Michael had been rather interested in Andras' speech about her dream of the Root of All Magic. Ever since he obtained Diana's tips on improving his art, Michael couldn't help but notice a connection between magic and the Blessings. The idea of magic itself was rather vague. It seemed many people had differing opinions of what it actually was, whether it was a form of energy to tap into, or a process to perform a certain action, or something else entirely. However, the main point of magic as a way to influence the world via supernatural means remained consistent throughout most peoples' point of views. Some Blessings granted by the various "Gods" allowed for similar means to achieve similar results. Some were more specialized, while others allowed for more flexibility. Even if it was merely a correlation, he still felt it was worth looking into. As for Andras' dream, there wasn't much he could get out of it. Most of it was just rambling about the Root and the "millions of spells". Still, it did raise the question of what magic really was and how it could be harnessed. Diana's form of magic had many uses, but took a lot of time and resources for it to get results. Magic granted by the gods allowed for a shortcut to achieve faster results with less effort, but it was debatable whether or not it could be called "magic".
Michael's thoughts were cut short by the sudden appearance of the flyers. Upon reading it, he saw that it was about a ball of sorts. Michael's immediate decision was to dismiss it, thinking there was no way he'd enjoy something like this, but still folding the flyer and sliding it into a pocket. He wasn't one to waste anything, not even a sheet of paper. He figured if he really had to go, he could find a cheap mask and costume. Best case scenario he'd find a new connection and figure out where to go from there, and worst case he'd only lose a few hours of training his Arts.
We're almost there, little ones. How are you two holding up? Arae asked the two children on her back, Andromeda and Phoset. The two did not respond, which saddened Arae, but she understood. Things were certainly confusing enough. It must have seemed like their life was suddenly spiraling out of control, with their mother gone and them being taken away by a strange entity, even if that entity was a goddess. Arae would do what she could to make them as comfortable as they could for the rest of their stay, but there was only so much she could do to aid them in their struggles.
"...why?" Andromeda asked softly.
Hmm? What was that? Arae asked, turning her head back slightly to look behind her with her right eye.
"Why did you hurt Mommy?" Andromeda asked.
Arae was silent for a time, then began to say, Your mom... did a lot of bad things. She hurt her father, Orvus, and left her sister, Arya. Even after that, she didn't stop doing bad things. Your mom isn't a bad person, though. She's had a lot of bad things done to her, too, and she doesn't know what to do. It's why I did what I did to her. From this journey, I'm hoping she learns what to do from now on and becomes a better person because of it. Does that make sense?
From their blank and puzzled expressions, it was clear that they didn't, but Arae let off a sad chuckle and added, Well, I'm sure you'll understand in time. Soon, they reached the Dragon's Crown, and Arae warned them, This might be a little uncomfortable, but just hold on tight. Then she dived down into the water. The two kids held on, and soon realized they didn't get wet even after hitting the water. The water split apart as Arae moved, as if a barrier was in place to prevent it from reaching the kids.
They emerged from the Pantheon lake, and landed near its edge, next to the Familial Trees. "Here we are, little ones. Welcome to Spekatha, my Sphere of influence. It's not much, but feel free to make yourselves at home," Arae said as the two stared in awe at the various assortment of the Godly Familial Trees.
A serpentine dragon suddenly swooped down, landing in front of Arae. Its passenger slid down its back and bowed down respectfully.
"Welcome back, Lady Arae," Serenis said, raising an eyebrow at the sight of Andromeda and Phoset. "And why have you brought these two children with you?" she asked. Kree made his way over to them, sniffing them both. Then he shrunk down and brought his body underneath them, and expanded again to carry them off and walked over to lie down under Arae's Familial Tree.
"Well, I couldn't just leave two children in the middle of nowhere, with no one to take care of them," Arae said, shifting into her human form. "They need a good home, and it's up to us to find one for them."
"So they won't be staying here, then?" Serenis asked.
"Oh, goodness no. At least, not permanently," Arae answered as she waved her hand in denial. "Spekatha may be calm and serene, but that's all it is, and it is no place to raise children. If they stay here, they'll have all they need here and it won't teach them a thing about hard work. That is why we must find them a home they can properly grow in.
"Hmm... in that case, how about Arya, Lady Arae?" Serenis suggested. "I'm sure she'd be willing to take them in."
"Laurien's sister? Hmm... yes, that could work," Arae approved, nodding. "I'll have to ask her the next time I see her. In the meantime, let us talk about the Spiritii. I hope they haven't been any trouble to you."
"It did take some time to get used to them, but they are a lot more useful than I gave them credit for," Serenis admitted. "But you should already know this, watching through my eyes. Why are you asking?"
"Because it's nice to be able to hear it from you, that's all," Arae said, smiling sweetly at Serenis. Serenis blushed and looked away, which only caused Arae to giggle softly.
"They could do with a little variety, however," Serenis added.
"Oh? How so?" Arae asked, tilting her head slightly.
"All the Fire Spiritii can do is trim and burn away the trees as necessary. However, there are currently no means for the trees to regrow after enduring hardships, Lady Arae. Without it, I believe the trees will have a difficult time maintaining themselves. I've been coming up with ideas on how to improve them, but nothing's complete yet," Serenis mentioned.
"Hmm..." Arae closed her eyes, a hand on her chin as she tried to come up with a solution. Then an idea struck her, and Arae smiled as she returned her attention to Serenis. "Well, keep at it. When your ideas are ready, please tell me as soon as you can, Serenis."
Serenis nodded and said confidently, "Yes, my Lady! I won't fail you!"
Meanwhile, the children were still atop Kree, who was paying them no mind as he allowed them to moving around on top of him. He wasn't sure how long they were going to stay there, but he didn't feel the need to drive them away. He would let them play around him for as long as they wanted.
During/After the battle between Abraxas and the gods
The battle between Kalmar and Orvus' Avatar was intense, and things had taken a turn for the worse just before Arae and Ashalla arrived to support him. The energy discharges from the trees were incredible, and Serenis did what she could to keep them healthy, even after Kalmar's tree died in response to his own death. She was dismayed at the sight, but she couldn't let herself
While she was doing her job, Serenis' mind raced as she tried to figure out how to actually improve the Spiritii. It was a simple matter to just create a new form from scratch, but Serenis soon learned that it was just inefficient on the use of Arae's power. Other kinds of Spiritii would be created, but it was merely a short term solution to what she saw as a long-term problem; it was too inflexible to deal with any future problems that would come up later. She had to find a solution.
Kree and Kris were busy as well. Kree had hunted for fish in the nearby waters outside the Dragon's Crown and did his best to search for edible plants, bringing them to Kris. Arae had taught Kris to create delicious dishes, who in turn taught other Fire Spiritii to help her cook. Kris did what she could to prepare meals for Andromeda and Phoset. She cooked them in front of the kids, making a show out of the process and presenting their dishes with a flourish.
It wasn't too long before Arae returned to Spekatha, shifting into her human form as she landed next to Serenis and looking depressed. "I couldn't save him," Arae whispered. That whisper suddenly turned into a frustrated yell, "He was right there, and I COULDN'T SAVE HIM!" A shockwave of energy blasted out of Arae as she reached out and gripped Serenis by the shoulders, tears streaming down her face.
"Yo-you did everything you could, Lady Arae," Serenis said, trying to console her.
"Did I?" Arae retorted. "I could've done more, if I'd only been faster, been more powerful. I let myself grow complacent, foolishly believing everything would be alright just because we were divine. I can't let this happen again. I can't..." Arae then began to scream as she got a splitting headache, with new images flashing through her mind. Figures she recognized as her friends and family were all around her, each one smiling as they disappeared one by one, despite her telling them not to go. Soon, she was the only one left, and dark humanoid shadows slowly filled the emptiness. They emitted a malicious aura towards Arae as she dropped to the ground, cowering in fear as the shadows grew and towered over her. They began to extend their hands towards her...
"...dy! Arae! Please wake up! Lady Arae!" Silver's frantic yelling and shaking brought Arae back into consciousness. Looking up, Arae saw Serenis, Kree, Kris, and even Andromeda and Phoset around her, looking concerned for her. Arae pushed herself up from the ground, brushing away Serenis' hands as she gave a weak smile and said, "I'm alright, my dears. Forgive me for worrying you."
"My lady, what happened? Why did you collapse like that? You were muttering things, too, like, 'Don't leave me' and 'Please stop'," Serenis said. Kree let out a sad grumble as he leaned in and nuzzled Arae's side.
"It's nothing to worry about," Arae dismissed Serenis' concerns. Getting back up and forcing herself to stay composed, she decided to change the subject and ordered, "Kree, please take the kids elsewhere." As Kree gently nudged them away with his snout, Arae turned to Serenis and asked, "So, how much progress have you made with the Spiritii?"
Serenis pursed her lips in disappointment, but there was little she could do if Arae wasn't willing to share her thoughts. Instead, she reported, "I feel as if I'm close, but I'm not sure how to finalize it. I've been studying the Istalri, trying to see how it forms the Fire Spiritii. The one important thing I've learned from it is that it gathers Soul Ash, then the soul forms and it is birthed into a Fire Spiritus. I was hoping to use that process to create other kinds of Spiritii, but I don't know what the final step should be."
Arae turned to look at the little campfire, giving it a curious look, then motioned for Serenis to follow her. "Come with me," Arae said, the two making their way over to the Istalri. Extending a hand towards it, Arae fired off a pulse of energy into it. The flames flickered for a second before settling back to normal. Arae nodded, saying, "There." Serenis, confused, saw nothing different about the Istalri. "My Lady, what did you-" Serenis was about to say before she was cut short by the sudden appearance of a Spiritus. Unlike the Fire Spiritii that normally populate Spekatha, however, this one was comprised of wind, twisting around and forming tornadoes. Two bright spots appeared as its eyes, blinking twice.
"That was a rather simple thing to do," Arae remarked. "The reason Spiritii were always born with fire is because their souls were always surrounded by fire. Now, their souls is protected from the flames and given a chance to emerge, and it will take in the element it is surrounded with."
Serenis' eyes widened with amazement. She had been agonizing over this problem, yet Arae had been able to come up with the solution in mere moments. It was yet another reminder that she still had much to learn.
"I'll leave it to you to learn how to properly manage them. In the meantime, I have business to take care of," Arae said, walking over to Phoset and Andromeda. It was time to send them to Arya. Soon, they were off, flying out of the Dragon's Crown and towards what would be their new home.
Arae takes Laurien's kids, Andromeda and Phoset, to Spekatha. Serenis and Kree come to greet Arae as she arrives. The kids go off to play on the dragon while Serenis discusses a few things with Arae. Serenis mentions that Arya might be a suitable guardian for the kids, on account of her being Laurien's sister, and Arae agrees to ask her about the matter when she gets the chance. Serenis also mentions that the Spiritii need to be improved to better manage Spekatha, and Arae leaves her the task of finalizing the details on how to accomplish it.
Timeskip to the events of the fight with Abraxas and Kalmar's death. It is revealed that Arae had taught Kris and the Fire Spiritii how to cook in order to feed the kids, using ingredients Kree has managed to hunt and forage for. Meanwhile, Serenis keeps up her duties while still brainstorming about the Spiritii. Arae finally returns to Spekatha after the vicious battle with Abraxas, more distraught than ever over Kalmar's death. While she regrets her shortcomings, another memory painfully resurfaces in her mind, literally and figuratively. It is revealed that in her previous world, all her friends and family had died or gone missing, leaving her as the final deity, while the ones who killed them manage to locate her. Before anything else is revealed, she is awakened and sees everyone around her looking concerned. Arae dismisses them and forcefully changes the subject to the Spiritii, revealing the main problem Serenis is having. Arae makes a quick fix to how the Spiritii are made, and different forms of Spiritii are soon born. With that done, Arae then takes Andromeda and Phoset and leave for wherever Arya is.
-1 FP spent to teach Kris the Istal, as well as the Fire Spiritii, basic cooking techniques. -1 MP spent to protect the souls of the Spiritii when they first form in the Istalri, allowing them to form as something other than Fire Spiritii. Might: 12 FP: 23
Belinda raised an eyebrow at the "fell down some stairs" excuse, but decided not to say anything. Michelle, however, forced her way back into control over her body. "That can't be, Meredith!" Michelle exclaimed. "That must've been a-" Michelle choked on her words for a second before Belinda retook control. "A really bad fall, Mer," Belinda finished, an overly concerned tone dripping from her voice. She then smiled and added, "Glad to see you're doing better now, though."
What are you doing, Belinda? Michelle questioned Belinda, frustrated that she couldn't get through Belinda's defenses as easily as Belinda had always seemed to make it. You know she's-
'Course I know. Belinda retorted. She must be hiding her bullying for a reason. Probably a stupid one, but it's her choice and I'll respect that. For now, at least.
Returning her mind to the present, Belinda said with a cheeky grin, "Alright, but don't complain if I grab onto anything funny!" She extended her arms to the sides, expecting Meredith to carry her to the classroom.
Michael and Diana entered the cafe, noting that there were a rather large number of customers. Fortunately, they seemed to be lucky as a pair had began to leave from a table. “Table for two, please,” Michael said to the waiter in the front, and the two were quickly directed to the small table after it was cleaned off. Taking a look at the menu, Michael remarked, “Hmm, apparently there’s a couple’s special today, for ‘Lover’s Pancakes’.” Looking around and realizing that the majority of customers consisted of couples, he added, “Well that explains that.”
Diana had followed with careful steps and a neutral expression, before taking a seat and taking a look at the menu. “Might as well order.” She said as she did not spare a second glance at the whole atmosphere. “You’ll probably be too hard pressed to keep up appearances and I can exploit that.” She added nonchalantly, and decided to go on a small splurge herself. Sweets and calories felt great after burning some magic to nonchalantly torch some fools. “I will have one of each of these.” She added, not even hinting a smile on her face, while mercilessly picking an assortment of pancakes with full extras.
“Still cheaper than the usual fee. Proceed.” She indicated to Michael.
Michael raised an eyebrow at Diana before nodding in agreement. It made sense, after all. “Very well,” Michael said, closing the menu. Michael flagged down the waiter and ordered, then turned to Diana as the waiter left. “While we wait, I’d like to discuss a few topics with you,” Michael said, taking out his cell phone and opening a Notes app. “For a starter: What is magic, and what is needed to use it?”
“Heh.” Diana’s face seemed to smile for the first time. “Magic is… simply put… the lifehacks of the universe.” She added. “Imagine that the abyss between mortals and gods was a ladder. Normal people never become aware of it, because barriers are in place. But there are seams, cracks… and sometimes people find a way to squeeze through. Magicians have climbed one or two stairs and gained skill to manipulate and bend reality.” Diana went on. “It’s also what humans used to fight demons before the Blessings were handed by divine hands.”
Diana paused for a moment. “Oh, interested in magic? Well there is always a price to pay. The one inescapable rule of magic. Nothing is free. Unlike blessings, Magic needs to be paid, always. Just the mere thought of thinking to use magic requires the sacrifice of something really precious.”
“And no, your most valuable object won’t be enough. A loved one will do… but that is considered heinous nowadays. We pay with our blessings the price. In order to do magic, you need to renounce to which has been granted by the gods, and then figure how to walk on your own.”
Michael stared intently at Diana as he listened, not even looking at his phone as he typed in important info. When she got to the price to pay for magic, however, Michael’s eyes widened, then sighed in disappointment. “I had hoped that wouldn’t be the case,” Michael said. “Nothing is ever free.” Their order soon came, and placed in front of Michael and Diana were stacks of pancakes, complete with all the decorations they usually came with and additions Diana had ordered. Taking his own plate, Michael poked at the meal with his knife nonchalantly.
Diana let a hint of childish glee, before slipping back to her usual mask and mercilessly dissecting the plate of pancakes. “No, nothing ever is. Someone asked me to make them more powerful, once. He was bad, but now his sociopathy is full blown. I gotta ask him what he owes me, though.” Diana said. “You came to me with hopes of getting strong… but I am afraid that starting with magic now will be subpar to your blessing.” Diana added, as she licked some chocolate from one of the slices.
“However, your blessing might be kind of easy to read. I can apply whatever wisdom I have and see what comes up from it.” Diana added. “I dispelled it once, so I guess these ten years of practice might yield a few pointers.”
“You mean that?” Michael asked incredulously. “If you’d do that for me, I wouldn’t be able to thank you enough.” Michael poured on a few lines of syrup onto his pancakes before cutting them up into neat squares. “But I’m assuming this won’t come for free either, will it? As you’ve said, time is money.”
“I do not say things I cannot back up.” Diana added, as she continued to chew the pancakes at a vigorous pace. “I assume you don’t have enough money, so I will take something else as payment, besides these pancakes.” She paused, leaving the fork and knife to a side. “Contacts. It doesn’t hurt to move the eggs into different baskets. You seem to be pretty chummy with the Vigilantes.”
Michael nodded. “That I am. I also have a connection or two with the Ascot family, though admittedly we haven’t contacted each other in a while. I could call them, rekindle that connection as well. If nothing else, knowing someone within the police, or at least some division of it, isn’t exactly a bad thing.”
“Unless you’re a peddler of corpses.” Diana add, an icy edge in her voice. “Not much harm in trying though.” Diana announced as she finished her plate, and quickly began scribbling on a napkin, then sliding it to Michael. “Draw your glyph for body reinforcement there, I want to see it side to side with… mine.”
Michael took his own napkin and conjured up his paintbrush, having it take on a small head. As he drew his symbols, he noted that it was rather easy to see their meanings. Diana was right in saying that they were easily telegraphed. Still, what’s done was done. Michael quickly finished drawing and passed down the napkins back to Diana.
“We have our Rosetta stone here.”Diana added, nonchalantly, as she grinned while drawing a second symbol, different to her first one. “Now, you need to translate this into your glyphs.” The Witch mentioned with a whisper. “And try it outdoors and in private.”
Michael raised an eyebrow at Diana again, then examined Diana’s symbol with great scrutiny. “I would ask you what this does, but something tells me you want it to be a surprise,” Michael said.
“Not really.” She drank her drink greedily as well. “But people freak out when they see people flying sometimes.” She deadpanned. “All good witches know this spell.”
“Wha- oh,” Michael said, realizing what Diana had just given him. All he had gotten his Body Arts to do was merely to improve his own movement and abilities while reducing his opponents’, and trying to produce a new ability from it had never crossed his mind. It was just another path of possibilities he could explore with his blessing. He wondered what else he could learn to do. “Well, this will be a challenge. Never tried to make something like this before,” Michael said after a moment of thought.
“Healing. Reinforcement and Flight. My mother taught me these spells first. She said that they’re unlikely to win a fight on their own, but they can be the key element. Alongside something else.” She grabbed one more paper, as she repeated the reinforcement glyph… before placing some scribbles on key parts.
“Dispelling. This is done in two ways. Identifying the key points and changing them, or… brute force by sending od to break the pattern.” Diana finished her spiel, before looking at Michael once more. “I trust this lesson covers the value of what I have asked for.”
Michael nodded. “It has. Thank you, Diana. It really does mean a lot to me,” Michael said, smiling at Diana, taking the napkins. It would be another period of experimentation and practice for him. Just another day, but now it was more exciting.
“Yeah sure. No chance at being my boyfriend though. That was too contrived.” She added as she raised from her table, leaving Michael to pay the bill. “I have stuff to do, places to visit. If you die, I will take care of your bones.”
“Sure, take care,” Michael said as she left. As he paid the bill and began to leave, a realization just struck him. Wait… boyfriend? Michael thought to himself. Looking back at the day’s events, he realized just what she meant, and blushed in embarrassment. Oh by the gods, how did I not see that? Michael then sighed and shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. Forget it, Michael. You got shit to do, Michael thought as he left the cafe.
Belinda, you can't stay here forever, Michelle said to Belinda, who was currently lying face down on a bench. Belinda had searched the area in hopes that she might still catch sight of Cassius and Vela, but it proved to be a fruitless endeavor. As a result, she had taken to lying down on the hard stone.
"Just watch me, Michelle," Belinda said with monotony. "Nothing's gonna move me from this spot." As soon as she said that, her stomach began to growl.
A moment of silence passed, and Michelle said, Let's gooo, Belinda.
"We heard nothing! We're not hungry!" Belinda yelled out as she flipped over, flailing her limbs for a second before settling down again. A second growl sounded, causing Belinda to sigh in defeat and stand up. "Fine, I'll go get a sandwich or something," Belinda said, shuffling her way to the cafeteria. She barely even took two steps, however, before Michelle suddenly said, Belinda, wait.
Look. It's Meredith, but...
Belinda turned to look, and saw Meredith staggering over to her. It didn't take much to see that Meredith was hurt, and pretty badly too. Making her way over to her, Belinda saw just how bad her wounds were. Michelle was horrified to see how much of Meredith's face was gone. Even Belinda was in no mood to crack any jokes, instead grimacing as she turned around to grab Meredith and carry her on her back. "You're going to be ok, Meredith. We'll get you to the nurse's office," Belinda said, maneuvering her way past the crowds and running along the hallways.
Belinda burst through the door to the nurse's office, announcing, "We need treatment! NOW!"
Michael raised an eyebrow at the odd choice in payment, but nodded in agreement. "Very well," Michael said. "I know a cafe that serves some delicious things. Pancakes were on the menu as well, last time I checked."
Michelle & Belinda
"What do you think, Belinda?" Michelle asked, having watched the fight between Cassius and Vala. She's so cool! Belinda squealed with delight. She was clearly excited about Vala. Fast and strong, and even uses a drunken fist style of fighting. Cassius didn't stand a chance!
"What I want to know is what she was drinking," Michelle said, thinking about the flask Vala had materialized. "I'm pretty sure alcohol isn't allowed on campus."
Oh my god, who caaares, Belinda groaned. Didn't you see how fast she moved even before she drank that? I wanna fight her too... Michelle sighed.
"Just give it up, Belinda, we need to-" Michelle began to say before getting cut off.
I'ma do it, Michelle, Belinda announced suddenly.
"Huh? Do what- no. No no no," Michelle clutched her head with both hands as she attempted to strengthen her mental defenses, but it proved to be in vain as Belinda smashed through them, quickly taking over Michelle's body.
Belinda grinned mischievously, enjoying the moment. "No sense letting this opportunity go by, Michelle. This is our chance to-" Belinda pointed at the location where Cassius and Vala had been, only to find them missing. "Where'd they go?" Belinda said, swiveling her head back and forth.
Now we can actually do some proper work, don't you think? Michelle said to the now sulking Belinda. "I wanted to have some fun..." Belinda pouted.
Michael moved his head back an inch to get a good look at Diana's ID, and was surprised she was actually a third-year, yet somehow not surprised that she had the means to back up her words. "So it's true," Michael said, letting out an embarrassed smirk. It wasn't very often he was proven wrong.
Now that he thought about it, wasn't this a perfect opportunity to find some actual data worth recording? Diana had experience with the world outside the bubble of his own home and peers. Information worth learning and bettering himself with. "Diana, would you..." Michael said to Diana, only to find her gone. A quick look around found her already ahead of him, seemingly intent to leave. "H-hey, Diana, wait a minute!" Michael called out to her as he ran to catch up to her.
Michael cleared his throat and began to ask her, "Could I... could I spare some of your time? There's... a lot I want to discuss with you."
"Oh, I see, a third-year," Michael said, nodding. Then the realization hit Michael like a sack of potatoes. "Wait, what?!" Michael spun his head toward Diana with an incredulous expression. It soon turned into one of close scrutiny. While she did give off a few adult-like mannerisms, the schoolgirl outfit she was wearing and the attitude to her "Witch of Bones" title had cemented into him that she was at least younger than him. However, the spell components Michael had seen her use suggested that those things were not cheap, certainly not something one could obtain very easily. Either that or her magical abilities lie greater than he had initially thought.
"No, no no no... but maybe... hmm..." Michael muttered as he stared at Diana, his thoughts racing on her real age. Eventually he gave up trying to figure it out. He sighed and shook his head while raising his hands. "No, I can't believe it," Michael concluded. "I want to believe you, but your appearance right now is really throwing off my judgement. If you happen to have an ID though, I might change my mind."
After Diana walked through the exit, Michael released the Trap Art on Cross and allowed his inky constructs to dissipate. "It's for your own good as well as hers. She would've destroyed you had I not intervened. And no, that is not an exaggeration," Michael said to Cross, giving him an unimpressed glare. "Next time, try not to harass a little girl, especially one with powerful abilities like hers." With that said, Michael turned and left, following Diana out and no longer in the mood to gather data from other students.
"I highly doubt it, but he didn't hurt you or anything, did he?" Michael asked Diana, catching up to her. "What are you even doing here, anyway? You're powerful, but it's still no place for a young girl like you to be around."