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2 yrs ago
Current 乇乂ㄒ尺卂 ㄒ卄丨匚匚
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3 yrs ago
A sentence you wasted 5 seconds to read.
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3 yrs ago
Who came up with the idea to make our statuses quotes from philosophers, anyway?
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3 yrs ago
We could be doing something productive with our lives... instead, we're here.
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4 yrs ago
A random quote from some philosopher that we'll forget in a few moments.
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MP: 12 | FP: 8


The young Fire Spiritus gently drifted along in the air, making its way from one Familial Tree to the other. It took its time investigating the Tree, circling around it until it finally landed on a small branch. It then began to flare up and envelop a part of the branch with its body, burning away as if to cut the branch away from the tree, and the branch began to fall to the ground. The little Fire Spiritus did its best to hold the branch in the air as it began to consume it, slowly absorbing it into its body and burning away at it while the ashes fell the ground. The branch was soon gone, and it did a twirl in the air, content at a good meal.

The Fire Spiritus shot up into the air, drifting once more through the air. It passed another Fire Spiritus, who had been tending to another tree. They gave each other a passing glance, but otherwise paid no attention to each other. Then, the first Fire Spiritus stopped and turned its head, noticing something grand. Trees much larger than the ones it been previously tending to / snacking on. It flew towards them, its feeling of curiosity overtake anything else it was feeling. It stared intently on a branch, even as it landed upon it. It knew that it wanted to consume the wood, to take in whatever it had and use it as its fuel source. Just as it was about to begin, though, a pair of clawed hands enveloped it and began to lift it up. It began to panic briefly, desperately searching for a way out, until the hands began to open up from above, and the Fire Spiritus was greeted with the sight of Arae.

What are you doing here, little one?” Arae asked it, holding the little Fire Spiritus gently in her cupped hands. “Your job doesn’t extend all the way here. Go back now.” Arae then gently lifted her arms and thrusted the Spiritus back into the air, but it continued to stare at the tree it wanted to burn. Arae looked at where it was staring, and was hesitant on what she should do. The tree in question was, of course, her own Familial Tree, and definitely was not one to toy with lightly. Still, she didn’t have the will to just outright say no to the young Fire Spiritus. Sighing, Arae said, “Ok, fine, you can have one small piece, but after that, you need to leave, ok?” The Fire Spiritus didn’t respond; it didn’t possess enough intelligence to really understand exactly what Arae was saying, but it realized that it just needed to wait and it would receive.

Arae went over to her Familial Tree and cleanly snipped off a small stick with her claws. Giving the piece of wood to the Spiritus, Arae watched as it lifted to stick above itself and burned away. Soon after it was done, it remained still for a second, then flared up with a higher intensity than ever before. Its form rapidly grew from the palm-sized creature it once was to a more humanoid form. Tendrils became arms and legs, flames extended from the head as if to resemble flaming hair. The resulting figure had a rather feminine appearance, complete with a slender body and gentle appearance yet accompanied by an energetic demeanor.

As soon as the Fire Spiritus’ transformation ended, Arae felt something grow within her as well. Something… warm. Left uncontrolled, it seemed as if it would burn fiercely, but a small amount of guidance made it feel soft and gentle. Her instincts told her what had happened. She had gained a new field in her power. Its name… Hearth.

Before Arae could dwell any further on the matter, images and voices began to flash in her mind. The light and warmth of the fire behind her. The blurred smiling faces of people she could not recognize, yet felt so familiar. Their endless chatter and loud laughs. As more and more information filled her head, she began to realize what she was seeing. More accurately, what she was remembering. It was a memory of her former life. It was a happy time, during a meeting/party of the pantheon. There was food and drink aplenty, much of it cooked up by Arae herself, and everyone seemed to be enjoying it.

Arae involuntarily shed a tear, and then sighed as she shook her head to clear her mind, placing a hand over her eyes. It seemed like even though Arae wanted to leave the past behind, it had decided to catch up with her instead.

You… pain… creator?

With a wave of her hand, Arae began to say, “No, I’m just- what?” Surprised, Arae lifted her head up and found the flame creature with a tilted head, seemingly concerned for Arae. “Did you just… speak?

Speak… yes,” the flame creature said. “Your wood… the best. I… have more?

Not yet, little one,” Arae gently refused. She could see the flame creature’s disappointment, and gave an apologetic smile. “You can’t have too much at once. Next time you can have some, I promise.” This perked her back up, and she gave Arae a hug around her neck. Arae could not help but notice that the flame creature’s body was not hot at all, but just warm enough to be comfortable, as if sitting next to a fireplace or hearth. It felt… surprisingly nice. After the flame creature removed herself from Arae, Arae said, “Little one, you are in need of a name. Maybe… Kris will do.

Kris…” Kris repeated, thinking about it. Her final response to Arae was another hug, and that was all Arae needed to know how happy the young Istal felt about her new name.






The only thing Michael really got out of the exchange involving Diana was that she was even more of an enigma than he originally expected. Magic was very strange, but perhaps it would be worth unlocking its secrets when he had the time. Even if he had no talent in the art itself, at the very least he would be better prepared should he face another user. He would have to ask Diana again about the matter... when she returns to her original state of mind. More rumbling occurred, with Michael thinking that it was high time they got out of the action and finally find a safe place to recover.

There was also a bit of a spectacle involving Meredith and Cel, which left Michael with a slight curiosity about what just happened. It was clearly one of the girl's abilities, and while he could make a few educated guesses, it wasn't really worth putting too much brain power into figuring out. Michael set that matter aside for another time, and instead walked over to Cel, kneeling down and extended his arms to help get him back onto his feet. "Let's get out of here already," Michael said tiredly. "There'll plenty of time to lie down when we actually find a place to rest."


Might: 10 | FP: 14


Arae flew in a circle, staring down at the various Familial Trees that littered the landscape of Spekatha. There was much to be improved on here, but what was first needed was a system, a way for the Sphere to be fully and automatically maintained. She dived downwards, transforming into her humanoid form when she landed. It was time to work. She got into form and began to dance, her movements dictating the flows of energy to take the forms she desired.

First came the vessels. She would need suitable servants to fully realize her plans. At first, she had intended to create servants in her image. The general shape and form came naturally. Wings, tail, 4 legs. Then the real problems arrived via functionality. Being able to serve their purpose to maintain these trees and lake water together proved to be difficult to visualize. It was more than a matter of just waving their arms and magicking everything to full health. There should be a process to put it together. Now that she thought about it, it also felt a little odd to give this new life so much power, even if it was only within her sphere. Arae sighed in frustration. She knew what the problem was: she was thinking too simplistically. There was only one creature being created to serve too many purposes. It was fine when it came to Serenis and Kree; they were singular beings, but it was very different when it came to an entire race of beings. These things needed balance.

But how to go about this? She stared at the glowing silhouette of her dragon construct for a long time, trying to brainstorm a solution to her conundrum. She tried to alter the form, providing molars in addition to sharp canines, making their horns and claws with sharp edges, but often shook her head as she reversed the changes. She tried creating different forms to allow different beings to accomplish different roles, but while she did see a bit of a breakthrough, she felt the drain on herself becoming too much to bear and quickly halted the process. She lay down on the grass, absentmindedly staring at the sky as she continued to think. She was so close, but there was still something holding her back. It was too unbalanced, too inefficient, maybe even too dangerous.

She knew there was at least one solution, and she just needed to find one. It was also a matter of finding a solution that she could be satisfied with. As she thought, an ember came drifting into her face before fading away. When she looked up, she realized that the embers were dropping from Sartravius' Familial Tree. Looking at her glowing dragon silhouette and back at the trees, an idea popped into her mind. If she did this correctly, then it just might work. After erasing her dragon silhouette, Arae leaped back up and switched to another style of dance, much more energetic than before.

As she moved to Seihdhara's tree, she faltered, saddened to see it in such a state. It was not in such a near-death state like last time, but it certainly wasn't brimming with life either. Still, Arae pulled herself together and continued. This was no time for regrets; it was time for work. Making a flowing motion with her arms, she extracted a globule of energy from it, taking care not to drain it more than necessary, then left the tree alone. Arae then carefully cultivated the energy until it seemed capable of sustaining itself and maintaining its own shape. She nodded. Now it was time for the next step.

Looking at Asceal and Sartravius' tree, Arae began siphoning off a stream of energy from each of them. The energy compressed itself into a ball, which she placed above the essence from Seihdhara's tree. Pouring the energy from the ball into the essence, Arae fueled the process with her own, slowly mixing it together even as it began trying to split. Arae merely compressed it further, keeping the essence together until it mixed finely with itself, the swirling energies eventually equalizing itself. With the mixture complete, Arae began to mold it into a small disc, placing it near her Familial Tree. A spark leaped from Arae's fingertip into the disc, and a small fire ignited. A ring of rocks sprouted up from the ground, surrounding the fire and keeping it contained. Arae gently blew into it, letting it flare up and rise a meter high before it settled down again, but still blazed strongly.

Soon, the flame made a snapping sound, and from it sprang a spark that landed in the grass. It began to spread a bit, which Arae watched carefully should it get out of control, but the spreading soon stopped and the flames began to condense into a little ball with wispy tendrils and two glowing eyes. More pops and cracks sounded off, the fire birthing more little fireballs like the first. The firstborn looked up at Arae, who knelt down and cupped the little fire spiritii in her hands, lifting them up to face height.

"Welcome to Spekatha, little ones," Arae said to the young fire spiritii. "You have much work ahead of you."



The Journey to Tendlepog: Chapter 6

starring


The rumours died down practically overnight, choked underneath the stampede of sound and joy that was music, hammer strikes and grunts and groans. Nearly every waking hour entertained a spar between two servants of the Strong, often accompanied by high-tempoed string twangs and drum beats from the Noble audience. Below deck, the carpenters regularly took inventory and improved what could be improved aboard the ship - soon the railings had been reinforced and heightened to better catch crew mates in the tragic event that they should be tossed towards the ship’s edge. Occasionally, whispers would travel along the deck, though few of these were inherently malicious anymore - most were baseless hearsay about certain crew mates’ supposed weight gain or that one lad who had forgot to tie his pants properly and revealed his loincloth for all to see.

Such rumours were acceptable, Qiang Yi thought - uncouth, but acceptable. If anything, it added a certain character to the environment aboard the ship - a strange informality that was nowhere to be found aboard Jiangzhou. A clump of worry accumulated in his throat as he imagined what His Lordship Shengshi would say.

“... This servant apologises profusely, Your Lordship - but this behaviour may be necessary to avoid a leadership too militant or a crew too slack,” he said firmly.

“Who are you talking to?” Zhen-zhen asked with a raised eyebrow. Qiang Yi nearly jumped out of his sand.

“N-no one! Just praying!” the captain said and gave the smirking Zhen-zhen a scowl. “Eavesdropping is unbecoming of you, Zhen-zhen!” he said and pointed a judgmental finger at her.

“Yes, captain,” Zhen-zhen replied and winked playfully at him. “Oh, by the way, we will be approaching the Serpentine Isles in an hour or so.”

Qiang Yi’s eyes widened and he, too, cracked a smile. “You don’t say. Stellar work, first mate - keep the course steady. I’ll tell the crew to prepare for landfall.”

“Sounds good, captain,” Zhen-zhen said. Qiang Yi nodded and descended down to the deck.



Kree looked down at the ocean, noticing the ship underneath them. He let out a low rumble, curious as to what it was and what it was doing. “What is it, Kree?” Serenis asked. Kree’s response was to descend, dropping from the sky and allowing Serenis to get a closer look. There, far beneath the two, a brown spot striped with two perpendicular white lines floated lazily towards the Serpentine Isles. Even from the height they flew, the spot made a noticeable array of sounds, spanning everything from distant music to the occasional pained howl. A ship? Serenis thought to herself. I suppose that in itself isn’t something unusual, but… it’s going towards the islands we just came from.

Serenis figured that if they were heading there, she should probably make sure whoever was on the ship wouldn’t do any harm. Patting Kree, she said to him, “Come on, Kree, let’s introduce ourselves to that ship.” Kree grunted in agreement and descended even further, looking for a suitable spot on the ship to land. It soon settled for the largest and flattest area on the ship, the deck, and planted his feet onto the wooden surface, sending the rowdy and distracted crew into an immediate panic. As soon as he did, Serenis slid off him and looked around, taking note of the humanoid figures manning the ship. Serenis felt a little guilty scaring them so, but she knew it was unavoidable. For now, it was time for business. She cleared her throat, then announced to the crew, “I would like to speak to the person in charge!

The crew, having scrambled to cover, slowly began to peek over or out of the barrels, boxes and other clutter they had hid by, behind or in. For a moment, nothing happened; then, a somewhat tall figure with long black hair, purple silk robes and a strong jaw stepped out from behind a pile of barrels. The figure, who was likely a male individual, approached Serenis until they were roughly two metres apart - then, he got to his knees and hands.

“O, You most sacred, holy spirit of the Sky Realm - forgive this humble servant and its shameful, unforgivable ignorance, for it neither knows Your holy name nor Your divine purpose aboard our mortal vessel. Please, entertain this speck of a servant’s singular request and share with us these details.” Slowly, but surely, more and more servants assumed similar poses, all facing Serenis and Kree (or, more accurately, the floorboards).

Serenis somehow managed to maintain a stern face, but internally she was in a dumbfounded panic. Oh no, what have we just done? she thought. Ok, ok, let’s-let’s just calm down. I can still salvage this. Clearing her throat again, Serenis said, “For now, um… pl-please stand up.

As if they were conditioned like hounds, they rocketed to their feet in unison and straightened their arms down along their tightened sides - like soldiers awaiting orders.

She mentally chastised herself for the stutter, but it didn’t seem like they noticed. She then continued, “My name is Serenis, and this is my companion, Kree. Our intentions are simply to determine the purpose of this ship’s visit to our islands.” Kree made a short growl, nodding his head in agreement.

The male in front of her, the commander of the vessel, bowed deeply - as did the surrounding crew. “A most humbling honour to meet Your sacred selves, Serenis and Kree. This servant goes by the name of Qiang Yi and it commands this vessel, Zhengwu, on its mission to Tendlepog under the order of His Lordship Shengshi of the Thousand Rivers.” Qiang Yi bowed again and kept the pose. “As Your Holiness is likely referring to the Serpentine Isles upon saying ‘our islands’, this servant must stress that this crew intends to inflict no harm upon the islands’ sacred ground - these servants merely wish to stop there and rest before the long trek to the shores of Tendlepog. May we be so rude as to ask for such permission?”

If that was all they were asking, then Serenis reasoned that it wouldn’t be a difficult request to grant. Nodding, Serenis said, “Very well. As long as no harm comes to our… Serpentine Isles, then there is no reason to stop you. You may rest as much as you wish.

“Oh, how gracious of Your sacred self,” Qiang Yi said with a deep bow. The crew followed suit. “Your Holiness is a fantastic host. If Your Holiness wishes for anything in return, these servants will be most willing to provide what they can.”

Hmm…” Serenis thought out loud. “Actually, there may be something you can offer. You see, I was just embarking on a journey of sorts myself, and this is an ideal opportunity for me. I’d like to join you on your journey, at least to your next destination. I’d be interested in hearing some of the stories you have to share as well.

“O-oh,” Qiang Yi said and blinked. “Y-your Holiness is more than free to travel with this vessel, y-yet… The ship is almost at its destination. These servants are afraid that the trek may not be as exciting or interesting as Your Holiness may think.” He cleared his throat and bowed again. “Of course, the choice belongs to Your divine self. Either way, these servants will be humble to have a sacred spirit aboard.” He cleared his throat again, though somewhat more sheepishly this time. “This servant is incredibly shameful and unwarranted in saying this, but… May it make another request on behalf of the ship and the crew if Your Holiness wishes to travel with us?”

...You may,” Serenis replied.

Qiang Yi gestured to the wooden scraps, cut ropes and splintered instruments that lay spread across the deck underneath Kree’s feet. “If it is not inconvenient, may this servant make the outrageous request of having the honourable dragon… Flying beside the ship? This servant fears Zhengwu was not made with such… Sizeable passengers in mind.” He kowtowed again.

Serenis looked to where Qiang Yi was gesturing, and noticed the damage to the ship for the first time. Her face flushed bright red, and she deeply bowed to him back. “I’m so sorry!” Serenis hurriedly apologized to Qiang Yi before turning back to Kree. Clapping twice, Serenis brought Kree to attention, and he immediately began to shrink in size until he was a couple feet in length. Kree then began to climb up Serenis and looped himself around her neck, resting comfortably on her neck and shoulders to the crew’s astonishment.

Qiang Yi looked up and dipped his head down once more before standing up straight. “A sacred beast, fashioned by the Exalted Creators.” Several of the crew members folded their hands in prayer. “O sacred spirit Selenis - welcome aboard Zhengwu.”

Making a small nod, Serenis said, “A pleasure to be here.





Michael barely had time to look away from the resulting electrical explosion before it could blind him. He peeked out from his arm once he couldn't hear anything else, and found the room more or less a mess. His thoughts turned to the cultist who caused this in the first place, and he began to look around, trying to figure out what happened to him. Then the sight of the hole in the wall and the smell of burnt flesh answered that question for him.

He stumbled as Ria bumped into him and proceeded to shittalk him. "Glad to see you too, Ria," Michael called out sarcastically to her as she moved on to Diana and Brutus. Speaking of Diana... wait, was she dead? No, wait, she was alive. She seemed to be acting a bit weirdly, though. In the short time he's known Diana, Michael didn't peg her to be so... clingy. He brushed aside the thought; perhaps it was just the electricity messing with her mind. In any case, there didn't seem to be any cause for concern.

Ria's announcement caught his attention. "From King? What does he want now?" Michael asked when Ria showed him the message. Michael gave himself a moment to think. Eventually, he sighed and answered, "I would like to say that we should rest up and let the rest of the Vigilantes handle this. I don't think we're in any shape to take on this assault of cultists, especially after the one we just faced. If a majority wishes to go, however, I will join you. I'll be damned if this happens on my watch."

Serenis sat down at the base of Arae's Familial Tree, taking a well-deserved rest after performing routine maintenance on the Trees. Every day took up a large portion of gardening the trees and recording the various bonds with each other, and with more and more trees growing from both the Pantheon and the rest of Spekatha's Familial Lakes, her workload was increasing with no sign of stopping. She let out a long and deep sigh, resting her face on her arms as they lay on her knees. An explosion sounded off, followed by the crackling of falling twigs and branches. Serenis merely raised her head, recognizing the signs. Another Familial Tree had discharged a bolt of energy at a neighboring one. This time it had been Arya's tree assaulting Shengshi's. Serenis got back onto her feet, which were quite unsteady already, only to witness another discharge of energy, this time more powerful than the last, from Vakk's tree towards Li'Kalla's. Distraught, Serenis dropped to her hands and knees, tears forming in her eyes, and began to yell in frustration. She just wanted to perform her duty, but she couldn't fathom why it had to be so difficult. Every time a problem came up, Serenis rose to the occasion, but it was as if 3 more problems sprang up the moment she tried anything. There was no end. She continued to cry to herself for a few minutes, until she finally fell asleep from exhaustion.




MP: 7 | FP: 8


It was dark in Spekatha when Arae returned, climbing out of the Pantheon's lake. Almost immediately, Arae felt that something was off. Serenis would have normally greeted her by now. It was then that Arae saw Serenis' figure, face-down on the grass. Alarmed, Arae rushed over to inspect her, but she soon calmed down when she realized that Serenis' life didn't seem to be in danger; she was merely asleep. Not wanting Serenis to be any more uncomfortable, Arae transformed into her human form and sat down in a seiza position, then brought Serenis over to use her lap as a pillow. She would do this for as long as she had to.

As the band of light began to rise over Spekatha's horizon, Serenis' eyes fluttered open. Arae was directly above her face, smiling down upon her. "Good morning, Serenis," Arae greeted Serenis. At first, Serenis didn't know who was above her, but her senses began to register and she soon realized where she was and who she was resting on. She quickly rolled off Arae in a panic, standing up but realizing that perhaps it was a bit rude to be standing up while Arae was still sitting down and sat down in front of Arae. "My lady! Please, e-excuse my rudeness! I-I just needed-" Serenis began to say before Arae cut her off with a chuckle. "Serenis, it's ok. You've done nothing wrong," Arae reassured her. "If you needed to rest, you're free to do so anytime."

"But there's no time for that, and there's so much to do," Serenis sighed. "I can't afford to rest too much, between the trees trying to destroy each other and maintaining health and observations of all of them. Forgive me, but I must get back to work." Serenis got up and turned around to face the Familial Trees, but stumbled as soon as she took the first step. She managed to recover her footing, but was still rather unsteady. Nevertheless, Serenis continued to persevere, and was about to take another step when she was stopped by Arae. She had put her arms around Serenis' waist, hugging her tightly. "Serenis," Arae began. "It's ok. Don't work yourself so hard. You deserve your rest." Serenis reached out towards the Familial Trees, each shining and glittering their various colors. "But... the families..." Serenis said. "Are not as important as one so overworked that she can't perform her duties properly," Arae finished. "Sit down. Rest."

The two stood still in silence for a short while, until Serenis finally conceded and rested as Arae ordered. Arae smiled at Serenis, but she could not return the expression, instead looking away in shame. "I'm sorry, my lady. You're taking the time to deal with me... my failure," Serenis said.

Arae's smile faded, and she shook her head. "No, Serenis, dear. The failure lies with me." Serenis returned her gaze to Arae, whose smile returned but was tinged with sadness. "I should have seen it sooner. The system I set up was flawed from the start. I set you on a task that was impossible for you to complete. I wanted a pair of eyes that would keep watch over my Sphere, which was why you were created. What I didn't realize was that you were an individual with a mind of your own, not just an extension of my power. This task was meant for a machine, not for a mind like yours. I placed too much of a burden on you. For that, I should be the one that's sorry."

"My lady..."

"I have an idea. You should visit Galbar. See the world for yourself, not just watch the inside of Spekatha for eternity," Arae suggested happily.

"What? But... ho-how would I get to Galbar? I can't travel through the Pantheon like you can, my lady," Serenis asked.

"That's why I'll create something for you," Arae said, standing up. Raising one hand, Arae lifted up a stream of water from the Pantheon into the air. With a wave of the other, various sticks and leaves from the Familial Trees were whisked away, as if blown around by a gust of wind. Arae twirled around, the large volume of debris revolving around her as she danced. Then, with a clap of her hands, the mixture condensed itself into a tiny ball, small enough to be held in her hand. As it floated in one spot, Arae continued to dance. She spread her arms apart, creating wings. A wave of her hand wile bending low created a tail, while rising back up made the head.

Serenis watched with silent awe and wonder as Arae created this new creature. Finally, as Arae cupped the creation in her hands, she began to blow, breathing her divine essence into it while blowing away the outer layer of bark and water, revealing a small serpent-like dragon. It began to look around, seemingly curious about its surroundings. It spotted Serenis, and it began to fly over to her. Serenis flinched in surprise, but soon learned that it meant her no harm when it landed on her head. The dragon wandered around her head and shoulders for a moment before finally making itself comfortable by coiling itself around her neck like a scarf.

"He will be your guardian and transport while you're in Galbar," Arae explained.

"I see..." Serenis said, looking down at the dragon, who was currently nuzzling her neck and chin. Looking back up, she asked, "But... what is his name?"

"That's for you to decide." Arae answered.

"Eh?!" Serenis exclaimed in surprise. The dragon extended itself out to look up at Serenis, curious by the sudden noise. The two began to stare at each other before Serenis scratched him on the chin, prompting the dragon to squeak in delight.

"'Kree'. That'll be your name," Serenis said. Kree then climbed onto the top of her head and cawed.

"It seems like he likes that name," Arae said, smiling. "Good for you, Serenis."

"But this still doesn't explain how Kree is going to bring me out of Spekatha," Serenis pointed out.

"Which is why he has a few tricks in his arsenal," Arae said. She clapped her hands twice, and Kree was at attention. He leapt into the air, soaring high into the sky, and landed back down having grown massively in size. He was now several meters long, much larger than the two foot length he was before. His scales glimmered as he moved, and a large pair of horns extended from his head. Kree lowered his neck down to Serenis, who was gazing at him in awe.

"He is your ride to Galbar," Arae said, gesturing grandly at him. "Now go on, and see the world created by the gods with your own eyes."



Serenis gazed down at the ocean from atop Kree's back. It was so vast, and the bird's eye view made it more spectacular. It was nothing like Spekatha, which only housed an endless grassland. Who knows what other wondrous sights she would discover.



Serenis frowned in mild disapproval. Some of the trees were refusing to mend, yet the Pantheon just kept growing and adding to her list of tasks. Some of the trees grew certain thick branches that could be mistaken for saplings on their trunks, each with their own individual essences and identities. They could only be Avatars due to their close connections with the gods they were created from. There were also saplings that rose from the ground nearby the trees that were clearly meant to be the other created beings from the gods. At the moment, all of them were children, though perhaps it would change in the future.

Plus, many of the gods' favors were shifting.

Shengshi was having problems with his own avatar, which was embarrassing in of itself, though it seemed like the avatar, Xiaoli, was not seeing him unfavorably. A shame, too. That was something that needed to be reported.

The little one, Hermes, was making plenty of friends with gods, avatars, and other mortals alike. That one had a promising future. Speaking of Hermes, it shared an especially interesting bond with Shengshi's avatar, which Serenis found highly amusing.

Sartravius and Narzhak were developing... honor? Respect? Honorable respect? It wasn't good, yet it wasn't bad either.

Orvus created a child, but it seems like he was not fond of her, and Kalmar was the one to even name her. Arya... a fair name. Strange... was there a trace of Arae's influence in her? No, surely not. It must be her imagination.

Even all of that was merely a fraction of what had changed. Nevertheless, things had progressed very far now, and Serenis could no longer delay it. Serenis had to make her report to Arae...

Arae


Arae was currently flying in a circle, her mind still in disarray after her talk with K'nell. Between the confusing dreamland, K'nells cryptic words, and Arae's lack of endgame goals, she was unsure of just what to do. Was there anything she could do? Was there even a point in trying? What if she just made things worse by intervening?

Arae looked down and saw that she had managed to create an entire archipelago around her island, complete with various bits of greenery, sandy beaches, and even a small mountain or two. The Dragon's Crown had developed surprisingly well, but Arae was in no condition to admire her work. She was still confused on what to do. Maybe a conversation with Serenis would kill a bit of time...

Lady Arae? I have a report for you, Serenis' voice sounded in Arae's mind.

Arae was initially confused, thinking that she hadn't made the move to call yet, but quickly realized that Serenis was quicker and already calling her instead. Composing herself, Arae responded, "Ahh, Serenis. Perfect timing. What do you have for me?"



"...Oh my," Arae finally said after Serenis finished her report. "So much has happened already. When did Orvus get a child? It hasn't been that long since I visited him. And Shengshi... what happened to you?"

There was no longer any time for idleness. Now was a time to meet up with her siblings. "Serenis, stay in contact. I may need some of the information as I go," Arae ordered. Serenis' response was a swift, "Yes, my lady."

Composing her message, Arae sent a short divine message to her first target:

"Shengshi, a word if I may. I hope you don't mind if I come to visit. It's been too long since we've last spoken."




Arae




Arae flew and flew, thinking about what Orvus had said. The things he had said to have done to Phystene and Ashalla were horrifying, but she couldn’t bring herself to hate him for it, nor did she want to. Orvus needed a helping hand to guide him through his trouble, even if he didn’t want it. Arae only wished she knew how. For now, though, she knew she had other matters to attend to.

Firstly, meet up with the others who were already siding against him, and hopefully convince them to at least be lenient with him. Arae recalled the names of her siblings: Phystene, Ashalla, Kalmar… and there was K’nell now. Arae gave it a quick thought as to who should be the one she would visit next, and ultimately decided it to be K’nell. She hadn’t actually met him before, and figured it would be a good time as any to learn what kind of being he was. Plus, she reasoned, he might be easier to convince than the others, considering Serenis’ earlier words regarding most of the others’ roles being the polar opposite of Orvus’. Arae began to compose her words to K’nell, greeting him via divine message, “Hello, K’nell. My name is Arae. Could you spare some time to talk? It’s about Orvus.

It started as a trickle, but all of a sudden a great pull appeared in Arae’s mind. It felt of sleep, and while it could be easily swatted away, it remained tempting and cozy. Arae wasn’t sure what to make of it, but decided to go with it and see where it led her, though not without at least finding a place to rest first. Settling onto her currently bare island, Dragon’s Crown, Arae curled up in a circle and closed her eyes, letting her mind be taken by sleep.



Gentle musical notes roused Arae’s ears and slowly her eyelids fluttered open. A great blue sky hung over her, beating a gentle blanket of sunlight over her. Plush grass cushioned underneath her, and reeds swayed in a light spring breeze. Sitting up she noticed she was, quite suddenly, a mouse, and before her eyes was a great big stump, a gentlemanly fox sitting atop it playing a mahogany violin, his sweet music filling the air. This was very much unexpected to Arae, but she supposed that anything could happen in dreams. Leaping off the grass cushion and making her way on top of the stump, Arae walked up to the fox, wondering if this would be K’nell’s medium for this dream. “...K’nell?” Arae asked, making the assumption that it was.

The fox continued his song, the notes vibrating and bouncing off the endless blades of grass and right back at the duo as some single handed orchestra of simplicity and contentment. While the song continued, a voice suddenly swirled around Arae and the fox, grainy and mysterious, “Yes?”

Arae’s head swiveled from side to side, trying to locate the source of the voice before quickly realizing that it was pointless and gave up on it. Instead, she went on to say, “Thank you for having me here…. wherever this is… K’nell, where am I, exactly? Is this a dream? This is very pleasant, but also very peculiar.

The fox abruptly stopped playing the violin, and yet the music continued. It turned its head to Arae, great smiling crescents gleaming off his eyes. The same grainy voice hung in the air between the two animals, “You are on a stump, in a field, in a dream, with me.”

Arae simply continued to stare at the fox while hearing the answer that barely answered anything, her mind in blank confusion. She then shook her head to clear her mind, deciding to ignore this entire exchange and move on to her original objective. Gathering her thoughts, Arae asked K’nell, “K’nell, I’ve heard from Orvus that you forced him into a dream in which he was a mortal farmer with a loving family, and then punished him by removing him from that pleasant dream. I may not know what’s happened since then, but from what I’ve seen of him, he’s in a terrible state of mind. He’s constantly depressed and won’t leave his Sphere. I just want to know: why did you do that? Why did you show him that dream and then take it away?

There was an unsettling silence as the fox stared at the mouse, and then all at once the voice returned, “Orvus was presented choices; the choice to sleep, the choice to stay and the choice to leave.” He paused, “There is no ill will in a dream, just a reflection of the truth. What the viewer does with it is not my domain.”

“I find it unbecoming to speak of another being’s dreams, it is their most private scenarios. Their most secret possibilities.” The voice clung to the air like the cloudy whites in the sky.

Arae wanted to press further about the issue, but the words wouldn’t come out past the confusion she was now feeling. Between the conflicting stories, K’nell’s words of privacy, and her own conscience, Arae wasn’t sure what she should think. If Orvus was given those choices, then presumably he had chosen to leave… right? Why would Orvus be in such pain, then? Why had he said he wanted to stay? Who was really right, here? After mulling it over for a while, Arae ultimately came to the conclusion that it was completely unfathomable and gave up trying to understand it. Whatever Orvus’ choice was that time was his, and Arae had no choice but to accept that.

I’m sorry, it’s just… I don’t want to see our siblings act like this,” Arae said. “Orvus needs help, but so many of our siblings are already siding against him. While I understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, considering what Orvus has said he has done to Ashalla and Phystene, I wish they could not be so quick to cast judgement on him, especially when so little time has passed since we were just brought into this world.

The fox blinked and then started playing his violin, and only after a few seconds did the voice reappear, “You cannot control the actions of another. You can either accept them for who they are and that they will act in ways you disapprove of, or you can present them with choices and consequences. Either way, they will have the freedom to choose their own path, same as we choose ours.”

Arae pondered this reasoning for a brief moment, knowing it to be true, even if her heart was not quite satisfied with it. She sighed, then looked down at the rings in the stump as she said, “I suppose…” Looking back up at the fox, Arae decided to ask, “I may just be overthinking this, but… if the worst comes to worst, and our siblings decide to take action against Orvus, could you give him your aid?

“First Orvus has a choice to make,” The voice swirled, “As do all the others.” There was a pause as the fox placed his violin down and turned to face Arae directly, “As do you.”

...I see,” Arae said, not actually seeing it. She thought that perhaps she wouldn’t until the right time came and the decision was in front of her. She only hoped she would make a choice she wouldn’t regret. She bowed at the fox, or at least she made an attempt to, finding it quite difficult to perform the gesture in her current form. “Thank you for having me here, K’nell. This talk has given me much to think about,” Arae said. “Um… how do I leave?

“I hope all turns out well,” the grainy voice spun as a great cheshire smile grew on the fox. As the voice spoke the volume of the music increased, the notes speeding up their melody and then all at once, Arae’s eyes opened. She blinked, then looked down at herself, finding herself back in her own dragon form. Now she had to think: what was she going to do next?


Arae

MP: 7 | FP: 17


Arae did want to stay with Seihdhara and continue to support her, but she had done all she could. She had realized that her current system of Familial Trees and Lakes within her Sphere was not enough. It kept track of families well enough, but it needed more. Much more. It needed constant supervision, a way to alert Arae, and possibly even a way for a problem to be resolved without her interference. The main issue, though, was figuring out a way to maintain it. Arae had to be in her sphere in order to oversee the system and gather the information from it, but it would be pointless if that were so. After all, she still needed to head out in order to oversee her various family members and fix the various disputes they were already creating with each other. It wasn't like she could be in two places at once... or could she?

An idea began to form in Arae's mind, and she rushed off back to her Gateway as fast as she could. There were some events happening around her that she paid little attention to, such as an explosion or two in the sky, or the continents that she swore were actually moving. All that was important at the moment was the system she was about to put into place.

A dip into the Dragon's Crown and reemergence from the Pantheon familial lake later, Arae took a look at the Pantheon trees. Some of the trees were undoubtedly flourishing, some seemed to remain unchanged, and others had varying degrees of damage. All of this had happened before she even realized, which made it all the more imperative to her to set something up to fix that.

First came the base. Arae looked around, wondering what she would use to make it. Her eyes eventually settled on her Familial Tree and she decided that nothing else could be better. Carefully going through each branch, she selected the thickest one that had the most leaves and carefully snapped it off, making sure to reduce as much damage as possible to both the tree and branch. She began to do this with every Familial Tree within the Pantheon, and gathered them all together. She even scooped a handful of the lake water, just for good measure. With her materials ready, she began to mold. The branches began to glow and swirl in the air, specks of her essence flowing out of her into the mixture that formed itself into a sphere. Her hands pushed and pulled on it as it began to take the form she had pictured in her mind, plus more.

A humanoid figure stood before Arae, with an thin and elegant white dress, as well as a delicate white crown. She had pointed ears, silver eyes, and long dark gray hair. The figure blinked, and then said, "So that's how it feels to be created. Interesting." Looking up at Arae, she continued, "How may I be of service, my lady?"

"I need you to watch over my Sphere," Arae answered. "Maintain the health of the trees and lakes, and report to me if any problems cannot be solved within the Sphere."

"Very well, my lady," the figure answered.

"Also, I will need to give you a name," Arae added. "You shall be known as... Serenis."

"So it shall be, my lady," Serenis replied.

Arae gave Serenis a final examination and decided that she would be satisfactory for now. Arae then began to ask, "Serenis, what are the current relations between the gods?"

Serenis' eyes began to glow white as she looked up the information. They continued to glow for several seconds before finally fading, and Serenis answered, "Overall, most connections are either neutral or bordering on friendly at the very most. Many of the gods seem to have not interacted with anyone, at least not long enough to establish any sort of meaningful relationship. A few, though, such as Shengshi, the God of Rivers, and Chopstick Eyes, the Goddess of Markets, have multiple friendly connections made. As for the unfriendly connections, there is one god in particular, Orvus, the God of Desolation, who has garnered the displeasure of at least three of the others: Kalmar, the God of Hunting, Phystene, the Goddess of Plants, and Ashalla, the Goddess of Oceans. If my logic is sound, then I would conclude that these gods of nature do not approve of the god whose purpose is to destroy."

"Beyond what I have reported, there is nothing significant enough to warrant your attention, my lady," Serenis concluded.

"Orvus..." Arae said slowly, trying to recall who he was. her mind flashed back to the Architect's Hall, with a dark figure who seemed to have not enjoyed the events as much as the others. Arae was full of concern, briefly wondering why she had been so blind to not notice, but Arae soon cleared her mind of such thoughts and replaced them with her determination. She was going to keep her family together, and would not spare any effort in doing so.

"Thank you, Serenis. You have been a great help," Arae thanked Serenis. "Of course, my lady."

Arae then began to send Orvus a divine message, "Hello, Orvus. My name is Arae. May I have some of your time? We need to chat." Then, without waiting for a response, Arae launched herself back into the Pantheon lake, passing through the Gateway and back into Galbar, where she would hopefully find Orvus.





Michael was surprised to see Diana summon a blade made of lightning. Was there any limit to her powers? And more importantly, were they really doing this? Another individual came to support them, which Michael was grateful for, but this was still a dangerous situation to be in. With everything going on, though, he'd feel guilty if he were to run away on his own, and that wasn't something Michael wanted to have on his consciousness. Sighing, Michael muttered to himself, "Dammit, guess I'm still a fool."

Michael looked down at himself and attempted to reapply his Body Arts, altering them to increase his speed and agility, as well as reaction speed. Before he could do so, however, the ink already on his body began to reform, changing shape to become the Body Arts he was intending to draw on himself. Michael was stunned for a moment, and he soon realized what had just happened. Clearly, this was an upgrade to his powers, and it had to be discovered during such a critical time. A shame there was little time to experiment, as for now it was time for action. Michael followed after Diana, keeping an eye out for the reanimated people that would get in Diana's way. If any did, Michael simply ran ahead of Diana, using his body to ram them out of the way before proceeding to draw restraining Body Arts on them to keep them from moving.
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