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Busi Goes Blue (or How to be a Blue Mage in Eorzea) – Spell 4: Final Sting [FFXIV Fanfic]

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?


Final Sting

 

 

Among the spells that a Blue Mage can learn there are some that are more potent than others. Some would say they could surpass even Thaumaturgy in the sheer amount of raw destruction that they can unleash.  However, such spells are usually reserved for the direst of circumstances, due to the fact that they draw upon the very aether that sustains one’s life and thus leaves said caster incapacitated.

One such spell happens to be what we will be outlining: Final Sting.

This spell works to convert the entirety of one’s anima into a concentrated aetherial poison that is forcibly driven into a single target, inflicting a massive amount of damage. Even the most fearsome of foe can be felled should they find themselves on the receiving end of this spell, but the steep price and incapacitation that follows means that it should never be used except as an absolute last resort.

While a number of vilekin of the Giant Hornet genus are capable of utilizing this lethal technique, the most feasible to obtain it from are located in the following region of Eorzea…

<-><-><-><-><->

Cocobusi had been mildly concerned about potentially learning the next spell that he could gain before his time in La Noscea came to an end. He may have been a fledgling adventurer as far as the others in the group he was traveling with were concerned, but he was first and foremost an Alchemist. He had obligations to the guild, and it was only because he’d taken an allowed leave of absence that he could pursue gaining his spells without consequence.

That being said, this spell appeared to be one of the more dangerous ones.

From what he could gather the spell worked by concentrating one’s aether and anima until it reached a dangerous level of density, transmuting it into a potent poison, and then forcibly driving it into a target utilizing pressure from contracting the aetheric channels. He already knew that it was possible for individuals to weave aether into a poisonous substance, and that a sudden influx of a dense concentration of aether into one’s body would cause a violent reaction. But he also knew that if what he was grasping was true, utilizing the spell would most likely leave him in a state that was similar as to what happened with Cocobuki if he used it—on the verge of death.

Having all the aetheric channels contracting at once due to the aether flowing through them being squeezed out would cause the body to go into shock nearly instantly. Even with a transfusion of aether or restorative magicks to get them back on their feet, the body would still take time to recuperate from the sudden shock. And that was for someone with the anima capacity to utilize such demanding spells like his brothers.

All the same, it was still a spell that he could learn—even if he had no immediate intention of using it.

That was why he’d traveled to Three-Malm Bend after he’d had more time to practice with his newest spell. He figured out both the range and casting time to prevent anymore mishaps, which proved wise considering there were a number of other adventurers who’d answered the calls of the Yellow Jackets this time for what seemed to be another seasonal culling. It was Giant Hornets this time.

Apparently there was a large number of vilekin because they built nests in the trees close to a checkpoint here. While they were normally only aggressive when you approached their hive, during this season some were known to grow so large that they could tower over a Hyur. And these “Kings” naturally sought to expand their hives while stirring up the local population of wespes into becoming much more aggressive, meaning that they had to be put down.

What incentivized the Adventurers was that the pay was much better due to the Culinarian Guild financing the reward, as in the aftermath they could harvest Honey from the hives with far less risk to themselves. Cocobusi saw it as the best opportunity to learn Final Sting, and so he’d prepared himself by using the last of his earnings from that cheese quest he took.

Of course, he couldn’t really be prepared for the chaos that it rapidly devolved into as he observed how quickly trouble arose when several parties of adventurers vied for the same prize. The portion of La Noscea they were in was something of a habitat for more passive monsters, but with so many spells and attacks going off haphazardly, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that stray shots would abound. And, once angered, the once-passive monsters had taken to the field resulting in a battle on multiple fronts.

In one such case earth shifted as it was rose from the ground, pooling together mid-air in front of a Conjurer’s Maple Crook. The densely packed soil was bound together into Stone, its grinding weight sent flying towards the upraised claw of a Megalocrab. It hammered into the limb that was in the midst of preparing to crush a Marauder that was trapped within its other set of pincers, fruitlessly trying to hack away at the hardened, green carapace without solid leverage, and knocked its attack astray before it could cave in their skull.

But the beast only responded by spitting out a weave of thick bubbles in her direction that frothed and sizzled as it coated the grass. The acrid scent of the digestive fluids turned hasty weapon was quite poignant, leaving the Conjurer to wisely step back. But in doing so her partner was left trapped between the jagged teeth and crushing finger of the claw, soon to be torn in half once the weave of protective aether around his skin that seemed to act as a Bulwark faltered.

Seeing their plight as he had several others to this point, Cocobusi prioritized helping them and an aetherial replica of the goblin explosive found its way into his hand. Then he gave a shout of warning to the pair before chucking the palm-sized bomb. “Incoming!”

BOOM!

The moment the explosion blew off the rear legs of the giant crab and it collapsed to the ground, they didn’t waste the chance. With a shout, the Marauder was suddenly wreathed in a bloom of aether that seemed to seethe from his skin as he began hacking away with his axe in a rage. The carapace covering the arm shattered with the single swing, cleaving through and severing the limb. Freed, he then proceeded bring the head of the heavy Cloud Axe down on its carapace over and over.

If the slashes before could chop wood, then the blows now would cleave through solid stone. The hard, chitin broke, green fragments and blood spraying as the axe struck the tender meat below. The wavekin let loose a shriek as it came out of its stagger and attempted to crush him with its remaining arm when another Stone slammed into it, finishing it off. Once the monster was dead, the Marauder fell to a knee and the Conjurer ran over to tend to the wounds he’d sustained.

They should be fine now, Cocobusi thought to himself before he caught a flicker of light-pink hair further out. It was the Arcanist he’d worked alongside a few times now, running after her Carbuncle as she attempted to participate in the hunt as well. He hoped the arcane construct wasn’t being too difficult to manage, given things were already chaotic enough as it was. He was tempted to follow after her to make sure, but a brief flash of light in the corner of his eyes pulled his attention elsewhere.

Specifically, towards a trio consisting of a Miqo’te Pugilist, a Hyur Gladiator, and a Lalafell Thaumaturge in the midst of struggling with some of the very Killer Wespes that he’d come to slay for their spell. That Flash he’d seen earlier must’ve been a technique that gathered aether on the weapon and transmuted it into light to blind an enemy. Though from what Cocobusi had heard in passing the Gladiator’s guild had stopped teaching it due to the fact that it could catch allies unaware as well.

The Pugilist, a young woman, was nursing a bleeding wound to her abdomen as she curled up on the ground. The Gladiator, a young man, was using his shield and sword to keep her safe as the Giant Hornets blindly attempted to sting him. As for the Thaumaturge, who looked to be somewhat older than the Blue Mage himself, he was currently being attacked by a Water Sprite.

Cocobusi suspected that they were all fresh from Ul’dah where, due to a shortage of those capable of restorative magicks compared to the other nations, a group of three would center their tactics around piling on a singular enemy and bringing them down quickly. Their original intention was probably to have the Thaumaturge use Sleep on the swarm and from there they would slay them one-by-one. But because of the Water Sprite had begun attacking the Thaumaturge, he couldn’t properly focus on shifting the polarity of his inner anima and so now he was left fumbling with his traveling pack to pull out an Ether while under attack.

His brothers often complained about how neophyte Thaumaturges tended to improperly manage their capacity for destructive spells at inopportune times. Bearing witness to the sprite pooling water-aspected aether into a ball and launching the Water spell hard enough that it knocked the Lalafell off his feet, despite the fact that he tried to block it with his Square Maple Shield, showed exactly why. Either way, he had to act now lest the situation worsen.

The novice Blue Mage cast the Bomb Toss spell once more, flinging it towards the Water Sprite. For a moment he held some concern that the sprite, being a minor elemental of the opposing element on the aetheric wheel to fire, would be unharmed by the explosion. But the explosive force still managed to rattle the sprite, its form undulating around the crystal shard that it used for a heart.

“Hurry and drink your Ether!” Cocobusi told the neophyte Thaumaturge as he then ran closer to the other group to assist them as well, pulling out a Potion. Casting the explosive spell for a third time, he flung it overhead towards the swarm of Killer Wespes as the blindness wore off.

BOOM!

When the explosion dazed the Giant Hornets, leaving them stunned for a few precious moments, the Gladiator took the chance to start slashing away at them. The obsidian edges of his Ash Macuahuitl ripped through one in a spray of visceral fluid before finding the head of another and caving it in. But as the Pugilist spared a glance in his direction and she saw him running towards them with the Potion in hand, she shouted, “Watch out!”

He didn’t get the meaning of the warning until he felt something hard and wet slam into his back, knocking Cocobusi off his feet and sending the Potion flying out of his grasp. Reunited with the sense of pain that he’d become a little too accustomed to since starting his adventuring career, he raised his head to see the cause of. The Water Sprite was drifting his way, having seemingly earned its enmity from the bombing.

He saw the next attack coming, a watery sphere being fired towards him like a cannonball. He barely rolled out of the way before it splashed down where he had been. Then he got back onto his feet and prepared himself for the next one when a bundle of frigid, ice-aspected aether from the umbral polarity hit the Water Sprite.

The Blizzard spell erupted into white ice and blue frost as it smashed into the watery mass. The cold began to subsume it as the Thaumaturge began another incantation and funneled his aether into Marbled Eye of the Copper Scepter that he wielded in his right hand. Not to be undone, Cocobusi dredged up the primal HUNGER for aether that he used to activate his Soul Crystal and proceeded to rip the aether from the Water Sprite.

The elemental was little more than a mass of somewhat aware aether, so Blood Drain took from the whole and rid it of element before flowing into him as the creature strained to keep itself together until the throbbing sphere of fire that had pooled around the Thaumaturge’s scepter was released. The moment the two elements met there was a violent burst of steam as the water that it had pooled together around the shard that was its heart evaporated. The Water Shard fell to the ground, the elemental’s awareness scattered.

That left the real threats, the Killer Wespes that the Gladiator and Pugilist were fending off. The sharpened point of a stinger scraped against his Bronze Hoplon as he parried a thrust for his head before shrouding it in aether and slamming it into the vilekin. The resulting shockwave as it discharged left it dazed long enough for the Pugilist to deliver a Snap Punch that caused it to collapse to the ground lifelessly.

Next, the Gladiator raised his leg and drove a kick into the abdomen of another vilekin, which sent another burst of aether through its body and stunning it. That bought him enough time to spin around with his weapon, cutting it down while the rest of the vilekin that were attacking him backed away to avoid more than a glancing cut from the obsidian points of his weapon.

The novice Blue Mage and neophyte Thaumaturge began casting to further turn the tide, giving a shout of warning that didn’t go unnoticed by the Pugilist. She called out to the Gladiator as incantations from one flowed freely from rote memory as while azure diamonds encircling the other created the aetherial construct of another goblin explosive. The Gladiator gathered aether onto the tip of his sword and released a blinding flash that robbed the compound eyes of their vision, before sprinting to get out of range as the Bomb Toss flew first.

BOOM!

The volatile construct of fire-aspected aether ruptured as it landed amidst the swarm, the explosion swallowing the giant hornets and stalling most of their wings from the shock. The Sleep spell from the Thaumaturge followed, robbing them of their consciousness. They laid on the ground in a deep, yet ephemeral slumber that was soon to be made permanent—with one exception, that was.

A single one escaped from the fringes of the blast, rushing out of the smoke as it sped towards the Thaumaturge in a frenzied haste, eager to claim his life. But the Gladiator sprinted to meet it midway and intercepted the point with his shield, guiding the killing thrust away as it scraped against the metal surface hard enough to scratch the surface deeply. The Pugilist followed up with another punch that was hard enough to knock it to the ground, whereupon the Gladiator stabbed it in the head.

Seeing they had that in hand as they turned their attention to the sleeping swarm to kill them off before they could wake, Cocobusi decided to keep moving to help where he could. Some of the adventurers were faring even worse than the two groups he’d thrown his lot in with so far. Those he attempted to buy time for so they could get away or supplied Potions to keep them alive, before they ended up amongst the dead.

EEK!”

It was only after he finished dispatching another Water Sprite that had gotten too ambitious that the cry of a familiar voice reached his ears. It was the Arcanist he’d worked with before, pink hair and a fiery attitude. Only now she was in a pinch, clutching her grimoire to her chest and her Carbuncle missing while a trio of Killer Wespe fluttered towards her with lethal intention.

Acting quickly, Cocobusi focused on casting the Sticky Tongue spell and let loose the aetherial tongue. In the blink of an eye the Arcanist was crumpled on the ground in front of him while covered in the sticky, aetherially replicated toad saliva. A sound of disgust and frustration slipped out of her mouth as her gaze turned positively venomous when she noticed he was responsible.

He felt bad about getting her slimy, even though it’d dissipate soon enough. But he didn’t have time to really focus on that since the Killer Wespes were still keen on attacking. They were headed towards the pair now, closing the 25 yalms between them rather quickly. “You can yell at me later, but first we need to deal with this!”

“My book ran out of pages!” She held up what was left of her grimoire. Sure enough there were only a handful of pages left that were inside, all of them filled with inscriptions and formulae for her other spells. Since she used the extra pages as a medium for calling out her arcane entity, that meant she couldn’t summon anymore.

“Then get to safety!” he said before he ran forward to put distance between himself and her. She’d need time to get free and flee, and his options were limited as he mentally recounted his stock. I have two sleeping potions left. Will they be enough?

With little time to debate it, he tossed the bottles of Sleeping Potion towards a pair, leaving the glass to shatter on impact. The fluids within splashed over their exoskeletons and seeped in, leave them in a stupor as they drifted down to the ground. But the last one was closing in while preparing to jab at him with its stinger.

Out of other options, he focused on casting Bomb Toss once more and felt the anima pulled from deep within him forming the backbone of the spiraling diamonds as they siphoned and shaped ambient aether. Goblin explosive in hand yet again, he tossed it at the incoming monster right as it entered stabbing range.

BOOM!

The Blue Mage was knocked off his feet from the detonation being so close, bones shaking from the force of the explosion. But the vilekin swept up in the explosion took the worst of it, still on the ground and writhing about trying to get its wings working again. He found it in him to cast Energy Drain once before it managed to get up, ripping the aether out of its body violently before it retaliated by violently flailing about with its stinger.

There was a flash of pain and the sound of fabric tearing as a Sharp Sting caught his shoulder when he tried to parry the incoming stab. Blood seeped from the wound as he lashed out with the cane in his other hand, whacking it twice, only for it to retaliate by slamming into him reflexively. It managed to knock him onto his back while the cane flew from his grasp.

Oww…” In pain, Cocobusi fumbled around for his cane for a moment only to see the stinger on its abdomen swaddled in a dense amount of aether. He realized that the wounded vilekin was getting ready to deliver the fatal sting right as it descended—

Fire!

—when a fireball slammed into the vilekin a moment before it could spear through his chest and deliver the venom into his heart. The flames swept away the burning husk of the Killer Wespe, smoldering bits and pieces raining down all around Cocobusi. He’d barely felt the minor shake in his pocket over the pounding in his chest as the Thaumaturge from before came over, scepter in one hand with smoke wafting off it.

“That was a close one,” he said, extending the other towards the downed Lalafell. “Can you stand?”

Cocobusi nodded and accepted the help getting up. “Thank you.”

“Think nothing of it,” the Thaumaturge said. “It would be ill of us if we left you to die while in aid of another, after benefiting from such ourselves.”

“Leaving a debt as such unchecked would catch up to us in Thal’s Halls when we got there,” the Gladiator from before said, now on his way over with the Pugilist. Their weapons were covered in fresh viscera, the sleeping pair of Killer Wespe slain as the one attacking him was blown to pieces. The immediate threat was over then.

“Not that we were in a rush to get there anytime soon,” the Pugilist quickly added, while bringing her hands together in gratitude. “Thanks for the Potion earlier, by the way. Though it looks like you could use one yourself now.”

She wasn’t wrong. The bleeding wound he had was still running, and he felt his bones aching from the proximity to his own explosion. “I used up all of my Potions helping others today, but they’ll mend in time.”

“A fool’s logic.” The sharp barb was followed by a familiar sensation washing over him. It was the soothing sense of his body mending through the workings of a Physick spell. He turned to see that the Arcanist was once more casting her healing magicks on him with an annoyed expression. “You are lucky that I am feeling generous in spite of what you did to me.”

He supposed she was still upset about covering her in slime. But the fact that she still saw fit to tend to his wounds left him grateful. “Thank you.”

Hmph.” The Arcanist huffed as she turned away from him. “If you have to keep butting in, at least do it properly. There’s no point in playing the hero if you’re going to end up getting killed yourself.”

And with that said, she proceeded to walk off towards the direction of the Yellow Jackets. It seemed that the King Wespes had been successfully culled while they were preoccupied. All that was left was to help the wounded back to the city-state and collect their compensation for participation.

“We didn’t manage to get any of the juicy targets, so I doubt we’ll get much for all the trouble we went through,” the Pugilist said bitterly, ears and tail drooping. “I wanted enough to at least try one of the meals I’ve heard about at the Bismark.”

“As far as I’m concerned, so long as we get enough to fill the belly and a few pints that should be enough,” the Gladiator replied with a shrug of the shoulders. “Anything is better than the days of eating thrown-out scraps just to stop our bellies from aching.”

“I didn’t need the reminder,” she said, ears and tail rising in agitation. “The whole point in us becoming adventurers was to get away from all of that. That’s why we should keep trying something new every step of the way—right up until we make it big.”

“You two can debate on suitable cuisine with whatever our finances after we have replenished our supplies and repaired our equipment,” the Thaumaturge stated firmly, giving the impression that he’d had to do so beforehand a number of times. He then looked towards Cocobusi. “Once more, we thank you for your assistance. But do be a bit more careful in the future, yes?”

“Take care,” the Pugilist said with a cheery wave while the Gladiator gave him a nod. Then the three of them set off.

What a peculiar bunch they were, Cocobusi mused. From what he could gather the Hyur and Miqo’te were likely orphans or inhabitants of the slums prior to becoming adventurers. But the Lalafell seemed almost scholarly. How they’d met and formed a party was beyond him to grasp, but adventurers came in all sorts and from all different lots in life. I suppose I’m not exactly one in a position to judge either.

Besides, he really did owe them his gratitude. They‘d helped him in more ways than one, given the sensation he’d felt when the mage had killed the Killer Wespe attacking him. He’d gotten his fourth spell thanks to that, all that concentrated aether being violently released in such proximity practically guaranteeing it.

Shame I can’t actually use it, he thought to himself while brushing his hand over his pocket where the Soul Crystal was nestled. He would still meditate on it when he returned to his room, as he did the other spells, but chances were he’d never use it. The risk was simply too great for him to consider it under normal circumstances, especially with his low anima levels at the moment.

Still, even if it was a close call, he’d helped some others and earned a new spell.

That was good enough for the moment.

 

 


Fanfic Recommendation 89

 


My Fanfics


 

Rabbit of the Moon: Interlude 2 – Growing Insight of Three

Summary: In a different world, Bell Cranel died at the hands of the Minotaur on the Fifth Floor. The Moon Presence, searching for a new Hunter to bring the long night to an end, just so happened to stumble across his soul on the way to Heaven. Thus a contract was established.

 

 


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Rabbit of the Moon: Interlude 2 [DanMachi/Bloodborne]

Interlude 2: The Growing Insight of Three

 

For a second time Aiz felt like she’d run straight into a brick wall. She’d been tasked with dealing with the last monster that had escaped—a Silverback—when a pungent scent met her head on. The aroma dug into her mind and clouded her thoughts for only a moment, but that still brought her sprint to an abrupt halt.

“Huh…” The sound of interest came from her Goddess next to her. “You can smell it too?”

“Yes.” Her eyes spanned the street, searching for the source of the scent she knew to be the boy that had killed the Minotaur. Her senses, augmented by her Level, attuned to the noise of the street until she heard a single set of running footfall and heavy pants, along with the moonscent—as Loki had told her—tinged with blood.

Then, once more, Bell Cranel came into view as he burst out of a side alley that was nearby.   The young boy was covered in battle-ravaged leather that had been sheared and scraped to the point where bare skin and battered metal were on display. Sweat from exertion dotted his brow where strands of his white hair clung desperately.

Aiz let out a small groan and held a slender hand to her head that began to pound with his approach. She didn’t know what it was about him that she was feeling. She couldn’t know how to register it. All she could do was wait for him to pass by her without a word as he continued to flee, the pulsing sensation lessening somewhat as his footfalls continued past her.

“Ugh…” Loki was holding her nostrils closed, so her voice came out a bit childish as she said, “It’s pretty thick compared to at the tavern, huh?”

Aiz nodded as they turned and watched him continue to run until a girl emerged from a side-street and grabbed his hand, eliciting a brief look of shock on the boy’s face before recognition set in. Then words were exchanged, an offer to ‘help him escape from sight’ from what Aiz could hear, before she pulled him into the alley. The footfalls that she could hear belonging to them took them away from the Main Street.

“It’s strange,” Aiz settled on after a moment of thought. “But something about it… makes me nervous…”

“Hmm…” Loki crossed her arms and hummed lightly in thought. “Call it a hunch, but I feel it my bones that sumthin’ about its off too…”

As she contemplated that to herself, Aiz picked up on the activity on the street and how it seemed to have blossomed. People were excitedly talking about an adventurer dressed in leather who fought and slew a monster right in the plaza. She had her suspicions that it was the boy they were talking about, so she approached a pair of children that were in the middle of playing.

“Ah, excuse me?” she said, crouching down towards one of the children. “Could you tell me about what happened just now with a monster?”

The child didn’t hesitate. “It was amazing! This big monster went ‘RAAAHHH’ and tried to squish this white-haired mister with its big arms! But he was so fast, and he had this hammer that had a sword in it! He went ‘swish’ and blood flew everywhere, and the monster went ‘GAAHHH’ and then—”

Aiz listened on as he continued on in an excited manner until an adult called for him and he said goodbye. Then she turned back to her Goddess, who was conversing with an elderly woman. When the woman parted way, Loki cradled one arm while holding a hand to her chin.

Suspicious…” Loki mused. “That young lady was kind enough to tell me a bit about what just happened. It seemed that boy killed the Silverback with a weapon that could go between a hammer and a sword, or something that he could call back to him even when separated. I’d say it’d be an enchanted weapon, but Cow Tits can’t afford sumthin’ like that. Could it possibly be some form of magic?”

It wasn’t unheard of that someone who was just given a Falna would have access to magic. Outside of a Grimoire it was something that seemed to happen sporadically, with some species being more likely to manifest it or exceptions like Aiz, who had Aerial since she received Loki’s blessing. For all they knew it was something the boy was capable of since he became an adventurer—he did kill a Monster that Level 2s would struggle against the first time she’d seen him, so a Silverback wouldn’t be that much of a threat.

But from the colorful way the boy had described the fight, it sounded like it had dragged out for a bit. That was strange, considering that someone who could kill a Minotaur should be able to kill a Silverback within mere seconds at worse. But, at the same time, she didn’t think it sounded like he was making a show of it when there was a chance of civilians being caught in the crossfire.

He didn’t seem all that polished when it came to fighting from what she’d seen the last time either. He wasn’t quite helpless and seemed to know enough not to wound himself with the butcher’s weapon he had, but he didn’t seem anywhere near expertise in terms of skill wielding it or when facing off against the Minotaur considering how sloppy his movements were. He’d barely avoided most of the hits and the ones he tried to block had broken through his guard utterly.

That was expected for the Upper Floors—in fact, it was almost what she’d expect from a new adventurer who hadn’t refined their combat skills out of the Dungeon like some of the former soldiers or hunters she’d seen. But against Silverbacks that lived close to the Middle Floors and the Minotaurs that came from the floors below it, that was another story. Simply surviving to the point that you could venture down there would require countless battles, during which you’d build up experience with fighting subconsciously.

So how did he manage to kill the Minotaur then? Her head began to ache as she thought back to it. He seemed almost confused that he’d managed to prevail, or the fact that he had the magic stone. Could it have been that he wasn’t aware of the fact that he’d done it?

Aiz thought back then when their eyes met. She didn’t quite grasp what she heard with the whispers that seemed to give her a headache, but before then she recalled thinking that his weapon was his fangs and his hands were his claws. The primal way he’d cried out as he ripped out its magic stone had been almost…bestial.

It didn’t really suit him at all from how timid and small he looked when not cloaked in tattered clothes, fresh blood, and broken steel. But somehow that was part of what caused her to feel on edge. Not completely, but the sensation that she was staring down a predator for that moment does seem close to how she could best describe it.

“Well, either way, the Silverback was taken care of and no civilians got hurt from the sound of it,” Loki said abruptly, changing the topic and pulling Aiz from her thoughts as the Goddess grasped her arm and pulled it against her smaller body. “Let’s go back to the others, Aizuu.”

“Ah… sure…” She nodded before turning on her heel and following after her Goddess. Bell Cranel was a mystery to Aiz now more than ever, but there were other mysteries she needed to focus on. Other things she needed to do and other people waiting for her.

She’d put the mystery of the Moon-scented Boy to the back of her mind for now.

[R-M]

Freya moaned softly as she cradled her head from the throbbing pressure that nestled itself right behind her eyes, a crystal ball situated on the table next to her. The cloak she normally wore out to avoid drawing the gaze of men and women by the virtue of her sheer beauty laid on her lap, unneeded. She’d rented out the entire restaurant for the moment in order to ensure her privacy while she observed her ploy at work.

It hadn’t been something she’d explicitly planned out. But rather a spontaneous opportunity that crossed her mind the moment that she noticed that Bell and Hestia were out for the festival and in possession of Syr’s Purse. The wheels in her mind began to whirl and she foresaw an opportunity to potentially lure out the one who stole her prize away from her.

After all, many of the Gods and Goddesses were out and about during the Monsterphilia. She was sure that the one who’d tainted his soul with that infuriating color would be too. If they’d come to Bell’s aid when he faced off against a monster within the Dungeon via some unknown means, then she was sure they’d do the same here.

She set the plan into motion within an hour. Her Familia had a collection of many talented individuals, all of whom had captured her eye to some extent. Pickpockets and swift runners among them were perfectly capable of pulling him away from Hestia and the Guild member, baiting him to a suitable stage that would be far enough from any meddling adventurer and freeing the others to act as a distraction—not that she intended for them to harm anyone intentionally.

She’d slipped into where they’d kept the monster and used her Charm to enthrall them after leaving the members of the Familia watching over them senseless. Men. Women. Monsters—the way her beauty ensorcelled them was simply overwhelming and she’d been careful not to be seen while having the monsters act as puppets, keeping the other Familia who would be out and about busy while the Silverback she’d chosen to be her instrument slipped away.

Her headache had begun shortly after that, before he’d engaged the Silverback while donning a coat and wielding a hammer that didn’t seem to suit him at all. For a brief moment, she had a flicker of a scene where he laid broken on the ground and bleeding as his own weapon was left lodged in his chest. It had been faint and fleeting, leaving her to assume it was her imagination of a possible outcome that awaited him.

Really, it would have been expected considering how short his tenure as an Adventurer had been so far. But it wasn’t that she wanted to kill him. After all, it had been so long since she’d felt such a strong attachment to someone at first sight. She should’ve snatched him right up rather than allowing him to pass her by, but she wanted to see him grow from a distance.

Alas, where there was love there was envy and jealousy. For someone to take what she claimed for herself was simply unacceptable. And so, as punishment, the boy would now become the bait by which Freya would find the one that dyed the unblemished color of his soul and laid claim to the one she’d seen first.

She’d use him to find them. Then she would break them. Take everything that was theirs and destroy them for daring to take what she’d claimed for herself while reveling in the carnage—she was a Goddess of Love and War in equal parts after all.

Loki had said that she smelled the scent of the moon on him when they talked the night of the banquet. There were few who descended and held dominion over the moon, thus few who could grace him with their presence—likely being either Artemis or Achelois.

She had her doubts that it was Artemis, even if she knew that the goddess was on friendly terms with Hestia. Not only was she the head of a Hunting Familia that was far beyond the walls of Orario, which Hermes confirmed once she coaxed him into talking, but her Familia’s policies were well-known in regards to men and love. Men were never allowed to join, and those seeking to start a relationship had to leave the Familia behind. The thought that she would somehow bless Bell shortly after his arrival in Orario was too farfetched.

That only left Achelois. She was a minor goddess who had seemingly all but vanished some time ago. Freya hadn’t paid the disappearance any thought until now, given that the woman was struggling to simply find followers and simply wasn’t of interest to her. But considering the circumstances…

Well, perhaps she should put some effort into finding out just where she’d vanished to?

Either way, as her headache began upon dismissing that vivid imagery, Bell revealed he possessed a magic that she had been unaware of. A method by which he could call his arms and items to him. There were magical items that could do so, but she had the distinct feeling that it was magic.

More than that, there as something unique about it. When he called for his weapon, she could have sworn she’d something there. Thin, translucent things anxiously and eagerly groping the weapons from where space seemed to ripple around him.

Her head shuddered thinking about it. And the pressure behind her eyes felt like it was a living thing, squirming softly. She needed a moment of peace and quiet to get herself together and wait for it to pass.

A few hours to settle her head…

[R-M]

Hestia had her suspicions that something was amiss when that silver-haired woman approached both her and Eina by the coliseum.

Not because she was suspicious in herself. But because of the faint trace of a familiar moon-scented fragrance that was on her. It set off warning bells and a sense of dread gnawed at Hestia’s stomach.

Then the young woman pulled out her purse. It was the one that had been stolen from them, only now it was steeped in the scent of the moon. Hestia had realized in that instant that he’d died again, and only learned how once the young woman showed them the a magic stone that had been cleaved in half and explained that Bell had slain the Silverback.

He’d died again. He’d been sent back to that place again. He’d died and returned again.

And she’d failed to notice again until it was too late.

The moment she realized that, Hestia felt her legs lose strength and collapsed onto her knees. Eina had asked if she was okay, but Hestia only wanted to know where her child was. The moment the young woman said that she helped him slip away from the crowd so that he could go back home, Hestia made her way back there without a second thought.

It was there she found Bell.

Light spilled down from the windows to illuminate his white hair that was pattered with dull red from blood. Next to him on the pew was discarded leather clothing and battered armor that looked to be in horrendous condition, silently telling an adventurer’s tale of trials and tribulations. He sat with his face buried in his hands, quietly muttering between labored breaths and sobbing to himself.

She treaded carefully, feeling her heart breaking when she recalled how happy he looked the day he first set out to the Dungeon. There had been a smile on his face that could melt the coldest of hearts not even two weeks ago, sweetly complimenting the young boy eager to answer the call of adventure and become a hero. The moment she came to a stop in front of him and laid her hands onto shoulders, Bell’s arms snaked around her slender figure and he buried his face against her.

Goddess… forgive me…” his voice came out hoarse and worn. His body shuddered as he wept. “Forgive me.”

Feeling the stinging tears in her eyes now, Hestia didn’t allow herself to cry. Not when he needed her to be strong. She wiped away her own forming tears and then forced a smile as she gently brushed his hair to console him. “It’ll be okay, Bell.”

After that Bell took a shower before he confessed what had happened in the confines of their room. He confessed to her of the Little Girl and her request; his attempt to fulfill the wish of a child who was left all alone. He confessed of Gascoigne and Viola; a husband and wife torn apart by the curse of Beasthood. He confessed of the Dweller and Henryk; an attempt to do good leaving a child with no family left in the world.

She’d listened to it all before peering into his Falna as he laid prone in bed, unraveling what he lacked the heart or mind to tell her outright. The foreign words hammered into her mind of a tragic tale writ with blood and regret, images that left the scenes to come to mind with a vividness as if she was there at some point. It hurt enough that she felt pulsing pain in her skull, but it was nothing compared to what Bell had undergone.

She owed it to her child to accept his story and his pain. It was the least she could do for him.  For that reason, Hestia bore with the sensation writhing over her brain, all so that she could learn and could gain the wisdom needed to help Bell.

Taking in his sorrow and grief, his tribulations and triumphs, she immersed herself in his tale. She took in the details that may have escaped his mind, grabbing hold of whatever knowledge he’d taken it and committing it to her own memory. It was only when she’d read his tale from that faithful Minotaur attack until before they’d reunited above that she pulled herself free of the engrossing tragedy…

Only to find that Bell had fallen asleep beneath her.

She looked towards the clock. It was nearing midnight. The entire day had been lost to her, and the moment she realized that the exhaustion caught up to her all at once.

Her mind was weary from the knowledge. Her body sore from sitting in place for hours on end, hunched over Bell’s backside and head angled down to read his story. The allure of sleep was too strong to resist for her as well, another downside to being relegated to a physical form.

Limited as she was to her mortal body, Hestia could only do so little for Bell. How she yearned to unleash her Arcanum and free him from the shackles that bound him to that nightmarish world. But after peering so deeply she understood that doing so would rob him of the solace that her presence would bring him.

Steeped as he was in loneliness and regret, Bell clung to her as family and found meaning in the life they now shared together. He would never forgive himself if she gave up her life here to liberate him from that nightmare. And she would never forgive herself for leaving him in such a state.

There has to be another way to free you and remain together, Hestia thought to herself as she laid next to Bell on the bed and gently brushed his cheeks. I promise I’ll find it for you, Bell. No matter what.

[R-M]

 

Bell Cranel

Level One

Strength: F-392 > C-601

Defense: F-373 > D-592

Dexterity: I-96 > F-321

Agility: E-487 > A-903

Magic: I-0

Skills:
Blessing of Flora

Beasthood

Heir (Murky)


Fanfic Recommendation 88

 


My Fanfics


 

Busi Goes Blue – Spell 3: Bomb Toss

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?

Calling Card: Interlude 4 – Commander of Control Tower #7

Summary: Shinji Matou had been looking to redeem himself after the Holy Grail War, but wasn’t certain how to. Then he learned about a crimson calling card labeled Psyren. Saving the future would be a good starting point. A pseudo-crossover using elements of Psyren, it will contain characters from several Nasuverse works, including Tsukihime. Based on a Challenge by FateOnline.

 

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


A Rising of the Shield Hero x Yakuza Crossover Fanfic

Summary: Post Song of Life Kiriyu is summoned through a ritual with the Vassal Weapon to become the Gauntlet Hero. With nothing left for him after faking his death at the end, how will the dragon rise to the defense of the Shield Hero.


Intrepid: 20-06 Madison – 20-07 Sophia 
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way


Service with a Smile 59 – 60

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: When Jaune’s forged transcripts were rebuffed, his only option was to return home in disgrace or forge a new life in Vale. Opening a diner was an impetuous decision, being good at it a stroke of luck. Becoming the favourite haunt for students, teachers and criminals alike…? That was neither, but it sure did keep things interesting. Wasn’t the civilian life supposed to be easier?


Symbiotic 9 –  10

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary: In a different life Ash looks on his world from an unique perspective.

 


Locked Away 65 – 67

A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Follows coma theory: Ash wakes up from a ten year coma to realize that all of his adventures were only a figment of his imagination; but he questions if they were more than that. Everything has changed in ten years, and he must put back all the shattered pieces while he embarks on a new journey to save the world and himself. Pokeshipping.

A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.


A Future Tied by Fates 44

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”

 


Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Interlude 4 – Commander of Control Tower #7

Interlude 4 – Commander of Control Tower #7

In the heart of what was once the country of Japan was a Siren Tower unlike any other.

It stood far taller than the eight others over the continent, a massive structure whose tip nearly touched the ashen sky. Its circumference spanned a small city, wrought of alien steel interlaced with a crystalline substance and could easily be mistaken for a mountain that one day appeared where before where only flat lands existed. Unlike the others that were also outposts housing detachment of Taboo and Homunculi, designated to scour the ruins for the Resistance and overseeing the terraforming progress, and far exceeded those in size due to the various functions that needed to be carried out.

And unlike every other building crafted by the hands of man, it wouldn’t be subject to the erosion and the changes in the laws of nature caused by the Rebirth.

It was the Control Tower responsible for keeping the ashen sky over Japan in place with the eight smaller ones acting as relays, meant to extend the emission and form a net to keep the skies obfuscated. It not only blocked the sun’s rays from touching the surface, but stimulated the development of PSI and empowered the cores that the Taboo used to function. It was easily the most important tactical structure within Japan—and so naturally you’d presume that the one in charge of it was the most important figure in Japan.

Yet that same figure was left kneeling in the private chamber of the Communications Room located near the top of the tower. The room acted as a hub for personal communication between Control Towers on the other continents, backed by the relay towers with technology that could empower PSI. It even allowed for projections of individuals akin to holograms at vast distances with little strain on the user.

It was before one of these projections that the Head of Control Tower #7 bowed towards one of the Millennial Commander as he finished his report.

I cannot say that I am surprised that you would report only failure once more.

Bitterness stung the back of kneeling man’s throat as the scathing words felt like a weight pressing down on him. There was no surprise in the words, as if it was expectant that he would have nothing to show even before the appointed time to make his report arrived. After all, this Millennial Commander had never hidden the disdain he felt towards those of his race even before the Appointed Date arrived and heralded the arrival of a new age.

Head raised, he spoke up in his own defense. “We nearly had her this time, but the Resistance intervened again. The Traitor has trained them well and their numbers seem to grow by the day. But we’ve already narrowed down her hiding place and my secret weapon has finished its cultivation. We’ll have the Vampire in our grasp soon—you have my word.”

The declaration was met with irritating sound, a cross between a scoff and chuckle. “As if the word of a rat who boarded the ark and is too cowardly to hunt down those who would despoil their future paradise himself holds any weight. It’s only because of your relation to the Council of Elders, and the fact that you were in those backwoods, that you were given governance of that tower—a decision that has proven time and again to be a mistake.

“I… I’ll be heading out myself this time,” he said, bowing his head in supplication and his voice stale. “Eltnam Atlasia will be caught. The Resistance will be crushed. I will gamble my life on it.”

Hmph. You’ll forgive me if I doubt that… but the alternative is that I would have to travel there to intervene directly. And if I must take time out of my own duties to ensure that we have the key to Atlas and dealing with the parasite that hinders the paradise we’ve been chosen to bring about… well, I won’t hesitate to show my displeasure.

And with that the projection vanished, leaving only oppressive silence and oily darkness in the sealed room.

The moment he was left alone in the room, the mask broke. The placid visage gave way to an ugly scowl as the man rose from his bow and spat towards the projector. “How dare he speak to me like that?”

He’d expected to be chastised for his failure given the importance of the task. The Vampire held the key to a tool that would accelerate their plans by dealing with that thing in what had once been South America. The fact that she was in his territory than one of the others dictated it would be his duty to apprehend her while they tended to the other unexpected factors that were not accounted for when they put their plan into motion.

But for the Butcher of the Church to be the one who talked down to him was demeaning. He was not of their family, the ones who’d been chosen to herald the impending change upon the world. How he received the blessing of the star and became one of the Millennial Commanders was beyond comprehension.

“Soon, I’ll show him.” Straightening his suit, he exited the private chamber and entered the main section of the Communications Room, where roughly a dozen set of crimson eyes were in the process of handling communications between the relay towers. Screens and computer systems were linked to tanks filled with oxygenated and amniotic fluids, where deformed homunculus with cerebral matter accounting for 60% of their body acted as the central command of the brainwave network. They filtered the information they received from their counterparts in each of the relay tower, which were linked to those sent into the field and created a network.

Leaving them to their work, he moved over towards the elevator that was at the far end of the room and rode it down towards the bottom floor. That was where his project was currently underway. His secret weapon to finally capturing that Vampire once and for all before hunting down the Traitor.

“…Tch…” He found himself clenching his teeth at the thought of the Traitor. A member of the family closest to the Supreme Commander was arguably the biggest source of his headache at the moment. It was his teaching of the Resistance that was ruining everything here more so than anywhere else.

The loss of the Homunculi was inconsequential as they could always make more of them. But the Terraformer that was killed was a different story, as their role in wiping away the current world and progressing to the next was why he’d sent out the homunculi from the Life Propagation division to guard it as backup. Another could be cultivated to replace it, but it would take time that would allow the Traitor to continue to expand his army against them and hinder their plans even further.

But it also presented an opportunity. If he could capture the Vampire and uproot the Traitor, then he’d be able to solve two of the biggest hindrances to their grand designs. He could even potentially rise to the rank of a Millennial Commander and receive the recognition he deserved, hence why he’d begun his own ambitious plan—despite having only limited resources on-hand because they wouldn’t sponsor his pet project.

As the elevator came to a stop on the bottom level and the door slid open, a shriek rang out from the end of the corridor. It wasn’t an ordinary sound that clawed at only the ears, but one that gnawed at the mind. Like nails scraping against his brain matter, points raking at the creases and tearing out chunks as they drove in knives of pain and anguish like a wailing woman.

He shook his head vigorously as he layered his own mental defense against the telepathic cry until it was quelled and marched down the corridor until he reached the door leading to the chamber where it came from. Striding over to the edge of the railing, he looked down to the bottom floor at the vessel that housed the creation that birthed the cry.

Reinforced, crystalline glass was stained red and bright green fluid that bubbled within the vessel was tinged with the hue of blood as the corpse of a homunculus had fallen into the lid that had been opened to make an adjustment. The white uniform that matched its ivory skin was shredded beneath the breasts as entrails hung loose before the body was mashed against the glass hard enough that it became nothing more than a stain.

An annoyed grumble bubbled up in his throat as he moved over to one of the homunculus operating the control panel and grasped her by the neck to demand, “What fool forgot to administer the sedative before attempting to make any adjustments!?”

“We administered the prescribed dosage,” she claimed. “But it seemed that the last modifications rendered it less effective. In addition, the rampant Trance emissions are making it difficult to transmit the signal to the core and force it into hibernation mode.”

He clicked his tongue before releasing her, leaving the homunculus to fall onto the ground as he straightened himself out. “Flood the vessel with a higher dosage and increase the temperature and pressure so that it penetrates the epidermis. Then make the final adjustments so that we can field it within the next 24 hours.”

The Homunculus tried to tell him that doing so would be ill-advised, given the subject had shown some resilience to the mental conditioning and the functionality of the core not being optimal due to the irregularities, meaning its estimated lifespan outside of the control environment would be drastically short. But he brushed it off.

As long as it lasted long enough to get the job done, that was all that mattered.

 


Busi Goes Blue (or How to be a Blue Mage in Eorzea) – Spell 3: Bomb Toss [FFXIV Fanfic]

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?


Bomb Toss

 

To the nascent Blue Mage, one might be surprised to learn that it is possible to gain Blue Magic that allows one to aetherially replicate the functionality of mechanical devices. For example, take the explosives frequently favored by Goblins for the fiery punch they pack. Through the same means of acquisition used to obtain other spells, you can gain access to the ability to chuck similar explosives with the aptly named spell: Bomb Toss.

Now, it may seem strange that one of the Spoken races are capable of granting Blue Magic as monsters would upon death. But keep in mind that one’s aether contains not only the force of one’s life, but has the experiences and memories imprinted upon them. For Goblins, whom are often taught to create their preferred explosives through magically enhanced gunpowder at a young age, it would be nearly instinctive.

Now, while Goblins can be found all over Eorzea, different tribes of Goblins use different methods. Those that attune best to the Soul Crystal are those commonly found in Middle La Noscea, though a particularly lawless cadre of goblins belonging to their tribe have been seen in the Twelveswood…

<-><-><-><-><->

“Ahhh!” Cocobusi shouted in alarm as he rushed towards a large, outcropped boulder. His tiny legs worked themselves at a frantic pace to reach the stout stone before he dove behind it. Then he huddled over and braced himself as a moment later the explosions rang out.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

The goblin explosives tore the ground on the other side of his cover apart with surprising force. Soil and burned grass pelted his hat as they rained down, blasted up by the concussive force hidden within the tiny bombs. He could feel his teeth rattling as he brushed it off while shooting a glance to other person taking shelter behind the boulder.

The Lalafell whose name he never did get was huddled over, clutching her Weathered Grimoire overhead to stop any pebbles from hitting her in the head. She felt the weight of his stare upon her and pouted. “This isn’t my fault!”

“Never said it was.” At least not out loud anyway. The job in itself was supposed to be simple. A group of Goblins had apparently robbed a merchant caravan and stolen a crate of cheeses that had been meant for the Culinarian Guild. But because her familiar jumped the gun their attempt to get back the crate without being caught went poorly, to say the least.

“You no take cheese!” the Goblin barked. “Cheese belong to Goblins! Not uppity uplanders.”

“That cheese doesn’t belong to you!” Cocobusi shouted back, peeking over the edge of the rock. Even though he said that, he could see that the three Goblins were still getting ready to cart their stolen goods away.  He turned back to the Arcanist and spotted her drawing on the pages of her grimoire once more. “They’re going to get away at this rate.”

“Then do something!” She glared up from getting ready to summon her Carbuncle only for her eyes to go wide as she pointed behind him. “Look out!”

He whipped his head around to see that one of the Goblins was there, having broken from their group in order to try and stab him with a knife. Cocobusi immediately threw himself to the side as it stabbed at him, only for a Ruin spell to slam into the Goblin and knock it back. He followed up by reaching out with his Blood Drain spell and proceeded to rip the aether out of its body, leaving the Goblin to jerk violently and shudder.

But it didn’t kill it. The Goblin instead gripped its knife tighter and attempted to slash with it, cutting into his arm and drawing blood as he drew back and instead whacked the Goblin with his cane as if it were a club. The Goblin’s head whipped around before another Ruin spell burst against its body and it went still, knife flopping out of its hand.

Cocobusi sucked in a sharp breath at the wound. It stung but he could manage for now. So, he looked around to the other side of the boulder to see they were beginning to move with the stolen crate. “We have to go now, or we’ll lose them.”

“Done!” She shouted, ripping the page out of her Weathered Grimoire and using it to call forth her Carbuncle. “Go fetch the Goblins!”

It gave her a curious tilt of the head before looking off towards the fallen Goblin.

“The other ones,” she clarified, pointing off towards the pair. It deigned to listen to her this time, making an aggressive squeak before it darted off. The Arcanist then turned to him and gestured for him to follow. “Come on!”

He broke from his cover as the Emerald Carbuncle drew upon the winds as it darted forward, squealing before it let fly a Backdraft that knocked one of the remaining two Goblins away from the crate and leaving the other to drop it. The Carbuncle then moved to attack, leaving the last one to glare at them through its mask as it pulled out another bomb.

“Not this time!” Cocobusi said as the azure diamonds encircled him. Aether gathered in his mouth until his cheeks were bulging, before he spat out an aetherial Sticky Tongue that latched onto the final Goblin and snapped him forward until he was pinned to the ground in front of Cocobusi, the adhesive fluids leaving him trapped…along with the bomb. “Gah!”

He turned to book it as far from the Goblin as he could—

BOOM!!

—and barely made it out of the death radius of the explosion as the diminished force of it sent him sprawling into the dirt. He came to a tumbling stop, his small body left prone on the ground and a small moan of pain slipping out of his mouth. Along with a slight quiver in his pocket. “I… did… it…

“If by that you mean nearly blow yourself up, you did an adequate job.” The Arcanist’s voice rang out from somewhere close-by. He barely managed to turn his head from the dirt to see her hovering over him with book outstretched, magic in the work. “Hold still.”

He felt the broken skin and battered cells begin to rebuild themselves, his body mending and the pain dying. His strength returned, allowing him to get back up to his feet slowly. He dusted himself off, noting that his garments were in need of a mender, and then thanked her. “Thanks.”

She turned her nose up to him. “It wouldn’t look good if you got yourself killed on such a simple job. Speaking of which, what kind of disgusting spell was that? It reminded me an awful lot of those slimy toads we had to contend with.”

“That’s because it’s a Blue Magic spell derived from them,” he explained, pulling out the Soul Crystal to show her. “Unlike my brothers, I can’t use thaumaturgy because I don’t have enough anima to use spells from most of the other schools of magic. But I discovered that I can use Blue Magic to copy the spells of monsters, due to the fact that it costs so little of my own anima as long as I have a Soul Crystal.”

She looked at the crystal with skeptical eyes as she processed the information. “That sounds like rubbish to me.”

“I’ll show you,” he closed his eyes and tightened his fingers around the Soul Crystal. “Just now, I felt it quiver when that Goblin got caught in his own explosion. That should mean I can use the Bomb Toss spell once I attune it…”

What was the Goblin’s reasoning for creating their bombs? It was a weapon, of course. One refined through experimentation and effort that spanned a vast swathe of time, a product born from their intellect. For those who carried every aspect of their lives on their backs, they needed a way to defend themselves from those that would take their precious treasures despite their lack of strength.

And so the Goblins turned to the crafting of explosives.

Even though he didn’t know the composition, as that was a heavily guarded Goblin secret, he could imagine steady hands delicately mixing aetheric sand, fire crystals, and gunpowder into the perfect blend. It had to be done slowly, carefully, a bit at a time—oxidizer, fuel, binder, all packed into a small ball that would give way to a very big…

BOOM.

The Soul Crystal began to pulsate within his grasp as the envisioned scenario resonated with the memories that were imbued within the aether traces that had been absorbed upon the Goblin’s death. The azure crystals encircled him, spinning as they took aether from their surroundings and gave shape to that memory. It felt hot, a steadily growing heat pooling in his empty palm and being overlaid with a shell, until he finally felt a bomb was in his grasp.

“See!” He opened his eyes as he held it out to show her, only to see her backside as she ran away from the bomb replica… which had a steadily shrinking lit fuse. Panic set in for a brief moment before he tossed it behind him and started booking it in the opposite direction.

Fortunately for him, he was actually out of the blast radius this time. He only ended up with a gracious amount of dirt and burnt grass pelting him as they rained down from the blast spout. “Whew… that was dangerous.”

“That is an understatement!” She came back over, lips framed in a pout. “There’s a reason using magic requires years of study. If any layman could simply use spells without proper guidance, they could easily hurt someone. Whoever gave you that Soul Crystal was so irresponsible that they ought to be arrested!”

That’s a bit excessive,” he murmured. Though, he would admit that the book didn’t note that the fuse would be actively lit. That was an oversight. “Anyway, thanks to that now I’ve got three spells that I can use, and we finished the quest. So, all’s well that ends well, right?”

She only huffed. “I am going to inspect the cargo and make sure that it wasn’t damaged. Then you can help me cart it back.”

He watched as she went back to the crate while her carbuncle just curiously stayed behind and gave him an inquiring look. Then she let out a small yelp and began to sway on her feet. She attempted to stagger away from the crate before collapsing onto the ground, leaving the arcane entity to vanish as well.

“What’s wrong?” Cocobusi moved to check on her before the scent wafting from the open crate hit him like a brick and he began to stagger as well. That when he noticed that wind crystals on the underside of the crate lid had been used to keep the odor contained within the crate, as what was inside was several blocks of hard-yellow cheese, threaded with blue-green mold. He fought against the nausea and held his breath, barely managing to get the top back on, before he slumped down against the crate as well.

Before the scent clinging to his nose could overwhelm his small mass as it did hers, he reached into his pouch and grabbed some liquid Smelling Salts.  The scent of it was pungent and powerful as he popped the cork, but it was still better than what his nose had the horror of smelling just now. He soaked a cloth with it and tied it around his mouth and nose to eventually wash it away while the stimulant kept him alert.

Then he did the same for the unconscious Arcanist and they both carried the crate back to Limsa Lominsa.

The Bismarck would find few brave enough to try Goblin Cheese Cuisine in the future.

 

 


Fanfic Recommendation 87

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated



The Hero Nobody Knows: Interlude 1

A Fate Kaleid AU Fanfic

Summary: A Prisma Illya spin-off centered around Shirou Emiya receiving the Archer Class-card, only it syncs him up with the EMIYA Alter spirit.


Intrepid: 20-02 Taylor –  20-05 Sophia
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way


Service with a Smile 57 – 58

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: When Jaune’s forged transcripts were rebuffed, his only option was to return home in disgrace or forge a new life in Vale. Opening a diner was an impetuous decision, being good at it a stroke of luck. Becoming the favourite haunt for students, teachers and criminals alike…? That was neither, but it sure did keep things interesting. Wasn’t the civilian life supposed to be easier?


Symbiotic 4 –  8

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary: In a different life Ash looks on his world from an unique perspective.

 


Locked Away 65

A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: Follows coma theory: Ash wakes up from a ten year coma to realize that all of his adventures were only a figment of his imagination; but he questions if they were more than that. Everything has changed in ten years, and he must put back all the shattered pieces while he embarks on a new journey to save the world and himself. Pokeshippingyoung tactician survived, no matter the cost.

Rabbit of the Moon: Chapter 17 [DanMachi/Bloodborne]

Chapter 17: The Silverback

Henryk was dead.

Bell had no doubts about that as he felt the man’s echoes filling in a void that he’d never knew existed prior to the Hunt. Only this time it had a strange sensation affixed to it. Like something was oozing into the back of his mind, a pulsing throb that left him to shake his head as he fell to his knees.

He didn’t want this. He didn’t want the man dead. He was that child’s last living relative, the only family she had left now that her mother and father were gone. Yet now he joined them in death in this graveyard that seemed eager to drink the growing pool of warm, dark blood.

As he stared at it, Bell felt the burning sting of tears forming in his eyes as he found himself longing for a simpler time while gazing into the moonlight reflected on the blood. Of a time when he and his grandpa were together. It was only the ragged breathing now coming from Eileen that pulled him out of the fleeting, wistful moment.

He looked up to see the Hunter of Hunters panting through her mask, leaning with her back against a gravestone. The feather cowl painted with shades of deep crimson shifted up and down as she struggled to catch her breath after the fighting, blades still held within her grip. It had clearly been an exhausting endeavor for her.

“You hesitated,” she said. It wasn’t a question, but a statement.

“He was the only family she had left,” Bell said. Not really in defense of himself, but as a fact. “Her mother was dead when I got here. And her father was…”

He couldn’t bring himself to finish as he slowly turned his head. His eyes found the corpse of the Beast that laid where it had breathed its last breath. Still staring in the direction of where Viola’s body laid. The graveyard had drunken deep the blood of that child’s family this night.

“It was you who killed Gascoigne then?” she guessed as Bell let out a pained sound. Not quite a cry or whimper, but somewhere in-between. It served as an admission of guilt. “He was falling apart well before now. The fact that he’d turned simply meant the leash snapped now rather than later.”

“We could have still probably reached this one though,” Bell said softly. “There was a chance he could have snapped out of it. That he could have made it through the night without it ending like this.”

“And if he’d survived tonight, I’d wager he would’ve become a Beast worse than any you’d faced so far,” she said bitterly. “You’ve seen how the people here prowl the streets half-turned already. They’re the ones who give in quickly, the weak-willed and unaware. The beast comes right out before it has time to really grow or become a more suitable predator.”

She then gestured with her dagger towards the corpse of Gascoigne. “But the more the person resists giving in, the fiercer the beast becomes. The more blood they take in, the more they hunt, the stronger it becomes until either they embrace it, or it overtakes them utterly. Henryk was one of the Old Hunters and he’d lost too much this night to be able to keep himself together any longer than he had. Believe me when I say we’ve done both a mercy tonight—nothing worse for a Hunter than to become what they once hunted and endanger those they wanted to protect.”

Part of Bell recognized the truth behind her words, as he had with Gehrman. The Little Girl had said her father had become a Hunter once more to protect her. The same was true for her grandfather no doubt, yet he’d tried to kill her all the same.

“Even so, I still took that child’s family away from her tonight,” Bell admitted in a hoarse voice as he stared down at his hands. They were dirty, meshed with grave soil, sweat, and blood. “I can’t forgive myself for that.”

“And that’s why you should keep your hands clean from now on and leave the hunting of hunters to me,” Eileen said firmly. “Beasts who’ve devoured the men and women from the inside out are nothing more than that. Hunters that go blood-craving mad are only a step away. What I do is not out of malice, but to stop folks like you from tearing yourselves apart over the necessity of it.”

Is that really better? Bell had to wonder to himself. The killing would still be happening. Parents and children separated by the morning’s light as those who went out to hunt instead became the hunted. The only difference was that he’d be turning his back on it and pretending that his hands weren’t the ones stained in blood.

But… what else could he do?

“Head back to the Dream,” Eileen said after she sighed wearily, looking past the slouching statue that towered over them and towards the Oedon Chapel. The Little Girl was in there no doubt, weeping over her losses tonight. “You’re in no condition to talk with the girl, and you’ll only rattle yourself further. Take a rest and spend some time getting your feet back on the ground.”

Bell didn’t contest it. The Little Girl would be safe in the chapel, at least for a little while. Long enough for him to get away from the blood and beasts. Long enough for him to go back to Hestia. To that end he closed his eyes as tears stung the corners and let the Little Ones embrace him…

Then the calm serenity that haunted the garden of gravestones washed over Bell.

Refreshingly clean air lathed his lungs with every inhalation. The dirt and grime and sweat and blood of Yharnam no longer blanketed him. It felt like he was being scrubbed clean both inside and out as he was pulled between here and there.

Breathing deep the scent that the luminous blossoms in the field nearby seemed to give off, Bell opened his eyes to see that he was one more in the tranquil, yet somber haven that seemed to be a world of its own. He supposed it was similar to what the Oedon Chapel was meant to be for other hunters—a place to escape the Hunt. At least for a short time.

“Welcome back, Good Hunter,” the Doll greeted him once more. Her serene, yet inhuman demeanor was a comfort after the throngs of beastmen with snarling visages Bell had faced tonight. Yet the uncanniness of it denied him something vital that he desperately needed at the moment.

“Has that gravestone appeared again?” Bell asked, hopeful yet wary. “The one that leads back to Orario?”

“Yes,” she answered, gesturing with her porcelain hand towards the direction of the misty flower field and the great tree. “Will you be taking another respite?”

If Bell had any say in things it’d be a permanent respite from this nightmare. He hadn’t planned on coming back in the first place. But the Silverback had taken him by surprise and his weapon had been broken before his body.

Now that I think about it, I do need a weapon more suitable for that thing, Bell thought to himself as he looked down at his hands. Echoes still reverberated deep within him. The memories and life of two hunters among them. As shameful as it was to use it for his own ends, he needed their strength now more than ever.

Going over to the fountain where he’d left the badges taken earlier, he peered into the depths of the crystalline waters and found several of them beneath the surface this time. But he only had eyes for the hammer with the hilt of a sword. He reached down into the fountain once more and felt his arm sink into the depths as the echoes within him formed a bridge until he wrapped his fingers around the handle and pulled.

The hammer came out without any problems at first. Despite its size, the water only rippled as it was pulled free, with even the massive head slipping out of the imaginary depths. Neither his arm nor the steel that the stone was actually made of were wet, leading Bell to presume that the water actually acted as some sort of portal.

It was only once the weapon had fully breached into the same plane of existence did it suddenly become heavy. As befitting of such a massive implement, Bell found himself struggling to swing it around with any measure of success. After merely two test swings he had to let the head hit the ground with a dull thump as he rubbed his arms.

“Even for those who partake in blood, the Kirkhammer has always been a rather unwieldy weapon.” Bell’s head twisted towards the top of the stairs at that and found Gherman looking down at him from his perch, aged eyes taking his measure. “I would suggest allowing the Doll to strengthen your muscles, raise your stamina, and draw from the skill of the echoes you have to spare. She’s seen enough use to do so efficiently for you, given you’re unfamiliar with such arms.”

Bell’s gaze turned to see that the Plain Doll had already take her place by his side, patiently waiting for him to allow her to fulfill her purpose. The ethereal echoes within him stirred and began to thread his muscles once more for the sake of granting him greater strength as the euphoric feeling spread over him. The moment she released her grasp and took a few steps back, Bell took up the hammer again and swung it from shoulder to hip with both hands thrice before rearing back to deliver a harder blow onto the ground that sent tremors through his legs.

“It’s somewhat easier to use,” he admitted as he let out a breath and set it back down with the hilt sticking up. He couldn’t swing the thing around a lot, and personally he didn’t think it suited him. But he could use it back home against the Silverback and that was enough for now. “Still, against something fast I don’t think I’d be able to hit them with it.”

Gherman nodded in agreement. “As the Hunter of the Church began to run afoul of larger beasts, they resorted to larger arms rather than refining their skill. But that limitation was evident from the start. Hence why I would suggest pressing the latch you’d find between the grip and the guard to deal with more nimble prey.”

Latch? He looked down at the hilt and traced the design with his fingers up to where he found a rounded section. As soon as he put some pressure into it he felt it shift, just a slight amount. Catching onto the gimmick, he then put all the strength he could into squeezing it and heard a mechanical click.

Then he took the hilt into his hand and pulled the sword from the stone.

Holding it up, the light of the moon gleamed off the silver of the blade. It revealed the elaborate intricacies and flourishes on the guard. Compared to the other weapons he’d seen in his time as a Hunter, there was a marked difference in the design.

He swung it around a few times to test it. The blade much lighter and faster to use, though how much of that was due to his increased strength wasn’t something he could be sure. And while he hadn’t used a sword before he felt somewhat more proficient with it than he suspected he would be otherwise—though nowhere near good enough to be remotely confused with a swordsman.

This should be enough, Bell thought to himself as he sheathed the sword and hefted the Kirkhammer over his shoulder. It didn’t really hinder him while moving, another boon from the echoes it seemed. He also felt like he could fight a touch longer as well without getting as exhausted,

With this he was certain he would prevail, so redonned his Hunter’s Grab once more. They been mended by whatever magic permeated the Dream while the armor that he’d worn remained rather battered but would still serve. Last he moved to reclaim Syr’s purse only for his gaze to settle on the Tiny Music Box. The weight in his chest sunk into his stomach as he left it behind.

Now that he was ready for battle once more, he bid the two residents of the Dream goodbye. Then he made off to the phantasmal gravestone that led him back to Orario. He’d kill the Silverback and return to his Goddess’ side to confess his sins.

Perhaps she could forgive him for what he’d done.

Because he wouldn’t forgive himself.

[R-M]

GRRAAHHH!!!

The roar of the Silverback was the first sensation that Bell was exposed to as he reappeared within the plaza of winding labyrinth of buildings that made up Daedalus Street. The simian monster that towered over him was as it was before his death, thick and powerful limbs wrapped in unmarred white fur. It bared its teeth as it glared down at him from behind the visor placed over its head and then exploded into motion.

But this time Bell expected it as he unslung the Kirkhammer from its perch on his shoulder and reared back. It may have looked as if he was readying to take a massive, overhead swing but he shifted his grip so that his fingers were pressing on the latch keeping the sword sheathed. Then he swung it with a roar of his own as he squeezed down and the lock keeping it tethered was undone. “RAAHHHH!!”

The momentum sent the head of the hammer rocketing towards the Silverback, which had been so devoted to its frantic gait that it couldn’t dodge it entirely. The hammer caught it between the shoulder and chest with an audible pop before being thrown askew on the impact. It went sailing behind the Silverback, which staggered back into the center of the plaza while clutching its shoulder.

The black coat billowed as Bell rushed in with his silver sword in a two-handed grip. He’d learned the last time it’d killed him that fighting defensively would drag things out, until he made a mistake or risked getting others involved. Since he already had the measure of his opponent, he would be aggressive and finish things as quickly as possible.

Seeing the silver blade and the Adventurer rushing towards it, the Silverback drew back its uninjured left arm and slammed it down in an attempt to turn him into a smear on the ground. The stone fractured as it broke beneath the force of the earth-shaking blow, stone-dust obscuring his figure from view until he jumped from within the dusty veil and swung towards the monster’s head. The silver steel scraped against the metal visor as the primate moved its head and reflexively avoided it.

Bell fell into a roll the moment his feet touched back down on the ground, narrowly avoiding the swing he’d expected after the last time. The chain affixed to the manacle rattled as it threw up stone fragments upon smashing the ground where he’d been. Coming out of the roll, he spun on the soles of his feet as he spotted the monstrous gorilla bringing its other fist around to slam into him and then rocketed at an angle while he swung with all his might.

The blade buckled in his grasp, nearly jostling out of his grip from the momentum as he narrowly avoided the metal knuckles. But in exchange he’d traced a path along the top of its thick, powerful arm. The white fur that had been unblemished before was steadily being dyed crimson as ichor flowed from the wound, and the Silverback howled from the red, hot sensation of corded muscle being split in twain.

“I’m not done yet!” Bell rushed towards its unprotected flank as the beast naturally recoiled from the pain. He had just enough time to get in a quick swing, so he pushed his left-hand inwards to angle the blade before he used his right to swing it back around as he went past it. The bloodstained silver managed to part only a sliver of flesh between its arm and waist, leaving a streamlet running down. It was the best he could do and still throw himself into a handspring to get out of range before the Silverback rolled over in an attempt crush him with its massive frame.

Coming out of the exchange with his heart racing and blood pounding at his ears, Bell quickly turned to see the Silverback rip the visor affixed to its face off and throw the thing with the force of a cannonball. Too late to dodge, he tried to block it and the sound of metal scraping metal rang out with a bloom of sparks as it broke through his guard. The sheer might of the blow knocked Bell for a loop, sending him tumbling backwards and leaving his battered armor and leather coat to scrape against the loose stone until he came to a stop.

Releasing a shuddering breath and strained groan, Bell stood back up as the clatter of steel rang out at feet. One of his leg guards had come off, strap torn from the impact against the ground. His Hunter Garb’s were torn into as well, covered in stone-dust with bits of it meshed into a slurry from mixing with the blood splashed around from the beasts’ injured arm. But he was still standing and still armed, unlike the last time—he could keep fighting.

GRRGAAHHHHH!” The Silverback roared with unbridled fury at him, slamming its massive fists into the ground before beating at its chestplate hard enough to dent the steel. It sought blood for blood.

Bell swept the blade so that the monster’s ichor spattered over the ground. The world had shrunken down, everything drowned out by the beating of his heart. He held the longsword at the ready as he locked gazes with the monster.

Then both hunter and beast charged with intent to kill.

[R-M]

Syr struggled to get through the crowd that was forming at the entrances to the Plaza of Daedalus Street. At first it was idle curiosity that drew her towards it along the way back from the orphanage. Then she heard the roar and a shout went out that apparently a monster and adventurer were fighting it out in the plaza.

Daedalus Street was a destitute neighborhood. Constructed into a winding maze that was inconvenient to navigate unless you were intimately familiar with it, there were few reasons to visit unless you had business there. And, situated far away from the Main Streets where vendors would sell their wares at prices more suitable for those with heavy coin purses to wide-eyed visitors, the people there lived more difficult lives.

Many of them would have loved to visit the Monsterphilia that was being undertaken at the coliseum, but the price was more than they could afford. After all, if they were living here then they were barely scraping by as it was. So, the fact that something akin to it was happening naturally drew the eyes of the people there.

Not enough to get in harm’s way, of course. They wouldn’t risk the monster coming after them or helping the adventurer in question if he was in danger. Especially not when the people here didn’t have the luxury of being adventurers themselves. Leaving aside that there were people who came from all over to Orario for the sake of being in a Familia meant most were filled to capacity, the risk of being injured and losing the little coin they could work for would be stripped away.

But they were curious enough to look from safer places that were just out of view. Peering around of the shadows and corners, peeking over the sills of the windows of their homes, onlookers kept their tongues from wagging as they watched. Even Syr wasn’t an exception when she finally arrived and recognized the adventurer in question.

When Bell had caught her eyes, he seemed like a somewhat meek and young boy. The fact that he was an adventurer wasn’t much of a shock. Even though she herself wasn’t an adventurer, in this city even the smallest child could be stronger than a grown man. That was why so many flocked to Orario in the first place—for the power or the glory.

Now he was wearing a stained, black leather coat that had been covered in dirt and dust and bloody grime, scraped and torn apart. Half-missing armor that had seen many battles judging from the cuts and tears in it could be spotted through the tears from where she stood, a part of it broken off near his foot. And in his grasp was a sword, leveled in front of him as he stared down a monster that was more than twice his height and at least several hundred times his weight.

GGGRRRRRAGGGGHHH!!

The moment the Silverback roared so loudly that she could feel the soundwaves rattling her bones and charged Bell down, vision of the boy being flattened into the ground played out in her mind. Death wasn’t unexpected for adventurers. Several of the patrons at the Hostess of Fertility had often left out with promises to return only to never grace their doors again. Even so, she felt herself about to shout for him to run despite knowing it wouldn’t make a difference. “Be—”

But then black boots pushed off the ground. The tail of the coat he’d donned billowed as Bell charged forward. The bloodstained silver sword in his grasp caught the light as he courted death itself in a display that she could hardly keep track of.

Someone had armed the monster with metal knuckles of all things. The heavy steel was joined to manacles that had torn chains at the ends. She didn’t know if it was trained intentionally or not, but upon seeing Bell charge it reeled one arm back before sweeping out with the chains like a whip to lash at him.

He parried it with the sword, a bloom of sparks cascading over his face fixed in a half-strained expression while he angled the blade. The length of the chain scraped against the steel on its way past him, before the tip snapped as it hit the ground and tore out a chunk while Bell leapt forward and swung for its body. A silver streak followed by a crimson tail tore through its side, ripping through the white fur and adding to the color that was staining it already from previous close calls.

Bristling from pain, the monster spun around with its arms extended. Bell managed to dart back from the massive fists, but the chains lengthened its reach and he was forced to put the sword between himself and the length. The end snapped as it battered the silver steel and knocked him off balance, sending him staggering back as the Silverback jumped forward with a metal-knuckled fist chambered.

Syr winced as he brought the flat of the sword in front of himself to intercept it and the ear-ringing sound of metal hitting metal was followed by his smaller body being sent skirting back until he hit the fountain. He then darted out of the way as the monster leapt, crashing into the fountain and sending a spray of water and rubble over the battlefield before coming to a stop as something that looked akin to stone hammer appeared out of the ground next to him like magic.

The boy then slammed the blade into the handle, wrapped both hands around the grip, and threw himself back towards the Silverback as it did the same to him with a metal-backed fist chambered. Both swung for one another with the intention of killing one another, and Syr’s expectations were decidedly in the monster’s favor. Even though she knew that the Falna was the great equalizer when it came to men and monsters, the rational part of her mind expected he would meet his end here.

Yet, the white-haired adventurer won out the moment they clashed. The metal knuckle shattered with an audible crunch and she watched as the bones and flesh behind them crumpled as blood stained the head of the hammer. The Silverback cried out with a bestial shout as it pulled back its mashed appendage and the pain eclipsed all of its other senses. “GRRAHHHHAHGH?!!?

Bell ignored it as he spun on his heel and stepped forward, swinging the hammer around once more. This time it found the monster’s knee and there was a sickening crunch as bone shattered like glasswork under the pressure, jagged bits piercing through the sack of reddening fur as the limb was knocked out from beneath the simian and left it prone. Then he chambered the hammer and prepared to crush its skull with an overhead swing in a gruesome execution.

Perhaps sensing the impending death, the Silverback lashed out a final time. It still had one good arm and good leg. It flailed its massive fist towards him, swinging with enough force to break stone as it backhanded him and managed to stagger him before he could execute it. Then it pushed off the ground with its remaining leg and lunged, hand outstretched to grab him between its stout fingers and wring the life out of him—

CRUNCH!!

—and made no difference as Bell pivoted off to the side, twisting on his heel as he swung the hammer around in a downwards arch. It connected with another crunch that sent a shiver down her spine. And the offending limb was now nothing more than flattened, pulped meat that seeped into the cratered and broken earth.

RRRHAHHHGHHGHGH!!!!” The Silverback raged in a desperate fury, trying to pull back its arm that was trapped beneath the weight of the hammer. Eventually it managed to wrench out a blooded stump with bits of white bone mixed into the mesh of vivid color that painted the fur clinging to what was left of its forearm.

The sight of it only served to send the monster into its death throes as it writhed around in pain, rolling and beating its stump against the ground. Its remaining leg tried to pick it up but failed, collapsing and unable to sustain its own weight. All it did was open up the wounds it had sustained further, letting blood escape and spatter out with every motion to paint the plaza further than the expanding boundary of the growing pool beneath it.

It was hard to look at. Not just for Syr. But for Bell as well, who she noticed had an almost shameful look on his face as he looked away. But then he closed his eyes and reached down for the point where his hilt and hammer met. The sword came out with a quick pull and a moment later he jumped onto the flailing monster’s back and drove the sword into its chest.

The pained sounds that filled the air were instead replaced with a deathly silence. The Silverback went still as its body slumped down with its final breath. Then it crumbled to dust and all traces of its massive corpse vanished as Bell’s blade was wedged between two halves of the magic stone.

He had won.

The cheering started about then now that the danger passed. The violence of the battle hadn’t been a deterrent for the people who lived there. It had been a thing of beauty for those who were unfamiliar with the depths of the dungeon and the dangers beyond a passing note, a clash where a monster and man fought tooth and nail against one another.

But there were no traces of happiness on Bell’s face as the crowd cheered at his performance. He simply averted his eyes from the crowd as he grabbed his weapon and then ran off down an alleyway. It seemed like he wanted to get away from it all—away from the crowd, and away from the moment itself. But that would be impossible given how quickly the rumor mill spread around here.

I suppose I could give him a little help in getting away, Syr decided upon realizing he’d be hounded all along the way the Main Street at this rate. She knew the streets well enough that she could intercept him, given that he didn’t know where he was going. And helping him slip away somewhere quiet until things died down later in the day was the least she could do after watching him make that expression…


Fanfic Recommendation 86

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


Bad End, New Beginning (One-Shot)
A FSN / Rising of Shield Hero Fanfic

Summary: When an overzealous Shirou jumps into a fight that he cannot win, his story comes to an end. Or does it? Appearing in a new world that bears striking similarities to a video game – and with absolutely no idea how video games work – can Shirou fulfill his dreams of becoming a Hero? And will that goal be any easier to achieve now that a Legendary Bow is stuck to his left hand?


Promises of a Wandering Hero 26

A FSN x Love Hina Crossover Fanfic

Summary: He promised to be a Hero capable of saving everyone. But before that he made other promises he can’t remember under a different name. How will Shirou react when he finds his lost past? – Shirou/Multi Mature Contents.


Intrepid: Interlude 19A Tattletale and Hide 7 –  20-01 Madison
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way


Service with a Smile 55 – 56

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: When Jaune’s forged transcripts were rebuffed, his only option was to return home in disgrace or forge a new life in Vale. Opening a diner was an impetuous decision, being good at it a stroke of luck. Becoming the favourite haunt for students, teachers and criminals alike…? That was neither, but it sure did keep things interesting. Wasn’t the civilian life supposed to be easier?


Great Teacher OniGuzma 27 – 30 (Complete)

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary: When Jaune’s forged transcripts were rebuffed, his only option was to return home in disgrace or forge a new life in Vale. Opening a diner was an impetuous decision, being good at it a stroke of luck. Becoming the favourite haunt for students, teachers and criminals alike…? That was neither, but it sure did keep things interesting. Wasn’t the civilian life supposed to be easier?


Symbiotic 1 – 3

A Pokemon Fanfiction

Summary: When Jaune’s forged transcripts were rebuffed, his only option was to return home in disgrace or forge a new life in Vale. Opening a diner was an impetuous decision, being good at it a stroke of luck. Becoming the favourite haunt for students, teachers and criminals alike…? That was neither, but it sure did keep things interesting. Wasn’t the civilian life supposed to be easier?


A Worm Fanfic

Summary: A continuation fic focusing on Taylor Hebert’s life following the climactic conclusion of Golden Morning and a lengthy recovery period. Taylor has her feet under her now, and grimly prepares to face a world she had thought beyond her, that of a normal young woman.


A Future Tied by Fates 43

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”

 


So I’m a Spider. Flat, ‘What?: Spiderbringer 1 – Ungoliant 1

A Worm x So I’m a Spider Fanfiction
Summary: I’ve never had the most charmed of lives, but I never imagined that one day I would wake up how I did. No way. I mean, in a world full of powers, this is what I end up with? What do you even say to that?


Fanfic Recommendation 85

 


My Fanfics


 

Busi Goes Blue  (2)(3)

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?

 

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


The Soul of Heroes 37

A FSN/ Demon Souls Fanfic

Summary: There is never only one change. There are always many changes. Because one thing will change another. It will affect something more. Ripples through time. Irrelevant to some, disastrous to others. There can never be only one change Emiya Shirou. There will always be consequences.


Bad End, New Beginning
A FSN / Rising of Shield Hero Fanfic

Summary: When an overzealous Shirou jumps into a fight that he cannot win, his story comes to an end. Or does it? Appearing in a new world that bears striking similarities to a video game – and with absolutely no idea how video games work – can Shirou fulfill his dreams of becoming a Hero? And will that goal be any easier to achieve now that a Legendary Bow is stuck to his left hand?


Promises of a Wandering Hero 24 – 25

A FSN Fanfic

Summary: He promised to be a Hero capable of saving everyone. But before that he made other promises he can’t remember under a different name. How will Shirou react when he finds his lost past? – Shirou/Multi Mature Contents.

 


Intrepid: Interlude 19-07 Madison  – 19-10 Sophia
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way


Service with a Smile 53 – 54

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: When Jaune’s forged transcripts were rebuffed, his only option was to return home in disgrace or forge a new life in Vale. Opening a diner was an impetuous decision, being good at it a stroke of luck. Becoming the favourite haunt for students, teachers and criminals alike…? That was neither, but it sure did keep things interesting. Wasn’t the civilian life supposed to be easier?


A Rising of the Shield Hero x Yakuza Crossover Fanfic

Summary: Post Song of Life Kiriyu is summoned through a ritual with the Vassal Weapon to become the Gauntlet Hero. With nothing left for him after faking his death at the end, how will the dragon rise to the defense of the Shield Hero.


A Future Tied by Fates 42

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”

 


Shattered Reflection 25

A Fire Emblem Awakening Fanfiction
Summary: In one world, Robin died abandoned by those she thought friends, with the sword of her lover driven into her chest. In another world, a young man with no memories of his past was trusted to guide Ylisse in war. Given a new chance, the broken queen will make sure this young tactician survived, no matter the cost.


So I’m a Spider. Flat, ‘What?

A Worm x So I’m a Spider Fanfiction
Summary: I’ve never had the most charmed of lives, but I never imagined that one day I would wake up how I did. No way. I mean, in a world full of powers, this is what I end up with? What do you even say to that?


Busi Goes Blue (or How to be a Blue Mage in Eorzea) – Spell 2: Sticky Tongue [FFXIV Fanfic]

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?


Sticky Tongue

 

The environs of Eorzea lends itself well to a number of different beasts, many of whom have adapted to their local biome. One of the more common species you’ll find are those of the Gigantoad genius, which are, as the name implies, large amphibians typically characterized by their ability to make great strides through leaping, their propensity to secrete fluids through glands on their leathery skin, and their extremely long and unusually adhesive tongues that can be used to snatch prey from afar.

The latter ability is what you will be attempting to reproduce through a single spell: Sticky Tongue.

Blue Mages can utilize a far more sanitary aetherial “tongue” once attuned to the wavekin’s instincts, constructing an adhesive and malleable fluid that will reach out and grab the target before snapping back and bringing them to you. It may not be elegant, but utility of the spell isn’t to be understated.

However, let it be known that while it can be learned by several different species all over Eorzea, the chances of obtaining it are slim due to the nature of the spell. But if you fancy giving it a shot, you can learn it from the following species of the genius…

<-><-><-><-><->

Cocobusi nearly stumbled on a rock cropping out of the ground as he read the passage on the Sticky Tongue spell while following behind the two nearby Yellowjackets on their way to a stream in Lower La Noscea.

He had gone to the Adventurer’s Guild to register and was scantily finished when a Yellowjacket came about requesting help to deal with an impending surge of Cane Toads, an invasive species that was imported to deal with the vilekin swarms. But their numbers grew out of control as they had no natural predators and required culling from time to time. From what he could gather it happened frequently throughout the season, due to them having eggs similar to the local Rivertoad population—which they couldn’t exactly eliminate due to them serving as a vital part of the ecosystem.

There weren’t many volunteers to help in the Adventurer’s guild. Especially when the reward was really a pittance of gil with a bonus for every of Cane Toad killed. There was nothing glamorous about it, and even the Yellowjacket didn’t seem too enthusiastic.

Their party consisted of the two Yellowjackets, himself, and another Lalafell that had strawberry blonde hair and was dressed in somewhat worn and ragged clothing, likely made of hempen. He believed that she was a novice Arcanist, judging by how she was cradling a rather weathered-looking grimoire to her chest.

When they arrived on the bank overlooking the stream, Cocobusi put away the book and stood before the Miqo’te Yellowjacket as she gave them the details of the assignment.

“Listen up,” she said. “We’re only here to deal with the Cane Toads, so don’t go attackin’ the bigger ones. I’ve seen ‘em flatten grown Roegadyn in a single leap, an’ I don’t feel like tellin’ Old Baderon a couple of whelps got themselves turned into chum chasin’ after enough coin in their daddles for a pint.”

“Does that happen often?” Cocobusi asked, brows raised.

The other Yellowjacket, a Midlander, gave a barking laugh. “The big ones are lazy as they are dumb. Ye can walk right by ‘em without so much as a glance. Just don’t go misfirin’ yer spells an’ don’t be so keen as to pick a fight with more than one of the small buggers at a time. They can still smash in yer skull but good. If ye’ve got one o’ ‘em beasites, best use it before ye start castin’.”

Cocobusi watched as the Arcanist took that as cue to flip open her grimoire and pull out her quill, beginning the process of conjuring the arcane entity that was a Carbuncle.

He had prepared grimoires before, so he understood the principles behind how it worked. The ink, laced with aether-conductive materials that allowed for easier absorption and transmittance, was drawn into specific shapes and geometries that formed blueprints that shaped their spells. The conductivity of the ink made the tome essential for casting as an Arcanist, as without it they’d have difficulty using even basic spells—even if they memorized the patterns in their minds.

But for the entities known as Carbuncles it was more complex, as explained by the acting headmistress when he delivered the requested grimoire to her. Comparing the headmistress’ demonstration to the Lalafell as she wrote into the page of the grimoire, the difference was as clear as night and day. Whereas the former had a relaxed expression, the visage of the one in front of him was strained to the point of sweat coming off her brow while visible pockets of aether being shaped by the formula on the pages circled her.

Likewise, in contrast to the headmistress who had lifted the formula and ink off the page itself through aetherial manipulation to summon her Carbuncle, the young woman simply collapsed the aether into the page before she ripped it out and tossed it away. The discarded page itself served as a medium for the collected wind-aspected aether within the gemstone to flow into it, shredding it as the summoning spell manifested an Emerald Carbuncle tied into the gemstone through an invisible aetheric tether.

“…ten this time,” he heard mutter beneath her breath before she caught him looking at her. She returned his curiosity with a glare.  “Didn’t anyone teach you its improper to stare at a lady?”

“Sorry about that.” He held his hands up in an effort to placate her while the summoning looked around curiously, sniffing its surroundings. “I just found it fascinating. That’s all. It’s different from the school of magic I’m familiar with.”

“Well don’t go straining your pretty head about it. Arcanima creates higher functioning spells compared to the primitive magicks you Thaumaturges use. Making something like a Carbuncle isn’t something you’ll be capable of, so stick to lobbing fireballs and try not to get in my way.”

She wasn’t completely wrong. An Arcanist had to route their aether into the aetheric gemstone to form a foundation that could manifest in real-time, which meant they had to draft the shapes by hand and memory. In addition, the equations required taking in variable factors, like the current aether density, and interweaving more complex equations into the formulas that made up the Carbuncles allowed for more ways they could manifest their inherent properties taken from the gemstones. That naturally meant it required a higher level of skill and knowledge.

But that didn’t mean thaumaturgy wasn’t also a complex art. It was certainly more dangerous as, unlike with Arcanists, the Thaumaturges had to shift the balance of a portion of their own personal wellspring of aether and then use a suitable conductor to expel it—with certain metals, gems, and the bones of once living creatures being the best choices. But through careful manipulation of the Umbral and Astral states they could potentially keep casting with little need for rest.

He would have happily enlightened her to those facts, despite not being a Thaumaturge himself, if she’d given him the decency of allowing a rebuttal before she brushed him off with a ‘hmph’ and followed the Yellowjackets to get closer to the bank. That left Cocobusi to sigh frustratedly before noticing that Emerald Carbuncle wasn’t following her. It was instead milling about its surroundings, only to start moving once she was a certain distance away—the range of its invisible tether acting as the leash.

I wonder if she has full control over it, he thought to himself as he observed it. He wasn’t fully aware of the mechanisms of the formula that integrated whatever allowed for control over the summoning, so he couldn’t speak on it for certain. In the end, he ultimately forced it to the back of his mind as the Yellowjackets drew their axes.

As the culling of the Cane Toads began, they ended splitting into two groups. The Yellowjackets went closer to the mouth of the cavern from which the stream flowed, but the Arcanist stayed closer to the shore and path as she ordered her pet to attack one Cane Toad that was nearby, looking for vilekin to devour.

The arcane entity made as aggressive of a noise as it could before bounding forward a set number of steps. Then the ruby on its head shone and the air around the wavekin stirred into a violent whirl that caused its entire body to jostle. It fixed its gaze on the one who attacked it and, the moment Cocobusi blinked, the Carbuncle was already in front of it while covered in a thick layer of fluids.

It was the spell he had come looking for. The only thing left was to claim it for himself, so he focused on it and began the channeling process once more for the only spell that he knew. Blue crystals danced around him as he called upon the primal hunger that invoked Blood Drain and the Cane Toad’s body rocked as bundles of aether were ripped from its aetheric channels.

The Arcanist followed up with her hand over a page, aglow with aether as she used the geometry written there to format the unaspected magicks into the shape of a dense sphere. She then extended the book out towards the Cane Toad and the sphere launched at a destructive speed, slamming into its body so hard that the bindings came undone. The rupturing blast dispersed into the air as fading wisps over the Cane Toad’s corpse.

Cocobusi pulled out his Soul Crystal in the hopes that it’d had a reaction as the soul’s aether burned its brightest upon being freed from the vessel through death. But there was nothing. I suppose it was too much to hope that I’d get it the first time.

He shoved the crystal back into his pocket as the Carbuncle moved up the river and attacked a second Cane Toad. The Gust it called forth splashed the water as the cutting winds that buffered the wavekin stirred the attention of a third one as well, leaving it to lash out and snatch the Carbuncle once more. Pinned down and helpless, the second one threw its body against the entrapped arcane pet hard enough that cracks formed along its fur.

The Arcanist cast her Ruin spell towards the first one as it tensed its legs to do the same and shatter the Carbuncle entirely. The sphere flew towards it and slammed into the Cane Toad harder than the previous one had done, knocking it over to the side as it reeled from the impact of the hit. Cocobusi finished it off with a Blood Drain spell, tearing apart its aetheric channels and leaving it to collapse in the stream.

The third was swiftly dispatched as well in a similar manner and the novice Blue Mage let out a sigh, when a shrill shriek reached their ears and was followed by a strong wind that billowed their clothes. They turned to see a Cane Toad was knocked back by the Carbuncle releasing a blade of wind that slammed the wavekin, sending it right into a Rivertoad that happened to be perched away. It immediately turned hostile as its gaze locked onto them and it subsequently took a leaping bound to crush the Lalafell pair.

Cocobusi turned to run, only for the force of its landing to throw him forward and send him tumbling onto the ground. He shook his head to clear it of the dizziness before he turned to see the Arcanist flat on her back, groaning. Her Carbuncle was still attacking despite the fact that aether was leaking through the cracks in its form, its construct life slipping away even as it continued to fight.

She’s definitely struggling to control it. He supposed that was one of the downsides to having a pseudo-sapient construct. It had could misbehave at the worst time possible.

He used a Potion to numb the pain before he retreated a safe distance, while she picked up her grimoire just as the Rivertoad finished slamming into the Emerald Carbuncle, the impact dissipating its form entirely. That was when a sickly green and purple substance erupted over its body and invaded it from the inside out. It was a Bio Spell, meant to kill it via accelerated entropy.

Dying from the inside out, the Rivertoad leapt towards her as Cocobusi began to cast the only spell he knew once more. She barely managed to get out of the way as it landed and then tried to take her into its mouth, instead getting a gullet full of grass and river soil. Then the Blood Drain spell finished, leaving it to collapse and go still as Cocobusi breathed out a heavy sigh of relief before he looked over towards her—

SPLOSH!

—only for a wet and sticky substance to blanket him before he was snapped off his feet and into the shallow water, where a Cane Toad had marked him as its prey the moment his back was turned.

Helplessly mired in the viscous secretions as it prepared to crush him, Cocobusi fought to get free with all his might and barely managed to pull himself away as it leapt up and came crashing back down with enough force that it would have crushed him. But the sheer force of the displacement of aether that it lined its underbelly with for protection sent him tumbling backwards until he hit a rock on the shoreline.

Owww…” His moan of pain echoed the ache seeping into his bones and his vision swam. Moving hurt. Breathing hurt. But considering the Cane Toad was moving in to finish him off, he found it in him to at least use his cane to get back on his feet and focus on a final Blood Drain spell.

The wavekin threw itself into a ram that would break his bones before the spell could be completed, if not for the sphere of condensed aether slamming into it before rupturing. The Ruin spell that had flown from behind him intercepted the Cane Toad, repaying the ambush in kind and buying enough time for the novice Blue Mage to cast his own spell. Its body convulsed thrice before its legs collapsed under it, the cumulative damage too much for it to withstand.

And at last he felt the Soul Crystal quiver in his pocket.

Cocobusi would have celebrated if not for the pain in his body. The cane became a crutch as he slumped down to his knees in the water, his clothes soaked and heavy. It almost felt like he was going to pass out when a soothing sensation swaddled him. It felt like his body was repairing itself, damaged tissue and bone mending courtesy of a Physick spell.

He stood up straight and gave the approaching Lalafell a bow of the head in gratitude. “Thank you.”

She only turned her head to the side and muttered, “Just don’t tell anyone about the Carbuncle and we’ll call it even.

There was a hint of shame in her tone. The kind he had when he often had to admit that he couldn’t use magic like his brothers when asked by those who were unaware. The one exception to their family of arcane experts. The fact that she couldn’t control her pet well was clearly a sensitive topic for her, so he bobbed his head in agreement. “Sure. My lips are sealed.”

She huffed in acceptance and then pointed to the remainder of the Cane Toads. “Well then, let’s get back to it. Every toad we leave for them to kill is one less gil for us. Come on now, hop to it.”

<-><-><-><-><->

Later that evening, Cocobusi was outside of the Zephyr gate once more. Though the experience of culling the population of Cane Toads proved more tedious and less rewarding that he expected in terms of monetary compensation, he did ultimately earn something far more valuable. Holding the Soul of a Blue Mage in his palm, his fingers wrapped around it tight as he attempted to attune to mindset needed to use Sticky Tongue.

What drove the Cane Toad to use this primitive form of aetherial manipulation? It was a primal means of obtaining prey that remained distant, meaning the desire was rooted in the need to…

ENSNARE.

The Soul Crystal began to pulsate within his grasp when that thought crossed his mind as he fixated on a Little Ladybug, the vilekin moving in erratic patterns. Attuned to the mind of the small breed of toad, such succulent prey left his mouth salivating as azure crystals began to swirl around him and draw in the ambient aether. He felt it pooling in his mouth, morphing into a viscous liquid that filled his cheeks until they were puffed out and he couldn’t keep his lips closed anymore.

Ptooh!” His lips were forced apart and the fluid came out like a nocked arrow being loosed. All the building pressure was released at once, lancing onto the unexpectant prey and then snapping back faster than the eye could track. The vilekin plopped down in front of him, writhing in agitation and confusion as it remained pinned by the thick, slimy fluid.

Das’ oin ta ek ome getting used to…” he muttered, tongue hanging out and saliva dripping down as it tried to wash away the taste of the so-called aetherial tongue. He doubted that it would be enough to impress his brothers, but it was still another spell in his arsenal.

Another step towards becoming a mage who could walk alongside of them.

 

 


Busi Goes Blue (or How to be a Blue Mage in Eorzea) – Spell 1: Blood Drain [FFXIV Fanfic]

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?


Blood Drain

Two of the more commonly found creatures lurking the lands are the beastkin classified as Bats and vilekin known as Chigoe. They subsist on the lifeblood of others, taking in both nutrients and aether at once to fuel themselves. And as a Blue Mage, you can do the same with the spell: Blood Drain.

Contrary to its name, the caster doesn’t actually drain blood in the same manner as these species would do to those they prey upon. Instead, the spell simply rips the very aether from their bodies, contracting the aetheric channels to strangle the life from them in the process of depositing it right into your own inner reserves. No superstitious, vampiric urge to drink blood while frothing at the mouth involved.

Best of all, because it doesn’t rely on blood itself, it works on anything that possesses aether—making this rendition superior to the original.

The Whalaqee themselves ensure that all who use blue magic are capable of using this spell as both a means of weakening their quarry and keeping themselves able to cast their magic. Therefore, it should be a priority for you to do the same. As such I’ve catalogued the different species that one can learn this spell from in Eorzea and their locations as follows…

<-><-><-><-><->

The Blind Iron Mines were surprisingly well-lit as Cocobusi ventured into the cavern past the checkpoint leading from Middle La Noscea.

Getting past the checkpoint had presented a minor setback as the guards were a little wary of some of the items he had, as typically they were only in possession of adventurers. But he managed to get through by presenting his Alchemist’s Guild membership. All the same, he made a note to register with the Adventurer’s Guild before he went back home if his efforts today proved successful—if only to move about easier in the future.

Even so, reservation riddled the readied yet reserved blue mage as he finished going over the pages for the Blood Drain spell for a fifth time. The concept of the spell was simple enough to understand. It was meant to take aether from the foe and use it to fill the wellspring that was your own.

In a way it was similar to the Drain spell that his brothers taught to promising thaumaturges, stealing the very life of the foe and using it to mend physical wounds. He had also heard of an even more refined version used by Arcanists that combined both the aspects of taking the life and aether of the enemy. But, while Blood Drain was less refined than either of them, it was more or less the perfect spell for Cocobusi to acquire first…

At least if not for the unpleasantness associated with it when he remembered his brothers’ tale of what transpired with Mormo. He couldn’t recall what had happened after he opened the lid to the vessel that kept her bound, but he knew that the voidsent had committed many a mage to death. So great was her hunger for aether that she ripped it from their bodies in an effort to reconstitute her own until her physical form was obliterated entirely.

It was an unpleasant thought to know that he’d be willingly using a similar technique to fuel his ambitions once more. But he had no intention of becoming a monster like she had been. He only sought to wield blue magic for the sake of fixing the cruel quirk of fate that had befallen him and standing alongside his brothers—nothing more.

Of course, before he could ponder the potentially perilous path presented by the spell, he had to actually wrest it from the corpse of a Cave Bat.

It was a mostly passive beast from what he could gather. But that didn’t mean that he was confident that he could still best it alone, given his inexperience with this sort of thing. That was why he was in the middle of preparing a trap to tip the scales in his favor.

He poured the remaining contents of a still-warm bottle of Beastkin Blood he had bought with him onto a slab of Mutton Loin before he took shelter out of sight, clutching his cane with clammy hands and waiting for one to be drawn in by the scent. A Cave Bat eventually swooped in and lapped at the blood that had been spilled over it, sampling it and feeling the warmth of the meat that still lingered. He waited until the moment it bit down into the meat, fangs pressing deep until fluids came bubbling out and down its maw.

Then Cocobusi rushed in with a shout to psyche himself up. The Cave Bat broke from its meal at the sudden startle, glowing white eyes catching the motion of the cane as it was swung. Its wings carried it out of the reach of the initial, clumsy attempt. Then they abruptly started spasming and twitching, throwing its flight off before it could do anything else.

Just the results he expected when he laced the blood with a bottle of Weak Paralyzing Potion.

The Jellyfish Humors and Cnida all came from this region and were easy enough to procure, while he had the Quicksilver and the shards himself to use in crafting it. The blood didn’t congeal, masking the potion well enough to fool it into taking a bite. Cocobusi was sure the effects had been diluted, but it should be effective enough to hamper the Cave Bat’s fine motor control and stop it flying away for at least a few moments.

He took a second swing, using the cane like a bludgeon to thwack it with a meaty thump. But the Cave Bat was surprisingly resilient, given that after it whirled in the air for a moment it managed to correct its flight. Then it turned aggressive, chittering and fluttering around his subsequent attempts at hitting it again before swooping in and biting down on his arm.

The sting of the fangs piercing his new outfit and flesh, ripping into the arteries and capillaries beneath it, was something he could tolerate. What he couldn’t was the sensation that followed afterwards. There was a tug, an irresistible pull as it drew from both his circulatory and aetheric channels at once— it was using Blood Drain on him.

“Get off! Get off! Get off!” He slammed the cane into the Cave Bat over and over until he managed to knock it loose, widening the wound that stained the white and blue garments with a spot of crimson.

The Cave Bat screeched menacingly as its fangs that had been dyed with blood were revealed. The taste of sweet nourishment to be found within his flesh was too great a lure for it to flee now. It dove straight for his neck this time and ended up just short when Cocobusi brought his wounded arm up to protect his neck, catching him between his neck and shoulder to sup on his blood once more.

Whacking it with the cane did nothing to deter it as the Cave Bat threatened to suck his aetheric and cardiovascular channels dry, stirred into a frenzy of pain and hunger. If left alone, the Lalafell would soon be a withered husk stumbled upon by some adventurer or miner. Desperate, he dropped his stick reached into his pouch until his fingers found a wide-bodied bottle. He brought the cork to his mouth, popped it off, and then dumped the contents over the bat and the wound alike.

The moment the deep, inky fluid splashed down he felt the stinging sensation of the cnidas that were woven into the Weak Poison Potion piercing down as it took root in them both. The bloodthirsty beastkin’s devouring of his aether was stopped short as its muscles locked into place from the remnants of the paralysis. It gave him a chance to pull it free even as he felt his own arm suffering from the sensation of internal bleeding from the viper’s venom.

Cocobusi then hastily reached for an antidote, a slimmer-bodied bottle that he knew to be somewhere in there. Any good alchemist carried a bottle meant to counteract the potations they made on principle, a safety measure to avoid any unfortunate accidents in the workplace. In this case, he had just the one bottle and hastily guzzled it down before he chugged a Potion as well to quell the burning pain from the wound and staunch the flow of blood.

Afterwards, he scrabbled over the ground for his cane and used it to prop himself up before looking over to the Cave Bat. It was twitching on the ground, spitting out a mix of both its own blood and that it stole. The poison was working for now but, given enough time, its body would fight off the afflictions and become resistant to them. So, to be safe, Cocobusi doused it with another set of maleficent potions.

Then he watched as the two sets of baleful fluids ravaged its tiny form inside and out until the light of its eyes went out as it succumbed.

The alchemist breathed out a sigh of relief that he managed to kill it on his own. Sure, it wasn’t a glamourous way to end a battle. But it was no different than the teachings his brothers preached as Thaumaturges—strike when they couldn’t fight back and from a distance—so he’d like to believe they would be proud of him for that.

The fact that his soul crystal quivered and pulsed only served to reinforce that thought.

The violent, painful death that his cruel concoctions wrought had released the aether from its body when it was at an apex due to the nature of the battle. That aether resonated with his own as it flowed into him, an almost tangible sensation that left him feeling tingly, and the crystal had caught that… hopefully.

He still needed to test it on a living subject, but he had already used up two of the three bane potations that he made with the materials he had on hand. They were so unstable that he didn’t trust them to help him last long enough against another Cave Bat, and he couldn’t use Teleport due to his low levels of anima, which was why he took a ferry to get to Limsa in the first place—meaning he couldn’t get back if he got too hurt to walk.

So, he decided to retreat from the mines while he was still able to with the tainted mutton and made it back to Zephyr Drift around evening, as the sun was starting to set over the water. There were only largely passive beasts within the region, as the more aggressive or dangerous ones were often culled before they got closer to large cities. The perfect kind to practice casting his first spell on.

In this case, a Wharf Rat that had decided to try to eat the mutton that he’d left out as bait. The rodent was large, with a pair of teeth that tore into the meat eagerly to taste whether it was edible or not. Satisfied, it prepared to abscond with the morsel only for its muscles to begin to twitch violently as the last of the paralysis potion that he’d doused it with took hold.

It bought him time to try and cast the spell as he came out of hiding and focused on the rat.

The book said he needed to attune himself to the mind of the beasts to use their spells. That he had to resonate with it. Grasping at the soul crystal, he closed his eyes and tried to envision what would resonate with the aetherial traces within him. What drove the Cave Bat to use Blood Drain on a primitive level?

HUNGER.

That thought bubbled up from the recesses of his mind with suspicious ease, almost enticingly so. He could just envision that it was STARVING, wracked by a desire for nourishment that could only be found in the warm, flowing life blood. Yes, an INSATIABLE need that hollowed out its stomach and gnawed at it from the inside out.  It had to…

The crystal pulsated within his grasp as he concentrated on that feeling. That primal YEARNING, to gorge itself until it was full on the abundance of aether from whatever source it could. The CRAVING could only be quelled by supping on the essence of another and quench the gnawing void within. A FERVENT desire that only grew as pain and hostility left it with a desperate need for succor, to mend the wound and numb the pain.

He lacked the yearning for nourishment that it may have possessed, but there was a fervent desire that he could tie into it akin to an insatiable hunger. That instinctive, desperate urgency to fill in the void and match his brother’s arcane might. The only way to satisfy that desire was for him to… for him to…

TAKE IT!

His eyes shot open as he felt the aetheric reserves within him stir. A pinch of the little anima he possessed gave form to the azure crystals that spun around him, drawing in the ambient aether that had settled in the surrounding plants. The traces were formulated and gave rise to a spell to take its aether for his own.

The Wharf Rat’s twitching body abruptly jerked as motes of warmth-less light bundled together into orbs that burst from its body. The raw and distilled aetheric energy flew towards into Cocobusi’s compact frame, slipping past his clothes and flesh to take root in deeper inside. The concentration was so potent that he could feel as it ran through his own aetheric channels once the prisms faded and the spell came to an end.

I… I did it.” Looking down at his own hands that trembled, he found himself overcome with excitement and ended up jumping for joy. “I’m a mage now!”

Even if it wasn’t the arcane flames, crackling thunder, or frigid ice that his brothers could bring to bear, it was still a form of aetheric manipulation. It was still magic. He had surpassed the limitation that fate had put upon him and defied it to cast magic where he hadn’t been able to before.

His excitement was only cut short by the menacing squeaking of the Wharf Rat as it rose back up to its feet. Turning aggressive at the attack, it charged towards him with jagged teeth bared and ready to gnaw away at him, only to be knocked away as the fledgling mage hastily swung his cane around to before it could take a bite. It hit the ground with a thump and then stalled as paralyzing potion had yet to be purged entirely from its system.

Cocobusi reached out for that hunger and desire again while he had the chance to cast. He had to prove that it wasn’t just a fluke, a desire that only served to formulate the spell as the blue prisms circled him and drew in aether from the surroundings once more. It only took two seconds before the aether was properly shaped and the spell was cast.

The Wharf Rat’s death throe was audible as the pull of the spell violently collapsed the rodent’s aetheric channels. The magic ripped every last drop from its corpse, death offering up even that which had accumulated within it. The surge was so great that he felt as though his own channels were being pressed from the inside out and threatened to expand.

“I can’t wait to show my brothers…” He said giddily before trailing off after considering his progress to theirs. Even if he could use one spell, it still might not be enough to convince them otherwise that he should be like them. And they might have some reservations about using the same kind of magic as the lying voidsent that had possessed him for a time. “On second thought, maybe II should wait until I get a few more spells?”

Now that he knew for a fact that it worked, he could go out and seek the monsters he could learn spells from to build his repertoire. But, considering everything that happened, he would maybe start small and plan things out a little. He’d pay a visit to the Adventurer’s Guild come morning to see if he could gain any advice.

 


Busi Goes Blue (or How to be a Blue Mage in Eorzea) – An Excerpt from Martyn’s Guide to Blue Magic [FFXIV Fanfic]

Summary: What can the magic of blue do for you? Well, for Cocobusi it offered a chance to become a mage like he’d always wanted. Even if it wasn’t the same magic that his brothers could use, it was still worth a shot… right?


An Excerpt from Martyn’s Guide to Blue Magic

So, you’ve gone and picked up the Soul of the Blue Mage and Martyn’s Guide to Blue Magic, have you?

Congratulations, you’re now one of the few and proud members of this new school of magic. You had the bravery to step onto this path and will be rewarded with great power in the end. But before you can call forth and wield the might and magicks of the beasts roaming around Eorzea, you must know what makes this form of magic special, and what it can do for you that the other modern schools of magic can’t.

Blue Magic itself is a form of magic that comes from my research into the mystic arts of the Whalaquee, inhabitants of the New World who managed to create a form of spellcasting based off the wild creatures that prowl the plains and forests. Over centuries of facing off against the creatures as they brought their magicks to bear in self-defense, they gained the ability to make it their own. I was fortunate enough to have learned from the best of them and will now pass on these teachings to you through this book.

Now, surely you must think that such it requires an immense amount of training and massive inner reserves of aetheric energy in order to use such spells?

Well that’s where you’re wrong, my apprentice. While most modern schools of magic might demand such a thing, blue magic stems from a different principle. You might still need a little aether of your own to start up the spells, but by drawing in aether from the immediate surroundings, you can use spells even greater than one could imagine.

Now I’m sure that to some that might seem like the white or black magic of old, but the similarities end there. These near-extinct (and forbidden) magicks rely on connecting oneself to the world’s aetherial current, but blue magic simply borrows ambient aether from the local environment in the same manner that the beasts do and returns it once the spell has done its work. It’s not unlike Conjury taught in the Twelveswood and that’s not illegal, is it?

Best of all, since you aren’t using your inner aetheric reserves to form the spells, you don’t have to worry about the complex relationship of aetheric balancing and efficiency like they teach in the Ossuary in Ul’dah. If you want to cast fire spells all day you can do so with no risk of burning yourself inside-out from over-aspecting or anything else.

So now that you know the skies are the limit for blue magic, you’ll surely be wondering how to learn the spells that you’ll be adding to your arsenal. Will you need to study from countless theurgical tomes and recite ancient incantations? Spend hours meditating and begging the elementals to let you borrow their power? Memorize complicated arcane patterns and geometries to shape the spells?

Of course not! Part of what makes blue magic wonderful is that it’s the simplest form of magic to use since you don’t need to do anything like that. All you need is one of my specialized focuses and a brand-new soul crystal.

As you might know, soul crystals are designed to store an echo of the user’s memories and allow future holders to learn from them. Well, thanks to my time in studying the arcanum, I’ve created a rune that allows for the soul crystal to formulate the memories of various creatures into spells instead. While not all of the local wildlife possesses the necessary aetherial composition to be engraved properly into it, you’ll find a list of those that can and their habitats in the pages of this spellbook.

As for actually learning the spells, you need to be either the target of the ability being used or close to it with the soul crystal present.

The mere threat of combat increases the flow of aetheric energies flowing throughout the beast’s inner channels and thus the instinctual patterns that it uses to weave the magic will permeate it to a certain degree. Then, once you vanquish the beast, that aether will be dispersed and you’ll absorb some of it into yourself by proximity. If that aether has the residual pattern within it, it’ll be stored and transcribed in the crystal as a spell for you to use.

Simple right?

Well, casting the spell is even simpler. You just need to attune yourself to the instincts of the beast and the crystal will formulate the spell from the stored knowledge, allowing you to use aether in a similar manner to the beast. That’s all it takes.

You don’t need to meditate on raising the potency of the elements to shape the spell like Conjurers do with their unworked wands and canes.

You don’t need to use speak a string of hard to remember words in the heat of battle and worry about ending up in a grave from biting your tongue like Thaumaturges.

You don’t even have to lug around a heavy book filled with complicated scribblings, written in enchanted ink and tipped with an expensive gemstone, and worry about the little creatures you call forth getting distracted while you’re in the middle of pitched combat like many Arcanists do.

So now that you know what blue can do for you, it’s time to start your acquisition of spells until you swell with the power to rival even the greatest of spellcasters.

Go forth and make your mark upon the world as a Blue Mage.

Sincerely,

Martyn

<-><-><-><-><-><->

Peering down at the pages of the book from his room at the Mizzenmast Inn of Limsa Lominsa, Cocobusi found himself intrigued by the prospect of this new form of magic. So much so that his legs swung back and forth while he sat on the edge of the chair, his linen robes rustling in excitement. The discovery had been more than he expected when he joined the caravan to come to the seaside city-state. There had been a request for a member of the Alchemist Guild in the crafting of a grimoire and he had volunteered for a number of reasons.

The first was because he wanted to have a chance to learn of this city-state’s most common form of spellcasting, done through tomes and ink laced with pigments of metals that were conductors of aether. That made it much easier using gemstones and geometries, the two things that defined their school of magic. Unfortunately, since it relied on one’s inherent anima, practicing it held the same risk as with his brothers’ magic.

Then he had come for supplies to work on improving his potion, since the materials he needed weren’t easily procured in Ul’dah. The prices for getting them imported was far too expensive on his current budget. Especially since he had just saved up enough to purchase a Mythril Mortar, which he hoped would help him push past his current progress with the addition of a crafting materia.

It was by chance that he had come across the Blue Mage. After witnessing his demonstration and hearing his explanation, the alchemist couldn’t help but be drawn in by the opportunity it presented. Even though it cost him all the gil he’d saved towards getting his new mortar, he couldn’t pass up the chance to finally use magic.

Though his brothers had assured him that they appreciated what he could do as an alchemist, the desire to weave spells still thrummed in his very core. But his conundrum was that he lacked the excess reserves of anima needed to use the same arcane arts as his brothers, a quirk of fate that was cruel in itself. In Blue Magic, however, he saw a fortuitous chance to challenge that fate itself.

The aether from living beings flowed out and tended to return to the other realm upon death, but the more violent and sudden the death, the more frantic the process. And one’s own aether could be stained by it, though the effects were so miniscule that it would be unnoticed given that one’s inner reserves were often greater—a soluble within a solvent. But if the Soul Crystal could capture the essence that was diluted in oneself as the body absorbed it and somehow reconstruct it when the caster attuned themselves to it…

It was possible for it to work. And if the majority of the aether was drawn from the surroundings rather than one’s anima, the costs of using the spells themselves would be lower. Low enough to where he could perhaps use a spell without the risk it would pose to his life.

Then, one day, maybe he could even stand alongside his siblings.

Flipping through the pages to see the potential spells he could learn, he noticed how they were ranked based on a star-system from easiest to obtain to hardest, including some theoretical ones like the primals. There were a few beasts he could go after while he was in the region, so he marked the first of his prey. Then he turned back to his tools, since he had just enough materials on-hand to make some things useful enough to see the job done.

By this time tomorrow, he would have his first spell.


Fanfic Recommendation 84

 


My Fanfics


The Sage and The Saint

A Fire Emblem Echoes Fanfiction

Summary: Faye thought it was just luck that she could be a Cleric. Kliff knew she had a gift to do so much more. Maybe with a little support he could convince her of that as they followed Celica throughout her journey? (A Faye x Kliff One-Shot)

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


Intrepid: Interlude 19-04 Madison  – 19-07 Madison
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way


Service with a Smile 51 – 52

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: When Jaune’s forged transcripts were rebuffed, his only option was to return home in disgrace or forge a new life in Vale. Opening a diner was an impetuous decision, being good at it a stroke of luck. Becoming the favourite haunt for students, teachers and criminals alike…? That was neither, but it sure did keep things interesting. Wasn’t the civilian life supposed to be easier?


In Times Flow 1 – 10

A Fire Emblem Three Houses Fanfiction
Summary: Sothis made a mistake, for mortal hands could not wield the powers of a Goddess. Byleth stands alone, stagnant against the inexorable march of time, doomed to fail again and again.


The Sage and The Saint [A Fire Emblem Echoes Fanfic]

The Sage and The Saint

Summary: Faye thought it was just luck that she could be a Cleric. Kliff knew she had a gift to do so much more. Maybe with a little support he could convince her of that?


C-Support

I didn’t think Ram was so far from the castle, Faye mused silently as a heavy breath escaped her mouth. Now that night had fallen and her training had come to an end, she had a moment to herself. Time to think.

Being a village girl by heart, Faye hadn’t left Ram before. She didn’t really grasp just how great the distance between her home and the castle was until now. Still, she couldn’t say that she was upset since Celica had agreed to let Faye join her group as they headed there.

The village had felt lonely when Alm, Tobin, and Gray left her behind. She was honestly hurt that they left without so much as telling her goodbye. But Faye didn’t have the courage to chase after them.

Not on her own, anyway.

The fact that there were Bandits and Terrors outside the village walls had stopped her more than anything. Even though Ser Mycen had taught her a little of how to use a sword after the… incident, she could never say she took to it like Alm or Gray.

She was better than Tobin when it came to using a bow, as far as hitting a target went. Though, given how often he struggled to hit the broad side of a fence back then she wasn’t sure that meant much now. Besides, the strain it put on her arms meant she’d never be able to repeatedly shoot a longbow with enough force to be useful on a battlefield.

And she was fine with that at the time. Because she never thought she’d need to take up a weapon or hurt someone else. Not when Alm and Ser Mycen were there. Besides, life in the village was peaceful.

Now though…

She looked down to the staff in her hands. The young Cleric that Celica had been traveling with, Genny, lent it to her for practice. It was a focus that was useful when it came to the life-granting magic that they had been practicing until a few minutes ago. Apparently, Faye had a knack for it with how quickly she managed to grasp the basic Recover spell, much to both of their surprise.

Not Celica though. She stated that to be selfless was essential as Clerics offered their own vitality in order to mend wounds and soothe pain. From what she remembered, Faye was the most selfless person she knew before leaving Ram—and so she was suited for succor over steel.

It made Faye happy to hear that, though she wished Celica would tell her why she had to leave in the first place.

Either way, they were on their way to the castle now that Celica was sure that Alm was the leader of the Deliverance. He’d be fighting more, and so would the others. Faye was sure that she could be helpful to them, as much as she hated the necessity. She still remembered all the times the boys got nicked and bruised training themselves, but that wasn’t during a war when people were trying to kill them.

What if they had been seriously hurt already?

Or worse?

The grim thought left her feeling restless, so she stood up and looked around the camp for someone to talk to or something to do that would soothe her nerves. Celica and Genny were talking to the mages from the Priory while the other men were sharing tales over a drink. She wasn’t familiar with the latter and didn’t want to bother the former, so she looked around for the only person who she knew would be apart from the rest and was familiar with her—Kliff.

He’d been left behind as well. Not surprising since he was a few years younger and wasn’t as active as the other boys when it came to training. They probably didn’t want to drag him into danger, though he seemed more annoyed that he’d been denied the chance to do something new. That was why he jumped on the chance to come with Celica as well.

Faye found him on just out of sight, near the woodlands bordering the camp. Just far enough away that you’d have to go out of your way to find and speak to him. And it seemed like he was busy as well with practicing magic.

Standing away from a piece of firewood he’d taken, he seemed almost in a trance as he concentrated on his casting. Even the other two mages who were with Celica thought he was well-practiced when it came to magic, despite being largely self-taught. Though Faye suspected they’d think otherwise if they saw how many times he’d bungled learning his Fire spell.

She watched as he muttered under his breath before making the casting motions, the spell circle coming into formation as motes of lightning crackled above the firewood like how she’d seen with the other mages. But rather than come down like a bound coil of electricity lancing from above, it came loose and practically unraveled halfway down. The streaking tendrils scattered and scorched whatever they lashed out against—including Kliff’s arm, as one serpentine bolt caught him there.

“Kliff!” Faye hurried over as he fell to a knee and drew in a sharp breath, clutching the spot. She kneeled and forced his hand away to see that the lightning bolt had caught him after all. His arm had been burned, scorched and blackened cloth framed around the wound. “How bad does it hurt?”

“It’s nothing serious,” he said. “I just underestimated how much effort it would take to hold it together, so it got a little out of my control.”

“The last time a spell got a little out of your control you nearly ended up burning your hands off and setting fire to Ser Mycen’s place,” she retorted. “You remember the warning he gave you, right?”

“You know it wasn’t that bad,” he shot back. “Don’t start acting like my mother now that we’ve left the village.”

Faye frowned, catching the undertone of his blunt words. Sure, she might have been exaggerating a little about how bad it really had been—minor burns and scorching the outer wall of the house. But she’d listened while wrapping his hands up as Ser Mycen told them how he’d gotten off lucky compared others who misfired magic. It was usually fatal compared to a misaimed swing of a weapon, and not just for the user.

Regardless of how offended she felt, she reached down and called upon her own magic. Soothing light escaped her hands as she laid them over his arm. It sank into the flesh, encouraging his body to mend what would take perhaps half a month to heal naturally in less than a minute.

“How’s that?” she asked once the divine magic had done its work. He moved his arm, looking over where the injury had been before meeting her gaze. “Well?”

He looked away pointedly and mumbled, “Thanks.”

It wasn’t the answer she was looking for. But knowing how stubborn and prideful he had been since he got older, she just let it go. “I know I’m nowhere near as good at healing people as the others just yet. If it feels off when morning comes then we’ll have Genny or Celica look at it.”

“It’s fine, Faye,” he insisted, scratching his hair for a moment in frustration. Then he sighed. “Anyway, if you came looking for me, I assume you wanted something?”

“I wanted to see how you were doing since we left the village,” she answered. “You normally avoid crowds and strangers like the plague, so I was a little concern how you’d handle traveling together. But so far it seems like you’ve been getting along with Celica’s friends.”

“They’re practicing mages and have access to far more knowledge of magic than I could get my hands on in the village,” Kliff pointed out. “I’m not going to pass up the chance to get some firsthand advice and learn from them just because I don’t know them well.”

Faye supposed that made sense. Magic was one of the things he seemed to enjoy, and he always had his head in the books back in the village. “Does that mean you’ll be staying with them when we reach the castle then?”

“I plan to. But I suspect you’ll be sticking around with Alm’s group, right?” He sighed when she nodded her head as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Why am I not surprised?”

She looked at him with one brow quirked up in annoyance and crossed her arms. “Is there a problem with that?”

Kliff shook his head. “Faye, have you even considered what everyone will do after the war is over?”

Her response was almost immediate. “Return to the village, of course. Once the war is over there won’t be a reason for us to fight anymore, so it’s natural that we’d all go back home.”

She couldn’t guess what Celica would do since her goal was to speak to Mila. Even though she seemed happy to visit the village and it would be great to have her there, she seemed happy at the Priory as well from the girl-talk they had. Faye didn’t want to deny her that by trying to convince her to stay.

“I figured you’d say as much.” Kliff almost sounded disappointed. “Such a waste.”

“Okay, what’s that supposed to mean?” she demanded.

He only walked off, leaving her frustrated and without an answer.

She chased after him. “Get back here and answer me, Kliff!”

 


B-Support

Faye found herself staring at the stars late that night from the roof of the Desert Citadel.

Set on the coast, the sea breeze washed over her. It wasn’t unfamiliar scent, given Ram wasn’t too far away from the other side of a coast. But it did little to soothe her frayed nerves and she couldn’t sleep, despite feeling as exhausted as everyone else now that they’d made sure there were no stragglers and checked up on all of the prisoners that had been taken by that man…

No, not a man. A monster. That monster named Grieth.

Her heartbeat quickened when she recalled that battle. Deceptively fast, skilled with a blade, and somehow able to ward off the worst of the spells flung at him, Grieth fended them off while backed by Terrors, Duma Faithfuls, and those Witches. And then he nearly…

She clutched her arms and held herself, shuddering at the thought of how lucky they had been.

It was then a familiar voice called out to her from behind. “If you’re cold then you should probably head back inside.”

“You’re the one who shouldn’t be out here, Kliff,” Faye said in response, her voice stern as she turned to face him. “I managed to heal you, but you’re still not exactly fit enough to be walking around.”

“I know, I know…” He sighed, sheepishly brushing the back of his head. “Look, I know we haven’t been on the best of terms since that night at the camp. And the fact that you really hadn’t planned on following us out here.”

“You were avoiding me outside of combat,” Faye pointed out. She had trouble pinning him down after that Thunder fiasco, and by the time they reached the castle she wasn’t sure if they would exchange words before they split apart. However, seeing Celica run out of the castle led to her following to ask what happened and ended with her cut off from the castle by a landslide of all thing.

True, it had served to make her upset as well. But she heard that Alm and the others from the village were fine from Celica and that had been enough for the moment. So, she kept to her own training and decided to focus on keeping their group safe as their duties expanded to include rescuing the Pegasus Sisters and Atlas’ family, who had been kidnapped by Grieth’s Army.

During that time, Kliff kept trying to learn more advanced spells compared to the others that he knew. He saw Boey practicing Excalibur, but the mage hadn’t quite gotten it down since it apparently required a lot of finesse. Yet, Kliff took to it quickly and got overconfident with how it seemed to devastate nearly everything that stood in his way, despite the toll it took on him to cast.

So, Faye made sure to keep an eye on him as they went through the desert and fought. Making sure he didn’t cast too many times since magic drew from one’s life. Making sure he didn’t cut his own limbs off with it or one of their allies because of a misfire. And it all seemed to go smoothly, right up until they met with Grieth himself.

Kliff thought he saw an opening to finish things right then and there, so he fired the spell off with the intent to kill. Grieth somehow weathered the cutting winds as the spell practically broke against his body and he closed in faster than anyone expected, rewarding Kliff’s effort with a slash that left him with a pretty nasty wound across his chest. If not for that Leather Shield eating the worst of it, he probably would have died then and there.

But Faye, who had been readying to send her magic to heal him over a distance like Genny taught her, saw the man’s blade getting ready to come down a second time. It would cut Kliff’s head clean off, which was something Faye couldn’t heal. Knowing that, she desperately wanted to save him despite the distance and pull him away from the danger he was in.

No matter what it took from her.

The magic responded to her desperation to save one of her childhood friends from losing his head at edge of a blade. To her desire to grant him succor as he laid on death’s door. It burst from the ground and transitioned him to her side in the blink of an eye—rescued him from danger as others better suited for close-combat moved in.

Faye hadn’t meant to do it, or even knew that it was possible to use magic in such a way. Sure, Celica had given her some inkling on how it would be theoretically possible to teleport after those Witches managed to get the drop on them. But she never imagined that she would have been able to do anything like that and it honestly didn’t matter at that moment.

Her attention had been fixed solely on healing Kliff before he succumbed to the wounds. She didn’t even see when they’d managed to deliver the deathblow, an arrow to the knee to cripple the so-called king by Leon allowing Saber, Kamui, and Jesse to run their blades through him. Even then he still managed to live long enough to mutter something that seemed to strike a chord with those three.

“I miscalculated,” Kliff admitted. “I thought he was just a thug with a sword. I didn’t think he’d capable of mitigating my spell so easily. The others mentioned he did the same with theirs as well, that it was probably an ability he developed through some kind of training or—”

“I don’t care how he did it,” Faye told him, shaking her head. The specifics of how the monster hampered their spells weren’t important to her. Only that Grieth had done so, and it nearly cost them dearly. “What I care about is the fact that you would have gotten yourself killed if we hadn’t gotten lucky.”

“I know…” He looked down to his arm where the shield had been, and where the blade cut deepest. It would scar despite her best efforts, but at least he wouldn’t lose the limb entirely. “I won’t be so reckless in the future. I promise.”

“Then you can start by not casting any unnecessary spells for the next few days.” Faye huffed, crossing her arms. “I won’t be able to look after you while we work on helping the hostages recover enough to get them back home. After that its straight to Mila’s Temple.”

It went without saying that the monster hadn’t treated his prisoners too well. Thankfully the citadel was well-stocked with supplies, albeit it was all stolen. Feeding them and treating the worst of their wounds would take a few days but then they’d be on the road again.

Celica intended to reach the Temple of Mila to speak with the Mother about the famine plaguing the land. Everything they’d gone through was for that purpose. Including facing a small army‘s worth of men and monsters, despite being so few in numbers themselves.

Most of that was due to the skill of the mercenaries they had and the versatility of their mages. But if they were at the point where they couldn’t just plow through enemies in the final stretch, it would be rough. Even with her, Genny, and Celica covering healing to keep everyone in fighting shape, they’d barely managed to keep up this time.

“And what then?” Kliff asked, pulling her thoughts back to him. “What’ll you do then?”

“Once Celica has appealed to the Mother, she’ll probably head back to the Priory,” Faye guessed. “She’ll be safe with the others escorting her, but I’m worried about Alm and our other friends. If they really are planning on marching into Rigel like we heard, they’ll probably be in more danger. So, I’ll head to where they are to help however I can.”

“And after that?” he inquired again. “What comes after the war?”

“We’ll go back to the village,” she said, repeating what she said the last time. “Our homeland will be safe. There won’t be a reason to fight anymore. We go back to those peaceful days and put all of this behind us.”

No more fighting. No more killing. No more danger.

Kliff shook his head. “It wasn’t just luck that you could use that spell, Faye. You’ve got some real talent. You must’ve realized that by now. Despite that, you’d still settle for life in the village. That’s such a waste.”

“Not everyone wants everything to be exciting, Kliff,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Was life in the village really that bad?”

“Not exactly,” he admitted. “But if we were all really fine with staying in the village, I don’t think any of us would have taken off like we did. The others couldn’t just sit back and we both jumped at the chance to leave when Celica came. I’m not saying this to be cruel, but I don’t think things will go back to how they used to be once the war is over.”

Faye found herself feeling tight in the chest and the ghost of a frown started to form on her face. Would things really not be able to go back to how they used to be, even if they all made it through this? What would she do if things didn’t go back to the way they were?

She didn’t want to think about it right now. “Just… go inside and rest already…”

“I’m just saying… think about your future, Faye.”

That said, he left her alone with only the stars and sea breeze for company.

 


A-Support

The night air in the Sage’s Hamlet was as refreshing as it was welcomed.

Traversing the harsh terrains of Rigel after finding Mila’s Temple devoid of the Goddess was something Faye hadn’t enjoyed. Not when it meant crossing swamps that were tainted by magics so dark that they sapped the life out of any living thing that waded through them. Not when members of Duma Faithful were hounding them all the way.

Especially not when hordes of Necrodragons descended upon them.

But she had made it to this idyllic little village, hidden beyond the mystifying mists that threaded the thick treescape, and it was practically a slice of heaven. They all had. Now they had a final reprieve to steel their hearts and minds before they marched into the lair of Duma himself to retrieve Mila. To face one god and save another.

“…This is not how I saw things going when I left Ram,” Faye said to herself, sitting on a bench in the clearing. Night had fallen so there was no one to hear her. Or so she thought.

“I’ll say. It certainly turned out to be grander adventure than I expected.”

Faye didn’t even bother to turn her head when the words that were meant for her ears alone were responded to in such a manner. There was only one person she knew who would find the thought of fighting a god and his most faithful servants exciting. “Not the answer I was looking for, Kliff.”

The boy from Ram who had accompanied her this far came to a stop next to her, wearing a boyish smile that better suited him than his normal expression did. Then again, this place was practically a paradise of knowledge saved from being lost with the shift of power among the Duma Faithful. The sight of books piled so high they reached the ceiling of the Meeting Hall had nearly been enough to bring him to tears.

The sight of the Sage’s Home and his personal collection of tomes on magic and history actually did.

“Besides, I figured you’d be trying to spend every possible second we were here reading as many books as you could get your hands.”

“Oh, I plan to,” he admitted shamelessly while taking a seat next to her. “But I don’t think you of all people should be discounting the value of our journey. After all, not many women back in the village could say they were given the blessing of both the former High Priest of the Duma and the current High Priest of Mila to be officially considered a Saint.”

Faye looked down at the vestments she was adorned in at that. They were those of what would be considered a Saint. They had been spare garments provided by Halcyon, as there were few women of the cloth who could adorn them even before the majority of the Clerics and Saints of the Duma Faithful had been turned into Witches or sacrificed to some person called Nuibaba.

Given the trials ahead, both Nomah and Halcyon offered their wisdom to their little band to see things through to the end. Nomah took over teaching the casters the aspects of magic they lacked in order to cross their last hurdles as Priestesses and Sages. He also unlocked the natural affinity of the Pegasus Sisters’ mounts, so they weakened Terrors with their mere presence and made it easier to kill them.

Halcyon knew of the technique that Grieth had used to hinder their magic and soon their mercenaries would be able to do the same, making it easier to fend off the casters that awaited them. He provided Valbar with better armor and a Blessed Shield, gave Leon and Atlas mounts to go along with Blessed Bows to make their job easier as well—much as he had done with Celica’s long-lost brother.

He also knew of a method to aid Genny and Faye. He could attune their bodies to be able to channel the divine magics passively with a little coaxing from his own magic. To make them Saints, as they were known among both sects of the faiths.

It was supposed to be done by conditioning the body through prayer and meditation until it became a vessel for the divine magics to flow through as easily as breathing. In doing so they became capable of traveling without being impeded and naturally exuded a soothing aura that could alleviate the pain of those around them by simply being in their presence. It would have been immensely helpful with the swamps, to say the least.

Halcyon admitted there was a chance it wouldn’t work, given both were rather young. It was something not usually attempted for at least another decade or so for a dedicated practitioner like Genny. To say nothing of Faye, who wasn’t a devotee of Mila or Duma and only learned a short time ago how to heal. But with everyone else doing what they could before the impending challenge, the two were willing to give it a shot.

Even now Faye could feel the radiance coming off her body in gentle waves. It felt like she was being constantly swaddled in blanket of the softest wool imaginable. It was still a foreign sensation to her, but not an unwelcomed one.

“It’s just a coincidence,” Faye said. “You heard Celica’s mentor. He guessed that the fighting and healing we’d done simply made it so that our bodies were already so used to channeling divine magics that a little coaxing was all they needed.”

The man sounded a little sad and happy about it at the same time when he told them that. Since Faye had time to herself to think about it, she understood why. He’d helped raised Celica, Genny, Boey, and Mae. The fact that it was only possible for them to reach that point because they had been constantly refining their skills and bodies through battle wasn’t something to be happy about.

Not when most of them hadn’t even reached a third of his age.

“He also stated that such a thing wouldn’t have been possible for you unless you had a knack for it,” Kliff counterargued. “You’ve reached a point most Clerics could only dream of without the formal training or devotion to a faith needed for their more complicated spells. Halcyon himself believed that you had the potential to be something greater. That’s why he gave you that book, isn’t it?”

All of a sudden Faye felt the weight of the small book that was in her lap. It apparently housed the knowledge of a spell that had been rarely used among the clergy even before the power struggle and the degradation of the practice. The reason for it was simple—few had the ability to cast it as the sacrifice it entailed was a heavy one.

Halcyon thought her potential would be enough, so it had been a gift. Faye honestly felt that Genny or Celica should be the ones to receive it. They were faithful to the Mother and devoted to their mission. She just happened to pick up what they managed to teach her in the short time they could.

“You have the talent, Faye.” Kliff’s tone shifted as he continued. “All of us have pointed it out to you. So why do you keep trying and deny it?”

She opened her mouth to tell him that he was being ridiculous and insist once more it was just luck. But she saw his expression. It was… concerned? Sad? Pitying? She wasn’t sure how to word it, but it was so unlike him that it stopped her from responding off-hand and left her to think about her answer.

“…I didn’t expect any of this when we left the village,” Faye admitted. “I just wanted to go with Celica and catch up with the Alm and the others, so I wasn’t left alone. Even though I knew I really couldn’t help with all of the fighting.”

Alm, Tobin, Gray, and even Kliff had spent years training themselves after what happened when they were younger. Faye hadn’t since she didn’t plan on leaving the village. She had convinced herself that the incident was a one-time thing to be put behind her, and that things would just remain slow and peaceful after that once-in-a-lifetime circumstance in Ram.

It was just a whim that she asked if she could learn to heal. She didn’t expect to make progress considering she knew how long it took for Kliff to first use magic. Yet she took to it well enough to reach this point. She should be happy about that since it meant she wasn’t a burden to anyone now, but she wasn’t.

“Life in the village never changes,” Faye continued, looking down at her own hands. “But when I think of everything now, I already feel that I’m slipping away from that. Like I’ve changed too much to go back to the way things were. I mean, could you imagine how our parents would look at us if they knew how much we went through and what we’ve become?”

“That’s not much of a problem for me since I didn’t intend to go back,” Kliff told her. “But… you’re afraid that if you embrace that you’re talented, you won’t be able to pretend you’re a simple village girl anymore. You think won’t be able to go back to the life you left behind?”

She nodded. “Leaving the village has already changed me in ways I didn’t even think possible and it scares me to think that I won’t have a home to go back to when everything is over. I… I don’t want that. I don’t want to be alone like that.”

Kliff scratched his head in thought for a moment before he put his thoughts into words. “Personally, I think you’re worrying over nothing. To me, at least, you’re still the same Faye who frets over every little injury. You can just use magic instead of bandages. Still, if it turns out that is the case then you could always stick with me until we find a new place you can call home.”

His answer left her surprised. “…Huh?”.

“I’m the one pushing you to embrace your gift, aren’t I?” he continued. “It’d be wrong for me to just leave you with no place to go after all of that. So, while I doubt it’ll come to you being unwelcomed in the village, I’ll take responsibility for anything that happens when the time comes.”

Silence permeated the air for a moment as Faye sat there, processing his words. Then her shoulders started trembling. Her lips followed. Then, unable to hold it in anymore, she started giggling.

Kliff crossed his arms and frowned. “Maybe you could enlighten me to what’s so funny?”

“It’s just that… I didn’t expect to hear those words coming from you,” Faye said after she took a moment to catch her breath. She could still remember how often he’d cry when he was younger and how timid he’d been. So hearing Kliff saying that he’d take responsibility for her hadn’t been something she could register as being serious.

Why do I even bother sometimes?” he muttered, rising up from his seat next to her, only to be stopped by a tug on his sleeve. He found Faye’s slim fingers holding to it.

“You’re being considerate to me, but I know how much you hate it when people crowd you all the time,” she told him, flashing him a soft smile as she released her hold. “I wouldn’t want you to burden yourself by going out of your way to keep me company, even if I’m glad you offered. You’re a good friend to have, Kliff.”

He only turned his back to her, hiding his face while sheepishly rubbing the back of his head. “It… wouldn’t be a burden, Faye. Not with you.”

And with that said he hurried off without looking back, leaving Faye to wonder in idle curiosity what it would be like to travel with him after the end. Just the two of them, going to far off places together. Experiencing new things and new people…

It was strangely soothing as she brushed the cover of the book in her lap.

 


A+ Support

It was too lively that night in Rigel Castle.

Celebrations were in order for those who fought for the sake of peace now that their respective gods, both trapped within the throes of madness, had finally been laid to rest. No longer would the forces of Zofia and Rigel fight against one another now that their respective leaders called for peace. The war was officially over.

Frankly, it was too loud and lively for Faye to process everything she learned. Too loud for her to think, which was something she desperately needed at the moment. So, she stepped outside into the cold winter lands and drifted away from the stone walls until the music and merriment were all muted.

Until she was alone with her thoughts of Alm.

It had been months since last she saw him and yet so much had changed about him. He was the new Emperor of Rigel. He was the leader of the very nation he had been fighting against until now by right of birth. Alm was royalty, just like Celica.

And they were going to marry one another to unite their countries into a single kingdom.

“I’m happy for you both,” Faye had told them when they announced their plan in the midst of the celebration. And she sincerely meant it, even if it was said through a smile that was strained and she had to excuse herself afterwards.

Alm had always been the man of her dreams. Alm was kind to her. He was strong and brave. He even rescued her when she was in trouble. How could she not have fallen in love with him?

So often she thought about what she could do to win his heart while they were growing up in the village. What it would take to have him confess his love to her? What would it take so that they could spend their lives together in the village, living peacefully and happily with all of their friends?

But the moment she saw the way Alm and Celica looked and spoke to each other after being reunited, Faye played out the countless times she had spoken with him in her head. And she realized that he never once looked at her the way that he did with Celica. He never once spoke to her the way he did to Celica.

She knew that Celica and Alm were close as children. Part of her even expected that Celica liked Alm as much as she did. But she pushed that thought down because Celica was her friend and had brought her along with them, despite Faye having nothing to offer her at the time. When she was lonely Celica had extended her hand and given her a chance to catch up with the others. It would have been ungrateful of her to fight with Celica over who deserved Alm more, so she just never brought it up.

But, in the end, Alm chose Celica.

Faye knew that they would make one another happy. The man she loved would be happy and her dear friend would be as well. So, she was happy for them… even if she didn’t want to remain in the same room as people cheered about the impending wedding.

A prince and a princess in hiding, both branded by fate. Separated by secrets and war, reunited and their destinies entwined. It’s like something out of a romance book with a happy ending just waiting to happen. Looking back, I… never really did have a chance, did I?

The soft crunching of snow underfoot came to a stop when that thought crossed her mind. Every single dream she had of a future with him had been rendered something that would be forever out of her reach. Bittersweet wishes that curdled around her heart like cruel fingers and began to crush it.

Alm…” She couldn’t stop the stinging tears running down her cheeks as the cold slowly bit into her until she felt something warm and heavy drape her shoulders. The smooth, yet warm texture of a cloak. She opened her eyes and turned her head to see that Kliff was standing right behind her, keeping himself warm through the small, flickering flames that hovered around him.

Of all the people who could have found her, of course it would be him.

“I know what it’s like to want to get away from the crowd, so I thought I’d just make sure that you didn’t go too far from the castle,” he explained, rubbing the back of his neck. “Do you… want to talk about it?”

“…I know I should just be happy that we all made it out alive,” Faye told him through the tears. “After hearing everything that Gray, Tobin, and Alm went through, it was a miracle that they managed to survive for so long. For Alm to be willing to settle for a simple life with me after all of that would have been too much to hope for.”

“You’re probably right,” he told her bluntly, if not unkindly. It wasn’t in his nature to tell her otherwise when it would solve nothing. “But, even so, that hope carried you this far and you came out of it with something more than what you had going in. So the journey itself was rewarding, even if the conclusion wasn’t what you expected.”

He was right. Even if she hadn’t liked how much she had changed, she did come out of it with more than she had before. New friendships forged and old ones rekindled. The knowledge of magic and ability to mend wounds. If not for the love of her life choosing another, maybe she would see it as the silver lining for all the danger they faced.

Brushing her hair over her shoulders, Faye sniffed before asking, “Are… are you still going to leave now that the war is over?”

“Yeah,” he admitted. “I figured I’d go visit the Sage’s Hamlet for a little while to finish up learning what I can before heading out to the continent the Pegasus Sisters came from. From what they’ve told me there’s an interesting place that I want to check out since its right across the sea.”

Faye bit her lower lip as she looked down to the ground and then asked, “Do you… mind if I come along with you?”

“You mean you’re willing to take my offer?”

She nodded. “At least for a little while. If Ram really is still my home after everything we went through until now, then it won’t change even if I’m away for a little longer. Just long enough to see what it’ll be like, and if it… helps.”

“I can’t guarantee it’ll ease the pain you’re feeling,” he warned her. “And the path I’m taking, pursuing knowledge, isn’t going to be an easy one all the time. Are you really okay with that?”

“I am.” She brought her hand over her chest and closed her eyes before she answered him. “If I’m going to move on with my life and try to push past this pain… what better way to start than to go on a journey with the friend who always pushed me to accept change as a good thing and try to see where it leads?”

Kliff held his chin in thought before nodding. “If that’s what you want, then we’ll prepare as soon as morning comes. I’ll look forward to seeing how far we can take that talent of yours by the end.”

She sighed in relief. Maybe if she went along with him, time and distance would bury the dreams of first love that now taunted her. Maybe if she pushed herself into seeing what she was capable of, she’d find something she could cling to with pride. Maybe she’d be able to move on someday.

She had no guarantees. But she had to at least try.

“Thank you, Kliff,” Faye told him, a sincere smile on her face that was framed by the trail of her tears as she brought her arms around him and hugged him. “For everything.”

His response was to slowly, gently wrap his arms around her in turn as dancing flames wreathed them. “I’m the one who should thank you. You kept me safe even when I made mistakes and didn’t ask for anything in return. So, I won’t leave you alone, Faye. No matter what.”

 


S-Support

The sky above the ocean at night was beautiful, as if looking upon thousands of glimmering diamonds scoured across a vast, ebony cloak.

As the ship chopped through the waves while guided by a gentle wind, Faye smiled as she raised her head and felt the breeze brush over her face. It wouldn’t be long now before they arrived in Zofia Harbor. Arrived back in Valentia.

Back in Ram Village.

It had been a little over two years now since she had left Ram, including the war. Two years spent away from the fields, sheep, and vineyards where their famous wine was brewed. Two years spent longing for that life once more, even though she had learned so much in her time away.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what the village is like when we get back,” she said aloud, soft voice carried on the wind. “What about you?”

The question was directed to only other person on the deck of the ship, standing next to her against the wooden rail. “From what the others told us not much has changed, despite the fact that the King, Queen, and Chancellor of the kingdom all hailed from it. It sounds as boring as always.”

Kliff held the same opinion that he did when he set out. Even after two years he held no real desire to return, not out of malice but the fact that there was simply nothing to tie him down to the place. Ram was just too small for him. No place suited for a mind like his, brimming with curiosity and wanderlust.

“Well, I think boring sounds pretty good right about now,” Faye told him. “I think I’ve had enough excitement to last a lifetime after what happened in Thabes.”

The two of them had caught the boat from Zofia Harbor to Furia Harbor, whereupon they crossed the mountains and entered the Mamorthod Desert. It was there Kliff wanted to explore the ruins of the ancient capital of Thabes, much of its splendor long-lost to the sands of time. It was supposedly a grand kingdom at one time in the past, built by people who possessed great magical prowess.

Kliff wanted to explore the depths of the labyrinth inch-by-inch, in order to find anything left behind that wasn’t plundered by the Bandits, despite the powerful Terrors that occupied its halls. It was no wonder that many who sought to dive into it for treasures to sell didn’t come back up, and more than once Faye had to stop him from going too deeply into the depths. They took what they could, inspected it, and sold anything that wasn’t of magical or historical value to make ends meet.

From their time spent surveying the labyrinth, they discovered relics and knowledge of that ancient civilization, the remains of the soldiers wielding weapons that seemed almost beyond what could be found outside of those cursed halls. It was from these that they stumbled across a discovery about the spellcasters who ventured in along with the soldiers, that they possessed similar roles that the Clerics and Mages of their homeland did—including their methods of casting using their own vitality rather than the tomes that seemed commonplace on the foreign continent.

It was odd, Faye had to admit. The mystery only deepened when she and Kliff attempted to utilize these spells used by the ancient spellcasters and found they worked in unison with magics of their homeland—a spell to conjure illusionary Terrors for Kliff, one that could make magic near harmless against an ally and another to purge foreign substances from a body for Faye. Yet, it all became clear soon enough when the unexpected happened.

Alm arrived in Furia with a few others in tow—Tobin, Gray, Genny, Saber, Kamui, and a few other traveling companions among them. Apparently, Mila’s Turnwheel had a little of Mila’s power left and showed Celica a vision of the past, as well as a premonition of a future where a great dragon would emerge from the Thabes Labyrinth and lay waste to the world. As the wielder of the Kingsfang, Alm came end the threat before that came to pass, while Celica remained behind to run the country.

“To think that Duma was responsible for that place ending up that way,” Kliff muttered. “When I think back to that day, he seemed almost happy that man had grown strong enough to challenge him. So, it’s strange that he destroyed Thabes because he feared they had gotten so powerful.”

“He probably just changed,” Faye told her companion, earning his attention. “Just like we changed over the course of the war, he changed after fighting the other dragons and ending up in a new land. Living as long as dragons do, I think at some point he might have even looked back on what happened and wondered why he was being punished, so he decided to advised the people of his land to be strong in order to reach that point once more to find out. Then, somewhere along the way, he might have even started growing proud of them for adapting and surviving by their own merits, at least until his madness took root in the end.”

“…I suppose that’s possible,” Kliff conceded. “There’s no way to know for certain now that Duma’s gone. All that’s left is what we can find and rediscover. Hopefully that Luthier fellow won’t end up disturbing the labyrinth too much until I get back. There’s still a lot to discover there and I want to puzzle it all out before I move on.”

“I just hope they’ll be careful,” Faye said. She wasn’t familiar with the Sage who had accompanied Alm, but Kamui had opted to remain there as well under contract until Kliff returned. He was friendly enough when they traveled together. “Even though we defeated that thing at the bottom, Alm said he wasn’t sure if it was really dead.”

They had broken through the seal and discovered just how twisted the experiments of the demon alchemist had been. Those stone-masked corpses were strong enough to challenge them every step of the way down, forcing them to repurpose some of the equipment and techniques they found wielded by the soldiers sent to subdue Forneus along the way. Then they came face-to-face with his Creation and it proved to be as difficult a battle as a maddened Duma, if not more so. For good measure they made sure to re-seal the entrance, but the magic used to create it was something old and lost to the ages, meaning they might have made a mistake.

“Well, that’s part of why I’m heading back now,” Kliff said, sighing. “I couldn’t exactly refuse a friend’s request, more so when he’s technically my King.”

Given that they had done most of the research into the labyrinth so far, Alm wanted them to come back to the kingdom and help compile it. In the future they would dedicate an entire team to go overseas and look into dealing with the potential threat it posed for the future, but for now their options were limited. He had also requested that Faye teach the spells she learned to suitable members of the combined Mila and Duma faithful, given how useful they could be.

Kliff clearly intended to do his part before heading back. He’d explore and obtain as much information as he could on the ancient civilization until he had his fill. Then he’d move on to travel more of the world and learn more—which left Faye conflicted.

Despite everything, she really had enjoyed the time they spent together since the war ended. The nights they spent in a tent in the quiet desert, a fire some distance away while they sat close to one another for warmth and light as they saw the stars of a different sky. The times they spent at the harbor town haggling for a decent price on the treasures they sold, the taste of cultures and lands unknown on their tongues as exotic foods flowed through the port.

It had actually been enjoyable. More so because he was with her. But she also missed her home, even if the fears and pain born from the end of the war still lingered in the back of her mind. Subdued, but not gone entirely.

Lost in the thought of choosing one or the other, she didn’t even notice when his hands slipped around her from behind. Not until he pulled her close to him. He had gotten taller than her in the time they’d spent away, so she ended up nestled against him while draped in the robes he wore.

“H-Hey, what are you doing?” she asked, surprised and blushing. “It’s not that cold!”

“You had that look on your face that said you were thinking about something difficult,” he said, his tone soft and kind. “You can’t decide on whether you’ll stay with me or stay in the village, right?”

Faye turned her body and found his eyes close to her own. Staring. His breath washing against her skin, warm and pleasant like mint. She let go of the tension threading her body and answered. “I’m not going to ask you to stay with me. It wouldn’t be fair to either of us.”

She would like for him to stay with her in the village to have the best of both worlds, but she knew that his desire for knowledge was too strong and his wanderlust too great. Even if he didn’t somehow resent her for making him choose, she’d resent herself for trying to force him to do so since she actually found that part of him to be the catalyst for so many good things that happened to her since leaving the village. She didn’t want to smother that side of him to keep him with her all the time, just to ease her loneliness and heart.

“I appreciate the thought, but I have different proposal,” he said wryly before he guided his hands down to hers, weaving something cool and metallic into her palms. “Tell me what you think of it.”

She raised her hands and peered down to see that it was a simple wedding band. Not extravagant, like the outfit he had tailored for her based off the pictographs found in the labyrinth after her Saint vestments had suffered too many rips and tears from the constant ventures into the place. Her mind froze and she began fumbling over her words, trying to string them together while her heart began pounding in her chest with a mixture of confusion and excitement. “…This is… me and you?”

“I can’t see myself giving up traveling and learning to settle down for good,” he confessed, still holding her close. “But that doesn’t mean I want to deny you your own happiness, Faye. Let this be a promise between us that you will never be alone, because no matter how far away I go, I’ll always come back to you with something new to share.”

So rather than forcing her to choose between a home and a husband, it was his way of offering both. It was a promise that though they would be parted at times, they would always be reunited.

Faye felt her eyes stinging before she realized she had begun to shed tears once more. Just like on that snowy night, being comforted in this same manner—only this time they were tears of joy.

She tried to speak but found that her voice was too hoarse to put words to the swelling in her heart. So instead she brought her lips to his while in the embrace of his arms, to seal her own vow of devotion where words failed her. If he would always return to her side, then she would always have a home for him to return to.

So that he could rest between his travels and know the comforts of a place where he belonged, with a family who would be waiting for him.

 


Epilogue

Faye returned to Ram Village after her obligations were fulfilled and, to her great joy, found that her fears were unfounded as she was greeted by the gates with warm welcomes all around. There she settled into a modest life, acting as the village’s healer when needed despite being bestowed the title of an Exemplar by the combined faithful church for her contributions to their practices. The villagers who knew her best would note that she was always happiest when her husband returned from a long journey and shared with their family his adventurous tales.

Kliff continued to travel and broaden his horizons, seeking to attain as much knowledge as he could. A seeker of truth who became known as a Guru of great renown, it was said that no matter how far he travelled he always returned to a small village hidden at the edge of the Kingdom of Valentia. Sometime later his son would serve the crown on behalf of his father, boasting a tremendous gift for magic that would contribute to the greatness of the One Kingdom for generations to come.

 


Ending Notes:

Well, this was a fun little side-project. I was partly inspired by one of the best Faye-centric fanfics called A Road Less Travelled by Pureauthor and a picture of Kliff and Faye hugging on Tumblr.

In this particular AU, Celica recruited Kliff and Faye so the two of them had an exclusive support line with one another given that they are familiar with one another. Kliff is attentive enough to piece together Faye’s insecurities and her talent, but its only after she rescues him that he opens up and tries to get her to see that the future she has in mind might not come around so she doesn’t end up crushed learning it later. Since Faye is familiar with Kliff, she wouldn’t brush him off like a stranger and would be a lot more honest and comfortable around him, helping her cope with her heartbreak faster.

I tried to take into account that both of them rivaled the other spellcasters who are formerly trained as due to both of them being naturally suited to their magic and their Overclasses are also tied into coming from recreating the magic of ancient Thabes based on what they find.

 

 


Fanfic Recommendation 83

 


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Rabbit of the Moon: Chapter 16 [DanMachi/Bloodborne]

Chapter 16: Tragedy of a Little Girl

That wasn’t him,” Bell muttered to himself, breath coming out hot and heavy as he stared down at the corpse of Gascoigne where it laid. A great flow was rushing into his body, slipping into the void that shouldn’t be there. Blood echoes of the fallen. He repeated himself to stay sane. “That wasn’t Mister Gascoigne.”

That was right. He didn’t kill the father of the little girl who requested that he return the music box to her parents. He killed the thing that devoured the man from the inside out and wore his skin as he slaughtered the other hunters that were once here. He wasn’t the one who made her an orphan like he was after his Grandfather died…

The clamoring of the Little Ones was followed by a soft, pale glow washing over the darkened portion of the graveyard. There, where the oil lantern had been blown out, was a brand-new ethereal lamp. Just like when he’d killed the Cleric Beast. Did that mean he could go back now?

It was tempting. Even with the Silverback waiting for him, the thought of returning to his own world and getting back to his Goddess’ side was tempting enough that he reached out for the lamp without thinking until he saw the flames dancing within it. For the comfort her presence brought it would be worth the danger…

Except what would he tell her when he returned if he left that little girl waiting for her parents?

That thought made Bell retract his hand. Now that her father was gone, she only had her mother left in the world. He didn’t want to deny her even that and curse her with the agony of being alone.

So he turned his attention back to the corpse. The key that hung around its neck like a collar was likely the one to open the gate. He didn’t spot the little girl’s mother on his way here, meaning that she was likely on the other side of those gates. Hopefully safe inside the sanctity of hallowed grounds.

Bell’s boots made a wet, squelching noise as the stepped into the growing pool of blood that mixed with the grave soil and broken bits of cobblestone. He cut the rope and pulled the key free before shoving it into his pocket. Then he retrieved his hat and Hunter’s Saw, leaving the Messengers to take Gascoigne’s Axe.

Gherman mentioned that it was natural that the tools of the fallen be put to use. But he would see about having it cleaned up and repaired before anything else. Whether he decided to use it or hand it back to the girl’s mother, leaving it as it was would be an insult to the fallen hunter.

That done, he began his ascension of the stairs that ran along the side of the graveyard until he reached the top, past another row of chained coffins perched against the wall. The gates stood before him, broad and a little over twice his height. He was about to open it up with the key he’d taken when Bell spotted a gleaming patch of blood off to the side.

It could have passed as any other bloodstain. It was an unremarkable sight in this place, as he had the misfortune of learning. Some of the streets he had crossed were literally bathed in blood that refused to properly dry and seemed to quiver on occasion, despite the lack of wind. Under normal circumstances he would have continued on without a second glance—

Viola… forgive… me…

—but when he recalled the animal noise that could pass as speech in the Beast’s final moments, and the way it motioned towards the building that it led to in that direction, he felt a stirring in the very echoes he taken into himself. A rippling tinged with the bitter taste of regret. Unable to ignore it, Bell swallowed a lump in his throat and slowly walked down the side path.

The bloodstain was in fact a trail, one that was hard to notice with the oil lantern between the gate and the one that he could spot distantly at the end having been blown out. The space between each few steps had been marked by a small patter of the rich crimson that flowed like wine so easily within the city. He slowly followed the trail until he reached the last oil lantern where the small spatter had abruptly become a puddle of crimson pooled in a divot, where the stonework had been uprooted and a section of the fence meant to prevent any misfortunate tumbling down into the graveyard was conspicuously missing.

Bell found his heart beating heavily in his chest as he neared the edge. A single step would allow him to peer over to the rooftop of the building that had been fostered off to the side of the graveyard. Gathering his courage, he took the leap off the edge and landed onto the tiled roof.

And what was his reward for doing so?

It was to be greeted with the answer that he feared the most. A woman’s corpse laid pale and sprawled near the edge of the rooftop, her eyes that were already clouded over were fixed in the direction of where the Beast’s corpse laid. The color and warmth of her skin dyed the rooftop a vibrant shade that gleamed off the light of the oil lantern above.

“…please no…” he whimpered as he stepped over to the corpse, hoping for the absence of the only thing that would mark the woman as more than an unfortunate stranger. But that hope was crushed the moment he spotted the big, red jeweled brooch that hung off her chest. He reached down to pick it up and found an engraved name on the back: Viola.

Bell clutched the woman’s brooch to his chest as stinging heat prickled behind his eyes. Was it by the Beast’s hand that she laid dead? Or was it her death that ultimately served to let Gascoigne be devoured by the inside out by the creature?

He didn’t know. But what he did know was that he had to tell the child that her mother was dead, so he slipped the brooch into his pocket. Yet, when he prepared to hop down from the roof and return the way he came, he found that his legs refused to work.

Bell knew he had to tell the girl that her parents were gone. But the thought of explaining that the two people she loved the most in the world would no longer be there to greet her when the dawn came… the thought of seeing her face as he presented the brooch and explained where he found it… they became invisible fetters of fear that stopped him from going back.

It was wrong. Everything in his body was telling him to go back to that child when he thought of the loneliness that the she was experiencing. The uncertainty that gnawed away at her on the inside to the extent that she entrusted a precious gift to a stranger in the hopes delivering to her parents. But when he thought about telling her of their fate and his role in how it played out, he just…

He just couldn’t help but run in the hopes of losing himself for a moment.

Since his legs refused to carry him one way, Bell let them carry him through the gates of Oedon Chapel without looking back. He fled through the flooded basement and up the metal ladder until he emerged in what looked to be a reading room of some kind. Shelves of books ran along the sides of the room, with papers and the odd stacks to be found scattered about in a disheveled manner, while strange devices were on the tables were largely covered in dust.

He went past all of it and ran up the winding stairs at a frantic pace until his foot caught a rung near the top. He tripped and was sent barreling through the double doors that were nestled at the end. And what greeted him after the loud, riotous creak of the doors?

It was a grand hall bathed in fading light of the evening sun that had yet to be wrung out by the stark and uncaring moon, padding out the feeble candlelight within the vast structure of stone and steel. Dusty, decorative cloths hung from the pooled shadows that blotted out the ceiling, with dozens of statues reaching towards them or praying as they gazed towards the sky. And woven between those were a wafting, grey veil that was so pungent and rich that it clawed at Bell’s nose and throat on its way down to his racing lungs, forcing out a heavy cough.

“That was—” Bell jumped at the voice that was right across from him, pushing off the ground and clumsily reaching for his pistol while his heart pounded in his chest. It was already half-raised by the time he set his eyes on the source. “—quite a scare.”

It was… a man, Bell believed. Not a beast. He was covered in dirt and dust-crusted rags of deep red, pooling deeply around his thin and emaciated frame. His fingers were uncannily long and tipped with blackened nails that held a pebble, while his skin was gaunt, greyish, and sallow.

“For a second, I thought a beast had barreled in despite the incense. Worried me a good bit, it did,” he continued, rolling the pebble in his palm nervously. “The incense burns so thick that it masked your scent, but I can smell traces of moonscent now.”

He’s blind, Bell realized. At least to some degree, given his eyes were milky to the point the pupils couldn’t even be seen. Though, given how many things Bell had seen running around with little problem even though they were blindfolded or missing their eyes, it probably didn’t make him less capable. Someone had to light all the candles here. “…Do you… live here?”

“You could say that,” the…Dweller, he assumed the man to be, answered. “This here Oedon Chapel has been forgotten by most, but some of the hunters use it to get ready for the Hunt. Everyone else is all locked up inside and waiting for it to end, so they’d come here when they needed to get away from the stench of blood and snarl of beasts.”

The scent of the incense was quite thick, as he mentioned. And the atmosphere was quiet. If a pinch of incense in a lantern could ward away beasts, then this much would be a bane to any blood-addled thing looking for prey.

Bell lowered the pistol. Though he would admit the man’s appearance was somewhat startling, it was honestly not the strangest thing he’d seen in the last few hours. Especially not when he’d seen the rotting corpses in the canals that still moved at the presence of fresh blood. “I’m sorry for barging in.”

“No worries here about that,” the man said. “Since I heard the side door open, I take it you’re a new member of Gascoigne’s hunters?”

Bell’s throat went tight. “You… knew Mister Gascoigne?”

The emaciated man nodded. “His family’s been good to me. His wife is an especially kind one. She’d often bring me something to eat on her way back to her home and say a prayer for the hunt to be a safe one. Haven’t heard her come by as usual though. Did you see her on the way in?”

The words twisted in his chest like a knife to his chest. This man knew them all. He was waiting for them to come and they wouldn’t. “…dead…”

“Pardon?”

“They’re all dead,” Bell repeated, his voice cracking. “I was… was sent find Mister Gascoigne and Miss Viola by their daughter. She was worried about them and her incense were running low. So she asked me to find them, but when I went to the Graveyard… I found the hunters dead.”

O…Oh…” The man’s voice became labored, its pitch a notch higher as if he was straining to breathe. “That can’t be. All of them dead? How?”

“It was… it was a Beast,” Bell told him, if only so that he could continue speaking. Gascoigne had died even before Bell had killed the monster wearing his body, so it may as well have been the truth. Or so the young hunter thought to himself as he took a staggered breath before he continued. “A big one. Took them to pieces. I found the key after I killed it.”

The man lowered his head to the ground, brought his hands together and mumbled under his breath before looking towards Bell with his blank eyes. “And what of his wife? Tell me she made it.”

Bell shook his head before he pulled out the brooch and stared down at it. The name on it said it all. “She didn’t.”

“Even her…” The man’s breathing was shaken as he took in the information and began to mourn the deaths. “All of them… savaged by a beast. Gods, why?

“I don’t know what I supposed to tell their daughter,” Bell confessed, unable to stomach listening to the man cry without tears coming out his own eyes. “She’s alone and scared, waiting for them to come back. But they won’t.”

The Chapel Dweller drew in a breath and collected himself before he asked, “Di…Did you by chance come across Henryk’s body?”

“I don’t know who that is,” Bell said, wiping at his eyes. “I’d need to know what they looked like before I could say.”

“I… I don’t see much these days, but I heard that he wears an old, yellow hunter’s outfit,” the man explained. “It had a scent about it, though I can’t put it into proper words. His daughter, Viola, always said that no matter how often she washed it, it always stuck. Something about it being from a run in with a beast that gives off blue sparks.”

“I didn’t see anyone in that sort of outfit,” Bell said as he recalled the visceral scene he’d stumbled onto. The dead hunters, taken to pieces by the time he had arrived. Not one of them had worn such an outfit. None of the bodies he’d ran across so far had. “But if he’s the father of Viola, then… he’d be that little girl’s grandfather?”

The Chapel Dweller nodded his head, the rags covering him shifting with a sluggish flow. “The old man don’t like me much, but I can’t imagine from how the others spoke when they came in after a hunt that he’d have gone down without a fight. It’s possible he was running late and didn’t make it in time.”

Bell felt his heart stir with a fleeting hope. The little girl still had family then. If her grandfather was still around, then she wouldn’t be alone in the world. They still had each other, even after losing the other two. It would be hard, but…

“Kind hunter,” the Chapel Dweller called as hope began to flicker in Bell’s chest. “Could you bring her here? The little girl?”

“You want me to bring her here?”

“That’s right,” he said. “This night looks to be a long one and I bet it won’t end nicely. The least I can do for her folks is give her a safe place to wait out the Hunt until it ends. This here Oedon Chapel can be a safe haven for anyone who needs it tonight, so long as they have their wits about them.”

Bell sniffled as he considered the man’s proposition. She needed someplace safe to stay with her incense running low and asking someone else to give theirs up would be sentencing them to death. Though the pungent scent was almost rugged as it caressed his lungs inside and out, it would keep any beasts at bay.

More to the point, there was a faint sense of familiarity here that reminded Bell of the church that he and Hestia stayed at. Both forgotten little places of worship that was provided an escape from the trials and tribulations outside their walls. The warmth of the hearth and home was here, even if it lacked the presence of his Goddess.

“I’ll bring her,” Bell decided. “And if I find anyone else, I’ll bring them here too.”

“Oh, bless you, kind hunter.” There was notable elation in the man’s voice as he clasped his hands together and raised them towards Bell. “I know it’s asking quite a bit of you and I can’t offer much aid, but I think the other hunters have some sort of tool that you can use stored away in the trunk down the stairs. Take it with you if it’ll ease your troubles.”

[R-M]

Bell made his way back to the where the child’s home was and found the window still illuminated by the dull glow within it, casting the silhouette of the small figure on the inside. She was still there, waiting for the good news. Waiting for her parents to return.

He felt the urge to turn away before he came into her line of view. But it was his responsibility to see her to safety, and that meant he had to tell her the truth. So Bell presented himself to her, standing at the waist-high gate that served as a boundary between them along with barred window that was raised just enough for her voice to come through clearly.

“Mister Hunter, you’re back,” she said. “Did you find my mum?”

He took a deep breath as a lump formed in his throat, threatening to choke him with his own guilt. But he promised to get her to safety, which meant he had no other choice. Bell forced the lump in his throat down as he took out the brooch. “This is hers, right?”

Tiny hands reached out through the opening and gently grasped the brooch like the precious thing it was. She clearly recognized it, even before she turned to where the inscription was, as if she’d seen it countless times. “Where did you find it?”

Bell… lied again. He told that he went to the graveyard to see a Beast had finished killing several others, with her mother was among them. Her father’s axe was the only thing of his that he found next to a pool of blood with the key, giving the impression that he’d been devoured utterly.

He lowered his head once he finished reciting the lie and said, “I’m so sorry.”

A choking, heavy sob came from the other side of the window. The Little Girl’s mother and father were no longer among the living. In a meek, mournful voice she cried out, “Mummy… daddy… don’t leave me alone…

Bell listened to her mourning for the mother and father that she lost, and pain stung at his eyes as he recalled the death of his own grandfather. His absence was felt with every moment Bell spent in their home alone afterwards. The memories of his grandpa reading him stories about heroes and holding his hand as they walked along the path to and from the farm now being all he had left.

Losing someone during the Hunt was probably a tale that was commonplace in this city where coffins lined the streets and blood painted the stones. But it didn’t ease the weight on Bell’s shoulders as he slouched with his back against the gate and looked down at his gloved hands that still had blood on them. These very same hands had been the ones to cut down whatever was left of her father, and now he was supposed to extend them to her in order to take her to the chapel?

“…Mister Hunter…” Bell looked over his shoulders to see that the child had lifted the window, revealing her appearance. She was such a small figure, perhaps half his height but with blonde hair that came down to her neck in waves. Her nightgown matched the white ribbon in her hair, tied in a bow. “Is… is it my fault Mummy and Daddy are dead?”

“Why do you think it’s your fault?” he asked.

“I still remember when one night I was scared by the scream of a beast,” she began. “Mummy told me it would be okay because it couldn’t get us inside while the incense was burning, and the Church would send hunters to make it go away. But it kept howling and prowling, and I was so scared.”

He could see the guilt wringing the tears out of her eyes for the sin of being scared of the Hunt. But to him it seemed only natural that she’d be terrified. He was terrified of the Hunt, and he was expected to go through the entire thing when he literally wasn’t allowed to die.

“Daddy… he-he grabbed his axe and said that it’d be quiet soon,” she continued. “Mummy begged him not to and said that he left the Church because he promised he’d be there for us. But he said he had to go because the Church wasn’t how it used to be. Then he left out and Mummy covered my ears until it was over. After that night, Daddy started going out more often with other men from the neighborhood, and Mummy would go with him and the music box.”

Seeing his daughter scared and frightened drove Gascoigne to take part in the Hunt. He wanted to make it so that she could sleep easier and, since the Church wasn’t doing that, he decided to take it into his own hands. Bell couldn’t say much about how the Church’s hunters operated since he hadn’t met any, but they certainly didn’t come out to help when he’d fought the Cleric Beast outside of the gates to their ward. Weren’t they supposed to be protecting these people?

“If… if I hadn’t been scared, then none of this would have happened.” The words came out ragged as she began to cry again.  “Mummy… Daddy…

“It’s not your fault,” Bell told her softly. “I think they wanted what was best for you, so they did what they could. I doubt they regretted that.”

His words offered little comfort as she continued to cry. But they were the best he could give her at the moment as he stared towards the moon that was rising now that the evening light was fading into a stark, cold luminescence. The scent of incense around her home was almost thin to the point of being absent too. If the Hunt would only get worse as the night dragged on, he had to hurry and get her somewhere safe.

“I’ll take you to Oedon Chapel,” he declared. “The Chapel Dweller said it was a safe place to wait out the Hunt, and it’s filled with incense to keep the Beasts away. Your grandfather will be there soon too, so you won’t be alone.”

“You… you don’t have to,” she said between cries. “I can make it on my own. You… you’ve got to finish the Hunt, don’t you?”

“I’d never be able to live with myself if I didn’t get you there myself,” he told her, rising to his full height. “It’s still dangerous out here, and I owe it to your parents to see you there safely.”

She wiped at the tears on her face as she stared at him for a long moment. It was then he realized that even though he tried to appear as nonthreatening as possible, no doubt the Hunter’s Garb covered in the blood, dust, and graveyard dirt gave off a bad impression. At the very least it served to make her hesitate at his offer.

Bell took off the coat, gloves, and hat to reveal himself. The armor he’d worn was slightly battered from the battles he’d fought since arriving and donning it to brave the streets. But it was still less ominous looking than covering himself up fully as he extended his hand towards her. “Please, let me do that much for you.”

She slowly nodded her head and reached out for his hand, gently laying it in his grasp through the bars. “Okay, Mister Hunter. I’ll come with you to see Granddad.”

His offer accepted, she closed the window and turned off the light before she came out of her door about two minutes after the Messengers took his discarded garments back to the Dream. Given the hurried pace she moved at, he was mildly surprised she had time to slip on clothes more suitable for venturing outside along with her mother’s brooch. Bell crouched down to allow her to climb on his back. “You might want to close your eyes. It’s not a pleasant sight along the way to the Chapel.”

“It’s okay,” she told him. “I’ve seen how it looks when Hunts end before.”

“Have the Hunts been going on long?” he asked, looking around while keeping one hand on his weapon. While he had been very thorough in making sure there was nothing that would possibly kill them along the route he took to get to the chapel, there was a chance that more beasts would show up in search of easy prey. “I’m not really from here, so I’m not really sure about the history of it or anything.”

“You mean you’re like auntie Eileen?” she asked, clinging to Bell as he began climb down the ladder at a careful pace. Her grip got tighter as she spared a glance to the giant thing that had been armed with a statue, now slouching against the wall. Its throat had been carved open. “You don’t speak the same way as her, but you both do have the same scent.”

“We came from different places,” Bell said. “The place I live in is far away and has its own monsters. I was being chased by one of them and things happened that led to me coming here.”

“Oh, you mean like the constables?”

He wasn’t familiar with the term. “The what now?”

“It’s a story Granddad would tell me about a group of men who chased a beast all the way here. He would tell me a lot of different ones when he came by—like about the League Hunters, who came from different places and became hunters to get rid of beasts.”

“My Grandpa would always tell me stories too,” Bell said. “I grew up in a village and worked on a farm with him, so he’d always tell me all sorts of stories of old heroes while I lived with him. I loved them.”

“Can you tell me one while we walk?”

He consented and began to regale her with stories of heroes as they trekked towards Oedon Chapel, his voice kept low and his senses at full alert for any sort of threat that could meet them along the way as early night settled into place. A sense of dread crept up onto him when they approached the entrance of the tomb where her parents had met their end. Finally, his footsteps came to a stop after entering the graveyard when he noticed a figure standing next to the corpse of the Beast—staring down at the remaining puddle of blood it laid in.

“That’s Granddad!” Her voice came out louder than Bell liked and drew the hunter’s attention. But the glow of the phantasmal lantern gave Bell the glimpse of his hunter outfit that consisted of a dingy, washed-out yellowish hue. Just like the Chapel Dweller said, he must’ve been late arriving and missed meeting the same fate as the others. “Granddad, it’s me!”

Bell knew how relieved she was to see family again, but he couldn’t shake the tension he felt as the man took a slow and tentative step forward. The fact that the night’s chill had left his breath visibly coming out at a quickening pace and the grip on his weapons tightened sent even more warning bells off. It was for that reason he stopped her from sliding off his back to rush over to her last family.

“Hold on, let me talk to him fir—” It happened before he could even finish the sentence. The Hunter’s Pistol was raised towards them and the tension within Bell’s body snapped at the memory of a scant hour ago when Gascoigne had done the same.

BANG!! The bark of quicksilver igniting and rocketing through the air was followed by a spray of stone dust and a child’s scream. Henryk had fired upon them with the intention of killing them.

The shot had only narrowly missed by the virtue of Bell springing into motion, ducking behind the gravestones that had already been riddled with the broken quicksilver of her father’s gun. Crouched and with little time to spare, he then dumped her from his back behind the headstone to stay safe. Then he rocketed himself out from cover and towards the old hunter, a series of shots that tore open the quiet of the night resounding until Bell got into range for him to use his other weapon.

Henryk’s Saw Cleaver came for his head with deceptive speed, a diagonal sweeping motion meant to kill. Bell narrowly managed to raise his arm and let the forearm-guards catch it at an angle, the scraping of metal and bloom of sparks accompanied by a painful jolt it was deflected over his head as he slid past Henryk. The Old Hunter naturally tried to swing wide to catch him, but Bell pivoted around and gripped his Saw Cleaver with both hands to catch the teeth of the opposite set and lock them into place.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing!?” Bell demanded, blood pumping and heart racing as he struggled keep their weapons locked together. He had turned the man’s attention away from the direction of the little girl. Now he had to keep it that way. “That was your granddaughter you just shot at!”

“RAAAHH!!” was the response Henryk gave, still human but primal in its fury. He then followed with a jerk of his arm that showed that he was far stronger than the younger hunter when it tore Bell’s weapon from his grasp and sent him stumbling back. It was immediately followed-up with the pistol being raised towards his head.

Bell hastily brought his arms up as the trigger was pulled. The impact of the quicksilver bursting against his armguards left his world shaken as his own arms smashed into his forehead, knocking him over. The backplate of his armor scraped against the pebbles and shattered bits of headstones as the momentum backwards carried him into a roll that allowed him to escape the follow-up shot as he took cover behind the statue. He drew his Hunter’s Pistol from his belt and silently beckoned the Messengers when the Little Girl stuck her head out from cover.

Bearing witness to her grandfather trying to kill Bell, the last person she could call family trying to murder the boy who’d braved the night to get her to safety, wasn’t something she could sit by and let it happen. So she called out for him in a desperate plea that only served to put her in his sights. “Granddad, stop!

Bell broke from cover to try and stop Henryk as he took aim at his own granddaughter. But before he could do anything the bark of the Old Hunter’s gun rang out. The Little Girl’s legs collapsed under her in fear as a chunk of the headstone next to her was blown apart.

He’d narrowly missed killing her. But it wasn’t through his own doing. No, the reason was because of the throwing knife that had been buried up to the hilt right into Henryk’s extended arm with pinpoint accuracy right as he’d pulled the trigger.

Snarling, Henryk whipped his head around to the side from whence it came as the raven of death descended, its wings spread wide and wicked talons that gleamed ominously in the moonlight bared. As if by instinct, he abandoned his firearm to grip his Saw Cleaver with both hands and brought it up. It was probably all that saved him as the gleaming blades going for his throat from both sides with the intention of tearing it out screeched, blooming sparks born from the scraping of metal-on-metal.

The rest of the avian’s body descended, crashing down and forcing him to the ground, before rolling off him before the retaliatory swing could tear into its flesh. Then the bundle of feathers gave way to human legs that darted towards the child. Scooping her up in a single motion, it then made for the stairs and called out, “Hold him off, boy!

Bell recognized it was Eileen’s voice and his fear-addled mind put the pieces together. She’d thrown herself into a killing plunge in an effort to end the Old Hunter in a single stroke. When that failed, she put the rest of her weight into her legs to drive him to the ground and buy enough time for her to get the child out of harm’s way.

Time that she needed more of as Henryk ripped the throwing knife out of his arm and readied to shoot her in the back with his Hunter’s Pistol.

“Stop it!” Bell aimed to disarm him, bullet smashing into the opposing firearm and sending it toppling from his reach. It grabbed the man’s attention, a roar clawing its way out of the aged throat and past the high collar. Bell barely had time to grab the handle of the weapon the Little Ones brought with them before the man was rushing him down, Saw Cleaver already swinging for him.

The smell of half-dried blood assailed his nose as Bell pulled back, strands of his moon-white hair severed as the blade came centimeters of cutting open his face. But his retreating step was cut short as Henryk’s Saw Cleaver unfurled at the end of the swing and scooped low, the sharpened hook catching the back of his lower leg. A pained scream came out of Bell’s mouth as it tore into the muscle and tendon and forced him to the ground before the tip was swung down once more to break open his skull.

A horrendous screech bellowed out as it deflected against the head of Bell’s weapon, braced by his off-hand and angled so that it wedged itself into the dirt. Then he curled his abdomen and chambered his legs to kick upwards, ignoring the burning agony in his leg from where the butcher’s weapon had torn through the fabric and leather of his boots and pants. The sudden attempt at kicking in the older man’s face came up short but served its purpose as Henryk put three steps between them.

Bell got onto his knees, holding his weapon out in defense with one hand while the other plunged a syringe-loaded Blood Vial into his thigh to patch up the wounded leg as Henryk just stared for a moment. Not at Bell, but the weapon in his hand. It was Gascoigne’s axe.

Given that the two were partners for so long, Bell hoped that drawing it would at least drudge of some part of the man’s rationale. That it would allow the man to come back from the same insanity he’d seen too many times wandering the streets. So that he didn’t have to rob that child of her last remaining family as well.

“Please… Don’t make me do this” Bell begged the man as he stood up. Her father was gone. Her mother was gone. Her grandfather was the only family she had left. “Your granddaughter needs you. Don’t leave her all alone.”

For a moment, the young hunter thought he saw the Saw Cleaver waver. For a moment, he thought he saw the aged eyes of a man on the verge of tears behind the hat and collar. For a moment, he had hope that for once things would end well tonight—

RAHHHHHH!!!

—but then Henryk roared at the top of his lungs in a manner that reminded Bell all too much of Gascoigne moments before his transformation. Casting aside any hopes of reclaiming his sanity, he charged Bell down with renewed vigor and the butcher’s weapon unfurled.

Bell braced the axe for impact, but the swings that followed were vicious enough to drive him back against the sloughing base of the leaning statue. And when he tried to swing the axe in retaliation to force him back, Henryk dodged the attempt and followed up with a short slash in the wake of his own that was aimed straight for the throat. It was a killing stroke, the crescent of the cleaver positioned to where it would tear off his neck before he could bring the weapon back to mount a defense.

His own reflexes saved him as he turned into the swing, twisting his body and raising his other arm up. It spared him an instant death as the forearm guard caught the bulk of the steel, with the impact instead slamming the rigid arm into his own head hard enough that his vision flashed as it staggered him to the side. He only regained his vision in time to see the overhead swing that came down when it was too late to dodge it fully.

“AHHH!!” The sound of bone and flesh rending under the heavy steel was drowned out by a scream of pain as the Saw Cleaver tore a gash from his chest to his stomach, ripping his chest-guard off in the process by tearing it free of the straps. Bell huddled over in agony, clutching at his wound with his right arm even as his blood began to pool beneath him and the axe.

Am… am I going to die again? Bell wondered as thick, rich crimson burbled up from his throat and slipped out of mouth to join the growing puddle. If I die and return to the Dream, what will happen to the others if I don’t stop Mister Henryk here?

It was the same thing with Gascoigne. If Henryk had truly gone mad, then the man would keep slaughtering his way through Yharnam. Yet, the thought of having to personally steal what was left of someone’s family hurt more than the wounds and broken bones, even as he laid on the verge of death.

The sound of footfalls nearing drew Bell’s eyes upwards, where he spotted Henryk had come to a stop in front of him, Saw Cleaver half-raised for the killing stroke. He was staring down at the blood as if in a trance, as if there was something there that couldn’t be seen by the naked eye. But whatever held his attention for that moment vanished when Bell coughed and wheezed, trying to form words and beg him to snap out of it, leaving his executioner to bring the Saw Cleaver overhead…

Then a bell-like sound rang out and Henryk let loose a pained sound as he jumped back with his arm torn open by a streak of light, dark blood pouring down it. His former place in front of Bell was now filled by a dark figure with a dagger marred by fresh blood in one hand and a Blood Vial Injector in the other. The Hunter of Hunters had arrived.

Bell wheezed. Still bleeding out. Still dying when her arm swung backwards and stabbed the injector into his exposed chest. The moment she pushed down on the back of it, fresh blood shot into him. Just enough to pull him off of death’s door as she left it wedged inside of him before pulling on the dagger.

One blade became two as she advanced on Henryk. The wicked talons that were her weapons of choice seemed to be glint ominously in the cold and stark moonlight. She kicked her rear foot off the ground and dashed forward, blades leaving an almost ethereal cross in the air as they sped towards the mad hunter’s neck.

Henryk retreated, at the same time flicking his wrist out and returning the Saw Cleaver to its shortened form as she flowed from one strike to the next faster than Bell’s eyes could track. A diagonal sweep that ran from shoulder to hip with the right hand was narrowly avoided by twisting his body thanks to battle instinct inherited from the nightly hunts of untold years. They also moved his arm and brought up the furled weapon’s teeth in time to block a wide sweep towards the throat with the left dagger.

But she continued with her deft strokes, bringing her right hand to sweep from hip to shoulder and score a gash across his chest. He reached for and threw a knife straight for her head in retaliation, but Eileen darted out of the way and pivoted before launching herself into a stabbing thrust with both of the daggers. The blades barely found purchase before he swept his arm around, tearing them out before they could break through the rib cage and rip through the vital organs.

Still it was another wound, blood flowing out and onto the grave dirt. How many more could he take before there was simply no more blood left within him to continue the fight? How long until she claimed the decisive stroke to finish him off?

Bell wasn’t sure as he fumbled for a second Blood Vial of his own. He drank a bottle of it and felt his pain diminish. It wasn’t enough to be rid of it entirely, but it was still a soothing balm that seemed to melt into him with every last drop. Coughing as he tossed the bottle aside, he tried to fix his gaze on the sounds of battle past the gravestones to see that it was almost over already.

Henryk was bleeding from several more gashes, Eileen’s feather cowl draped in his blood as she avoided his instinctive and feral swipes that were enough to shear into the headstones while striking her blades against one another to make a riotous bloom of white sparks. The light hurt Bell’s eyes and only seemed to further irritate Henryk into becoming more aggressive. He continued to chase her down, despite every motion and quickened beat of his heart pushing him an inch closer to death as he began to fight for breath.

But then the unthinkable happened. Eileen seemed to stumble on her way back, falling to a knee as she sparked her blades together once more. It was an opening, one that no desperate predator would allow to pass unexploited and a death sentence as he pounced with an overhead swing, only for Eileen to extend one dagger above her head as if to block and then swept it back.

The killing stroke that had been directed towards her skull seemed to move with the blade, as if drawn in by some invisible force. It pulled Henryk forward and off-balance, opening him up at last. She abruptly stood and pivoted while bringing her other hand around towards his neck without hesitation or mercy, bringing the conflict to a decisive end.

And leaving a young child with no one to call family again.


Fanfic Recommendation 82

 


My Fanfics


A Lily Blossoms In Kanto 17 

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated


Fate/Reach Out 42

A FSN/ Demon Souls Fanfic

Summary: A chance decision leads to an unlikely discovery. The mention of a rumor leads to an unbelievable mystery. And the connection to a long forgotten family leads to an unforgettable experience. Welcome to Inaba, Yu Narukami… or should I say Shirou Emiya? (Co-Authored by Nameless Flame Wielder up to Ch.21)

 


Intrepid: 18-06 Madison – Interlude: 18A
A Worm Fanfiction
Summary: In the wake of the Locker Incident, Taylor goes comatose. Wracked with guilt, Emma and Madison trigger. Things spiral from there as they quickly go different routes, both seeking redemption in a different way


Service with a Smile 47 -48

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: When Jaune’s forged transcripts were rebuffed, his only option was to return home in disgrace or forge a new life in Vale. Opening a diner was an impetuous decision, being good at it a stroke of luck. Becoming the favourite haunt for students, teachers and criminals alike…? That was neither, but it sure did keep things interesting. Wasn’t the civilian life supposed to be easier?


A Rising of the Shield Hero x Yakuza Crossover Fanfic

Summary: Post Song of Life Kiriyu is summoned through a ritual with the Vassal Weapon to become the Gauntlet Hero. With nothing left for him after faking his death at the end, how will the dragon rise to the defense of the Shield Hero.


A Future Tied by Fates 40

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”

A Young Justice Fanfic

Summary: An SI with an Orange Ring ends up in the Young Justice Universe and seeks to advance humanity through advance technology and magic.

 


(Pokemon Sun and Moon Fanfic) A Lily Blossoms In Kanto: Chapter 17

Chapter 17: Coordination

It was afternoon by the time Lusamine woke from her slumber the next day, much to her dismay as she stared up at the clock.

This is unacceptable… She couldn’t help but frown as she buried her head into her hands and waited for the headache to settle down. It wasn’t as bad as in Vermillion City, but she still wasn’t exactly in good health at the moment. It would take time for the worst of the symptoms to pass, for her to make herself presentable, and then to ensure her own pokémon were taken care of. Time that could’ve been spent with her daughter if she hadn’t slept in so late.

A sweet scent reached her nose and cleared her mind somewhat, drawing her eyes up to her Lilligant. The Flowering Pokémon stood there with her arms held together and an apologetic look in her eyes. They’d been together long enough that Lusamine understood that it was because she’d tried to wake her up normally and, when that failed, she’d chosen to let her rest.

“It’s not your fault,” Lusamine told her. They all knew that she would have days like this the moment the majority of the toxins were flushed out of her body. The initial contact hadn’t been on purpose, but her merging with Nihilego entirely at the end had been her choice. “It’s nothing more than I deserve.”

“Lilli! Lilli!” The Flowering Pokémon shook her head vigorously and reached over to touch her hands in assurance. “Lilligant!”

Lusamine took a deep and shuddering breath before clearing her throat and putting on a smile. If not for herself, then for her kind and compassionate flower. “Can you help me get dressed for the day? I can’t go out looking like this after all.”

It took an hour to get herself presentable—her body showered, unkempt and unruly hair tamed, a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt for simplicity’s sake. That took care of her own needs. Now all she needed to do was to see to her own pokémon, specifically Milotic and Bewear. The former tended to get a little upset if she didn’t give her enough attention, while the latter needed to roam around at times to alleviate her boredom.

But first she stopped by the entrance to Lillie’s room. “Lillie? Are you there?”

After a pause, during which there was no answer, Lusamine decided to head down the hall to see if she was on the first floor. That was until she heard a strange sound inside. Her curiosity led to her cracking the door open and peeking inside.

Snnrrr…” The source of the sound was a Snubbull that was currently sleeping in the bed meant for the Alolan Vulpix, on the ground. The excess flesh on its face was pooled beneath its prone body, every breath making it rise and fall. Every now and then it snorted, feet twitching and face scrunching up. “Snubbb…bulll….

“Aren’t you adorable?” Lusamine couldn’t help but say as she walked over to it. Drawn in by the adorable sight of its sleeping face, she reached out to pet it. Such a cute pokémon. If only it could stay that way for…eve…r…

Her fingers came to a stop inches above its pink fur the moment that thought crossed her mind, shaking. That very same thought had led to her private collection of frozen pokémon. She even had a Snubbull there for that exact same reason, frozen in time to preserve its beauty.

No, that’s not right. She pulled her arm back and held it to her chest as she backed away from the Fairy Pokémon. That’s the remnants of the toxins talking.

With the majority of it gone from her system, Lusamine was mostly rational when it came to her thoughts and actions. But every now and again the remnants did more than just leave her fatigued and in pain from withdrawal. The filters on her thoughts came off, and right or wrong stopped mattering if it was what she wanted.

That was part of why she felt so bad when Lillie had admonished her for hurting that Nurse Joy. It was an accident, which was true enough. But she could have done something differently, like having Mismagius pass through the walls and then assess the situation. It was just that… the moment she learned her daughter was in potential danger she wanted to go for the simplest solution by having Bewear brute force it.

That was what it boiled down to—what was the natural solution to her problem and how to achieve it.

She wanted to preserve their beauty forever. The natural solution was to freeze them. She wanted to find her husband and the Ultra Beasts were in the way. The natural solution was to create a pokémon that could deal with them since training others took too long. Her children kept getting in her way and were trying to stop her from enjoying her own paradise. The natural solution was to make them go away.

And when her pokémon failed… the natural solution was to do it herself.

It stabbed at her heart when she recalled everything she’d done. When she recalled what sort of monster she had become. Even now, with a second chance, she was on the verge ruining it with how jealous she’d felt when she listened to Lillie talk to that woman about her Alolan Vulpix.

That should have been me. The thought was bitter as she sat down on her daughter’s bed and brought her hands to her eyes. Petty and tinged with regret as the knife twisted in her chest because she knew it was her own fault for abandoning the two treasures that her husband had left her.

For two years she didn’t bother looking for her son. She left her daughter alone for several months to be raised by someone else. If the toxins took the filters off, then why didn’t she use the full resources at her disposal to reclaim them?

You did it!” Her head snapped up at the sound of her daughter’s voice. Peering out of the window showed Lillie was on the bridge, the Alolan Vulpix and Glaceon by her side as they looked to the water on one side of the bridge. A sheet of ice was spread out in front of them, thin enough to be seen through but solid enough that it didn’t sink when they pressed down on it.

Koko learned Icy Wind!

The Fox Pokémon yipped as she bounced up the bridge, excited. Then she turned around to try to freeze the water on the other side of the bridge. A stream of cold air laced with glittering ice particles flowed out, but it didn’t expand and eventually petered out without freezing the surface. It left her tilting her head inquisitively. “Vul?”

Lillie crouched down to stroke the tuft of hair on her head. “You’ve only just managed for the first time, so you probably can’t do it back-to-back just yet. You need to get rest between practicing with your Ice-techniques, so your body can adjust to it. I remember Professor Kukui saying that once when Elio visited to talk about Silkie learning Aqua Jet.”

It was an accurate assessment as far as Lusamine could tell. That Alolan Vulpix was only a few months old and her internal ice pouch hadn’t developed enough naturally to do it so many times on its own, in contrast to the Glaceon. By periodically straining with Icy Wind and then resting, her internal ice-pouch would expand to handle the strain like how muscles grew stronger over time.

For Lillie to have predicted that and told her pokémon that fact before it got sad showed insight on her part, since it could leave them distraught and even ruin their training. She had grown in the time she was away so much, and yet Lusamine hadn’t been there to see it. And soon her daughter would be leaving to go on her own journey—one that would change her even more.

“Do you want to go play with Glacian for a bit until Azuria gets here?” She received a yip in response before Fresh Snow Pokémon tagged her with a paw and started running off. The game was on and the Fox Pokémon gave chase.

If only your father could see the young woman you’re growing into. The thought brought a sad frown to her face when she imagined her husband looking out on this same scene. He would no doubt have loved to see it. I miss you so much, Mohn.

Lusamine pulled away from the window and left Lillie’s room, stirring on that thought. Even now she hadn’t lost hope that her husband was out there somewhere. It was possible to survive in Ultra Space for prolonged periods as the different worlds it led to had different laws of physics governing them, so one day she would find him and reunite their family.

Part of her was worried he would be horrified of the woman she had become, just like their son was. Someone who had abandoned the most precious things he’d left behind in this world and went against the very beliefs that she’d held. But she was sure that he’d forgive her and would convince Gladion to do the same.

Until then she would keep doing her best. She’d keep her thoughts and actions in check until the remnants of the toxins were removed. She’d give her daughter as much help as she possibly could before seeing her off, even if Lusamine didn’t want her to leave at all.

Then she’d find Mohn.

Her resolve steeled, Lusamine proceeded down the stairs when a commotion coming from the backyard drew her attention to the door’s window. In the backyard that rose up a slope into the mountains, she found Bill sitting down at the table and preparing food for his pokémon. She hadn’t intended to interrupt them at all until his Kadabra spotted her and used its psychic power to open it for her in an act of courtesy.

Bill gave her a cordial smile. “I’m glad you could join us. Are you feeling well?”

“Yes, though I didn’t mean to interrupt you when you were busy,” she told him. After all, not only was Bill the one who managed the PC system in Kanto, but he was assisting with her treatment. To take even more of his time would be unacceptable.

“Company livens things up around here, so we welcome it.” He gestured to the bag of pokémon food and jars of berry powder sitting beneath the parasol that was fixed to the table. “It’s actually convenient since we’ve already got the food out and you need to feed your own pokémon.”

“Well, when you put it that way I can’t really refuse.” Taking up his invitation, she took a seat across from him and released everyone except for Mismagius. Milotic, predictably, decided to perch her head into her trainer’s lap and prod her stomach in a bade for attention. She indulged the beautiful creature with a pat. “Give me a few minutes to help the nice man with your food, okay?”

“She’s quite affectionate, isn’t she?” Bill mused as the Tender Pokémon took that as a cue to settle down for the moment. Then he noticed Haku quizzically tilting his head and making an inquiring sound. “No. Your horn is sharper, so that’d hurt me.”

“It may have been for a good cause, but I did spoil her a bit,” Lusamine admitted. “A very young child wanted a Milotic, so their parents gifted her to the child when she was a Feebas. But they underestimated the time and emotional investment it takes to evolve into one. In the end, she entered into our care and I took care of her personally.”

Imagine what it would be like to be raised knowing that it was because you would be beautiful one day? Imagine that the reason your trainer loved you and valued you above all else was because what you would become? Then imagine what would happen when words alone weren’t enough and you were unable to meet their standards?

It was only recently discovered that a Prism Scale would alter a Feebas’ genetic structure during the trading process, inducing evolution. Serious care and effort had to be put into raising a Feebas to evolve before that discovery. That was far more than an impatient child keeping her sweet Milotic in a fish tank could honestly provide on her own.

“Why won’t you evolve? Why are you still ugly? Why won’t you become beautiful?”

Those words were perhaps nothing more than a child being upset that things weren’t going their way. But pokémon were so much smarter than people gave them credit for. And for her self-esteem to have been built up with expectations only to be torn down…it took a toll on her emotional state and eventually she stopped eating.

The Pokémon Centers were trained to heal physical wounds, but they couldn’t deal with emotional trauma. The parents ultimately agreed to release the Feebas since the child wouldn’t take care of her. And it was when she entered into the Aether Foundation’s care to be rehabilitated that Lusamine found her, staring into the glass at her own reflection…

Loathing herself for the look she was born with.

“Every pokémon is beautiful in its own way. I can see that beauty in you. If evolving is the only way you’ll believe that, then I’ll help you become as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside.”

Lusamine could still remember the promise she made and the time she spent with her Feebas. It took so long to ensure that the Fish Pokémon could be proud of herself, going above and beyond what was necessary or expected. But she kept her promise and helped her evolve in the end.

But was it right for me to do that? That thought haunted Lusamine as Milotic started nuzzling against her leg softly. The members of the Foundation tried not to get too attached to the Pokémon they were rehabilitating because most of them were supposed to be released back out into the wild. Lusamine had done the opposite of that with the Tender Pokémon, becoming her very world instead.

Now she owned a beautiful, powerful creature. One that would never abandon or disobey her. Even if she had good intentions to start with, had she purposely taken advantage of her vulnerable state and raised Milotic to always need her after what happened to her husband? The fact that she couldn’t be sure that the good things she’d done didn’t have some sinister purpose twisted a knot into her stomach.

She distracted herself with preparing Milotic’s food. When she ran the Aether Foundation, Lusamine had imported Pamtre and Bluk Berries to spruce up her diet. It was expensive given they were rare even in their native regions, but no price was too much back then. Now, however, an Oran and Pecha Berry blend would have to suffice. “All done.”

Miiii~” Milotic sat with her mouth opened, waiting to be handfed as she batted her eyes.

The maternal side of her trainer couldn’t resist the deliberate cuteness of it. “Okay, but only a few. I still have to prepare food for the rest.”

The Tender Pokémon laid her head into Lusamine’s lap and slowly, quietly savored each pellet she was given. Drawing out the amount of time spent between them with an expression of contentment and bliss, it would sate her need for attention for the moment. But she would want more attention later on, as was her usual behavior.

I’ll have to try to get her less dependent on me. Her eyes turned up to check on the others and found Bewear being drawn to the colorful, ribbon-like appendages that made up the Sylveon. The Intertwining Pokémon was hiding behind the Jolteon that was standing vigilant over the younger member of their family. Before she could do anything, Clefable called for Bewear to sit next to her and Bill’s Clefairy.

How innocent Bewear was happened to be attractive in a way, but now Lusamine questioned if not helping her become more mature was also intentional. Bewear was trained so that she didn’t hurt someone by accident because of how strong she was. But she was still basically a child in an adult’s body in terms of maturity.

Lusamine gently brushed the Tender Pokémon’s cream-colored head from her seat and set the bowl next to her. The others needed their food after all, both Bill’s pokémon and her own. The backyard was filled with more than a dozen pokémon happily nibbling away by the time they were both—with one exception.

“Is something wrong with your Porygon-2?” She noticed that it hadn’t moved at all since her arrival. It was just sitting there with its eyes opened. Staring off into the distance with an unblinking gaze as the world went by.

“He’s still integrating his new programming, so he has moments like this.” Bill crouched down and gently touched the smooth contour that made up the Virtual Pokémon. “Normally he fills in for me when I’m not here, or when I’m busy with something else by integrating into the PC System. That was what he was programmed for. However, due to the limitations of the time period he was made, he doesn’t socialize or function outside of his duty very well.”

In other words, it was no different than a machine that existed to carry out a function. Which was strange, considering the Aether Foundation had some under their employment who developed their own traits and personalities. “It—he, must be one of the oldest models then?”

“One of the first, actually,” Bill said. “When Porygon were first created I just had to have one. The benefits to my work and the rarity of Poly’s species were just too alluring for me to resist. It isn’t a stretch to say that he’s probably one of the oldest Porygon alive, but because of that he doesn’t have the benefits the modern ones have in their AI that make them no different than other pokémon. I commissioned a researcher to create an Up-Grade disk specifically for him to be able to match their development and work with more recent computer systems, but it’s taking him a long time to properly integrate it.”

That was one of the downsides to artificial pokémon. In taking the role that nature had to create life, they had flaws of varying kinds due to human-error. To keep a first-generation Porygon still functional and relevant after twenty years was amazing and took no shortage of effort.

She admired him for it. “You really do love your pokémon, don’t you?”

“I always have,” Bill said. “Though it was more that I loved them as a collection until a decade ago. My developing the Box System was a result of my desire to hold onto them all without even leaving my home, since I hated going outside unnecessarily. They never aged or died or changed, preserving them perfectly. The person I was back then would have left him as a Porygon and had a replacement operate the system while he stayed in a box.”

“What changed your mind?” she asked. It was only after her daughter had told her off and she had been ripped away from Nihilego that she had been able to grasp that what she had done was wrong. So she was curious to know what had done the same for him?

“The teleporter accident,” he explained. “I felt what it meant to have the mind of a pokémon and it changed my perspective on everything. I still believe in connecting the world through my network, but I also believe that pokémon should be treated better. That was why I contributed to the recent changes when it comes to their release, among other things.”

That’s also probably why he decided to help us as well. Bill didn’t need money and his time was more precious than anything. Lusamine could only assume the likely the reason he opted to help her was because he had his own revelation and was paying it forward. “I’m guessing you released the rest of your collection then?”

He nodded. “With the exception of the ones here. Poly was a special case since he wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild and someone else would have likely discarded him or kept him as a trophy. I owe it to him to try making sure he can live a life beyond his programming and one of these days it’ll work out.”

“I’m sure it will,” Lusamine agreed with a friendly smile. She felt a small kinship with him, knowing that they’d undergone a similar awakening, and wanted to do something to help him out. Maybe she could have Faba take a look at his Porygon?

Regardless, the conversation between the two former collectors died when they spotted the Living Pokédex approaching them, having flown around the side of the building from the front. It approached them and addressed Bill specifically.

Miss Azuria has arrived. She is requesting permission to come speak with Mister Bill, zzt.

“Tell her that she’s free to come back here if she wants,” Bill said. “It’ll be a minute before I can go out to the front and I’m sure that the others will be glad to see her.”

Understood, zzrt.

Rotom hovered back around to the front. Not even a few seconds later the back entrance to Bill’s Cottage opened up again to reveal a bright and cheerful-looking young woman, sporting a trendy outfit. In her hands was a basket from which a sweet smell wafted.

“Hi everyone!” she said, to which she got a response from Bill’s Pokémon. They recognized her from the mixed but mostly energetic reactions. “Sorry if I came at a bad time, but I brought Poffins for everyone. All fresh from the oven.”

“The timing couldn’t be better then,” Bill said before introduced his guest. “Azuria, this is Miss Lusamine. She’s Lillie’s mother.”

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” she said, giving her a polite greeting while extending her hand for a shake. “Your daughter’s been something of an acquaintance of mine, so I came to help her out today.”

“Well, I’m glad to see she’s making friends fast.” Shaking her hand, she found herself impressed at how well the younger woman’s outfit accentuated her azure hair and eyes. “What will you be helping her with?”

“Doubles Battling.” Her gaze fell to the side and froze when they met the pristine beauty that was Milotic. She squealed and dropped down, eyes glimmering as she basked in the presence of the Tender Pokémon. “I haven’t seen a beauty-evolved Milotic since my time in the Hoenn circuit!”

“You can tell that in a glance?” Lusamine asked, while Milotic was preening from the attention being lavished on her. An acknowledgement of her beauty was always one way to get on her good side for a first impression.

She nodded. “You gain an eye for appraising pokémon by their appearance and grooming in my field, and a lot of Coordinators seek out Milotic for the Beauty Portion of the contests. But since it’s become easier to evolve them with a Prism Scale, I’ve noticed there’s a difference in the sheen when it comes to patterns on their tails.”

Azuria reached into the basket and presented a treat to the Tender Pokémon. “Want a Blukberry Poffin?”

Red eyes twinkled with hunger the moment Milotic laid eyes on it, the tantalizing scent of the baked snack carrying the aroma of her favorite berry. She cast an imploring gaze to her trainer and made a soft, pleading sound while motioning with her head. “Miii. Miii.

“I’m sorry,” Lusamine told the younger woman. “I spoiled her a bit, so she’ll only eat it if I’ll feed her.”

Azuria took it well despite that, instead offering the Blukberry Poffin to Lusamine. “I completely understand. To raise such a beautiful pokémon, you’d have to lavish them with enough care that they’d get attached. My little Lynn was the same too back when she was a little Skitty, and it took a while before she and Gracie got along.”

“Is that so?” She found herself intrigued at the prospect as she allowed Milotic to eat the treat from her palm until a shadow draped them both. It was cast by the bulk of Bewear, holding her paw to her muzzle as she rubbed her tummy.

“Lillie told me all about you this morning, Bewear,” Azuria said with a wink.  “I made sure to have some extra-sweet Poffins for you too.”

The Strong-Arm Pokémon seemed elated at the prospect. She sat down, leaving her paws open for the Coordinator to put the small treat into them. Then she plopped it into her mouth and chewed it with her eyes upturned in happiness. “Baooo.

“You’re like a big teddy bear, aren’t you?” Azuria smiled as she carefully pressed her hand against the fur that made up the large pokémon’s body and felt her fingers sink into it. “And you have Fluffy too from the feel of it.”

Seeing how her two problem children were so easily kept satisfied by the Coordinator, Lusamine watched Azuria go around and hand the snacks out to the rest of the pokémon there. Even her Lilligant seemed familiar with the Coordinator, who mentioned something about one of her pokémon and a Mime Jr. The only one who was seemed to have trouble with her was the shy Sylveon that remained behind her brother, though she bobbed her head in gratitude as the young woman left a poffin for her a modest distance away.

“Thanks for doing this,” Bill said with a good-natured smile as she sat the basket down on the table. “They really do enjoy it when you and the others come over.”

“After everything you’ve done for us, this is the least I could do,” Azuria said. “Besides, I like baking and I got to see a lot of interesting pokémon, so it’s a fair trade. I just hope you don’t mind us using your front yard. I know Haku likes to stay in the pond.”

“I don’t think he minds too much.” Bill pointed to the Dragonair that was now floating in the air in sinuous motions, entertaining himself. “Just try to go easy on Lillie. She and her pokémon are still new to battling.”

“I’m just going to give her some advice with coordinating her pokémon by showing her how my own work together.”

“If you don’t mind, I’ll come with you out front to watch,” Lusamine said. In addition to seeing her daughter and letting her know that she was awake, she wanted to see the girl’s pokémon for herself. “Behave yourself back here while I’m gone, Bewear. And try to get along with the others, Milotic.”

Bewear nodded her head enthusiastically, while Milotic gave her a reluctant look. She brushed the Tender Pokémon a final time to placate her a little more before following the Coordinator through the door and back into the hallway. That was when the scrabbling of paws coming down the stairs reached their ears as Snubbull hurried for the front door and out of the pet entrance.

Look who finally woke up.” They heard through the door. Lillie’s voice. It was followed by a bark, then a pause, and then a response. “Well, you shouldn’t have stayed up all night watching that battle video. How did you even learn how to get it to play in a loop?

Azuria found herself giggling as she opened the door. “It sounds like Snubbull’s being a little handful already, huh?”

“He just got a little excited, so he stayed up all night watching Elio’s battle and slept-in,” Lillie said, watching as he hastily ate the treat she’d held onto for him. The others had already finished theirs. “He hasn’t caused any trouble so far.”

“Melanie is just happy that someone will look after him.” Azuria crouched down in front of the Fairy Pokémon. “She also told me to tell you that she expects you to be a good boy, not to run off into trouble again, and to take your baths.”

Snubbull looked off to the side as he finished the snack and rubbed his stubby little arm against the back of his head while muttering, “Sn… Snubbull. Snubbull.

Warrior pokémon do take baths, zzt. Rotom replied. In fact, given the nature of battles they would need to take them constantly.

He glared at the Living Pokédex and let a low grumble bubble up in his throat until Lillie gently patted him on his head. Then he huffed and walked away. “Bull.”

Lillie then addressed her mother who lurked in the doorway. “Mother, you’re awake now?”

“Sorry if I worried you,” she said, stepping outside and taking in the scenery. There were a variety of pokémon present, those belonging to Azuria. She could see a Bellossom waddling just out of view and a Lopunny rolling its eyes, a Delcatty lounging beneath the canopy of one the larger Berry Trees and a Butterfree flying between the ones that were flowering. “How’s your training going so far this morning?”

“Pretty well.” Her daughter looked over to the Alolan Vulpix that was poking at the surface of the water. Testing if her last attempt had succeeded. “Koko finally managed to do Icy Wind. As for Shuckle, he can do Protect pretty well but it can’t take a really hard hit before breaking.”

The Mold Pokémon in question was next to a Slowbro that stared blankly into the distance. If Lusamine had to guess, it was curious as to the nature of the shell clinging to its back. Or the fact that the shell in question was staring back at it.

Lillie then looked over the Bellsprout that was walking towards them. “Bellamy apparently knows Vine Whip, Growth, and Acid Spray already. Rotom suggested that if we helped him learn Sunny Day, they would go well with his Ability. But since he’s not used to battling, I want to get him comfortable with that first.”

“That would be wise,” Lusamine agreed. “A good number of Grass pokémon or techniques rely on strong sunlight, but since the weather in Kanto is relatively mild compared to say… Hoenn, he probably won’t be exposed to it outside of battling. And considering it also strengthens Fire attacks, it would be risky unless he had experience or Protect to cover himself.”

“Well, I’d offer to let Zinn help him adjust to using Chlorophyll, but he’s being… difficult.” The Coordinator looked over to where her Lopunny was holding the second Flower Pokémon that had been trying to go around to the back. “But we can help him with getting used to battling, if you’re ready?”

“Sure.” Lille looked between her two newest pokémon. “I’ll let Bellamy and Snubbull have a go first, since Shuckle and Koko could use a little rest.”

The Flower Pokémon quizzically tilted his head before pointing to himself. “Spout?”

At the same time, the Fairy Pokémon also pointed to the Bellsprout and let loose an incredulous, “Bull!?”

“That’s right.” Lillie gave them both an enthusiastic smile. “The best way for Bellamy to get experience is to try battling. And, Snubbull, you need to learn to do more than attack, so I’ll have to look out for him. This way both of you can grow together since we’re all on the same team. Understand?”

Bellamy nodded before turning to Snubbull and extending a leaf over for him to shake. “Sp-Sprout?”

Snubbull merely huffed at the gesture and fell onto all fours before running over to the bridge. “Snubbull! Snub!”

He’s saying he needs no help to win. Rotom translated.

Lillie frowned slightly upon seeing Bellamy’s dejected face and was quick to comfort him. “Don’t be upset. He’s just headstrong. He’ll grow out of it as we get along, but for now watch out for him. Okay?”

With a nod, the Flower Pokémon walked over to where the Fairy Pokémon stood and awaited his challenger.

“Well, if you’re going to use those two then…” Azuria made a soft thinking sound before turning over towards the trees. “Pieri! Lynn! Come on over for a quick match.”

Lusamine watched as the feline’s purple ears rose from their folded posture before the Prim Pokémon roused at the Coordinator’s call. Raising her head as the Butterfree flew over, those dark eyes stared down at the canine that barked towards it. The smile that came across her face as she stretched out her back, hopped down the tree, and came over, distinctly reminded Lusamine of how Alolan Meowth tended to play with their food.

Her daughter’s Snubbull barked and snarled in an attempt to be menacing as the feline sauntered past him. The Delcatty paid it no mind before brushing against her trainer’s leg and sitting upright before her. The Coordinator affectionately leaned down and stroked between her ears before addressing Lillie.

“We’ll battle until the surrender instead of knockout to avoid any excessive damage,” she said, puffing out her chest in pride. The makeshift battlefield that was Bill’s yard—in specific, the dirt path between the bridge-split pond and the slope that went down to the river. “To be safe, I won’t have my team attack full-force and we’ll give you the first move!”

Her daughter nodded in acceptance of the terms. “Okay then. Bellam—“

Snubbull!!” The Fairy Pokémon darted in before the orders could be given, seeking to strike first. Flames licked the corners of his mouth as he prepared a Fire Fang and went for the feline that remained seated as she brushed her paw against her cheek. Then he lunged, maw wide and ready to clamp down, when a pair of sinuous vines caught him midway and pulled him short while causing the flames to peter out.

It was only because of that he avoided being buffered by argent winds as Pieri released a Silver Wind. The silver blades broke into glittering powder as they smashed into the ground, scattering as the Butterfly Pokémon allowed the Bellsprout to finish reeling his catch in as he lowered himself between them and the Delcatty that finally rose on all fours.

“Snubbull, you need to wait for me to give the commands,” Lillie scolded. “Remember, if you break the rules of a trainer battle, you’ll be disqualified. Then how will you prove anything?”

The Fairy Pokémon chuffed as he looked away. “Snub-snub.”

He who zzztrikes first doesn’t always win in the wild, Rotom pointed out. In fact, that was exactly how you ended up getting caught, zzt.

The Fairy Pokémon snarled at the Living Pokédex again only to settle down when Lillie pouted, tapping her foot against the ground. Then he huffed and submitted. “Snub.”

“Okay, let’s try this again.” She turned back to their opponents. “Snubbull, use Scary Face to slow him down so Bellamy can use Vine Whip and tie him up!”

Snubbull listened this time, darkness masking his face. The Butterfly Pokémon’s muscles tensed up as his compound eyes met the Scary Face, leaving him to struggle against an instinctive fear. At the same time Bellamy reared back slightly before throwing his vines forwards.

“Pieri, take the lead!” Azuria commanded. “Follow him, Lynn!”

Pieri used Teleport!

Lynn used Copycat! Lynn used Teleport!

In an instant both Pokémon blinked out of existence a moment before the attack would have connected, leaving Bellamy’s vines to pass through where the Butterfree had once been. Then they reappeared, one in front of Snubbull and one behind the Bellsprout. Pieri’s compound eyes and wings then began to glow with the hue of psychic energy as he unleashed his next attack, while the Prim Pokémon glowed with a thin shroud of colorless light that took on the same hue as Pieri’s wings.

Pieri used Confusion!

Lynn used Copycat! Lynn used Confusion!

Caught by the attacks before Lillie could get a warning out, both Bellamy and Snubbull were hit by bundles of psychic energy that slammed into them from opposing sides. The Prim Pokémon’s Confusion knocked Snubbull in the snout and sent him tumbling back, while the Butterfly Pokémon’s ruptured with telekinetic force at the base of the Flower Pokémon roots and sent him flying forward. Just like that they’d been separated.

Snubbull bounced on the ground once before hopping back onto his paws and snarling as he faced the Delcatty while flames danced from the corners of his mouth. She only made a yawning motion at the implied threat, bringing a paw up to her mouth. In turn, Snubbull lunged for the Prim Pokémon with the intention of letting loose a Fire Fang—

Lynn used Tail Whip!

—only for the feline to spin on her hind legs, using a Tail Whip to slap him away and force his jaw shut. He snapped down on empty air as he staggered to the side, before shaking his head and glaring as the feline followed through with a pirouette that landed her a few feet away.  The cheshire smile she wore afterwards only seemed to agitate him further. “SNUBBULL!!”

“Don’t chase her,” Lillie said. It was fruitless though as Snubbull kept going after her as she ran around in a circle, clearly humoring him. She sighed and looked back to Bellamy, who was pushing himself back onto his tiny roots with his leafy appendages. Pieri was fluttering in towards him. “Bellamy, behind you!”

The Flower Pokémon whipped his head around to see the incoming threat and instinctively tried to run away before stopping, as if realizing he was in an official battle. Then he retaliated with a small ball of sludge, gastric juices drudged up and spat out in the form of an Acid Spray.

Pieri dodged the attack with a flap of the wings, letting out a small noise that reached the ears of the feline. The Delcatty then ceased toying around with the Fairy Pokémon and then took off much faster than before as the Acid Spray hit the ground right in front of Snubbull. The splash of the frothing fluids caught his excess skin.

“Snub!” he yelped, before turning towards Bellamy and barking. “Snubbull, snub!”

“He didn’t mean it,” Lillie told the puppy as her meek flower began to wave his leaves and shake his head. “It was an accident.”

“Pieri! Lynn! Wrap this up!” Azuria ordered, grabbing their attention. “Safeguard and then Starlight Lullaby!”

The Butterfly Pokémon swooped in front of the feline and a silver sphere radiated from his soft body, becoming a glimmering forcefield. Safeguard, the gossamer-thin and silver barrier, coated the magnificent coat of the feline as she inhaled. Then Pieri flew above the battlefield, wings aglow with a pale-blue light.

Pieri used Sleep Powder!

Sleep Powder draped the battlefield from above. The luminous powder fell like a blanket over the Flower and Fairy Pokémon. Bellamy only looked confused until he spotted Snubbull toppling over, which caused him to try and wave away the powder with his leaves to no avail.

Meanwhile, the Delcatty sat amidst the falling powder while shielded from the effect due to the mystifying Safeguard coating her fur. The blend of silver glimmering amidst the sparkling blue made for a beautiful display as the light of the sun reflected. Then her soft voice rang out in a melodic song, releasing multicolored music notes.

Lynn used Sing!

Floating due to being lighter than air, they padded out the falling sedative powder and spread wide. One met with Bellamy as he tried to drag Snubbull away by the pond and popped on contact. The Flower Pokémon drooped, swaying on his thin little feet before falling over on top of Snubbull.

“That’s that,” Azuria said playfully as her Butterfly Pokémon flew back over towards her. “Pieri’s Sleep Powder is more than enough to put down a small-sized Pokémon if they aren’t prepared for it. And, while your Bellsprout is immune to Sleep Powder, the moment Lynn’s notes connected it was off to dreamland for him too.”

“Bellamy! Snubbull! Wake up!” Lillie called out fruitlessly. It was no good in the end as both remained within the sweet embrace of slumber.

“We should call the match here,” Azuria said when it was clear they wouldn’t wake up. “Pieri has Dream Eater and Lynn can Copycat it. Not to mention they’re both still pretty green. Snubbull was too aggressive, so he got baited by Lynn easy enough that she could lead him by the nose. Your Bellsprout, on the other hand, panicked and so he blindly tried to fire and didn’t consider where his partner was.”

Lillie ultimately consented to the assessment as Rotom snapped a set of photos. “I surrender.”

“Great.” Azuria clapped her hands twice as the manifestation of the Sing dissipated from existence and the remaining Sleep Powder thinned out. “Lynn, wake them up.”

The Prim Pokémon smoothly sauntered over to the sleeping duo before taking a seat. Her body grew luminous with a soft, pale glow. Then she released it in waves that rippled a short distance from her with a pleasant, bell-like sound. The two sleeping Pokémon were roused by the Heal Bell.

“The match is over you two,” Lillie told them. “We lost, so come back.”

“Snub!?” Snubbull pushed the Flower Pokémon off himself and then pointed to the Delcatty. “Snubbull! Snubb!”

Zzzleep counts as a knock-out in this case, Rotom explained.

Sprout…” Bellamy waddled over to his trainer with his head low.

“You’ll do better next time, Bellamy,” Lillie told the Flower Pokémon. Then the sound of Snubbull snarling again grabbed their attention. They saw he still wanted to fight, facing the Delcatty that remained as unbothered as before as flames licked the corners of his mouth again. “Snubbull, don’t you dare attack her!”

Lusamine watched as he disobeyed her daughter, lunging for the Delcatty to salve what she imagined was his wounded pride—

THWAP!

—only to immediately be smacked aside by another Tail Whip as the feline spun again and promptly sent the Fairy Pokémon into the pond for the attempt!

“No!” Lillie shouted when he started frantically splashing and struggling to stay afloat. “Snubbull can’t swim!”

“Pieri!” Azuria called out for her Butterfree. He immediately used Teleport to displace the puppy next to Lillie, causing Snubbull to cling to her with his tiny arms while shaking. She ran over. “Is he going to be okay?”

“Snubbull’s bodies aren’t built for deep water,” Lusamine explained as she came over as well and crouched down to check on him. “They can’t even paddle until they evolve, so if they get into water that deep without some kind of floatation device they can drown easily.”

“I’m so sorry,” the Coordinator said. “We’d never want to put him in danger like that.”

“Accidents happen, though it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t attacked her like that.” Lusamine managed to wrest him from Lillie’s leg and gently patted him on the back as he whined softly in her grasp. “Poor thing’s quite shaken. I’m going to take him inside to dry him off and calm him down. You can continue with your training.”

Snnn. Snnnuubbulll…

“Just take a few deep breaths,” she told the Fairy Pokémon soothingly as she carried him back inside of the house. It was important to be gentle with frightened pokémon, something she knew quite well. “It’ll be okay. We’ll get you nice and dry.”

Lusamine carried the Fairy Pokémon into the house and made for one of the closets that were close by. Given that his Dragonair and Vaporeon could live in the pond and were constantly playing in it, Bill kept towels for them to dry off with nearby. She grabbed one and then began to tenderly rub his coat down as he shook like a leaf in the wind.

You’re okay now,” she said in as soothing a tone as she could. “It was scary, wasn’t it?

Sn-Snubbull…” The puppy tried to deny it from what she could tell. The fact that he was shaking didn’t make it any more convincing.

She played along with it regardless. “Oh, my mistake. Of course you weren’t scared. You’re too brave to be scared of a little water. You were just surprised by it.”

He nodded his head, giving a little wave of his stumpy arms. “B-Bull.”

“But you know that Lillie was scared when she saw you fall in,” Lusamine pointed out as she took his tiny arms between the towel and dried them. “You must’ve heard how she felt so helpless watching you enter the water like that. She’s brave too, but she does get scared for others.”

He quickly wriggled in the direction of the pet door, a slight aggression in his bark. “Snu. Snubbull.”

“Yes, it was the Delcatty that pushed you into the water. But what we saw was that Lillie told you not to attack and when you tried, she pushed you in. Was that wrong?”

He looked away.

She’d expected it. Even though she hadn’t known the Snubbull for long, her daughter had given her an account of how she met him and the time she spent previously with the caretaker. He wasn’t even a year old from what she could tell from his teeth and size, making him a child in both body and mind.

Like most children he wanted to acknowledgement and affection. He wanted to prove himself and so when something bad happened he would shift the blame, rather than learning from what went wrong. And that would cost him dearly if things kept up as they were.

“Snubull, can you answer me something?” she asked, grabbing his attention again. “What would you have proven if you had managed to hurt her in that surprise attack? Would it have made you feel better because you would have knocked her out?”

He nodded.

“Even though it would have meant upsetting everyone else?”

He quirked his head in confusion at the question. “Snub?”

“Sometimes winning in the wrong way is as bad as losing,” she pointed out. “They would all be fine with things if you managed to knock her out in the match before it was called because that was the rules they set, but once the trainers state the match is over you have to stop or you’ll break those rules. It’s only if you manage to win while still acting in the bounds of the rules that you’ll prove that you’re the strongest in a way that everyone can be proud of. Understand?”

He grumbled contemplatively in thought. “Snnn…

“You know, you remind me of my son when he was younger,” she confided. “He always wanted to do everything on his own, even if it meant putting on a brave face. But sometimes I wished he’d just ask for a little help instead of rushing to grow up.”

Then again, what choice did he have after I left him on his own? The more that thought haunted her the tighter her throat got and the more her eyes stung. So she pushed it away to keep consulting Snubbull. “I know it’s hard to endure when you feel like you’ve been wronged. But you don’t want to worry Lillie, right?”

He was silent for a moment before nodding with a small, resigned chuff. “Bull.”

“Good boy.” She delicately rubbed his head before the front door opened. It was Lillie, with Azuria accompanying her.

“Is Snubbull okay now?” the former asked.

Lusamine nodded as she finished drying him off. “It’s fortunate that he got out of the water quickly enough that he didn’t ingest too much. He just needs a little rest.”

Her daughter let out a relieved breath before taking the puppy into her arms and holding onto him tight against her chest. “Snubbull, you have to listen to me so things like that don’t happen. We were so worried about you.”

“I scolded Lynn since she could have dodged the attack instead hitting him back,” Azuria said to Lusamine. “She took playing with him a little too far. But she and I didn’t know that he couldn’t swim.”

“The anatomy of a pokémon you aren’t familiar with isn’t something I’d expect you to know off-hand and accidents do happen,” Lusamine told her. “But keep in mind that while pokémon can do amazing things, they still have physical limits. Snubbull have dense skulls and strong jaws, but their arms are short and can’t support them for very long. That’s why their hind legs are so much more developed, and they often stand upright.”

“It also means that they have trouble sticking their heads above deep water and struggle to stay afloat,” Lillie added in, rubbing her own’s head as he rested against her chest. “Professor Kukui warned me when I walked his Snubbull not to let her near shore because of it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind from now on,” Azuria promised. “I’ll also understand if you want to cut the training here because of it.”

Lillie shook her head. “Koko still wants a turn and Shuckle needs practice as well.”

“Snub! Snub!” Snubbull barked, wanting to have another go at it.

Lusamine said otherwise. “I think it’d be best if you sat down for a little while in the sun. Rest up and think about what we discussed.”

He grumbled with discontentment and pouted as Lillie carried him back outside with the Coordinator following her.

Left alone inside, Lusamine finished wiping away where the water had dripped down to the floor before she folded the wet towel and moved it over to a storage bin with other used cloths. That done she made her way back outside.

The Alolan Vulpix’s crystalline-blue eyes locked onto the compound pair of the Butterfree that fluttered its wings slowly on the opposite side of the field as glittering particles of ice were falling from Snow Warning. Shuckle, on the other hand, seemed unsure as he stared at the Delcatty that was sitting up and brushing her paw against her cheek.

“Constrict on the Delcatty, Shuckle!” Lillie declared, taking the lead with Snubbull by her feet. The Mold Pokémon’s sinuous appendages stretched, crossing the space between them at a sluggish enough pace that the feline easily avoided it with a hop. “Koko, try a Moonblast!”

“Copycat, Lynn!” Azuria commanded in retaliation, resulting in the Prim Pokémon opening her mouth and imitating Koko as fairy-aspected energy swelled and took the form of a sphere of equal size. The two released their attacks at the same time and where the orbs met, they ruptured in a pink-hued explosion. “Now, Disconcerting Duet!”

Pieri used Supersonic!

Lynn used Disarming Voice!

The Butterfly Pokémon released a ring of blue soundwaves from his antenna while the Prim Pokémon braced herself on the ground and then let out a rather cute cry, sending out pink soundwaves woven into the shape of hearts. They grabbed the Supersonic soundwaves as they expanded, leaving them intermingled as they struck both Lillie’s pokémon like a physical force.

Shuckle, anchored to the ground, only had his head bounce backwards on impact. But Koko ended up being sent staggering backwards, her eyes screwed shut on impact with the ground. Then she staggered as she tried to rise up, paws crossing one another while Shuckle’s head was moving in small circles as he made bewildered sounds.

“They’re… both confused?” Lillie guessed at a glance.

Rotom spun in place, a question mark flashing on his screen. But using Supersonic offensively involvezzz using a dense and tightly focused ring of sound waves to confuse the zzzenses. If it was spread out then the potency would be reduced and only be useful for echolocation, zzt.

“Soundwaves can superposition with each other,” Azuria explained as she watched the two younger pokémon in the midst of their confusion. “Pieri is smart enough to adjust the frequency of his Supersonic so that it can ride Lynn’s Disarming Voice, so that the effects of the former can be passed onto the latter. Hence why it’s a duet made for double battles.”

Shuckle began to swat the air as if trying to grasp something that was floating around while Koko pounced on nothing and ended up crashing into the dirt. The sudden movement caught Shuckle’s attention and his beady eyes narrowed. Then his cheeks began to swell.

Shuckle used Sticky Web!

Lusamine winced as Shuckle spat out a glob of bug adhesive that expanded from the air resistance, forming a net that landed right in the path of Koko’s staggering. It caught her blue paws, leaving her to collapse in the webbing as she landed on top of it. Looking to Lillie showed she had made a similar expression, while Snubbull held a stumpy arm to his head as if embarrassed for them and then barked as loud as he could. The call seemed to do the trick as Shuckle snapped out of his confusion, along with the entrapped Fox Pokémon that whimpered while trying get herself free.

“Shuckle, look out!” Lillie yelled, pointing towards Pieri as he released an argent crescent towards Shuckle. The Silver Wind ended up breaking against his shell as he followed his instincts and withdrew into it, leaving Lusamine to assume it had been intentionally made weak as to not hurt him seriously. But it still served as a suitable distraction for the Delcatty to rush in.

Delcatty used Covet!

The Prim Pokemon pounced, paws covered in a white veil as she put her momentum to use and flipped him over while landing on her back. She then toyed with him like a ball of yarn before batting him away and sending him tumbling through the air. Shuckle hit the ground rolling until he stuck his limbs out and his head emerged, a frown on his face as he glared at the ball of fluid in-between her palms. “KLE!!”

Still wrapped in that white veil like a bubble was the Berry Juice he’d been fermenting, stolen by the feline that began to sip it down while he looked on with narrowed eyes—

Koko used Moonblast!

It’s a Critical Hit!

—only to then be blasted by a pink orb that closed the distance and then exploded against her, sending her tumbling away while the pilfered liquid splashed all over her face and coat before she knew what hit her. “Mmraw!?”

Lusamine turned to see the Alolan Vulpix that had been thought to be out of the fight was back on her feet. The webbing that held her in place was shattered, covered in a layer of ice. If she had to guess, it seemed like Koko had used Powder Snow to freeze it and thus take away it’s adhesiveness.

“Good job, Koko!” Lillie praised her, blissfully unaware of the smile on Snubbull’s face as he snickered upon seeing the feline knocked about. “Now, get Pieri with Powder Snow while your Snow Warning is still working!”

The Alolan Vulpix whirled on her feet as she faced him and exhaled a stream of cold, ice-particle laden air towards the Butterfly Pokémon that ascended with rapid flaps of his wings before teleporting right behind her. His wings then began to scatter Sleep Powder once more, only for a bundle of bug glue to send him sprawling onto the ground, pinned to it by his wings. He struggled to try and get free while Lynn got back up on her forepaws and was hissing with hackles raised at Koko.

“That’s enough.” The declaration was followed by a clap of Azuria’s hands, grabbing the Pokémon’s attention before they could continue. “Don’t struggle, Pieri. That webbing is too tight on your wings because Safeguard wore off, and if you Teleport wrong then you might damage them. Lynn, you can’t beat both of them without actually harming them, which isn’t what we’re here for.”

The feline gestured to herself and let out pitying noise from where the spilled Berry Juice had painted her coat.

“I’ll give you a bubble-bath later to get your coat back nice and clean, but for now go wash your face while we get Pieri free. Okay?”

The Delcatty glared at the snickering Snubbull for a moment before nodding. Then she dashed over the side of the bank towards the running water below, leaving the rest where they were as the light snowfall ceased along with the match.

“…That was harder than I thought,” Lillie said, crouching down as Koko came over and yipped. Even with the surprise attack that Koko got off, it hadn’t done nearly enough to hurt more than the feline’s pride. But she was still proud that Koko managed to free herself and get the attack off, so she smiled down at the Alolan Vulpix and brushed her hair. “Good job.”

“Lolo, can you help Pieri get free?” Azuria called out to the Slowbro sitting away from the group, who stared vacantly in her direction for a moment. Then he pointed towards the downed Butterfree and his eyes shone with a cerulean hue. Psychic waves flowed from his finger and washed over Pieri until the webbing seemingly dissolved. “Thanks!”

“Oh, that’s fairly impressive use of Psywave,” Lusamine noted as she looked over to the Hermit Crab Pokémon that proceeded to stare off into space again. “He has that much control over it?”

“Yep,” she said. “Despite how spacey he looks, Lolo’s really good at using psychic techniques. He can regulate it well enough that it wouldn’t harm anyone but still tear the adhesive apart.”

The Coordinator then watched as her Butterfree tested his wings once more to satisfaction before turning back to Lillie. “So, on the subject of Double Battles, I think that Koko will probably be the most difficult of your pokémon to find a partner with.”

“What do you mean?” Lillie asked. “I think she gets along well with the others, so they would make a good team.”

“It’s not her personality, but rather her Ability,” Azuria clarified, pointing up. “Right now, Snow Warning is underdeveloped, so it’s more of a light snowfall than anything else. But eventually that snow will become hail that will start actively hurting the Pokémon around her who aren’t like Glacian.”

The Alolan Vulpix tilted her head at that before turning over to her playmate and giving an inquiring yip. The Fresh Snow Pokémon answered back with an affirming nod. Her ears fell slightly, and she lowered her head. “Vul…”

Lillie comforted her with another pat to the head. “I can’t stop her from doing something that comes instinctively. And she likes battling a little too much for me to not include her because of it.”

Azuria agreed with a nod. “That’s why you need a workaround. Fortunately, the solution is something Rotom suggested already when he said to try and learn Sunny Day for Bellamy.”

Not only would it remove the damage from Hail, but Bellamy possesses both Chlorophyll and Growth, zzzt. Rotom floated over and displayed a graph with a Bellsprout on it, along with some diagrams. And Snubbull has Fire Fang, which would also benefit from strong sunlight.

“Speaking of Snubbull, he’s…” The Coordinator took a moment to consider her words carefully. “Headstrong. He’ll rush right into battle, but that also means he doesn’t watch out for himself or his partner. And considering that one of the most common tactics in a Double Battle is to gang up on a single pokémon, he’ll most often end up being taken out first. Especially since his favorite technique, Fire Fang, is also underdeveloped.”

Snubbull frowned at that. “Bull!”

“Sorry, but it’s true,” she told him. “You can only use it with your fangs as the foundation, which is fine for now. But a fully formed Fire Fang is done completely out of fire, just like with how Ice Fang and Thunder Fang are made out of ice and electricity. Right, Glacian?”

At the prompt, the Fresh Snow Pokémon bobbed his head before turning to Snubbull. Then the temperature abruptly dropped as the formation of jagged rows of crystalline teeth took place in less than a second. The construct jaws that were even larger than Snubbull pantomimed the Glaceon as he snapped his mouth shut and they crashed into one another, erupting in a spray of white and blue frost.

Snubbull shook his head and brushed his tiny arms over his fur to get rid of the ice particles before pointing to the Glaceon and barking. “Snubb! Snubbull! Snub!”

Lillie left it to Rotom to translate that he was demanding that he ‘give him his fangs’ before she sighed. “Snubbull, that’s not a nice way to ask someone to teach you a technique. Besides, he’s still helping Koko and you should work on what you have first.”

The Fairy Pokémon chuffed and grumbled under his breath. “Bull…

“And as for your Shuckle, he can actually be a good supporter for the others,” Azuria continued. “For example, if he managed to learn Bind like AJ said or catch others with Sticky Web, he can tie them down so they can’t run away or dodge attacks that take time like Koko’s Moonblast. And, since he can defend himself with Protect, he’ll be able to stand his ground and play to his strengths.”

“That’s a great idea,” Lillie said, before noticing the Mold Pokémon was still looking down to where his Berry Juice had been wasted. Despite Bellamy’s awkward attempt at consoling him over the loss of his snack, he was still upset. “It’ll be okay, Shuckle.”

Kle,” was the only response he gave while still hanging his head downcast.

“Aw, now I feel even worse about what Lynn did.”  Azuria crouched down in front of him and gave him a gentle smile. “Tell you what, how about I give you a sour pokéblock now and bring you back some really sour berries the next time? You like those, right?”

His limp head perked up immediately as she pulled out a Pokéblock Case and offered him a snack. He tentatively brought it into his mouth and relished it before making a pleased sound. Azuria took that to mean he liked it as the girls continued to talk about developing their pokémon.

Overall, from what Lusamine could see, Azuria was a very caring and intelligent Coordinator. It was great that Lillie made such a wonderful friend in such a short time. She would actively try to get to know her better before she made her decision about Milotic, should the worst come to pass.

 

 

 


Fanfic Recommendation 81

 


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Summary: When Jaune’s forged transcripts were rebuffed, his only option was to return home in disgrace or forge a new life in Vale. Opening a diner was an impetuous decision, being good at it a stroke of luck. Becoming the favourite haunt for students, teachers and criminals alike…? That was neither, but it sure did keep things interesting. Wasn’t the civilian life supposed to be easier?


A Future Tied by Fates 38 

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”


A FSN Fanfic

Summary: “With swords that aren’t yours, with skills that aren’t yours, for dreams that aren’t yours. Your entire existence is a lie!” – “Then I’ll show you that even fake dreams can become reality.” A different choice, a different path, a different FATE. Shirou/Multi

A Rising of the Shield Hero x Yakuza Crossover Fanfic

Summary: Shanoa emerged from Dracula’s castle a free, yet broken, woman. She returned to Wygol village and the aid of a friend long determined to release her from Ecclesia’s lasting grip, but a dark reminder seared into the warrior’s flesh calls the ire of a vengeful force.

A Young Justice Fanfic

Summary: An SI with an Orange Ring ends up in the Young Justice Universe and seeks to advance humanity through advance technology and magic.

 


Fanfic Recommendation 78

My Fanfics :

Calling Card 21

 


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated:


Service with a Smile 39 – 40

A RWBY Fanfiction

Summary: When Jaune’s forged transcripts were rebuffed, his only option was to return home in disgrace or forge a new life in Vale. Opening a diner was an impetuous decision, being good at it a stroke of luck. Becoming the favourite haunt for students, teachers and criminals alike…? That was neither, but it sure did keep things interesting. Wasn’t the civilian life supposed to be easier?


Impress Me / Reciprocation / Very Well

A Series of Fire Emblem Awakening One-Shot Fanfiction
Summary: A Collection of Fire Emblem Awakening One-Shots connected to Robin falling in love with Aversa.

Waiting for You

A Fire Emblem Awakening Fanfiction
Summary: Another Robin/Aversa fic tied to “Impress Me” and its sequels. Aversa couldn’t stop Robin from killing Grima. Now, she’s left with Morgan and a promise. How long is she willing to wait? Will Robin ever come back? Rated T for heavy implications.


A Future Tied by Fates 37 

A Fire Emblem Awakening x Fire Emblem Fates Crossover Fanfiction
Summary: The war is over, Nohr has won, and Corrin, ridden by guilt and grieving the loss of Azura, is a broken man. Yet the threat of the Invisible Dragon remains and now he moves against the weakened kingdoms. When a mysterious tactician and a princess appear, can Corrin rise past his grief and work with them to save both their worlds? Continues story of “A Future Broken”

A Rising of the Shield Hero x Yakuza Crossover Fanfic

Summary: Shanoa emerged from Dracula’s castle a free, yet broken, woman. She returned to Wygol village and the aid of a friend long determined to release her from Ecclesia’s lasting grip, but a dark reminder seared into the warrior’s flesh calls the ire of a vengeful force.

A Young Justice Fanfic

Summary: An SI with an Orange Ring ends up in the Young Justice Universe and seeks to advance humanity through advance technology and magic.

 


Calling Card (Psyren x FSN -Nasuverse): Arc 4 – Chapter 21

Chapter 21

My breath fogs over with every step I take.

The sun had barely risen when I set out from home around three hours ago. Since then I’ve been walking through the forest, down a specific route that I know that will lead me to the castle. But there’s still an hour or so before I reach it on foot.

I hate that the castle is such a long walk away. But the boundary field was taken down shortly before the albino brat and her servants were killed, so other than the distance there shouldn’t be any complications reaching the place. And, if by chance someone put it back up, I can counteract the Mental Interference to avoid it with my PSI and will know for a fact that someone is there.

I am armed with a knife in case the Homunculi are there and pick a fight with me. But I’ll leave if it comes down to a fight. There’s no point in risking my life when we have the Veterans to do the heavy lifting. Better to point them in this direction and have them clean house while I go over the place with a fine-tooth comb afterwards.

I’ll be happy if I find anything that’ll bring us another step closer to freedom. At least some of the rooms should still be intact as long as whatever fight the Servants had stayed centered within the hall. There might be a basement or archive or storage facility somewhere that’s designed to last through the Holy Grail War—

My blood vessels swell, writhing as hot mire flows through them from the second heart wedged in my stomach. It hurts.

—I freeze in place, clutching my stomach as something breaks through and pushes aside my organs. But there’s nothing when I pull my hands away. Nothing more than phantom pain that’s akin to muscle memory, stemming from that moment of betrayal.

I’m not surprised. The path I’m walking is the same one that I took when I was leaving here the last time. Familiar locations link to memories so much easier than distant places, so that was inevitable. It’ll probably get as bad as it did when I first visited the mountain, if not worse, but this time I’m ready for it.

Exhaling, I tap into the wellspring of energy within me and formulate it into the Trance-energy. Then I program and layer it to my mind. I have to be careful since if I damage my own brain then there’s no coming back.

A broken arm or leg can heal with time.

A damaged brain not so much.

Once I’m done, I keep walking forward as the minutes continue to pass. It’s not much further now, but the occasional breeze whips through the twisted copse of trees and assaults my face every time. It’s not as cold as it would be during the winter, or in that ruined future. But the leaves blotting out the morning sun makes the air even more frigid than when in the city proper.

If I had more time I would have come later. But I need every minute I can get to visit the priest and see if he has any information I can use as well. Better to do that later than be stuck here until nightfall and trying to worm my way through the dark until—

My flesh grows painfully until everything is stretched to the breaking point, nerves alight with fire that eats away my sanity. It stretches with fat that rots into mud until the flesh tears and spews it out. It hurts. It hurts. Please, help me.

—I stumble to my knees. The phantom pain takes the place of the footsteps and blood from the last time in marking my path. I can feel that I’m close to the spot now where that happened now.

I can still feel the Trance energy saturating my brain. The rules I programmed in haven’t been broken, so it just hasn’t triggered yet. Since I can’t make the rules laxer due to the risk involved, I’ll have to put up with the occasional hallucination until it gets to the point where it goes off.

I really hate that I have to come out here at all, but I can’t get the others involved carelessly to do it for me. The others… well, most of them aren’t stupid. If I bring up this place to them without a decent excuse, they’ll see cracks in what I’ve told them so far. And if they somehow find out about everything I’ve done, they’ll cast me aside and leave me to die.

That is, if they didn’t kill me themselves.

I can’t say it’d be unwarranted. After all, I was more than willing to have Rider to melt them all down for the sake of giving her a little more power, so she wouldn’t be so useless to me. It didn’t matter whether it was every person in the school or every person in the city, I’d have sacrificed them all if it meant I would obtain the grail.

Their value as people didn’t matter if I got what I wanted in the end. Even now I’m not that different. I’m moving them around like chess pieces on a board to keep them alive. Not so much for their own sakes, but because they’re useful in keeping me alive and I don’t want to see Ayako looking so pathetic again.

Emiya is a fool who’d save someone even if they tried to kill him and everyone he knew. Sakura is soft enough that she’ll forgive someone who deprived her of things she’ll never get back. And Ayako will shed tears at the thought of someone who’d wronged her dying in front of her.

If I had been like them, I wouldn’t have survived to this point.

Not living with the Old Worm.

I catch my breath, get to my feet, and continue to walk while lost in my own thoughts about the future. We don’t know when we’ll be called back. We don’t know what we’ll find there. And I still don’t have a concrete way of dealing with the body-jacker—just a theory.

I’ve worked out that they managed to infiltrate my central nervous system, using it to both control my body and access my mind. That explains why my PSI fried them in trying to remove it. I can’t help but think it’s similar to a wire that acts as an artificial nerve, similar to how the worms inside of Sakura turn into nerves when not in use.

The question was how do I stop it from happening a second time—

Thump.

—I fall and hit the ground, but I don’t know why. Did I trip over something or stumble? There’s a gap in my memories, like I was thinking about something only…

No. No, I know these symptoms. I can’t feel any Trance energy in my mind but, considering I’m close to the Einzbern’s place, it’s likely the result of the PSI I probably had layered on my mind. I must’ve had a panic attack and it went off like depth-charge, clearing out my working memory and suppressing whatever triggered it.

It’s… crude. A rudimentary form of memory manipulation at best. Definitely not feasible in the long-run, but I can’t refine the process further since I don’t know the extent of what I’m capable of and don’t want to risk long-term memory damage to myself. I just don’t have enough control as of yet to even try something like that.

I’ll have to practice on other people first. The Student President will likely run his mouth off about it if he finds out, so I’ll have to keep quiet on that. It’s probably for the best since I can’t let them know that memory manipulation is a thing, given that most of them are under it to some extent.

I’m not sure which method was used by the Church since I’m not aware of their Foundation. It was probably just the standard ‘dumping the memories in the part of their minds they’ll never find’ for the students, given the number of people who had been affected by Rider. But I know they had to deprogram the monks since they were under a compulsion that would trigger if questioned on Caster’s identity.

Then again, maybe I should find some way to break it to them as a failsafe? Like if their powers end up stirring their memories by some chance, given how much unventured territory we’re in. They might remember something they shouldn’t and make things difficult for me, so I should have something I can tell them to save face.

Ugh, more things to think about before the next trip.

I shake my head and continue walking until the castle comes into view. Or what’s left of it. I knew the place had a decent amount of damage beforehand, but now it was a mass of weather-worn and charred slag. For the stone foundation itself to have melted meant it couldn’t have been a normal fire. But it didn’t spread very far, otherwise the entire forest would have went up in flames.

It’s probably safe to assume that no one has visited the place in the last few months. If the other homunculi had been here, they would have either restored the place to perfection or destroyed it so thoroughly that nothing remained. The latter would have also been more likely if it had been raided by the Church or the Association.

The castle itself should still have protections to protect the valuables inside from this kind of damage. So, in theory, there should still be something here I can use. The problem is that I can’t get through all of this on my own with the stonework collapsed, let alone factoring in the structural damage from the fire and weather.

I’ll need one of the others who can lift the rubble. And I can’t bring one of them this far out without explaining myself. There’s nothing I can do here right now.

Hopefully the priest will be more helpful in giving me the information I need.

Otherwise this whole day will be a waste.

[-Break-]

I take a Taxi from the civilized part of Fuyuki to Shinto to save on time and to give my aching legs a moment to rest.

It isn’t a short trip on its own, maybe an hour or so. But it feels longer due to how crowded the roads across from the Big Bridge became on the weekend. Since the train station makes it a good central hub shops naturally line the area and bring enough traffic that walking might have been faster.

The crowds become less of an issue once we leave the Station Front and take a turn into the suburban area. Fewer buildings surround us and more greenery takes their place since it costs more to build a foundation for houses on the steep incline of a hillside. And since less people are around it becomes quiet enough that I almost drift off looking at the ocean once we were high enough. Thankfully, I manage to stay awake until we reach the church that resides at the top of the hill.

In hindsight, its far more grandiose than it needs to be. The flat, sculpted lands didn’t suit the suburbs leading up to it and I can’t imagine that many sheep flock to the place during service hours. Then again, the gaudiness is something I can see the Tohsaka’s relishing enough that they’d foot the bill for it. That might even be why they had the Kotomine family in their pocket until the last war, when the damn priest decided he wanted the grail.

I can’t be sure if that relationship is still being upheld now that the old priest is running the place. The Holy Church is supposed to oppose Magi on principle as a balancing act, with the two keeping one another in check. His help in expediting things might have been due to the fact that they were trying to smooth things over, but he seems reasonable enough that I feel like I’ll walk out of here with some answers.

I don’t intend to be here long, so I instruct the driver to wait before I walk towards the doors and the sound of pipe organs reaches my ears. It’s a foreign sound I haven’t heard in ten years, when I spent my time overseas during the last war. I don’t recall an organ being here the last time I came, but I shouldn’t be surprised that this church would have one.

The melody drowns out the creaking of the hinges and reverberates down into my bones the moment I open the door. The church itself is devoid of life, with no congregation to hear the hymn. Despite that the white-haired woman in a nun’s outfit continues to play a tribute to her god as the light from the brass that makes up the organ’s pipes gleam brightly.

I take a seat at one of the pews that allows me to get a better look at the nun from the side rather than interrupt her practice. She seems foreign but some of her features are native, so it’s likely she’s of mixed heritage, giving her something of an exotic appeal if not for the bandages I can spy. Her hair has more of a grey tint to it as well compared to the homunculi, almost like ash instead of snow.

Her slender fingers move with grace over the keys, despite her eyes being closed as she listens to her own hymn. I’m not familiar with the composition, but everything sounds like its flowing smoothly. As far as I can tell not a single key is out of place by the time her playing comes to an end.

“Thank you for being patient,” she says as she rises from her playing bench slowly, bringing down the wooden cover over the keys to signify that her practice is done. She then turns to me and opens her eyes, revealing them to be a dull golden color. “Matou Shinji, I presume?”

“You know who I am?”

“Yes. Father Dilo had saw fit to inform me of the members of the Tohsaka and Matou households before he departed. I have already introduced myself to the Second Owner as is custom, but I did intend to introduce myself to your household as well once I finished settling in.”

“Ah. I wasn’t aware that Father Dilo had left recently.”

“A man of his capabilities has duties to fulfill elsewhere and this house of worship is relatively small, so a replacement was chosen,” she answers while walking towards me. “I am Caren Hortensia, and for the time being I have been entrusted with overseeing this church in a similar capacity as he did.  If there is something you require of him then you may ask me in his stead.”

I wanted to speak to the Father since he had been handling everything else. Substituting someone else in at the last-minute means that there might be things that he didn’t tell her. Then again, I do find that women tend to be easier to speak with.

Even if she is an agent of the Church. “Well, I had a question related to the matter of the Grail War and I was hoping that he could help me with clarifying a few things. Since the former priest was the mediator and his father before him was the prior one, the Church itself should have answers I wanted.”

“Perhaps your arrival here was not merely by chance after all then. I had questions for you as well that I intended to ask at a later date regarding the last Holy Grail War. If we could share information, then I believe both of our questions could be resolved.”

I sit upright. “If it’s something I can answer then I will.”

“As you may know, the nature of the Holy Grail itself has become something of a concern in light of the previous two incidents. To that end, we seek to question the head of the three families involved about the grail itself.”

“If that’s the case, then the information I can offer is limited,” I tell her. “I may be the head of our household, but my Grandfather is the only one in Fuyuki who would have an understanding of that since he’d been around from the beginning. And he was killed by the previous priest who was stationed here.”

The Nun clasps her hands together as if in prayer. “You have my sincerest apology on behalf of the Church for that transgression.”

“The fact that the previous priest may have exorcised him in an attempt to claim the grail doesn’t change the fact that it needed to be done. Grandfather was a monster who preyed on humans in a manner that was no different than a vampire. And besides, Father Dilo expedited the transferring of all of his possessions and the other paperwork we needed to continue living as we do, so his actions don’t reflect upon the Church in itself to me.”

Well, to be more accurate, I had him killed with Gilgamesh because he’d pissed me off for the last time. The fact that I did something good for the world is just a by-product. Not that much different from getting involved with Ayako’s mess.

“Be that as it may, upon learning of his involvement in the Fourth Holy Grail War from the Second Owner and an investigation of the incident caused by the grail’s manifestation at that point in time, we believe that something else may have been at work. Are you aware of what demonic possession is?”

Demons—creations born from the 6th Imaginary Factor that possess men and destroy their minds in the process over time. Considering what happened to me, it was one of the first things that I had checked by the doctor affiliated with the Mage’s Association. “The doctor ruled that there was no spiritual entity within me.”

“I have no doubt that may be the case. After all, normally demons possess those who would be considered virtuous. The actions that were on record from your participation would not coincide with such a trait.”

My lips pull back in a frown. The Nun’s words themselves aren’t said in a biting tone, but it feels like she’s accusing me of being a monster. No different than the Old Worm. I have to make an effort to keep my temper in check.

“If you’re referring to my actions in regards to the school and other incidents with Rider, I explained that I wouldn’t have done those things had Grandfather not threaten myself or my sister. It should be clear that if I didn’t prove useful to him, he would have killed me as readily as he did my parents. I’ve kept my hands clean since he’s been gone, and if your agent had eliminated him sooner a lot of innocent people could’ve been saved over the years.”

Her expression doesn’t change much, but she knows I’m right. I wasn’t a saint during the war, but the majority of my victims have at least recovered. The people the Old Worm preyed on are still reported as being missing and would never be found. The last priest knew that and still let him go free for at least a decade.

For a member raised in their house, with power granted by their god to act as an instrument in their stead, to neglect their duties and leave him unpunished… well, that makes them and their god accomplices, doesn’t it?

“Humans are not infallible,” she answers. “They face temptation from the demons as well as the vices around them, and sometimes they succumb to them. They strike at the hearts of even the most virtuous humans after all, and in the wake of possession a human’s morals is often the first thing to go before their minds.”

Her response is decidedly that of a person desperate to defend the fallacies within their faith. The next thing she’ll say is that the priest himself was possessed or something to explain away his acts. A nice little story about a virtuous priest being corrupted as an excuse for their incompetence in keeping him in check.

“In any case, regarding my question about demonic possession. While the Association may have ruled you were not possessed, our own investigation has led us to believe that you may have been in the proximity of a demon.”

“On what basis?”

“Your body changed into something that was quite distant from the human form, which indicates the presence of a strong demon within a host. In normal cases, the human body undergoing such a violent transformation would die after their minds were destroyed and the demon would fail to manifest. Such tends to be the fate of most demons and their hosts.”

Ba-thump.

My body aches. I don’t want to remember. If I remember the hallucinations will return. But I know she’s right. The normal mind can’t cope with such a thing and remain sane, and so it struggles to forget. “Maybe, but I’m alive.”

The Nun looks as if she wants to say that’s obvious but she refrains. “Indeed, your survival would have been unlikely if you had been personally possessed. But the signs of a powerful demon are evident since they can even affect the surrounding land and the spirits of the people around them when they manifest. Father Dilo investigated both the actions of the previous agent and the site of the previous grail’s manifestation, the latter of which has been found to be steeped in the presence of evil and grudges. Between your own case and these ones, there has been one factor linking all of them together.”

It clicks in my mind almost instantly. “You think the Einzbern have been using a demon to power the grail, don’t you?”

The entire reason for the Holy Grail War was for the winner to have a wish granted. The grail was meant to be a device to do so through Wishcraft, which basically amounted to using enough magical energy to force whatever change you could. But, looking back, is such a thing really possible?

Magical energy can be used as fuel to power something, but to grant any wish without a consequence is a stretch. It has to be formulated through a system or foundation to be useful after all. On top of that the war itself never truly finished since its creation, so no one had their wish granted to test if it really did work, but in the conclusion of the last two wars the grail itself did manifest to an extent and something bad happened.

Demons born from the 6th Imaginary Factor existed for the sake of realizing the wishes of those that called them forth in a distorted manner. So, if they managed to bind a powerful one into the grail, then they’d have their wish-granting device. One that would make every wish end in the worst possible outcome if there were no failsafe systems in place—provided it wasn’t designed to end that way.

The Nun nods her head. “It is only a theory at this point. But since the only common factor between that land and the spiritual damage you undertook was the presence of a homunculus, we believe that there’s a chance that a demon exists within the core of the grail.”

“And you think homunculi are likely meant to be used as a medium to materialize the demon itself while using the accumulated magical energy, in order to realize whatever wish is involved. But the only ones who would know for sure are the ones who provided the grail in the first place.”

A bitter laugh escapes my mouth. The war itself was rigged from the start because the core was the homunculi themselves. And since they kept getting themselves killed every war, no one could use it the damn thing properly. Even if I had won the war, I wouldn’t have gotten anything to balance out the Hell I’m going through now…

I’m going to kill them all if I get the chance.

Slowly and painfully.

“Naturally, we would prefer to hear an answer from the Einzbern family themselves,” the Nun says with a slight frown when my laughs peter out.  “But they have always been notoriously difficult to contact, and our attempts to inquire into the nature of such a possibility have received no answer. In fact, since the end of the war it has been as if they have disappeared off the face of the earth itself. To that end, we also would like your assistance in the matter.”

“How so?” I ask, presuming that by ‘inquire’ she meant killing every last one of them. No doubt the thought of something called the ‘Holy Grail’ being a vessel for a demon must’ve really stung their pride. The fact that one of their own covered that fact up probably didn’t help, so they’d want the ones who provided the grail itself. “I don’t know where they could have gone.”

“We believe that Zouken Matou might have some documentation of the Einzbern and some introspective on the nature of the Grail since he was the sole remaining person from the War’s creation. Since you have expressed the intention of no longer practicing magecraft, the Church would like to procure the Matou Library’s contents as part of the investigation. Of course, we are prepared to compensate you appropriately for them.”

She was asking for me to give up the entirety of the Matou Library. Everything related to our craft since our family’s founding. To ask such a thing of a normal magus family would be unthinkable, since it meant giving up everything their family sacrificed towards reaching the Root. It would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

But after everything Sakura and I went through because of it, it’s likely that whatever profile of us they’d composed stated we would be open to the suggestion. “Compensated how exactly?”

She quotes a very nice sum of money to be paid upfront. The only reason I don’t tell her to have a truck come to the house within the hour to take the entire collection is because I need them now for the other Drifters. Since our powers straddle the line between magecraft and psychics, to sell them off now when that could be the very thing between life and death would be foolhardy.

After all, I can’t spend the money if I’m dead. “The offer is more than generous. And, to be honest, if the Church wanted to destroy the particular branch of magecraft that Grandfather pioneered entirely, I would be willing to give you his research without complaint. But he collected many different notes on many different forms of magecraft, and even if I can’t practice and have no desire to, they still have some value to others. That being said, I would be willing to part with all the information on the Holy Grail War and Einzbern for free if you can assist me in another way.”

She regards me with curiosity. “If it is within my power, I shall offer it.”

“The damage that the grail did to me was something that the mages said they can’t fix. But, if it really was the result of being in proximity to a demon, can the Church fix it?”

“It is unfortunate, but to reverse what has already transpired is beyond the ability of exorcists who serve in His name.”

In other words, until I die and my soul passes through the Akasha, the spiritual damage will remain. Of course, I knew that. I just saw another potential avenue that could present a solution to my problem and felt obligated to ask.

That was all.

I notice her pitying me and it fills me with disdain, but I don’t let it show as I move the conversation along. “Then, if you’d be willing to keep me informed on the situation with the Einzbern and the grail, I’ll be willing to give them to you instead. If I’m going to be tormented every night and die because of this, I want to make sure that it won’t be in vain. Closure will bring me more peace than money will at this point.”

Besides, if the Church wants that information badly enough, they will take it without regard for our lives. Sakura is largely untrained and I don’t have access to any powers as far as they are concerned. We might be defenseless but we’re still heretics in their eyes and they can justify killing us rather easily. If I offer the information for the sake of seeing justice done, then that was a different story.

Vengeance is a part of human nature, and emotion can rule out logic. It won’t cost them anything and I’ll be shortening their time spent researching by sorting out what they needed. That way they stood to benefit without giving us more trouble in the short-term and I can stay on top of the situation.

“I shall need to speak with my superiors on the matter of divulging that sort of information,” the Nun answers. “If they agree, then whatever information they see fit to send me will be forwarded to you and a specialist will be sent to take possession of the materials. Even if you are willing to part with them, there is a chance that there has been magecraft cast upon them to prevent outsiders from handling it.”

“That will be fine. But if you could keep the Second Owner unaware of that fact, I’d appreciate it as well. I don’t want her to think that the Matou are involved when I’m basically doing this to get some form of closure given my condition.”

“The Church are independent of the Tohsaka and will show them no preferential treatment. What is disclosed between us will remain as such. You have my word on that.”

I don’t believe her. Not entirely. But even if she tells Tohsaka, she’ll only receive information that I’m acting out of vengeance and directing it towards the third family because they did this to me. It’s still information that I controlled the flow of.

“In anticipation that they do agree to my terms, I’ll give you my contact information and begin sorting through everything. Whether the offer is rejected or accepted, even if it’s the middle of the night, call me when you get a response. I’ll answer right away.”

I give her my cell phone number before I leave out with my thoughts running over the situation with the new pieces on my board. The Church would be more pawns that I can play, keeping my important pieces safe by letting them deal with the Einzbern family. If the future has been changed because of it by our next trip, then we’ve done our part to Nemesis Q. If not…

Well, none of us died. And we’ll know they’re more dangerous than we gave them credit for in this time period. So that’s progress on our end either way.

Maybe this day wasn’t a complete waste after all.