Prologue 2: Spirit Mountain
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Claire here! I am a 23 year old freelancing adventurer mage who happens to be heading home to Kierta, a small village located in the mountains. Though I usually work near the capitol, it is time for a special festival in my hometown, a festival I grew up wondering about and would not miss for the world. This festival is called the Day of Spirits, and is held only once every 50 years. From noon until midnight, spirits of all elements descend upon the town. At noon, the spirits bless the village and surrounding fields and they stay in town the rest of the night. The villagers have a giant feast and tell legendary stories, of which the spirits sometimes add their own personal point of view on the tellings. Most importantly, a villager with mana can attempt to make a contract with a high class spirit. This is a once in a lifetime chance for any mage, as high class spirits are known to almost never make human contact. I am so fortunate to have been born in Kierta, as most mages are kicked out before the festival. It's not to be rude to the mages, but since those who use mana are typically arrogant nobles, it is for their safety

A story passed down through the years tells us of a noble who heard of our festival and arrived thinking he is entitled to take anything in the town while waiting for the festival. He took several of the village women captive, forcing them to serve him against their will, and ate the stores of food and drink meant for the festival. Anyone who tried to stop him was killed. When the spirits descended for the blessing, the noble’s face went white with horror, and he screamed as every greater spirit laid a new curse upon him. He fled the festival, but returned the next week with his army to raze Kierta to the ground. Or he tried to at least. The roads leading to the village became buried in the rubble, the wind howled, rain poured, and lightning struck his army. As he advanced, some of the army was lost in landslides, some were lost when lightning set fire to tents, and others fell off mountain cliffs due to the winds. The noble was forced to withdraw, and never again was Kierta threatened. Wanting to repay the spirits, the spirits only told us this, to never forget our humility and kindness.

Due to this, we only allow those we deem not to cause trouble to stay for the festival. Anyways, it is almost noon and I have arrived at Kierta. Yes, this is cutting it very close, but I am lazy and did not want to help set up. 

“Claire! Welcome home! You’re late! We’re all done setting up.” A middle aged brown haired woman shouts out to me.

“Hi mom! You know I have always had bad timing. I am just glad I made it before noon!”

A sudden pressure, and I know it is noon. Just in time! I sense magic of all elements working in tandem to bless the land. Amazing. Time to head to the clearing and have a great time! Even if I don’t get to make a contract, just seeing the magic here was worth it. 

Singing, dancing, storytelling, food and drink, this day was amazing. But now for the special last bit. My chance to make a contract. I find a secluded spot in the woods, a ways away from the clearing such that I can barely make out the sounds of drinking and dancing in the background. I kneel to the ground and gather my mana. Crying out I declare

“I, Claire Evesdaughter, request a contract. Whichever spirit accepts I shall show the world of the Yrese Empire, we shall travel as a team to help the towns we come across, and use magic to help my fellow humans. I offer my mana!”

I feel tens of spirits in the air around me. After a moment, I hear in my mind multiple voices saying “We found a match! We found a match!”

“Come! Follow! Come! This way!” They cry out.

Warily, I follow the mana signature of the spirits, but soon after I abruptly halt as tradition takes its hold. Beyond me lies an invisible line that all the people of the mountain recognize as a forbidden zone. Any who trespass upon the boundary of the spirits have never been heard from again.

“Hurry! This way!”

This must be considered an invitation right? The forest becomes denser, more ancient as I continue to follow the spirits. I end up at a cliff wall, and the spirits grow silent. I feel dread building up as a new presence makes itself known. The amount of mana in the air signifying a spirit of the highest class grows, and along with it my dread. Petrified, I watch as an opening appears on the wall, and from it steps a being that could only be a legendary spirit king. 

With skin the color of the cliff behind her, and hair the color of tree bark in the rain, the spirit king of earth approaches me. 

“Do not be afraid, child. These spirits brought you here, and no harm shall come to you. Please, come with me, then any of these children can form a contract with you. 

She disappears into the cave. Startled, I follow down stairs dimly lit with lightning crystals. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, I am overwhelmed once again with a sense of awe. Orderly displayed are rows of swords, spears, lances, armor, and shields, all radiating an intense aura. Each one is marked with the outline of a bird, and with an aura this intense, I realise that everything here must have been made by the Divine Crafter. 

Roughly 1,000 years ago, it is said a person was gifted the divine grace to craft objects beyond human power. But such a power was coveted by the world, and during the succession of the next emperor, the world fought to control the creator of these objects, but at the end, they were never heard from again. The fight escalated into the greatest tragedy of humanity, the War That Tore the Continent Apart. The empire was in ruins, all the greatest magic users slain, leaving humanity to build up from scratch. All that remained were the divine arms, objects that became stronger as time went by, and could only willingly be passed from user to user. The current kingdoms each are ruled by a family who controls at least one divine arm, yet here I stand, looking at hundreds of them. Enough that if this place is ever found, the world will be plunged into war again. 

The spirit king of earth opens a door at the end of the room, beckoning me inside. In that room there exists a forge that has been well maintained, but more impressive than even the forge of the Divine Crafter is the crystal coffin lying upright against the wall. 

“Focus your mana into your hand, and place it on the crystal. Regardless of if this works, you shall have your contract. Though if it fails, I will erase your memory of this place. Be assured, no harm will come to you.”

Gods, I really hope it would just be my memory thats gone. This place is a treasure so great that even knowing it exists is dangerous. Whatever she wants, I do hope I succeed. Even though spirits are known never to lie, I am terrified. Why was I so greedy to want a contract with a greater spirit. But since I have come this far...

I gather mana into my right hand, and gently place it on the crystal coffin. It glows and I see a form start to take shape through the crystal. Though there was no reflection at first, I now see a mirror image of myself in the coffin. No, not a mirror image, my hair is brown, while the girl in the coffin has hair white as snow. 

Abruptly, the lid of the coffin disappears and the girl collapses out of the coffin. Startled, I jump back. Before the girl hits the floor, the spirit king catches her. The girl who looks like me slowly opens her eyes, one blue, one purple.

“I am… alive?”