so what now?
    ---
    Well, we're finally here in the demon lands... but apparently Elijah was expecting to have to deal with a kink in the plan and didn't make the rest of it. XD

    I'm sure he'll wing something, mind you.