Finding the mortals that worked for the [Guides] on Geshwen had been a surprisingly easy task. While they did hide who they were — their organisation likely not accepted by the slaving despots — they apparently could not stop themselves from taking care of the people who were, by now, understandably confused.
That Aperio and Ferio simply appeared on the plaza currently holding the most [Guides] did not help this confusion. At least I remembered to add the feathers… Announcing her entrance that way seemed to somehow make the mortals less scared. Though, as many people present were [Guides], it was likely that they already knew who she was and that they had nothing to fear.
"Greetings," one of the mortals said as she bowed. "What brings your Grace here?"
"Has the [Grandmaster] told you what would happen today?" Aperio asked, motioning for the woman to cease her bow.
"Lady Videns has not told us the specific date, but we have been informed to expect this to happen." She gestured towards the various taverns that had been transformed. "We expected the free slaves to require our help, but even the ones we rescued ourselves disappeared after their collars ceased to function."
Ferio covered her mouth with her hand, trying and failing to suppress a giggle. "Mother collected them all and placed them in an abandoned city so they would be safe. She also put those who defected from the empire there. Separated, of course."
The All-Mother tilted her head at her daughter's words. Was Ferio trying to make it sound like she was incompetent on purpose? She furrowed her brows as a small flex of her mental muscles caused the mortals she had taken from this city to reappear alongside a small rain of black and blue feathers. "I trust that you will help them."
"Of course!" the woman replied, offering another bow and seemingly unfazed by the fact that Aperio had just teleported a couple hundred people to the exact locations they had been in before she had taken them. "That is our duty."
"Good," Aperio replied with a smile. More mortals should be like her.
Finding the other cities and villages the [Guides] had set up required Aperio to let her aura inform her of more things than she would usually be comfortable with, but the situation demanded it and she would do what she had to. To address the further confusion this second round of teleporting created, Aperio simply offered every freed slave another fake System notification that told them who the [Guides] were, and that they would offer help should it be wanted.
For those mortals that had been places without [Guides] present, Aperio chose to distribute them more or less evenly between the various locations that did, while trying her best to keep what appeared to be families and close-knit groups together. Now to hope they realise this was a one-off thing because I do not tolerate slavery…
"You are quite decisive today, Mother," Ferio said, stepping up next to Aperio. She hesitated for a moment before placing her hand on the All-Mother's shoulder. The difference in height and the fact that Aperio still wore a few bits and pieces of armour over her dress made the gesture quite awkward, but the sentiment was there nonetheless.
"This issue requires me to be direct. I do not want anyone to be able to twist my actions into something they desire." Aperio let out a sigh as she extended a wing to right the mortal who was still bowing. "And you do not need to bow all the time. I do not care for displays of respect, but actions that show me what you are."
"Understood," the woman replied, only nodding in reply now. Aperio still squinted at her, not sure if she actually understood or simply said that because she did not want to offend her.
Well, Aperio mused. This mortal is already leagues better than others. While the matter of bowing and other displays of subservience were still annoying, they were better than fear or the mindless reverence some mortals held for the divine. And they don't seem to mind Ferio at all.
That they did not comment much on her daughter was likely related to the bit of magic Ferio had covered herself with ever since the two of them had arrived in this city. Perhaps she should ask what kind of magic that was, but the thought of hiding herself was not one Aperio enjoyed. The people should see and accept her as she was. Wings and all.
She spread her feathered limbs as far as she could, taking care to not accidentally injure any of the mortals that had gathered. The action garnered the attention of most around her, but she did not care. With a light kick that still broke the stone, Aperio propelled herself upwards, letting her wings unfurl themselves to their full length as soon as they could.
The air brushed against her skin, pressing the fabric of her dress against her. It was freeing, and the note of calm it brought to her mind was something Aperio had sorely needed. She spread her arms as well, letting the armour that had adorned her chest, shoulders, and hips disappear back into her Void. The clouds that soon tried to dampen her clothes were ignored as Aperio closed her eyes.
Ferio had not followed her. Either she had noticed that Aperio wished to be alone for the moment or she had stayed behind to calm the mortals and fix the damage her rather sudden take off had caused. Whatever was the cause, Aperio extended a mental thanks to her daughter for bearing with her sudden escape.
The Goddess of Life and Light sounded remarkably happy in her reply, telling the All-Mother that she did not mind taking care of the mortals for a little while. Aperio offered her additional thanks for that as she propelled herself forward with a strong beat of her wings. This time her flight would not end in a violent explosion as she crashed into yet another fort, but hopefully with a clearer mind and less anger at the actions of the now effectively defunct Eternal Empire of Zeltar.
A thought caused more mana from her well to flow into her body, accelerating the never-ending process of strengthening it. At least I can hold back enough… While annoying, it was certainly a blessing that she was even able to live in a world where nothing could withstand even the tiniest fraction of her actual strength. And that's just physical force… Could push that even further, too.
She shook her head. Aperio had wanted to clear her mind, not fill it with thoughts about how she would likely never be able to simply relax when interacting with her creation. This was the opposite of what she had wanted to happen while soaring through the skies. Instead of dwelling on the issue, the All-Mother took a deep breath and propelled herself forwards as hard as she could.
There was a loud crack and the world around her transformed into streaks of colour that soon coalesced into a uniform mix of orange and yellow. The flames that formed around her body did not bother Aperio, their heat nowhere near enough to even singe the dress she had made. The All-Mother closed her eyes and simply let herself drift through the sky like this, letting go of the multitude of magics she had mostly unconsciously used to assist in her flight.
After a moment, she opened her eyes again and spread her wings, halting her forward momentum almost immediately and creating another loud crack. A ripple raced through the air surrounding her, disturbing the clouds.
A pungent smell hit her nose, almost like metal burning. She waved her hand and the world obeyed her desire for the bits and pieces that had irritated her nose to simply vanish. There was no need for physical reality to annoy her right now.
"Thousands dead…" Aperio mumbled to herself. "All because they could not let go of their vile ways." She let out a sigh. "Why?"
Had her old self made them this way? How much did she influence their evolution in the first place? At the moment, Aperio wanted nothing more than to be back with Caethya, simply holding her love and doing nothing, rather than have to ask herself these questions. Unfortunately, instead she had to deal with the mess she had made while clearing up the mess her previous self had allowed to fester long enough to warrant the amount of death she had wrought.
No matter how hard she tried, Aperio could not see why anyone would ever think it was a good idea to enslave another. She knew that both the people of the Inaru Empire and the Eternal Empire of Zeltar thought of themselves as better — deserving of rule. But she could not understand why.
Because it's what they were taught? Aperio asked herself as she let herself fall downwards. It was the only explanation that even vaguely made sense to her, but even then, it did not explain how this belief came into the world in the first place. The deities she had killed obviously furthered this, but even while they had been barred from Verenier, this way of thinking had still stuck around. Was prevalent, even…
Aperio let out a sigh and beat her wings again, holding herself just above the water that had been rapidly approaching moments before. She set herself down on a bit of solid mana she made and dipped her feet into the ocean. The people in charge of the Eternal Empire of Zeltar had been removed, and the slaves freed. Its military might no longer existed thanks to the rampage she had gone on, and they would take ages to rebuild. If they even remain as a single nation.
While they could not join Ebenlowe as another island — at least Aperio doubted they could — the All-Mother hoped that they would copy some of the ideas from them. Not the execution, though. As the 'trial' she had held in Ebenlowe showed, they still had a lot to work on on that front. But, they at least have the right idea on how to run a country. Probably.
Aperio herself did not know what was actually needed to keep a nation working, and neither did she want to learn. Figuring out how to keep the universe running and how to make the System useful again was a big enough task for now. She let out a sigh and let herself fall into the water, a touch of her magic keeping her from sinking.
"What now?" she mumbled to herself. On top of everything currently going on, she still had to help Moria with the [Ancestral Guard] and whatever they had been trying to do over the years. Helping Laelia with her church was also something she should definitely do. The Human had been basically on her own ever since Aperio had made her her Scion.
With another sigh and a touch of her magic, Aperio reached out to Laelia and Moria, taking extra care for the latter. The people of Geshwen would obviously still need her help, but she would rather do that from afar as she neither wanted nor needed more people that would devote their lives to her.
Laelia was the first to react to her mental communication, immediately asking if something was wrong and what she needed to do. The All-Mother could only offer a sad smile at her Scion's reaction and informed that she had not come to ask for help but to offer her own. Running a church for a Goddess who did not reply to prayers could not be easy. Even when Ferio said that she doesn't reply to most of them either.
Much to Aperio's surprise, Laelia told her that she had everything under control and currently did not require help. In her Scion's reply there was also something else, a small undercurrent of emotion that — to Aperio at least — suggested that Laelia saw the fact that Aperio had asked if she needed help as something bad. Correcting that assumption was the first thing the All-Mother did. Just because she offered her help did not mean she was unhappy with what had already been done.
As far as Aperio was concerned, the lack of complaints that had reached her was a sign that Laelia was doing a good job. She would have to look into what her Scion had done at one point or another, but that could still wait a moment longer. Might as well do that if I decide where to put my temple… The floating island still hung over Ebenlowe, as she still had no idea how to land it or if the people of the city even wanted it there.
The All-Mother shook her head and reached out to Moria again, this time a little more forcefully as she feared that the last time might have been dismissed as a stray thought by her surrogate mother.
As no reply came still, Aperio sat up again and furrowed her brows. She was about to let her aura inform her of anything happening on Solito when Moria's voice finally entered her mind. Even though no actual words were exchanged, Aperio could feel the agitation of her surrogate mother; an anger that easily spread to the All-Mother herself.
Aperio stood up, the water as solid as ground beneath her feet. The question of where her surrogate mother was was quickly answered and a thought twisted reality apart to deliver the All-Mother there. Another flex of her mental muscles conveyed a message and a tiny bit of her anger to her own daughter. She did not know what had happened yet, but she did know what she would do next.