After Tsubaki left, Jonas began pacing his room in thought. “She said that I have yet to reach the saturation point of my current form. Obviously, I am still able to become more powerful within my current stage. But, that is not what interests me. No, there must still be a higher stage. Although the world acknowledges that this is a ‘perfect’ form, can it be considered truly perfect?”
Jonas walked over towards his desks, pushing aside one of his books to lay out a paper, scrawling down some figures. “The Keeper himself confirmed that this is the next logical step of growth, shedding the physical to become pure energy. But that doesn’t make sense. What am I missing?”
“If those who attain the perfect form continue to grow endlessly, then eventually there will be a lack of territory available for them on a world. No, even worse, it is possible that they could eventually grow to be larger than the entire planet. The next stage couldn’t be that those of us with perfect forms must leave our worlds, and live among the stars, could it? No, why would the Keeper design such a thing.”
As he was going through his thoughts, he seemed to realize something. “The perfect self… it truly is perfect. It combines the soul, the mind, the life, and the world. But there is another energy, isn’t there? Not the chaos of the dark priests, which corrodes all it touches. What can be better than perfect… if not the gods?”
As if a jolt of electricity had moved through him, Jonas shuddered. The thought of encroaching on the realm of the gods was the epitome of heresy. And yet… were they not already? Every living being wielded a spark of divinity. Bards and knights utilized this spark for a variety of effects on a regular basis.
If an energy can be wielded, it can be cultivated. This was a truth that had existed since the dawn of civilization. Divine energy had never been an exception, as the use of it through the aforementioned classes would gradually strengthen the spark over time. “Perhaps the next step is to cultivate the spark into a flame…” Jonas muttered to himself.
“But how…? Need I become a bard, or pledge myself to become a knight in order to wield this energy?” The elf knew that he had no talent for song, and his propensity for combat was dreadful. He had obtained the levels he had through practical study rather than live combat.
Of the two, the easiest path for him was to become a bard. As a knight, his time would no longer be his own, and he would have to live for his lord. Unless he were able to receive a lord like the Keeper who allowed the freedom that Tsubaki enjoyed, his research would be forced to the side.
With that set, Jonas nodded his head, standing up from his desk and walking towards the door. If his research required him to become a bard, then a bard he would become.
Within the world of Spica, there was an uneasy ceasefire occurring. The wood elves of the forest and the dark elves of the mountains were left confused. For as long as anyone could remember, there had never been an end to the fighting between the two nations.
Of course, there would be long pauses between conflicts, but… they would never last more than a year at most. As of now, it had been nearly five years since the last news of a conflict spread. For these scattered tribes, the reason behind this was a mystery. Even among the high elves to the two nations, many were unaware of the exact reason.
Those in power, however, knew quite well. Both nations had been forced to call a ceasefire because of the arrival of a third party. Although Demacry tried to curry favor with them by securing first contact with these foreigners, they immediately reached out towards Solace afterwards.
It did not take them long to learn the reasons behind the eternal conflict, and the war that had turned into tradition more than any true hatred. They declared that they would remain a neutral party, that they would not join either side, and would conduct business with both equally.
This was… a suspicious arrangement to the leaders of both nations, as they could not help but imagine these foreigners secretly joining the other team. After being involved in politics, they had long since learned their lessons. Whenever a leading party makes a move openly, they will typically make two or three secretly as well, and it was those secret moves you needed to watch out for.
Thus, both parties called for a temporary ceasefire to rearrange their troops. The small plot of land that these foreigners had claimed meant little to either country, positioned immediately along the border. The armies walked the starlight bridges back towards their base camps, and awaited their next orders.
The first order of business for both groups was to position squads nearby the foreigners’ land, which they had mistakenly begun calling Earth. This is due to the message that had been relayed by the envoys, ‘We are from Earth.’ To them, they believed that was what they were calling the territory that had been claimed, as opposed to their home world.
So, both kingdoms felt the need to station squads near ‘Earth’, watching for any dangerous moves. At the same time, they also acted sincerely, taking the foreigners up on their offer for trade.
While they did not originally expect much, they were surprised to find numerous powerful artifacts. While none of them were distinctly magical, many had the power of ki flowing through them. Demacry was even pleased to find several different inventions that they had yet to create within their own borders.
However, these foreigners did not take currency for their trade. The gems of Spica seemed to hold little value to them. Instead, they asked for one of two things to barter. Those of Spica could either teach them the magic of this world, or trade items of similar value to what they were asking.
For Solace, the choice was easy. They had no issues with the spread of magical knowledge, and fully encouraged any civilian to master at least the fundamentals. Scholars and astronomers were sent to ‘Earth’ to act as instructors in exchange for those ki-forged items such as cannons and spears.
Demacry was understandably more hesitant when it came to giving magical knowledge to Earth, as they were well aware of how powerful their warriors were. Solace might have seen it as innocent curiosity, but Demacry knew better. If the beings of Earth were just as talented with magic as they were martial prowess, teaching them the magic of Spica would breed an army that neither nation would be able to match.
So instead, they chose to send items, those mostly magical in nature. As the beings of Earth were unable to understand Spica’s magic in the first place, and Earth was keeping their deals with both parties separate, they saw no harm in providing them with devices that they could not properly understand.
Like this, the colony under Jassar’s control managed to easily gain both the knowledge of Spica’s magic, and the items that were able to take advantage of that magic. Although it was difficult to practice a school of magic fundamentally different from any that they were used to… elves were nothing if not patient.
Queen Sylva, unofficial leader of Deckan and Queen of Kirol, walked towards her room with heavy steps. Though it did not show on her body, she was no longer a young woman. She could feel the hands of fate closing in around her, despite her attempts to fend it off with the practice of ki. While she kept a lively demeanor in front of her friends or her people, she was truly tired, her heart aching with every moment.
When she opened the door of her quarters, she saw a familiar sight. A kitsune with golden hair curled up on her bed, snuggling into a pillow. She wore a mesh nightgown, and although her body looked incredibly relaxed, her eyes were open, watching Sylvia at the door.
Sylvia let out a chuckle, shaking her head with a wry grin. “Back already, Udona?” She asked, closing the door behind herself as she walked towards the bed, laying on it to face the Goddess of Life. “You were just here yesterday. I wasn’t expecting you back for a few weeks.”
Udona had a somewhat sad look on her face, reaching out to gently grasp Sylvia’s hand. “I wanted to be here for you.” She said in a quiet tone. “And I wanted to ask again, if--”
Sylvia held up her free hand, shaking her head. “No, Udona. Thank you for the offer, really. I mean it, it’s great. But I wouldn’t be able to accept living just by the power of a goddess.” Though she said that, she returned the hold on Udona’s hand. “If you’re here, that means it’s soon?”
Udona nodded, her eyes beginning to mist over. “From what I can tell… tonight. Your heart is wearing itself down, even as we speak. If you don’t let me do something… You’ve been overtaxing your ki in order to maintain normal function, and your body can’t take it anymore.”
Sylvia simply shook her head, releasing her control over her ki for the first time in a long while. Her hair began to quickly fade, her youthful skin tightening and becoming wrinkled. “There is only one thing you can do for me, my Goddess.” She said, even as her voice began to grow hoarse, no longer sustained by the energy that had kept it young and fresh.
“Anything, my friend.” Udona spoke up without hesitation, staring into Sylvia’s eyes.
“Become friends with the one that replaces me. Guide her like you’ve guided me.” This was Sylvia’s heartfelt wish, as she knew that she wouldn’t have turned into the woman she was if not for Udona. “Let her be your joy, as I have always strived to be. And if she steps out of line… kick her ass for me.”
As she closed her eyes, her thoughts growing heavy, she could hear a dry chuckle from Udona, who leaned forward and gave Sylvia a chaste kiss on the forehead. “Your mother asked for the same thing, you know… Okay, you have my word, Sylvia. I’ll be friends with Bria, just like you wanted. Now sleep, my friend.”
Saying that, Udona began to gently stroke a hand through Sylvia’s hair, humming a gentle tune to send her off. Her lips parted, and she began to sing a song she only ever sang for those she truly held dear.
“This hand of fate, this game of life.
These years of love, of loss and strife.
A hand so cruel, yet fate holds true.
We walk the path as time accrues.”
“These cards we play, our day to day.
As love and sorrow fades away.
The deck is set, the die is cast.
These lives we yearn for, fade too fast.”
“But what are we to do, how come I can’t say,
I’ll just live my life another way.
This game’s so cruel that I can’t play,
So I’ll hold my heart and fly away.”
“So come with me, and we’ll be free.
We’ll share our lives eternally.
For what is fate to you and me,
Let’s take away this destiny.”
“This life is ours, let’s live it well.
Don’t break my heart and end this spell.
It’s you and me, right here and now.
So hear my words, so hear my vow.”
“Let’s fly away…”
As Udona finished the song, she could feel a line of wetness running down her cheeks. No matter how many lifetimes she lived, no matter how many friends she made, it always hurt her to watch them die. And as she lay across from Sylvia, she could see the flicker of life fading away.
One last favor. Udona thought to herself, wrapping Sylvia’s soul with her power. She would not force Sylvia to live, as she had already rejected that choice. But she could ensure the protection of her soul, and that it reached the afterlife safely. One final gift that she could offer her friends, and she once again carried it out, her body fading away from the bed.
Though Sylvia had passed, the gentle smile on her aged face was unmistakable. And it was that smile that Udona had cherished. A happiness that she could grant to another even in their final moments.