Asterios raised his brow when Imadil chuckled after his daughter’s comment, patting the girl’s shoulder.
“What’s wrong? I do think that it’s a very strong Spellslinger, so is it really that surprising it was able to slice through metal?”
Cynthia shook her head. “Not with completely no resistance when that metal is Mythril.”
“Yes…” She sighed. “The color is different than usual because it was a failed attempt at creating a certain armor. I don’t blame you for not recognizing it. Nevertheless, the fact that you sliced through the whole dummy like through butter still stands. It made me realize how much potential these tokens of yours possess. No wonder you are well-informed about Spellslingers. They are a perfect fit for you.”
“You are right. While the repertoire of spells I can use through the crystal sigils is great since I made a lot of effort to learn about those, a body out of flesh and blood does have its limits. I can’t activate many of them by hand or I would instantly lose that arm, at the very least. My spiritual circuits may be able to withstand that power, but everything else most likely won’t. I’d rather not melt my own arm with the spell I’ve shown earlier. And that’s where your craft comes to help. You’ve done an impeccable job with the engravings and even just with picking the material. I’m really impressed.”
Imadil showed a proud smile. “Of course she did. It’s only natural with how talented my daughter is. If only she wasn’t so opposed to putting more effort in creating real Spellslingers rather than that half-assed junk, her artifacts wouldn’t have an equal in the current age.”
“I’m not. Crafting. Another cataclysm-level weapon. Ever. Again.”
He chuckled hearing her cold reply. “We’ll see about that.”
“We’ll be lucky if that one won’t someday split this realm in half,” she continued after Imadil interrupted her. “Asterios is young, even for human standards. I can’t fathom how much stronger he will get in the future. And I’ve paved his path of destruction with my own two hands. My gods…”
“Well, even though it isn’t perfect, I kind of like this realm, so I don’t plan on extinguishing it anytime soon,” Asterios said jokingly. “With this, I can definitely feel a lot safer when letting my familiars split from me. Offensive spells are not all I can do with these crystals.”
Cynthia took a deep breath to compose herself and walked closer to him. “Good. If you can use something as strong as Phoenix’s Blaze then you surely can bring up a solid magical shield. Anyway, let’s continue the explanation. Remember when the remains of your token got launched out of the slot?”
She grabbed his arm and positioned it so that Asterios could glance into the hollow carved in the blade.
“There’s a small formation added around the walls and the bottom. It’s automated, but can also be activated manually, so make sure to try it out a few times later. When it’s triggered, it will generate a strong gust of pressurized air and perfectly clear the slot of any leftovers. Even if the crystal would melt, the hole is covered with a circuit that envelops it in a coating of mana so tiny that it's invisible to the naked eye, allowing for almost effortless cleaning. Feel that one out too. Now try it.”
As instructed, Asterios dove into his mind and found the two formations. He launched the pressurized air a few times to get a good grasp on it and examined the thin layer of spiritual energy with his senses, confirming that it was a superior version of what Miria usually did to her blades, but with the edges left untouched in this case. The flat sides of the weapon were covered by it too.
“There are some more utility functions hidden in this artifact, but I’ll leave the fun of discovering them to you. The most important ones are now all covered. I hope it serves you well.”
Asterios sheathed the black blade and bowed his head slightly. “Thank you for listening to my request. I promise to take good care of your creation.”
“I’m sure you will.”
“Now then, how much for it?”
Imadil and the girls joined them in the middle of the training field.
“Kindra already paid when you were gone,” he informed Asterios.
“I should have expected that…”
Selene chuckled softly after arriving at his side. “She’s such an amusing woman.”
Miria nodded. “Miss Kindra is so kind.”
“Anyway, what’s done is done.” Asterios sighed. “But, before we say our goodbyes, I would like to ask you two a question.”
“What is it about?” Imadil glanced at him.
“Do you know anyone proficient in Sealing Magic or something like that? I have a quite complex one to unravel and it’s really important to me right now.”
“A seal? You didn’t accidentally stumble on some ancient evil locked up by a great hero from the past and decided to fight it, did you? Was that why you wanted a Spellslinger?” Cynthia squinted her eyes at him.
“Of course not. If something like that is sealed then let it be sealed. I’m not a battle junkie. There’s nothing dangerous behind that seal. I think.”
“Well, I’m afraid that we won’t be of much help,” Imadil said. “There’s no one we can point you to currently. Things could have been different if we were keeping our contacts with the elven and Spellsong communities up, but we are quite on our own here.”
“That’s okay. You guys have already done plenty for me. If you ever need help with something, let me know. I’ll see what I can do.”
The three of them exchanged handshakes and Asterios left with his group by his side. Or above, in Umbra’s case. It felt a little weird to carry two thick gauntlets on his forearms but he’d have to get used to that from now. The amount of utility they provided was amazing.
On one hand—literally—he could say that he was a professional assassin with the possibilities the poisons, needles, and the hidden blade provided, while on the other hand, he was a swordmage with how the Spellslinger functioned.
For the next few days, Asterios roamed the city with the girls while asking around. They spent some time having fun together too as they didn’t really have that many chances of doing so recently and Asterios wanted to talk with Selene and Miria a bit more about the relationship the three of them now found themselves in.
While both of the girls were fine if he didn’t put too much thought into it and just continued acting like he usually did, Asterios insisted on talking some things out. He didn’t mind Miria and Selene accompanying him together at any time, be it just walking around, sleeping together, or sharing a more intimate moment, but he wanted them to receive some of his attention alone from time to time too.
They were happy to oblige and both of them promised that there wouldn’t be any issues with that. He was glad to hear that Miria was okay with it too since it meant that there would be a time where she was supposed to be the one away and the panthergirl was very clingy and affectionate with him. There was nothing he could notice through their bond that would hint at her forcing herself to accept this resolution.
And to test it out, they decided to have a date or two since their search for the sealing master was proving to be almost fruitless.
On the first day, Miria accompanied him around the city and they tried out a lot of cuisine from the region, spending time together by mostly eating and chatting. They walked hand-in-hand the whole time, which caused Miria’s cheeks to be tinged with rosiness for most of the day, but her blissfully dancing tail betrayed how happy she was with this tiny gesture.
Their date ended with a romantic ride under the sunset with Miria in her panther form. She enjoyed the affectionate pets while they slowly ran through the forest.
On the second day, it was Selene’s turn. She locked their arms from the very moment she had walked out of the crimson gate while tenderly smiling at Asterios. For most of the time, they visited various jewelry shops and businesses dealing with ornaments.
Encouraged by Asterios, she tried on various earrings, bracelets, or normal rings, all in her favorite colors, which were black, white, and sapphire blue. But, she was the happiest with the collar she had received before so Asterios picked a dark blue pin with a flowery design matching her dress and attached it to the black band. She couldn’t stop grazing it with her fingers for at least an hour later.
To wrap it up, Selene decided to also do something unique to her, and after extending her hand to Asterios, she led him up into the sky by walking the spiritual platforms like a stairway to heaven.
They stopped high above Tyrienheim and shared a glass of wine together while admiring the sight. Asterios was a little bit tense with just a thin transparent rectangle upholding them so high in the air, which allowed Selene to tease him a bit and then provide a relaxing massage.
Both Miria and Selene were happy after their respective time alone with Asterios and understood even better that they would definitely want more of it, now completely convinced that this idea of testing things out was truly worthwhile.
But, on the third day, they still went on a double date, altogether. Many men would scowl after seeing a young guy with two incredible beauties clinging to his sides. And even more men would pass the cafe where the trio was spending time together with a grimace on their faces from seeing how Asterios affectionately brushed the white-haired lady’s bushy tail with a pretty comb while having an adorable black-haired girl snuggle to him and rub her face into his neck; both with blissful expressions.
Only Asterios seemed to be aware of the intense glares he was receiving while the girls either pretended not to notice or were too focused on receiving his caresses. Either way, they had to switch places when even women started looking at him unfavorably for stealing their partners’ attention.
After just fooling around for the past three days, they decided to start training together until Kindra called for them as she promised. Umbra joined these sessions too, of course. Even though she experienced it a few times already, Miria still was amazed by how much progress she was able to make with Ast’s assistance, in the form of his spiritual essence.
They chose to practice more intense situations this time, knowing that they would have enough time to rest, and therefore, all four of them sparred with each other.
Naturally, Asterios accumulated the highest number of losses, which wasn’t anything surprising. The other three were significantly stronger when it came to direct combat, even without his support, while Asterios’ main strength relied on proper preparation and planning ahead. Even with his new, powerful weapon, he wasn’t going to change his style too much.
Amongst the other three, the scores were quite even, with Miria falling off a little bit from Selene and Umbra. She obviously got slightly dejected after realizing how much more versatile the other two were and Asterios had to spend some time cheering her up.
She didn’t sulk for long while receiving his passionate pats and kind words. And these weren’t just empty praises. He made sure to properly lay down Miria’s strengths over the other two in front of her, with the depth of the bond between him and her as the most powerful part. They could do things together that he’d have a hard time doing with the others. Their compatibility was really high.
Between Selene and Umbra, the latter one could be considered the victor of this evaluation. While both of them were very versatile with their techniques, and she was overall currently stronger than him thanks to the upgrade, Umbra still had way more experience fighting than her and it showed. His pretty much immaterial form that could shift all the time was a huge pain for her too.
Miria even joked that each next summon Asterios called seemed to be so much stronger than the previous ones and that he’d definitely reach a Dragon or other Ascended-tier entity if they continued like this. While he didn’t want to consider it anything other than a funny remark, it was actual proof that he was improving too. Or was just incredibly lucky.
Then, finally, after slightly over a week, Kindra brought up the topic of the seals during their breakfast together, with everyone present.
“I think we’ve done as much as we can already,” she started. “Mom and Dad tried their best to gather anything about this and we are now starting to run out of connections.”
“Did we manage to find someone good in the end?” Miria asked.
“There are a few people who dabble in seals that we’ve managed to reach. Before introducing them to you guys, we wanted to make sure that they are what we believe and sent out our people to confirm it. That’s why it took this long.”
“And? Anyone noteworthy?” Asterios glanced up from his plate.
“Unfortunately, many of them weren’t masters or even experts in the field, so we’ve excluded them from the list of potential candidates.”
“And how much did that narrow it down?”
“We ended up with… one…”
Asterios sighed. “That’s tough. Looks like they are as rare as I thought.”
“Does that mean the last one is a master then?” Selene asked.
“He’s at least an expert, that’s for sure. That man seems to be obsessed with seals for some reason and spent most of his life researching them. He also knows Sealing Magic, supposedly. I think that’s our best shot. I’m sorry, Asti.”
Asterios stood up and moved to his mother to hug her from behind. “Don’t be. You guys sure did a lot. You still found one more potential help than we did. So, any details?”
“We are not sure where he is currently located, but we managed to get a name. Radir Asgeir. One of the noble families we have decent relations with mentioned him and assured us that the man is someone skilled in this field. They, unfortunately, don’t have any means of contacting him since they only met him by accident, around sixteen years ago. But well, if you give us more time, we’ll try looking for him. What do you think?”
Not hearing any reply, Kindra turned her head to check on him and saw Asterios in deep thought.
“Hm? Ah, sorry. Do you know if that man is a demon?”
“Ummm… I think they did mention that. Why?”
Asterios sighed and returned to his chair. “Because I know that surname. And quite well at that.”
“Oh? You do?”
“Give me a second.” He closed his eyes.
~Hey, Grea, you free?~
~Greetings, Visitor. You have reached Grea’s brain. We confirm that the owner is currently not occupied with anything of high importance. Is there anything we should pass onto her?~
Asterios chuckled, making Kindra confused a little.
~Would you be so kind as to connect me with her?~
~Naturally. Please hold on for a moment. Bzzzzzzzzzzt. Yo. Watcha need man? Are you calling to, this time, warn me about another part of my body turning lava-hot? Say, can you maybe like, target a specific place? For science reasons.~
~Are you really that bored?~ Asterios shook his head internally.
~Eh. It was worse. Since my pussy is not turning any hotter, I’ll assume no as the answer to my question. So, whatcha need?~
~Really… Anyway. Does the name Radir ring any bells?~
~You bet your ass it does. That’s my old man. What shitstorm did he cause this time?~
~I knew it…~
~Oi. Care to tell me what he did? I swear, if he sealed another noble’s dick in a different dimension because the dude hit on a girl he found fancy…~
Somehow, Asterios could tell Grea wasn’t talking smack about her father and that hilarious situation must have actually taken place in the past.
~Wait… Seal… Didn’t you say that you have a seal on your memories the last time we spoke? Is this it?~
~As quick to catch on as always. Do you have any means to get in touch with him?~
~Uhhh. Nothing else besides letters. You want to meet him right?~
~That would be nice.~
~Well then. It doesn’t really matter if I have the means or not. He would never move his ass over here without something earth-shaking happening. And it would take months to convince him that your seal is worth his time. Therefore, the only option is to go after him.~
~Do you know his current location?~
~He was still in a certain city in the Demon Continent three months ago. That would be your best bet. As I said, he rarely switches bases, usually focused on the one thing he found until he manages to crack it. Anyway, we can talk more when you come back here. I have to give you a little something that will make him actually want to talk with you instead of treating you like air.~
~If it isn’t anything living, Umbra can fetch it from you. We are quite a bit distance apart.~
~Oh, come on. You could at least show yourself when an actual reason for that pops up. Especially after making me look after your girlfriend without even consulting it with me. She’s basically using me to forget about her loneliness! I don’t even have the time to get rid of my own loneliness properly now! Who do you think I am?! Your harem’s manager?!
Asterios smiled. ~I’m sorry. I didn’t think she would visit you that often. She didn’t seem that sociable.~
~Oh, fuck off. The fact that she had problems approaching you doesn’t mean that she was as awkward with everyone else. Ugh. You will have to travel in this direction anyway, so start rolling your ass over here. I will be so kind as not to spoil the surprise. I’m out. Peace.~
Asterios sighed after ending their conversation and opened his eyes.
“Looks like we’ve secured the means to get in touch with him. Thanks, Mom.”
“Eh? But how?”
“He’s the father of a professor at the academy that I’m familiar with. She’ll help us.”
Kindra nodded with a soft smile. “That’s good to know. But… Will you be fine returning there again?”
“Don’t worry, Miss Kindra! Master has us around! If anybody even tries to look funny at Master, we’ll get rid of him in an instant!” Miria exclaimed merrily.
“If you are worried about these nobles from before, my Lady, then fret not. We’ve properly shown them that my Lord is not someone they can easily trifle with and that we can pay them a visit again whenever they want, fufufu~” Selene added.
Asterios reached forward to place his hand over Kindra’s and smiled. “I’m fine. And certainly not alone, as you’ve heard. I’ll have Umbra check on you regularly too if you would want to speak with me.”
“Alright. I was just making sure. I hope you’ll find more answers. Ah. And don’t forget to visit Tina when you’ll be in Rosewind!”
He chuckled. “Not you too…”
“Nothing. I won’t.”
Afterward, they went out together and Asterios escorted Kindra to the mansion, where they split up. His group chose to run a quick check of their supplies before departing and spent some time around the markets and mercantile district.
They visited Truvi to let her know about their departure. Unfortunately, there weren’t any viable quests they could take on while traveling. Their luck wasn’t that good in that area recently.
With everything ready, they went to meet with Ast’s family and soon moved out. Selene returned to her realm while Asterios rode Miria alone to maximize her speed. They had to stay by the edge of the road to avoid accidentally spooking the others or any horses with how fast they were going. Moving through the trees would just slow them down.
Previously, they were traveling as a group, so Miria couldn’t really put her all into running, but this time, nothing was stopping her from showing Asterios how much she improved.
In just three days, she covered half of the distance. At that point, Asterios decided to see if he could maintain a supply of mana stable enough to hold Haste activated on her over a long period of time. Miria was thrilled to go even faster and instantly agreed to the suggestion.
As he expected, keeping the flow of energy matching the consumption, and the scale dictated by the effectiveness of the sigil, which in simpler words meant how much faster she could run under its effects, was incredibly taxing.
Before, he or his target would only uphold Haste on standby, activating it at short intervals, so it felt completely different. He could always just use Stride or similar spells that boosted the movement, but these were obviously way weaker than something like Haste.
In the end, Asterios could keep Haste on Miria for up to ten hours. But, he had to be completely focused on it while staying pretty vulnerable, unable to react as quickly as usual. Above that point, his control would get sloppy and make it impossible for Miria to run at a steady pace. With her speed jumping up and down at random times, it could easily make her trip.
Nevertheless, in these ten hours, they covered three-fourths of the remaining distance, which was an amazing achievement. Asterios ended up much more spent than her, mostly mentally, therefore they agreed that they would need to put a day of rest between Haste-boosted runs in the future.
The whole journey took them five days. Less than a half of what they had spent traveling the other way. In the past, he would never dream about riding a beast this fast. To others, they might have looked like a fast-moving smudge. Miria emanated an almost visible aura of pride and happiness after sensing his admiration, earning herself some affectionate rubs and even a compliment from Selene.
Since the time was shortly before afternoon, Asterios notified Grea about their arrival and she invited them to the academy, saying that she’d go and grab Tina too. Asked not to disturb her classes, the rowdy professor just snorted and said that with how well she was doing, it was a surprise they didn’t hold special graduation for her already and that as a professor, she could snatch any student away from a lecture while fully excusing them.
Ast’s group went through the same check-up as the last time they were trying to get in and were allowed to pass through without an issue. After learning that their destination was also the same, the escorting guard didn’t even bother to go with them to the very door and split from them halfway there, not wanting to experience Grea’s hospitality again.
Asterios knocked on the door to the workshop and waited.
“Go check the door, shortie. I have my hands busy.” He heard Grea’s voice from inside.
“I told you that I’m not even that short, Professor. It’s you who is so tall. And you are wiping the counter. How busy is that?” Another familiar tone resounded, this time coming from Tina.
“Busy enough to ask you to open the door. If I stop now, this stain will instantly start recovering. It’s not a normal stain. If I leave it be even for a second, it will grow and grow and grow and then the whole realm will be consumed. How do I know that? I made it, duh. So, unless you are ready to take the responsibility for that, be a good girl and check the damn door.”
“Ugh. Fine. Honestly, I have no idea why you have brought me here, Professor, if all that you’ve been doing for the past half an hour is rubbing the same spot with a piece of cloth. If this isn’t the reason behind tha—”
After opening the door, Tina froze, stopping mid-sentence. Asterios could only smile at her shocked expression.
His voice quickly brought her back from the stupor and Tina started to fidget a little.
“Uh… Ummm… I… Hi.”
He chuckled and plopped a hand on Tina’s head, failing to stop himself before doing it pretty much out of habit now. Seeing that she didn’t mind, even blushing a little, he patted it gently and entered inside. Tina followed by his side.
Asterios sighed after noticing Grea grinning at them. “Seriously? An evil stain aiming to take over the world? Couldn’t you come up with something better?”
“Oi. What the fuck else could I have said to her?”
“Don’t know. Tell her to go into one of the summoning chambers and hand her a complex structure to draw? She wouldn’t feel like you are just messing with her that way.”
“Ehhhhhhhh, fair point. I’ll use that next time.”
Asterios shook his head and moved his gaze to Tina, who was slightly blushing while looking up at him.
“I don’t mind Professor Grea messing with me if we can meet afterward…” she said quietly.
“Don’t let her rambunctious nature fool you. There’s a lot you can potentially learn from her. So, how are you doing recently?”
“I’m fine. You can start getting worried. I’m on a good path to getting my name carved in the obelisk.”
She giggled. “You are not even trying to hide it anymore. You really don’t care if you win. What if I lose my motivation now?”
“Do you still want that reward?” Asterios asked with a teasing smile, making Tina look away bashfully. “Then you better keep at it. If I win or lose was in your hands from the very beginning, wasn’t it?”
“Alright, lovebirds. Let’s get our asses seated instead of standing in the middle of nowhere,” Grea commented with a snort and started pushing them towards the resting section.
Seeing Tina get even redder, Asterios rolled his eyes at the older woman.
“Don’t tease her too much or I’ll send Umbra to you at a random hour in the night.”
“Oh fuck no…" Grea shuddered. "Wait. Hey. Hey. There’s that one dude that's been irritating as hell recently. Can you send your evil parrot after him? I’m paying in gold. Or body, if you are in for some thick demon ass.”
“No, thanks.” Asterios waved his hand dismissively, making his former professor groan.
“Where are the others?” Tina asked after they all plopped down onto either a sofa or a comfy armchair.
Miria and Selene walked out of the same portal shortly after her question and smiled at Tina. Since she was taking one of Ast’s sides this time, they sat around the two, with Miria at the remaining free spot, instantly snuggling to his arm. Umbra also materialized himself and perched on the backrest of the sofa.
“Alright. I won’t beat around the bush. I’ve trimmed it recently anyway, so it’s not like I can.” Asterios rolled his eyes again while Selene chuckled softly. Both Miria and Tina blushed a little. “My old man is kinda grumpy with strangers so you’ll have to show him this.”
She handed Asterios something that could be easily called a tribal necklace with a wooden locket. Inside, two sets of initials had been carved.
“That’s mine and his. There’s a fifty percent chance that he’ll think you are either my boyfriend whom I’ve sent to introduce to him and hug you to death, or that you’ve offed me, bringing this to trigger him, and he will also hug you to death but with even more passion. Yeah, the crazy runs in the family. No shit I can do about that.”
Asterios started rubbing his temples and sighed. He was lowkey expecting that, but he still had some hope.
“What’s this about?” Tina asked.
“Our little playboy is heading to the Demon Continent to find my old man for some reason. You already filled her in or nah?”
He decided to do it right now since he trusted Tina and shortly briefed her about what he knew, with the help of his familiars. There was always a chance that she would be able to help him somehow. She did come from a decently known noble family.
“I had no idea you had it so much worse…” Tina said in a somber voice after they finished.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll get to the end of it someday. Just focus on yourself for now.”
“Okay… But still—” Asterios glared at her ostentatiously, making Tina giggle. She raised her hand to stop him. “I meant to say that it takes almost two months to travel there, depending on where you are headed.”
“If you are worried about me not making it back for the ceremony, then you don’t need to. I made a promise and I will keep it. And nothing will stop me from doing so.”
“Okay…” Tina smiled softly while dropping down her gaze.
“Before I forget.” Asterios reached into one of his inner pockets and brought a folded piece of paper. “Would you mind checking if there’s anything about this script in the libraries?”
Grea received and opened it. “Damn. That looks kinda demonic. You need a translation?”
“No. Somehow, I can read it. It says ‘All will kneel before the true overlords’. I need any information on the script itself.”
“Seriously. You are a walking mystery of the century. If not the millennium. I’ll see what I can do and ask around.” Grea pocketed the item and glanced at Asterios. “Then, there’s only one more thing left to do.”
“Which is?” Miria asked curiously.
Asterios felt a tug on his arm and looked at Tina, blushing slightly while avoiding his eyes.
“Could you… do the same thing with me that you did with Professor?”