Chapter 6—Making Plans
Bee-bee-beep. Bee-bee-beep. Bee-bee-beep.
I opened my eyes with a groan, sitting up. Noa curled against me, covering her ears with her palms. "What's that noise?" She asked plaintively, cracking open a single eye.
"Alarm." Archer mumbled, sitting up as well. "Ko. Shut it off."
I nodded, dismissing the noise. "Sorry, didn't know it would wake you too. First time using that Spell."
Archer yawned, stretching. "Why did you want to get up so early, anyway?"
I reached out to brush a strand of hair from her face. "A surprise for Noa."
The beautiful Nature Spirit opened her eyes more fully, pulling the covers over her naked form. "A surprise?" She blinked up at me. "What is it?"
I chuckled, booping her on the nose. "If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise, now would it?"
"Ah." She considered for a moment. "I don't like surprises. They make me get out of bed."
Archer rolled her eyes, slipping out of bed and beginning to get dressed. "But if you don't get out of bed, who will eat your breakfast?"
That did the trick. "Food?"
"Yep. It'll take a few minutes to cook, so go ahead and stay in bed for a bit. But if you go back to sleep, you'll miss the surprise and breakfast."
Noa nodded seriously, reaching out to wrap her arms around me. Her uncovered breasts enveloped my side, pressing pleasantly against my skin. I could feel her nipples, slowly hardening from the cool air. "Mmm. I won't miss it."
I gave Archer a mock panicked look. "Help! I'm being held captive!"
She rolled her eyes, a fond smile quirking her lips. "I'm sure you'll survive. Noa, feel free to enjoy him while I'm gone."
The Archdemon turned and walked out the door, hips swaying as she pulled it shut behind her. Noa hummed happily, shifting so she was perched on my chest with her face only centimeters from mine. I raised an eyebrow. "Good morning."
"Good morning." She blinked. "Can you have sex with me?"
I felt my lips twitch into a smile at her bluntness. "I would love to. Any real reason why?"
She tilted her head. "Sex is the best way to transfer Mana, and if we're going somewhere, I need to store enough to leave my Tree."
"I see." I wrapped my arms gently around her. "Would you like me to be rough?"
Her cheeks pinked. "Yes. It feels better that way."
"All right, then." I flipped her on her back, positioning myself over her. "Let's give you enough Mana to last the day."
"Wow, Noa." Archer's lips were held in a small smirk. "You're becoming quite the dirty girl. Any more lust coming from up there and I'd already be full."
Noa flushed, still leaning against me. "Not my fault." She mumbled. "Your venom is still working."
"Oh, no. My venom works for only a few hours on humans, it'd work for less than half that for Nature Spirits. That was all you, Noa."
Noa's cheeks only got brighter red. "M-Mana transfer." She stated. "I needed more Mana for today."
"Honestly I'm a bit impressed." Archer continued, turning to set the table. "I've barely had to do a thing. I think little Noa's getting addicted to Mana transfer."
Noa said nothing, studiously avoiding my gaze. I snickered, pulling out a chair and reaching to pile eggs and bacon onto my plate. "Sorry for not getting anything for you, love. I just found a golden opportunity and couldn't resist giving it to Noa. I'll have to find you something too to make it even."
Archer blushed faintly, taking a seat. "It's not an issue. I don't need elaborate gifts to be happy, you've given me too much as it is. Just spend a day with us sometime, we can go have a picnic in the outside world."
I nodded, thinking it over. "I'm sure there's a nice spot near Carne Village we could go to. Plenty of sunshine there, some trees for Noa."
"We'll have to wait for some nice weather." Archer mused. "It's been quite cloudy lately."
Noa blinked once, lowering her fork. "Can't we just use [Control Weather]?"
Archer sighed, a small frown crossing her face. "No, Noa. It's… it's a human thing. I don't like relying on Magic for something that we could get by waiting a few days."
"But if Archer-nee wants something now, why doesn't she just go and get it?"
I shrank slightly under Archer's glare. "What?"
"You spoil her too much."
"We spoil her too much." I corrected. "Don't you dare try to pin this all on me. I'm usually only here half the day, and I suspect that her 'beloved nee-sama' has been coddling her just as badly as I have."
Noa nodded shamelessly. "Nee-sama loves spending time with me. She braids my hair and tries to show me how to cook."
I resisted the urge to snort. "I can imagine how well that goes."
"I set the drapes on fire." Noa paused. "It was an accident."
"I'm sure it was." I agreed. "I'm more surprised Archer tried in the first place."
Said Archdemon raised a sheepish hand. "In my defense, she asked if she could help me."
"Mmm." I nodded sagely. "And even knowing that Noa is hopeless with technology, you gave her what she wanted."
"Yep. I'm totally the one who spoils her."
I took that as a victory, returning to my meal. Noa finished first and was immediately on her feet, tugging my sleeve with an expectant look. I chuckled to myself at my childish mate's antics, finishing my food and picking up our plates. Archer rolled her eyes as Noa's attention turned to her, but still finished off her hefty portion in record time.
"Let's go." Noa grabbed ahold of Archer's arm, tugging her along. "We're all ready now."
"Will I need my bow?" Archer asked, ignoring the Nature Spirit.
"Not to my knowledge." I reached out to ruffle Noa's hair, hand passing through the violet halo like the light show it was. "You can always just Trace your own if worst comes to worst."
Archer grimaced. "Keep in mind, no matter how good the bow I choose is, it's always going to be one rank less than the original."
I gave her a smirk. "Well, if you were to wear your ring…"
Instantly, the dark-skinned Archdemon's cheeks lit up. "I-in public?"
Noa blinked, turning to look. "Ring? What ring?"
Archer huffed, shaking off her blush. "Fine. You're right, the benefits outweigh the gains as long as we aren't going out anywhere public." She shot me an inquisitive glance, unasked question hanging in the air.
"We're not. At least, not anywhere that would recognize the ring as valuable."
Archer took this as confirmation, reaching into her pocket to don the ring that would allow her to access my Inventory. Her bow remained on the wall where it normally was, but there was a Mirrored copy that I kept in my Inventory at all times in case the original broke unexpectedly. In an emergency she would be able to pull it out in a heartbeat.
"Uaah." Noa pulled Archer's hand close, examining the bejeweled ring. Her toneless voice held a hint of interest. "It's pretty."
My lips quirked. "I have one for you too once I know you won't lose it."
She nodded firmly. "I'll try to stop losing things."
Truth be told, the Nature Spirit couldn't help her habit. She went incorporeal so often it was hard for her to remember to take anything new with her. Things she lost were simple to find, but the problem remained. Perhaps if she weren't so absent-minded she would remember more easily, but I wasn't holding my breath on that one.
"All right, Ko." Archer reached out to take my hand. "We're ready whenever."
"[Greater Teleportation]." I chanted.
Our surroundings flashed, changing in an instant. White walls became towering trees, ruins of various buildings still woven in their roots. I made sure that we were in a less forested area this time, further away from the main city. Still, the sheer number of trees was mind-boggling.
"What is this place?" Noa asked, releasing my hand to step away.
I smiled. "A whole forest of sleeping Hamadryads. Would you like to wake them up?"
She didn't reply. Instead, she raised a single hand and an invisible pulse rippled out from her. The dappled sunlight peeking through the branches shone down on her in a natural spotlight, setting her pink hair aglow. Her violet halo glowed, unhidden by any interference.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the trees around us creaked and groaned. Then the first Hamadryads revealed themselves, stepping out of their trees to look at us.
Archer's arms locked around my arm, her eyes hidden in shadow. A deadly aura surrounded her, and I could hear a low growl from deep in her chest.
I could understand why her instincts hated them so much. The Hamadryads were beautiful. Male and female alike were exquisitely detailed, as if someone had drawn them straight from a painting. Their clothes were light and airy, showing a great deal of skin while somehow hiding everything that mattered. Their hair was every shade of green you'd ever seen, matching the color of their trees' leaves.
"Down, girl." I murmured, leaning down to kiss Archer on the forehead. "They're not even looking at me."
She growled. "If one of them so much as touches you, I will eviscerate them in the most painful way possible."
I rolled my eyes, wrapping my arms around her. "Oh, calm down. None of them are my Maidens, are they?"
She continued to growl threateningly, wings slipping out to curl around me. Her tail wrapped around my wrist, and her grip tightened on mine. "Then it shouldn't be a problem for them to stay the fuck away."
A silent cacophony of hums echoed through the clearing, unintelligible noises just below the audible spectrum. I could hear it faintly with my sharpened senses, and Archer could evidently hear it as well judging by her odd expression. Noa replied in the same language, the start of a conversation that lasted quite a while.
Archer gradually calmed as it became evident that the Hamadryads were more interested in Noa than me, though she solidly refused to release her hold on me. The Archdemon's possessiveness would've been almost adorable if not for the uncomfortable position it put me in. My movement was limited, as was my field of vision. Her horns were poking into me whenever she turned to look at something else, only adding to the situation.
I glanced behind me at one of the trees, a thought occurring. If these things comprehended language… "Hey, would you mind giving us something to sit on?"
To my surprise, a large root moved to poke out of the ground before punching back in, creating an arched benchlike seat about half a meter off the ground. "Er… thank you." I told it, stepping back to sit down.
Waiting was a lot more comfortable after that.
Archer gradually settled down, snuggling into my side and closing her eyes. I could tell she was still awake due to her gently swaying tail, but at least she was no longer actively blasting the forest at large with murderous intent. I took it as a victory and began running my fingers through her hair in soothing motions.
"Ko?" Noa's confused voice made me look up. She was standing uncertainly in front of me, surrounded by a crowd of Hamadryads. "Am I a goddess?"
I blinked. "…Very technically, yes."
"Ah." She turned and said something. Instantly, the entire clearing knelt.
"Do I want to know?" I asked drily.
She shook her head. "They wanted to know if I'm a goddess."
"L-lovely." I felt Archer shake with silent laughter. "Congratulations on your new cult."
My lips twitched. "Noa, you do know that these people are your responsibility now, right?"
She blinked once. "…Ah."
"If you're going to be their goddess, you'll have to visit frequently, teach them how to live, and even appoint a ruler if you decide they need one." I continued. "It shouldn't be much of a problem once we get the routine down, but until then it will be a lot of work."
The Nature Spirit frowned, visibly considering. "…I can keep them?"
"Of course." I smiled at her. "As long as you take care of them and visit every now and then, I think it'll be a wonderful learning experience for you."
"Un." She nodded once. "Thank you."
"Not a problem, Noa. Immortals like us need long-term projects to keep us sane through the years, and this one is as good as any."
"…Can I lean on you now? Archer-nee looks comfortable."
I sighed. "Noa, finish one thing before moving on to another."
The Divine Spirit tilted her head, turning to look at the kneeling Hamadryads. "How am I supposed to do that?"
I thought for a moment, considering. "Well… you could ask them where a safe location is. Tell them that you're willing to place a fragment of yourself among them as long as they guard it well."
Noa spoke, her soft voice flowing into the words of the odd language. One of the taller Hamadryads rose, bowing low, and replied. Noa blinked once. "He says there is a place."
My lips twitched. "Fantastic. Have them lead you there. We'll follow behind."
She nodded, speaking to them once more.
"Are you sure you should be encouraging this?" Archer sighed. "If she gets into this, I just know I'm getting dragged in as well."
"Oh, I'm counting on it." I agreed.
"What, is this your idea of entertainment?"
My smile died.
"Immortality can be a draining thing, Archer." I said softly, leaning back against a broken stone wall. "Even more so if you have no hobbies to entertain yourself with. This land can become something great if we stand back and guide it gently." I shrugged. "More than that, I believe it could be a learning experience for you two. A crash course in living forever."
"In case you haven't noticed, I've been immortal for quite some time." She deadpanned.
I snorted. "You've been an ageless warrior. That's something very different. The battlefield is simple—just kill whatever's standing in your way. Time seems to rush by, one battle blending seamlessly into the next. Real life is harder. You have to plan ahead, look several decades into the future before making a decision."
"And you're trying to teach us to do that… by giving us a kingdom?" Archer asked incredulously. "That seems like a terrible idea."
"You spent your human life fixing radiators and strengthening pipes." I countered. "Then, in the course of ten days, you taught yourself an entirely new branch of magecraft and used it to fight several Heroic Spirits to a standstill. Why? Because you suddenly had very real consequences for your actions."
"These are real people!" She protested.
"Yes." I agreed. "They are. Real, living, breathing people. And Noa's going to act as their goddess." I shrugged. "Or their version of Satan. Up to her, really."
"…You're actually serious." She finally whispered. "You're actually doing this."
I nodded, dropping the smile. "I am deadly serious." I gestured around us. "This, here, is a brand-new kingdom. It's in its' beginning stages, yet, but it's here. There are humans, Demihumans, animals, monsters. It's up to you to figure out how to lead them, to teach them to live in harmony." I paused. "Or just get them to slaughter each other. That works too."
"But, what if we fail? What if we mess up?"
I shrugged. "Then I'll step in to help you fix it. You won't learn without a few mistakes, after all."
"Ko!" She pointed vaguely out into the distance. "You're talking like these people are just puppets!"
I blinked at her. A wry smile tugged at my lips. "Welcome to immortality, doll." I said quietly. "Enjoy the gift basket of general apathy and endless existential grief. Play nicely with the little toys around you, because they break very easily."
I waved at the forest around us. "Feel free to treat each and every one of these people as a special snowflake to be loved and cherished. But when you start doing that, you'll quickly find yourself going mad with loss. They're mayflies, Archer. Momentary specs in the cosmos. And honestly, the sooner you accept that, the better."
Archer fell silent. "Have you… have you ever done something like this?"
"Built a kingdom from nothingness?" My lips curled. "What do you think YGGDRASIL was? Ask Rubedo or Whisper sometime, learn what I did to forge the world you came to know. The Heavens are fair—every being enters the world the same. From nothing, as nothing. I became a mortal—born a child, grew to adulthood. I was human, but I think you know full well exactly how much I care for 'normal' behavior." I clenched my hand into a fist. "Weapons were fragile, brittle. Too weak to hold my strength. So I beat the shit out of everything I faced with nothing but my strength and skill. It wasn't until I reached the limit of humanity and forced the Heavens to acknowledge my might that they allowed me to regain my immortality."
I flexed my hand, rippling scars flickering in the light. "I formed my kingdom by example—I fought until my bones shattered, shredding my flesh. I fought until my entire body was covered in scars. I fought until none could deny my might. I proved it was possible to take power from the Heavens. Then I just sat back and watched." My lips curled. "You could do that, if you want. Set an example in the sky for them to look up at and challenge. It was because I fought that people tried to match me, sharpening themselves until they, too, reached the very limits of possibility. You could pull a Merlin, put a sword in a stone for them to pull free. It's all up to you, Archer; do whatever you feel fits you best."
"Rubedo said there was a war." Archer said quietly.
"When the World Tree was first set ablaze, yes. For life, for freedom, for greed." I agreed. "As the Worlds diminished, everyone sought to take refuge in the ones they believed to be the safest. When it was down to the last nine, all the survivors of ten thousand Worlds collided at once in an attempt to reign supreme."
I was bullshitting, now, but I had gathered enough information on my own to make vague statements.
"Think about it." I continued. "When I brought you into this world, there were more Races than could have possibly developed naturally. Creatures from every possible environment, from every possible era, all taking refuge in the last nine Leaves. And, of course, everyone believed that they had the sovereign right to rule over everything that was left."
"You don't need to tell me everything." She said. "I haven't, not about my past."
A sigh escaped me.
"Dragon-sama?" Noa's voice sounded in my ear.
"Hmm?" I raised a hand, surprised she'd thought to use Message. Normally she'd just raise her voice. "Yes, Noa?"
"These ones want my help with things." She said.
I nodded slowly. "What kind of help?"
"The kind that I can give. I don't know, how long it'll take."
I smiled. "That's all right. You have the Teleport Ring, right?"
"Then stay as long as you like." I said. "Do you need Archer to stay with you?"
"No. I'll be busy. Have fun with Archer-nee."
I nodded. "All right. I'll send Sebas out instead, then. Is that okay?"
"Sebas is nice."
"All right. Are you sure you don't want one of us to stay?"
"No. Have fun. I want to do this on my own."
I smiled to myself, ending the Message, then glanced at Archer. "We have the day to ourselves, apparently."
Archer blinked once, then smirked. Her tail coiled around my ankle.
"I don't suppose you'd mind breakfast in bed?" She asked sweetly.
I sighed, snuggling Archer close. She opened an eye, peering up at me.
"Is there something wrong?" She asked softly.
"Not wrong, per se, just… different." I shrugged. "Believe me, I love the peace and quiet of home life, it's just… not really what I'm used to."
She smiled, shifting her position so she could more easily converse. "I know the feeling." She didn't even bother covering her bare form as she propped herself up on an elbow, creating a tantalizing sight. "Sex is amazing, but… it's not all there is to life. My biological clock has a few decades left before I'm ready to conceive, and Noa wouldn't have a clue what to do with a child if she had one."
"We are having children, though." I checked.
She nodded, smiling. "I've wanted them ever since we first started dating. You would be a wonderful father."
I snorted. 'Oh, yes. I would pass down the fine art of lying so instinctively and smoothly that one might as well be a sociopath. I'm sure they'll get lots of use out of it.' "Not sure what a Dragon-slash-Lust Archdemon hybrid would make." I said instead, pulling a thoughtful expression. "Male or female, it seems incredibly dangerous to the general population."
Archer blinked, then paled slightly. "Oh, God. An Archdemon with your endurance?"
She shuddered, leaning forward into my embrace. "They would be a nightmare to raise."
"But worth it."
Her smile returned. "Undoubtedly worth it." She fell silent for a time. "What do you say we go adventuring again?"
I raised an eyebrow. "I seriously doubt we'll meet anything worth fighting."
"No, no… just traveling around, exploring the world." She curled into my arms, tail laid lazily across the bed. "Make maps, explore the continents. Learn more about the world we're in. Firsthand. Shabti were nice when we weren't sure what to expect, but now I want to do something outside of our home."
I nodded slowly. "That would work quite well, actually. Not just to explore, though. I was thinking of taking clippings of Noa's tree and planting them everywhere we can. That way, if her original tree ever dies or we're forced to seal it into another dimension, she can just hop over to one of the other ones."
Archer smiled. "We would need to take Noa on this adventure with us, of course."
"Of course." I agreed, hiding a smile of my own. "We would need her approval to plant the clippings. They are parts of her, after all."
"And you just so happen to have found a starting location where her sapling would be protected and even worshipped." She went on.
"It seems highly coincidental." I agreed innocently.
"…You already have a teleport gate set up in the mansion, don't you?"
I smirked. "Guilty as charged."
I chuckled. "I had a plan of my own, a way to justify our plan to Demiurge. If we could set up a series of Waypoints, like back in YGGDRASIL, then we could start a centralized method of transportation for Nazarick. Rubedo already made the framework for the new teleport network, all we need to do is put the markers in safe places." I raised an eyebrow. "And if a fragment of the World Tree were to deflect outside Magic away from the markers, they would be completely undetectable, no?"
Archer rolled her eyes. "You do realize you could have just told Demiurge we were leaving, right? You control him, not the other way around."
I blinked, feeling momentarily sheepish. "…He reminds me too much of Ulbert." I mumbled. "Asshole would actually hunt me down if I didn't give him a good excuse for what I was doing. Guess it's just force of habit."
Archer's lips twitched. "If memory serves, he was right to do so. Every time he left you alone, you wound up discovering and exploiting a flaw in reality."
I shook my head, sighing. "Well, whatever. We really should have a transport system, and this way we hit two birds with one stone. Rubedo already knows, so it won't be too hard to convince the others. Call it a crash test, if you will—we'll still be only a step away if things go wrong, but we'll be out of contact otherwise."
"Not right away, I assume."
I shook my head. "Not in the least. Still, I figured you'd want to adventure around one of these days, so I made the arrangements."
Her lips curved into a smile. "You know me so well."
There was a knock at the door. Archer blinked, sitting up. Noa would've just walked through the wall or barged in without a word, so it definitely wasn't her.
"Who is it?" She called.
"Ah… my lord, is there anything you needed me to do?"
I blinked once. "Ah, right. Fuck. Forgot about that. I'll be down in a bit, could you wait in the living room?"
"Of course, my lord."
Archer nodded after a moment. "She's gone." Her cheeks pinked. "Not sure how I missed her, guess I was distracted."
"I'm distracting, now, am I?"
"Perpetually." She sighed, leaning over and stealing a quick kiss. "I should probably leave you two to it. I'd only get in the way." She smirked. "Just call me in if you decide to seduce her, mmkay?"
"Wait, hold up." I raised a hand. "She might be Chagama's daughter, but she isn't Chagama. Aura's her own person."
"Who totally has a crush on you." Archer said flatly.
I held up my hands. "Hey, you can't fault her for good taste."
"Ko, be serious."
I rolled my eyes, relenting. "To tell the truth, I'm not entirely sure what to do with that." I admitted with a sigh. "Hence why I've left it alone."
"Dragons have as many mates as they need." Archer tilted her head. "Just take her in, too."
I gave her a flat look. "What, you think I'm going to build a fucking harem without letting you have a say in it?"
She smirked. "Oh, if I weren't all right sharing you with others, would I be the one to suggest it?"
Well, yes. Frankly, I programmed you to think that way.
"I seem to recall you growling at a bunch of Hamadryads not too long ago."
"That was different." She dismissed. "I was keeping hussies away from my man. Aura has had the most adorable crush on you since long before we left the Old World."
I raised an eyebrow. "So, what, now we're letting anyone from the Old World in?"
"I never said that." Archer frowned. "What's your problem? I didn't think you'd be so against having another girl in your nest."
"Another mate." I corrected, tone softening. "Archer… Dragons aren't like humans. Humans are 'passing' existences. All things pass for them. Emotions, memories, even their own bodies pass eventually. Dragons are 'eternal'. We have no set life span, no expiration date. And when we feel something for someone, it's something we'll carry with us for the rest of our lives. That is what it means to be my Maiden, Archer… I will love you for the rest of time, and no one will ever be able to replace you."
"With you, it was a gradual thing. We nurtured love over the course of many years, helping those feeling grow together. I was yours and you were mine. Even apart, we had something special enough for you to pick a fight with Bukubukuchagama over."
"It wasn't picking a fight." Archer's cheeks puffed out. "We were love rivals."
I rolled my eyes, smiling. "Yet when Noa joined, we both fell in love with her at once. She was the missing piece we never knew we needed, a part of our little family that can never be replaced. It wasn't a rivalry, it was another love, one we both nurtured together. When it grew, when she grew, we held her close and made her ours."
"Because Noa was adorable as fuck." Archer said, shrugging. "I couldn't ever see her as a threat."
"My point," I said, raising an eyebrow, "is that Aura has a crush on me, but it's nothing like what we had. Any love we build would be bordering on worship for her. With you, with Noa, we all built our love from nothing and made something special of it through trial and hardship."
"So we do the same with Aura." Archer smiled, reaching up to cup my cheek. "It's all right if you don't want to, I can't force you to love anyone. You're right, we can't approach her as we've done before… but that doesn't mean we can't do it at all. Aura is a good girl, she deserves a chance at happiness. I think we both know that she's not likely to ever stop chasing you, so we may as well give it a chance."
"I'm more shocked you're considering this at all." I admitted. "You were ready to tear Chagama apart on several occasions, and you were acting the same towards those ladies earlier."
"Chagama and I are both natural predators." Archer said, frowning. "That's part of it, at least… that and her unilaterally declaring herself your Maiden definitely pissed me off."
…Okay, a lot to dissect there. "Predators?"
"Yeah." Her tail rose, the arrowhead pointing straight down for emphasis. "I'm a Lust Archdemon, a being evolved to conceive powerful children. Functionally speaking, my Race exists to create armies of Demons. Males and females alike, we're specialized for reproduction."
I blinked. "…Okay?"
She laughed at my expression. "What did you think we were for?" She teased. "Wild Lust Archdemons, unmated ones, that is, seek out powerful beings in order to reproduce with them. In my world, the first one created eventually mated with Lucifer, giving birth to every Demon in Hell. When I became an Archdemon, my instincts weren't so bad because I already had a powerful male capable of…"
And there was the cute blush I had been expecting.
"…A-anyway, once we're Mated, we spend ten years or so developing the right equipment. We gain the ability to breed specifically with our chosen partner, and from then on we become highly fertile." She cleared her throat. "I mean, highly highly fertile. And since the gestation period for Demons is about a month—"
"Wait." I cut in. "A month?"
She nodded. "There are Racial Skills that can cut down that time even further… but the cost for those are paid by lowering the intelligence or capabilities of the child."
"Right." I nodded. "Interesting but a bit out of the way of the point."
"Right. Sorry." She shook her head. "I spent a lot of time researching to rationalize my hatred of that pink—of Bukubukuchagama. The main issue is that we're both Mother Races; I'm a Lust Archdemon, she's a Ubbo-Sathla. Her kind is like mine, just for slimes. They find a powerful male and reproduce with them until there are hundreds of tiny slimes."
I blinked, searching my memories for a moment. If I recalled correctly, Chagama's base Race was 'Redeem Slime', but she did have 5 Race Levels in Ubbo-Sathla for the Duplication ability it granted.
"Interesting." Was all I said. "For now, let's just focus on what's at hand. What should we do about Aura?"
"…Take things slow, I guess." She brushed back her hair. "I see your point on where things stand… I guess I just got hung up on having someone new. Her Lust tastes incredible, and I can't wait to see what those legs are like in bed. Just, if you feel the tug, don't fight it. Let it happen."
"Should I be concerned that my wife is looking so intently at other women?" I teased.
"Only if you feel insecure." She shot back, rolling her eyes. "I could start wearing one of those outfits that shows off my Crest if you like?"
"Fine, fine, no need to bite my head off." I drawled. "I'll have her run your normal perimeter checks for now, is that good?"
She nodded, reaching over to snag a book off the nightstand. "I'll be waiting."
I slipped out of bed and tugged on clothes. Descended the stairs.
Best check on Noa too while I was at it…
"Your scent is beginning to change." I murmured into Archer's ear, snaking an arm around her waist as I slid into bed. "Used to be steel and burning firewood… now it's candlesmoke and silk."
"Mmm." She leaned into me, nuzzling into my neck. Her book was brushed aside, forgotten. "What do you think it means?"
"I think it means you're caring less and less about your humanity." I reached up, running a finger along one of her horns. "Caring less and less about what these mean."
"I think you're right." She purred, sliding a hand down my chest.
"And why might that be?"
"Because whatever I once was… I'm yours, now." Her tail slid into view, resting across her lap. "Yours… to do whatever you please with."
"Candlesmoke and silk." I mused. "Lust Magic. You haven't been practicing anything else lately, have you?"
She shook her head. "Haven't needed to. All my free time has been taken up with other matters."
"Hmm." I turned to face her, looking her directly in the eye. "Archer… look at me."
She blinked, surprised by my sudden change in tone. "What?"
"Do you know why I fell in love with you?"
She shook her head, face losing its playful expression.
"Well…" I reached up, cupping her face in my hands. "I saw a girl who walked through hell. Who stood in the center of a burning world and still stood tall. I saw a girl who was stained by the blood of a thousand worlds… yet still remained completely innocent."
She smiled slightly, leaning against my hand.
"I saw hope in a girl who was an innocent idealist, and I fell for everything you became after I saved you." I pressed my forehead against hers. "Every sarcastic quip, every bit of personality, every tiny piece of yourself that you shyly offered to me. You're changing now, I know, and I'm fine with that. But I don't want you to become less." I pressed a kiss to her lips, a brief show of love. "Sex is just as addicting as heroin for your kind, and I don't want to lose Archer to a starving Archdemon."
"I'm fine." She protested, brow creasing.
"You are now." I agreed. "But that could change quite easily. I'm not telling you never to change, I love that you're so willing to become who you want to be. You aren't shy, but I don't care. You're more open now, more willing to tell me what you think, what you feel, what you love. But I think the list of what you love is slowly shrinking."
"It's not." She denied. "It's not at all."
"Oh?" I pressed another kiss to her lips, shorter this time. "Name me a few things, then."
"You." She said. "Noa. My job. Spending time with some of the other girls. Teaching the younger Servants how to fight." Her lips twitched into a smile. "And sex."
"Of course." I returned her smile. "Now tell me… how much time have you spent with Noa in the past week?" Her smile flickered. "How about your job? Or visiting the other female Servants? Tell me, how is Innocence doing with Momonga's disappearance?"
"Mmm. Now tell me, how much of the past week have you spent either in bed with me or planning to get in bed with me?"
Her smile was gone, now.
"I'm glad that you love sex, Archer." I brushed my thumb along her cheekbone. "I love sex too. But I don't want sex to become all you love. So I want you to promise me something."
"Promise me that no matter how much you change, you won't ever let just one thing define you. Not sex, not your ideals, not your job. You're Archer, the beautiful woman I fell in love with, not a starving Succubus serving a Dragon."
"Can't I be both?" She whispered. "Because right now, I really want to be riding you."
"And there's nothing wrong with that in the least. As long as you do other things besides that with your life." I kissed her one last time, pulling away. "I'm not blueballing you, God knows I want to fuck you into the mattress right now. I'm just asking that tomorrow you take a break, go remind yourself what you love. You're my Mate, not my sex slave."
She smiled, a slow seductive expression that promised a naughty idea. "My darling…" She purred. "With my kind… there's no difference at all."
Archer grumpily poked at her food, her tail lashing behind her. Noa smiled faintly, munching on a piece of bacon.
"What are you so happy about?" Archer snapped, glaring. "He refused to touch you, either."
"Yep." She reached for another piece. "But I'm not the one who didn't get her morning blowjob in."
"Morning—" Archer spluttered. "What are you talking about?"
"Every morning, you wake up, feel his morning wood, and want to get a taste." Noa stated. "And then he fucks us both. It feels amazing, and no one complains. But without your morning fix, you get grumpy."
"Do—" Archer stopped, exhaling. "…Never mind. I'm going out. I'll be back by dinner, don't burn the house down."
She stormed out of the room, leaving her empty plate behind. The door slammed shut, and I could sense the activation of a Guild Ring.
"…Can you fuck me now?" Noa asked, lowering her bacon. "That was the plan, right? Because I'm not wearing any panties."
I chuckled, pushing away my plate. "Archer needs to have a bit of time to figure things out… but that's no reason to make you suffer."
"Good. The bed or on the table?"
"How far you want to walk."
"…Bed. The table would break."
"Fair enough." I stood, taking her by the hand. "Any preference?"
"Do it as rough as you can." She smiled, eyes gleaming. "I wanna have fun."
I pressed a kiss to Noa's forehead, finishing the last of the cleaning spells. A pillow was left in the unconscious girl's arms. I would've loved to cuddle, but spending the entire day neglecting one of my mates just felt wrong. Especially when one was clearly upset.
"Aura." I greeted as I stepped out of our bedroom door. She froze, midway through rubbing sleep out of her eyes.
"A-ah, my lord, good morning." She greeted.
"You missed breakfast." I said. "Don't worry, we'll wake you in the future. We left some French toast and syrup on the table for you, there's a toaster on the countertop if you know how to use it." I ran a hand through my hair. "I'll be needing your help with something a bit later. For now, just watch the house and don't let Noa try to use anything with more than one moving part."
She nodded once. "Understood. How does a 'toaster' work?"
"I'll show you." I descended the steps, heading over to the kitchen. "Put the bread in this slot here, and turn it to the level you want. The lower number on the dial means less brown. The higher means its very well-crisped."
"Okay." She nodded once. She looked a bit like an awkward bobblehead with all the nodding she was doing. "Thank you."
"Not a problem. Have a nice breakfast, I'll be back later." I turned and headed for the door.
I headed for where I knew Archer would be, midway through her rounds. She perked up as she saw me, then her smile went a bit wonky. She sighed.
"You smell heavily of peaches." She informed me, stepping forward to press a kiss to my lips. The grass tickled my ankles as the wind blew across the lake to one side.
"You were the one who walked out of the house instead of joining us." I said, shrugging.
"Didn't you want that? I mean, you keep driving home how Lust Magic is bad." She said, rolling her eyes.
"Correction. Only Lust Magic is bad. Like how alcohol changes brain chemistry over time." I said. "I've been trying to get you to remember that other forms of magic exist, but you've been ignoring that."
"Maybe I have." She said, raising an eyebrow. "But you keep forgetting, this is who I am now."
"If people were defined only by their race, I would be torching the planet and you would never have made a Reality Marble." I drawled. "A Reality Marble I haven't seen you deploy in years, now, mind."
"…Well maybe it's who I want to be." Her gaze held a hint of challenge to it. "What if I want to stop being Archer? To just exist as your sex toy for the rest of time?" Her hand trailed down my chest. "A large part of me would be happy with that life."
"If you chose that life, I wouldn't stop you." I admitted. "I'd blame myself, but I'd still accept it. I hadn't realized how much I was afraid of that until the first time I saw you lose yourself to your instincts. You don't seem to realize just how much you mean to me. I've heard of Succubi so far gone that they're barely more than animals, and when I think of that happening to you…"
"Stop." She said softly, pressing a finger to my lips. "I get it. If you wanted an empty-headed slut, you could've found one easily." She leaned forward, slipping a hand into mine. "I still remember when you came for me. I still remember that moment of pure joy when I realized what it meant to be yours. You challenged the World itself to bring me to your side… and you won."
She took a breath.
"I'll make you a deal. I'll go back to practicing magecraft. I'll start picking up other hobbies. Just… stop trying to cut me off from what's quickly becoming my favorite thing in the whole world."
"I don't mind entertaining a pervert." I murmured. "Just… I don't want our relationship to be just sex."
"Me neither." She agreed. "We'll probably all calm down and stop exploring each others' bodies once a century or two passes, and then we can start moving on to the rest of our marriage. We have eternity and more besides." Her lips curved into a smile. "Let's call this our honeymoon. We're going off on an adventure soon anyway, right? If even our dating took ten years, I expect our honeymoon to last much longer than the mortal concept of it as well. We'll go around the world, see the sights, have sex while watching the sunset."
I considered. "That doesn't sound like a bad idea. We should talk it over with Noa at some point, as well… and it would be rather strange to take Aura along on our honeymoon."
"Not if she joins us."
I deadpanned at her. "I'm operating under the assumption that she won't, and will be pleasantly surprised if she does."
"Yes, yes." She hummed. "Well, on Earth, bodyguards would still accompany powerful people, no matter what. It's not like she'll be in the same tent as us, if we're even using a tent. We'll have our privacy, and she'll just be there as our escort. Perfectly professional."
I nodded grudgingly. "All right, you've sold the bit. I expect you to hold up your end, though, and if after a month of solid sex you've dropped fifty IQ points or are compulsively trying to seduce more girls, I'm cutting you off cold for a while. Understood?"
She grimaced. "…Yeah, that's probably for the best. You have to wait the full month, though, okay?"
"Mm." She paused. "Care to seal the deal?"
I rolled my eyes. "Not at this moment, no, I have things to do today."
"So you are. But your things will need to wait to be done until my things are done." I told her.
"You already did Noa's things."
"And Noa gave us an entire night to ourselves."
Her mouth clicked shut.
"All right. What's on the to-do list, then." She said at last.
"For you and for me, yes. Perhaps for Noa as well if we get hurt." I agreed.
"I'll play along. But." She poked my chest. "Tonight, I expect to be treated like it's our honeymoon."
"You want me to put you on a plane and—"
"Ko, I swear to the Root."
I grinned. "Yes, sex tonight, you have my word."
"Done. What did you have in mind?"
I smirked. "I actually had a thought on how we can work on improving your Tracing. A little live training, if you will. Interested?"
"No, in my forge."
She blinked. A slow smirk crossed her face. "You want to get shirtless and sweaty with me?" She purred. "Well… I won't object."
"I'll admit, this isn't quite what I had in mind." Archer mused.
I sighed, tossing her the dull blade. "Come on, it's for a purpose. You never know until you give it a try."
She raised an eyebrow. "Famous last words, there." She mimicked an explosion with her free hand. "I wonder what happens when you mix sodium and water? Well, we'll never know until we try."
My lips twitched. There was the sarcastic cynicism I knew her for. Before we had kept her constantly off-balance, but here, we were in her element. Noa wasn't around to fluster her, and I didn't want to ruin her concentration with an ill-timed joke.
Ah, well. Say what you will about flustered Archer, warrior Archer has her own charm.
"You ready?" I asked, shifting into a more solid stance in preparation.
"Ready as I'll ever be." She took a deep breath, raising the blade.
A copy of the blade appeared, and I loosened my stance. "Ah. Good. It was a success."
"Your confidence in me is amazing." She snarked, lowering the sword. "It's not like I've been doing this for centuries or anything."
I chuckled, reaching out and picking up the Traced copy. "You know I was just teasing you, right? I can face-tank a literal [Nuclear Blast]."
She huffed, waving me off. "Just do whatever, you ham."
I cracked a grin, beginning to examine the blade.
…What, you thought I was going to duel Archer or something? Are you kidding? I can barely pilot this body, there's no way in hell I trust myself enough to hold back in it. I have an Exceeds Limits Physical Attack, I might crush her into paste on accident.
No. This is a much safer idea.
See, Archer's Tracing is essentially creating a 'shell' out of mana and filling it with the 'information' of the weapon from her Reality Marble. Even without Gaia's interference, it's still not exactly perfect, since she can't perfectly place data into the World without a few defects.
Now. If I, as a Master Smith, were to create a pointless blade just to fill it with text and identify which text gets corrupted, won't we be able to identify where the imperfections are?
Well. We'll see.
"Still, though… Charles Dickens?" Archer asked rhetorically.
I chuckled, hitting the blade with my Identification Skill.
Blade of Practice—Mystic-Class Item
It͜ ̷was t҉h̴e͠ b̨es͞t̵ ̛o͝f͘ ̴times, ̵i҉t w̢as ͝t͞he̡ wo̸rs͠t̢ ͜o̸f̢ tim̧es͡, ͘it̢ ̵wa͜s͞ ͘the a̧g͡ȩ of wi̴sdo͝m̨, ͡it̀ ͞w͠a̢s ͟th҉ę ̢a̧ge͘ ҉of̴ f҉oo͘li̢sh̸n͘ess,̴ it͞ w͏a̢s t̵he ͘e͝po̢ch ̀of̧ b̢e͘li͢ef,̢ i҉t wa͘s̀ th̡e͡ e̡po͡ch of ̛in͞cr͟edulity̕, it w͘a̧s͢ t̸he ͞sea̵s҉on o͡f͡ ̶L҉ig̛ht,̸ ̧i҉t̕ wa͏s͟ ̀t̸he şea͟s͝o͏n̛ ͡of̛ Da̧r͜knes͞s͢,͜ i̛t ẁas͟ ͢the ͞s͘prìng ̵òf h́o̸pe,̕ ͢it̷ ̕w̛a̧s the wi̧nt̕ęŗ o̕f ̵d̸es͏pa̸i̵r͜…
I nodded slowly, intrigued. "That… is definitely something."
"I think you're misconstructing it in some way." I tapped the screen, watching the warped text shift. "Maybe if you tried…?"
I left Archer to her practice once we'd made a list of the issues for her to work on, heading back to the house. Aura met me at the door, appearing hesitant.
"Ko." I interrupted. "And… before we go any further, I wanted to have a talk with you."
She blinked. "Of course, my lord. What about?"
…Ah, hell. Subtlety never was my strong point.
"You obviously asked for this job because you had some interest in me." I said flatly.
She flinched at that, but I kept going as she opened her mouth to protest.
"I get that you'll probably deny it. You might not even be certain yourself, yet." I held up a hand. "What I'm trying to say is, that's fine. Really. I get it. I was young too once. I knew your mother very well, and I owe both her and you this much. I'm fine taking you on as a bodyguard if that's really what you want, but I need to make it clear that this isn't a guarantee of anything happening."
"A-ah." She cleared her throat. "Um. I." She looked away. "I really do want to see you safe." She said at last, voice soft. "And… you're right, I don't really know a lot of things yet."
I nodded. "Good. That's the first step done, then." I unfolded my arms. "Let's start as just friends, then. I don't want this to be a relationship where I'm your boss and you can't say shit because of it; if ever there's a situation where you need to do your job, I need you to do your job without fear of what that might entail. Is that okay with you?"
She nodded hesitantly. "I can try."
"That's all I ask. So." I extended a hand. "My name is Ko, Pugilist by trade." I cracked a grin. "I do blacksmithing on the side, I guess… but I never did give up the classics. When push comes to shove, I tend to punch first ask questions later."
She returned the smile, shaking my hand. "Aura. Bodyguard by trade, I guess. Nice to meet you."
"The feeling's mutual." I said. "I'm going to be entrusting my life to you, and possibly the lives of my children in a century or two. I've known you since you were born, so I know I can trust you with that much."
She straightened slightly. "I won't let you down." She promised.
I chuckled. "I believe it. Now, I don't believe it's proper for me to train my own bodyguard; I'll be leaving your growth up to you, personally. You can ask for training tips from my mates or from one of the senior Guardians, but for the most part I'll be keeping my hands off." I paused. "That being said, I will be needing your help with my own training. It's been a long time since I've had to fight in moderation, so it'll take a bit to shake the rust off."
"Good." I said. "Are you ready to go?"
She nodded. "Of course. Where to?"
I grinned. "Who in Nazarick do you think can stand a hit from me?" I summoned my magic, grabbing Aura by the arm. "[Teleport]."
The world shifted. A moment later, we were staring up at a massive figure, who was mid-chew. Harold stared down at us, water dripping from a massive mouthful of sea grass.
"Heya, buddy!" I called. "Aura here is gonna be helpin' us today, okay?"
He tilted his building-sized head.
"He says okay." Aura said softly. "Or, um, something close to it. My turtle dialects are rusty, and he's talking with his mouth full."
I grinned up at the World Turtle. "Finish your breakfast, big dude, then we'll have a nice spar like old times."
He rumbled lowly.
"Are you going to be fighting as a human or a Dragon?" Aura asked tentatively. "Because I doubt the trees will survive a Dragon…"
"Ah, we won't be fighting here. I've got an arena in the Mansion where I'll be teleporting us." I said, smiling. "And, both, I suppose. I need to work on controlling my strength, which is what you're here for. You can have Harold tell me how much pressure each hit dishes out; I'll only be using Blunt Damage that he's mostly immune to, but he should still be able to feel what's going on. Then, once I've got it under control, I'll have some fun wrestling with the scaly boy for old time's sake."
"I probably won't squish you."
Her eyes widened. "P-probably?"
Way too easy to tease.
"No promises. That's what resurrection magic's for anyway, right?" I winked at her, then turned back to my pet. I moved to one side, raising a hand. Harold lowered his head, and released a happy hum as I scratched his skin. "He likes his chin scritches, doesn't he?" I cooed. "There's a good living apocalypse…"
I collapsed into the chair, exhilarated as much as I was tired. This body wasn't like my human form, it loved exertion like this. Combat was an incredible rush that just got better the longer it went on. We'd stopped when Aura's voice started cracking, probably several hours in.
…Though, now my body was ready for a different sort of exertion, something made worse by the smell of Aura's sweat. Having an attractive girl in the same room was doing nightmares for my impulse control.
'Down, boy.' I told my lower brain. 'She's hot, but don't rush into it. Appreciating is fine, but don't jump the gun. You were the one who decided to take things slow.'
Aura stretched, back arching. A brilliant smile was on her face. "That was incredible." She said. "Then, now I'm going to be cleaning you up, right?"
Don't stare at her muscles. Don't.
…Note to self. Next time fuck Noa into the bed after I finish working out.
"So…" Aura fidgeted. "How is this going to work?"
Maybe it was that I was a bit wound up and wanted to show off, or maybe I felt too drained to bother holding a spell. Regardless, I found myself smirking, reaching up and pulling three hairs off my head and twisting them together. I pulled a metal bead from my inventory to crimp them together. Seconds later, I had made a loose ring around my thumb.
[The Ring of Scale]
Applies [Size Down] buffs at the same level as the user's [Natural Growth]. When equipped, causes user to shrink to the size they were at Level 1.
Satisfied, I finished Crafting the item and rolled my shoulders. Then I triggered [Trans Form]. I felt my body shift. One moment I was six feet tall, the next I was practically looking up Aura's skirt.
Black lace. Mmm.
Aura gasped. "You're tiny!" Crouching down, she picked me up in a two-handed grip. "Oh my god, you're sooo cute!"
I gave her an amused look. "[Size Down] sacrifices character size in exchange for proportional speed and defense. You laugh, but not even Harold could scratch me right now."
She nodded, setting me back down. Her crouched position offered an even more detailed view up her bunched-up skirt.
Damn, Chagama didn't pull any punches. Aura's thighs alone were a delight, but the thin black lace of her panties perfectly highlighted her tan skin.
…Yes, fine, I know I'm looking even though I said I wouldn't. She's legal, she's into me, and I've already been given the clear. And sadly, as much as I adore my girls, Noa is more soft and cuddly while Archer is lithe and sinuous. Aura's build was clearly meant for straddling beasts for an extended period of time—meaning that she had fantastic thighs and an ass you could bounce a quarter off of.
Sorry, Archer, but I'm afraid Aura's is better there. It's okay, though, because your hips are second to none.
Aura shifted, hands twitching. "S-so, um, am I just supposed to clean you now?"
I nodded, stretching. "Clean, polish, et cetera. Dragons don't sweat, but we do build up a lot of residue on our armor. My underbelly is more or less clean, but the rest of me has quite the buildup of monster grease. It would be cruel to make you clean me at full size, so I made it easier for both of us."
Aura blinked. "Just… that easy?"
"Of course." I yawned. "It would take a hundred of you all day to clean me otherwise. So instead, I'll just have a nap while you take care of the bits my claws can't reach."
Aura nodded seriously. "Is there any polish in particular you'd like me to use?"
I hummed, lazily flicking through my Inventory. A few monster parts in particular jumped out at me, my knowledge as an Alchemist paying off. Some corrosive elements could be used to shine jewels, or perhaps particularly thick-scaled Dragons.
"I have some of the stuff used for gemstones here." I said, tugging out one that wouldn't actively destroy her limbs to use. "Use these gloves, though, and this cloth, and have some water handy to rinse it once it's been sitting for a while…" I rambled on for a time, idly thinking of other things someone should probably do when cleaning a magical lizard.
Not a sentence I ever thought I would utter.
Seriously, though, what was I supposed to do? Obviously she was meant to clean me, but with what? The solution, a tail of a monster that worked a lot like a wire brush, and a cloth made from the skin of an Acid Eater. What does she use for soap? The solution, a bit of Cleaner Slime acid good for corroding dirt.
I finally finished my explanation, glancing over the assortment of items strewn over the floor.
Aura draped the cloth over her lap, picking me up and setting me on it. I yawned, stretching, and allowed my small form to relax. My eyes fluttered shut, and I barely felt the cloth against my scales as she began.
I was awoken some time later as the sun was going down. I was being placed gently on a cloth. I squirmed, slipping free of Aura's hands and rolling to one side.
"I'm up, no need to coddle me." I grunted.
Thank god my Dragon form didn't get morning wood. That would've been embarrassing.
"Oh, good." She said, sounding relieved. "Um, here. How does it look?"
She set a mirror in front of me, and I found myself gawking at a handsome sapphire devil.
Hooooly shit. I'd always rocked the rugged look, but now I was starting to see the allure of a glimmering shine. I had looked purely monotone before, but now I had an entire spectrum of blue in my scales. Light blue at the center, dark blue at the edges, a rippling shade that was somewhere between metallic and opalescent. Just one of my scales looked like it could sell for more than this entire mansion was worth.
…Okay, maybe I've gotten a bit vain since becoming a Dragon. Sue me.
"I, um, wasn't sure whether you'd want your mates to see you like this, so I asked them to wait outside." Aura said hesitantly.
I nodded distractedly. My god, my ass was shiny. "I don't have a problem with it."
"Okay, I'll let them know." She rose, tucking away the gloves and heading for the door. "He's done!"
I continued studying myself, running a claw along the now glass-smooth surface of my scale. The acid had taken some texture off, it seemed, but that was clearly for the best.
"Ah." A voice broke me from my musings.
My head snapped up, and suddenly I was doing my level best to pretend I hadn't been preening like a cat. "Uh." I said, trying to keep the embarrassment from my tone. "Hi, Noa?"
Noa stared at me.
"Archer." Her monotone was slightly louder than usual. "Dragon-sama is small."
"What?" The Archdemon frowned, striding into the room. "What do you mean he's—" She froze. "Oh my god, you're fucking tiny."
I gave her a cross look. "I [Sized Down] to Level 1. What, did you expect me to make her clean my giant blue ass when I'm taller than a fucking mountain?"
"Shhh…" She knelt down, a hand wrapping around my muzzle. "Don't swear when you're this tiny. You're too adorable to curse."
"Goddamn sonuva cocksucking whore." I said without missing a beat.
Archer's eyes flicked towards the basin of water, and a shit-eating grin crossed her face.
My eyes widened.
"Cure-Elim." I greeted with a fanged smile. "It's nice to see you again."
Ah yes. Acting ancient and powerful. The perfect balm for pretending I hadn't just been manhandled by my wife and forced to endure the indignity of a pink bubble bath.
"The pleasure is all mine." He said, gaze drifting to the pink-haired Spirit atop my head. "You brought a guest."
"The Spirit of the World Tree." I agreed. "I believed it prudent that she teach the Necrotic Tree how to use her powers."
The Dragon nodded. "On my word, no harm will come to her within my home."
"My thanks." I reached up, gently plucking Noa from atop my head and setting her on the ground. "Where is she?"
"This one will guide her." A common trash mob from YGGDRASIL called a Zombie Soldier stepped forward. "I've warded my abode extremely well since we last spoke, it should no longer be possible to peer inside. I have no desire for any of the other Dragon Lords to take what is mine."
Heh. The tiny tree spirit was already worming her way into his heart, I see.
"Let's go, Mob-san." Noa told the Zombie, unmoved by its pallor and general air of undeath.
The Zombie groaned in response. I watched them leave.
"Why are you here, then?" Cure-Elim asked, cutting straight to the point. I liked that about him, if nothing else. "It has something to do with your... touch-ups, I would assume."
I will not preen. I will not preen.
"I'm going on a journey." I replied, lounging back onto the mountain. Some part of me reflexively cringed at getting dust on my newly-shined scales, but I ignored that part. "Perhaps not now, but soon."
He nodded. "I see. You are here to settle certain matters, then?"
"Something close to that." I agreed. "I need to ensure you can care for the life I have entrusted to you. Tell me, what did your elders teach you of such arts?"
"Some. Not much. Certainly not as much as you undoubtedly know."
I chuckled. "I'll bet you were taught that World Magic is a crapshoot, no?"
"Not in those terms, no." He said, red eyes narrowing. "But in my own experience, it has proven… difficult."
I nodded. "Of course it has. Because you simply lack the knowledge of how to wield it properly."
"Then please enlighten me, oh magnificent one." His voice dripped with sarcasm.
Oh, yes. I liked this guy.
"Tell me, what is World Magic?" I began, raising a scaled brow. "From what I've told you already, how exactly does it function?"
He was silent.
I sighed. "Let me guess. Your knowledge of it is limited to 'I do things and they work'." I gestured around us. "World Magic, boy. It's in the name."
"We ask the World to do things for us?" He guessed.
"To bend the rules in our favor." I agreed. "Normally something must be sacrificed to forge a connection, but you and I have a direct line. However… there's an issue."
"Of course there is. It would be too easy otherwise."
"The World has no understanding of what you and I know as 'language'. If you say, for instance, 'set this bush on fire', it doesn't know what bush or what temperature of flame, so you're left with maybe a spark." I hummed for a moment. "Let's try an example."
I gave him a flat look. "Do you want my help or not?"
He nodded grudgingly. "Apologies. The new Sapling has merely been… taxing… on my patience."
I chuckled. "I see." I reached down, concentrating. "[Summon Stone]."
A block of stone the size of a fridge appeared.
I shrank myself down slightly, halving my size. Still comfortably large enough to squash Cure-Elim, but small enough that I could better use my talons. "I want you to tell me how to carve this into a statue. Give me a list of instructions."
He eyed me. "…All right. I'll play along. First, you cut into the stone with your talons."
I reached out and casually flicked my paw, bisecting the rock like it were merely butter. "Next?"
He stared at the ruined stone. "Do I get a reset?"
I chuckled. "[Summon Stone]." A new, identical rock appeared. "Let's try this again."
"Make a slight incision into the rock using your talon."
Once again, I reached out. This time I sliced more gently, but still used four talons.
Elim looked irritated. "Using your pointer talon. Curl the rest back so they're not in the way."
I nodded, obeying.
"Now cut sideways."
I twisted, gouging an enormous chunk out of the stone. Again, Elim twitched.
"Cut at a forty-five-degree angle." He tried.
I cut again, leaving only a small stump remaining.
"Reset." He growled.
I just smiled.
"Cut at a forty-three-degree angle before following an easterly path aiming in an arc pointing towards me." Elim rattled off, all but glaring at the innumerable failures thus far. "Then retract your paw so I can look at it."
I did so, doing my best to hide my snickers. This was a crude version of explaining code, but it seemed to be working. He seemed to be gradually coming to understand exactly how specific he needed to get before getting the results he wanted.
Gradually, the rock was reduced to a pointed bit of rock with a vaguely defined lump on it. A Dragon-like lump.
"There." He hissed at last. "You carved this mountain. Now can you please explain why, exactly, we have been doing this?"
I chuckled, settling into a lounging position. "Because this is how World Magic works."
"As I said." I tilted my head. "At its core, this is how World Magic functions. You can bridge the gap by burning Souls, since they contain the essence of 'imagination' that allows one to merely push thought into reality. But if you don't want to commit mass genocide, you're going to have to learn how to tell the World exactly how to work your spell."
He blinked, irritation fading in an instant. "Is that why I can't get Wild Magic to work when drawing from the Sapling?"
"Yes." I smiled. "You've been using magic the easy way this entire time. You've burned Souls to manufacture an artificial spell that only barely works. If you used Wild Magic to summon a flame, you would get the same exact flame every time." A flicker of flame appeared in the air between us. "Now that you have a direct line, however, you can change everything about that flame."
The flame grew, then shrank. It grew so hot it nearly melted the stone beneath, then seemed to form a thin layer of frost as it began absorbing all the heat in the area. The color shifted from orange to red to green to purple. It thickened to a huge pillar, then shrank to the size of a thread. Finally, it vanished in a puff of smoke.
"Think of it like this." I began. "Literally everything about the spell is a variable you have to define before it will function. But that means that, say, if you wanted to raise the temperature, you could do so without affecting any other part of the spell. As a trade-off, though, you need every one of those variables or the spell will function poorly."
Cure-Elim stared at where the flame had created a thin layer of frost over the melted stone. A faint chuckle escaped him, growing in volume. "All this time… and we've only scratched the surface." Red eyes locked onto mine. "This is it, isn't it? How the World can be changed at a scale large enough for you to form an entirely new planet."
I blinked. Planet? "…One could, hypothetically, create a planet using World Magic." I agreed slowly. "But you would need to understand everything about it when you made it. Conditions need to be perfect in order to sustain life. The core has to be molten, heated by radioactive decay. The planet has to be set in rotation around a celestial body capable of warming it without setting it on fire." I shrugged. "Anything can be done as long as you have the power and the knowledge. Even the creation of life itself."
We both paused as the sound of footsteps echoed in the distance. Echoed, distorted. Underground.
"Cure-san, you didn't tell me I had a big sister!"
I blinked, looking down at the mouth of the cave. A black-haired girl with silver blossoms in her hair was dragging Noa along by the hand. Her eyes widened as she spotted me, mouth falling open.
"Hello, Noa." I chuckled. "Seems your sister is a bit of a handful."
"Nn." Noa yawned. "Too much energy."
"I see." I stretched, triggering Transformation. One moment I was a Dragon the size of a small mountain, the next I was a tall human striding up to ruffle Noa's hair. "Did you enjoy yourself?"
"Yes." She tugged away from the Sapling, wrapping her arms around me. "You're warm."
"And you're cold." I chuckled, turning to the pale-skinned Sapling. "It's a pleasure to meet Noa's younger sister." I said, extending a hand. "I am her mate and protector."
I took the chance to give her a once-over. She had deep red eyes, a pair of horns that looked like coiled thorns. They curved from her temples forward in a soft V, and a silver rose was tucked behind one ear. A black form-fitting dress hugged a youthful body, lined with gold and embroidered with exotic patterns.
I kept my gaze respectful, but damn, the girl could compete with Archer in the hips department.
"I am Lorea." She said, bowing her head and shaking my hand formally. "Your mate is wonderful. She'd told me you were big, but wow. Elli-chan, why aren't your scales that shiny?"
"Because it's a pointless vanity. And you can stop calling me that." Cure-Elim snapped.
A chuckle escaped me. A lot of energy indeed. "We'll be heading out soon, I feel, but I'll be back to teach your Dragon more at a later date. I'm sure Noa would like to spend some more time with you when that happens."
Noa nodded sleepily. "For a while. Young saplings, tiring. I need to bring more clothes next time too."
"Lorea, I warned you to remain hidden." Cure-Elim growled. His gaze shifted back to me. "I will certainly practice your teachings well. When you return, I will ask any questions I have."
"That is all I ask." I agreed, bowing my head. "Until next time… farewell."
"Bye!" The cheerful Sapling called, waving.
And with a flick of my will, a flap of my wings… we were gone.
Yeah, I know I've tried coming back to the site several times, but really it's just been one thing after another. At one point I had most of the first arc of Act III finished as well as a really elaborate Fairy Tail story I was excited to show you all, but I lost all of it when my OS crashed which really killed my motivation to write. I have made my peace with the lost story and have been trying to figure out what to do with Act III ever since. Part of me wants to try to rewrite the original, but it would be a boring grind lacking any feeling in it, and I think that would show. So, at last, I recently decided to just rewrite Act III to be something completely different and original.
Press F to pay respects for the Chessboard of the Gods act. I might revisit the idea in a different story someday. I've got something different planned now.
I also put another story up, a Fate/Stay Night fanfic where a minor side character gets a wish on the cursed Holy Grail and it goes exactly as badly as expected. It's called Crawl, and it starts off with some incredibly dark themes but gets lighter as he slowly escapes the fate he was born into. The full synopsis is on my page if you want to see. :) I'll be splitting my attention between this story and Chaotic Good for the time being, mostly to keep me from burning out. We'll see how the schedule shakes out in time.
If that's all you're here to read, go on ahead and click off. There's a more detailed update below for my longtime readers.
So. It's been awhile. COVID, huh?
A lot of shit happened IRL over the past few years, don't really want to talk about it. Things are finally calming down. I've done a lot of writing in my off time, and I have a great deal to share with you all if I get the motivation. I have about 20mb of Word documents with stories in various stages of completion, many of which I ended up scrapping due to lost motivation. I've come to realize that a lot of why I write is the audience, and that for the life of me I can't make a story last on my own.
So, uh, I'm back to try again I guess.
I set up a patr𝖾on account at the advice of a few of you folks. The url is simply Patrⱸon܂com and my username on there is Mister Grin. I'm pretty new to the whole patron thing, so if you see something I set up wrong or have a suggestion for improvement, feel free to shoot me a message on there. I'd like to make it clear that I do not expect people to donate; think of it as a tip for a waiter at a nice establishment. Not mandatory in the slightest, but something that would brighten up my day. I know that not everyone is able to donate, and for those people these stories will always remain free.
(You here on Fanfiction are actually seeing this story the day after I posted it there. That's right, patrons read this story early. Muahahahaha.)
Those incomplete stories I mentioned are available for a tier reward for those interested, I'll be posting one or two monthly until my stock is depleted, more if there's tons of interest. In a week or so I'll be holding a poll to see which fandom the first story gets pulled from. After the initial read-over by that tier, I'll give the stories that were best-received an opportunity to be voted on by the people in the lower tiers, to see if any of them should be posted here for the Fanfiction frogs. You could consider it a beta-reading stage for the general public, I suppose.
I'm really nervous about this, not gonna lie. My old works have aged poorly in my eyes, and these days I'm hesitant to show what I've written because it might not measure up to some of the giants. Those of you who support me and want to read over my incomplete works, do so with the knowledge that some might just be terrible ideas that I took too far.
I'll also be posting a few stories on Archive of Our Own to see what happens. I've been putting all this off for long enough.