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1 – Enter the Void


The first inkling that something was wrong with this trip was when I felt a pull just as I passed through the plane's threshold.

There was always a pull of course, from every plane's Creation Mystery. I never felt it the first time only because my mind couldn't comprehend what was happening, but after bonding more deeply with Agate, my trusty Kaleidostick—a sapient wand—I began to glimpse bits and pieces of the tunnel through the Kaleidoscape—also known as the Blind Eternities, the unreality between planes—and the infinitesimal moment before arrival.

But this time was markedly different, because the pull wasn't the all-encompassing embrace of the Creation Mystery like submerging into an ocean from a vacuum, but of hitting something intangible, then falling into hungry vortex, my mind spinning with it, and the Amphibious All-Purpose Vehicle I was in decidedly not coming along with me. One might wonder how I phased through the interior of the AAPV, but you only had to realize that this was the edge of reality where existence was not well defined.

The second hint of a problem was the sensation of being caught in an explosion.

There had been no time to erect defenses, no time to even see what was attacking me.

The explosion was strong enough to send me flying—or maybe I was already airborne upon entry to the physical world—but not enough to do any noticeable damage to even the first layer of my composite armour.

I knew this without checking because my armour was alive. A symbiont of sorts. If it were damaged, I'd know.

Smoke was obscuring visibility, and I toggled through a few different basic vision modes. Before I hit the ground, I identified a large number of people-sized thermal contacts.

I was surrounded, and my AAPV had disappeared to who knows where, taking the resources and equipment on board with it.

Agate reacted immediately and phased into the sublayer of reality that only she could access, the part that shielded the material layer from the Primordial Chaos energies of the Kaleidoscape.

She flew into the air at high speeds, and acted as my familiar, granting me her senses while being invisible to all.

In truth, while I had Agate, my own vision modes were redundant as her suite of sensory magecraft was much more impressive.

What I saw around me was a large group of people wearing black cloaks, each one carrying a wand of their own. They were in uniform, except the one middle-aged man with a wooden staff. Grassy plains stretched for kilometers, with a single stone castle to act as a landmark.

Perhaps calling it a castle was a bit of a misnomer. Five towers arranged in a pentagon shape, with a stone wall connected them, and a central tower longer than all the ones at the corners.

'There's lots of mana in this world!' Agate informed me telepathically through our bond. 'Can you feel it?'

'I can. So this is what a plane with ambient mana feels like,' I thought back.

The air felt thick. Like a strange, barely noticeable pressure on my mind. Through Agate, my mana sense further expanded, and become more refined.

Mana was everywhere. In the air, the ground, the grass, and even the people. It flowed this way and that, without an appreciable pattern I could discern, softly and ceaselessly.

The sense for magical energy was a little different for every magus based on the Nasuverse mechanics, and I qualified as one of them with my single artificial circuit—though if I ever went there the local magi would probably vehemently reject my claim to that title.

Usually the magical sense was attached to one of the five main senses, but in my case it seemed to be an entirely sixth sense.

'It's probably because you got used to sharing senses with me, and my own prana sense even before you created your artificial circuit,' said Agate.

'That's probably it. Is there a way we can sense how much magical power these mages have?'

I noticed that despite obviously being mages, their bodies didn't have a higher concentration of mana.

'Hm, not yet. They don't even seem to have circuits.'

'Have to be extra careful then.'

There was also another individual besides me that stuck out like a sore thumb among the uniformed and cloaked mages. He was lying on the ground, wearing casual clothes and looked like a Japanese teenager.

I heard voices and whispers amid much coughing.

"…another explosion…"

"…as expected of Louise the Zero…"

The Zero? A school of mages? This scene was starting to sound a bit familiar, pun intended. Yet another universe I would have considered fictional before I got Agate.

It seemed as though I had discovered the culprit that dragged me away from my AAPV and wherever I was originally going to land.

Louise the Zero, a budding mage with the power of the legendary Void element which caused her to fail at any other magic—though that truth was yet unknown to her—had just summoned someone from another world to be her familiar. Considering that the spell was able to reach across worlds—maybe even planes—it might have somehow also grabbed onto me while I was crossing in.

Or perhaps my own spell went through the path of least resistance when a gateway had already been opened by something else.

An interesting development, and something to investigate later.

But for now, I had to deal with the situation at hand.

Already, I was wary of this being different than the story I remembered. Weren't there supposed to be a lot more magical beast familiars here, summoned by the other students? Yet I didn't see any.

I drew myself up to a standing position and prepared to make my opening moves.

First I checked my inventory system with my augmented reality lens interface. It would have been really great if it worked, but as I expected, the inventory system simply returned an error. The physics of this world were not compatible.

So all I had was the stuff on my person and my extremely limited magecraft which would qualify me as less than third-rate trash by the standards of Agate's home plane.

If it came to a fight, I might have the physical advantage, being several times stronger than a regular human, and having decent martial arts skills. My armour was also quite durable, able to stand against conventional small arms fire short of armour-piercing anti-tank rounds.

That was all theoretical, of course, because either way, regardless of how my combat strength matched up with them, the greatest victory is to subdue the enemy without fighting. And certainly if I were to fight, it would be a commitment to specific objectives and not some foolish endeavour to test my strength against near total unknowns.

As the smoke cleared, my living armour's spikes and jagged edges retracted, then shifted color schemes to be less threatening and malevolent. I used brighter colours, especially gold, silver, and blue to project nobility in line with what I expected of this culture's sensibilities.

Of course, the only true marker of nobility here was magic, but I didn't have enough cards to play to carelessly show my hand just yet. At least Reinforcement worked at all, boosting my body and armour's attributes. It would be most irritating if my spells also stopped working because of magic system incompatibility. But luckily my spells were both extremely basic and previously tested to work on a world that didn't even have magic at all.

"…ugh …" The Japanese boy sat up with a groan and held a hand to his temples. He spoke in Japanese but it was no trouble for me to understand, as I had mastered a lot of Earth languages.

The two of us were surrounded in a circle, with a short girl making her way to us. Her hair was strawberry blonde.

No, really, it was actually a reddish blonde, not the pink one might expect based on the illustrations.

She looked between the two of us as if confused, examining us in detail. Her eyes lingered on me noticeably longer.

I ignored her and pretended to look around, stopping momentarily to face the middle-aged man who was probably their teacher, the stone castle in the distance, the Japanese boy, before ending with a stare towards the barely visible two moons in the daylight sky, as if that was the only thing worth my attention, yet using Agate to observe where my eyes did not.

"Who are you?" She asked intently. Her question was evidently directed at me, but her eyes flitted to the boy as well.

"…who am I…? I'm Hiraga Saito," the boy who was supposed to be the main character said.

I should mention that the students were all speaking in French, yet Saito somehow understood. And it looked like the people here understood Saito's Japanese as well. Was there a translation spell active?

"What a strange name," someone in the crowd said.

"Louise, what were you thinking, calling a commoner with Summon Servant?" Another voice asked. Then everyone started laughing.

"I…I just made a little mistake! He must have come along by accident!" She shouted. Then she ignored Saito and ran up to my armoured form. "Hey, you're the one I was supposed to summon, right?"

No, I wasn't, and I was not particularly inclined to let her make me her familiar, what with the potential mind control effect that came with it. For all I knew, the spell might not even work on me because I wasn't the original target.

I just needed to leverage this situation to get access to some things I wanted from the school. Acquiring information was the top priority.

Thus, I continued to show no noticeable reaction to her question, pretending to be fascinated by the moons. This was to establish our respective positions of power and to align with the story I would be sticking to: that Louise had summoned me completely of her own power rather than my having attempted to cross into this world on my own first.

The crowd's laugher quieted down to whispers as they watched.

"…is that a person?"

"…I've never seen armour like that…"

Louise's face looked frustrated. "Don't ignore me!"

The middle-aged man, who was probably their professor Colbert, walked closer with his staff in front, directed at me, and muttered something. Colbert was supposed to be a Square-class mage in a world where mage power levels corresponded to the number of vertices in the geometric shape of their ranks, ranging from dot, to line, to triangle, and to square at the top. In other words, he was an elite and very dangerous.

He was clearly casting a spell, but was he supposed to do anything like that with Saito? Or was this a grimdark alternate universe where this man would immediately try to force me to complete the familiar bonding with Louise?

If so, I would not go quietly into the night.

My hand moved like lightning to my utility belt and drew a gun, firing a warning shot.

The faces of everyone present turned to shock as they witnessed a solid beam of red light zip past above the man's right shoulder.

"If you target me with another spell, I shall not miss next time," I said in perfect French.

"My apologies, sir. I meant no harm. It was just a simple Detect Magic," said the man as he made an apologetic face without any sign of feeling threatened by the warning shot. "Your armour reveals little, and not knowing whether you were human underneath, I worried for the safety of my students."

I nodded to the man and put away the gun. He could be lying, but I should play along for now. "Your apology is accepted, monsieur. You are satisfied with your findings, then?"

He nodded. "Indeed. It's fascinating, really. I've never seen anything enchanted in such a manner before. Though I could not begin to guess at what your armour can do, the sheer complexity of the enchantment is marvelous. Almost as if there are thousands of tiny enchantments on that armour forming a larger whole, or perhaps, thousands of individually enchanted components making up the armour."

His description was interesting, but I had no idea what he meant, so I couldn't explain it even if he asked me straight instead of trying lead me into giving an answer. I could only assume it had something to do with how Reinforcement was perceived by his Detect Magic spell.

But more importantly, it seemed as though everything was lining up with what little I knew about the this story.

My enhanced brain, further helped by borrowing some of Agate's processing power, reviewed the situation and raced through the possibilities.

Finally, I'd found a world I could exploit at a comfortable danger level, without being exposed to beings of ridiculous power that could crush me like a bug at any time.

As a short recap, it had all started while I was minding my own business and waking up in a forest after escaping from some assassins, as a perfectly normal successful businessman on modern Earth, when two fictional characters appeared from nowhere and engaged in an epic battle and me nearly becoming collateral damage. I barely escaped thanks to one of them taking pity on me, gaining Agate in the process, which allowed me to travel the planes.

One random travel later and I landed in Worm—a world of superpowered heroes and villains colloquially called "capes", a place where everyone suffered, where there were mass murderers and mass brainwashing threats around every corner, where cities got destroyed every few months by invincible monsters, with a godlike alien that would obliterate everything within a couple of years.

Did I mention I had been trapped by that alien god, unable to shift planes?

Still, though I was practically a bog-standard human with no special powers when I first showed up there, survived and even thrived. I had built a major power base—an organization, armies and fortresses—back there that might have tempted any other second rate hero or villain wannabe to stay forever, ensconced in their glass castle.

Then I escaped with some minor personal upgrades and equipment before my bad luck could catch up to me.


Because no matter how high you climb, there's always a bigger mountain, and somebody stronger to destroy your delusions of greatness.

I had already experienced once what it was like to have everything I had worked for crumble in an instant, when those assassins very nearly succeeded in killing me. I probably wouldn't have lasted for much longer if it weren't for Zelretch randomly appearing, and that meeting merely showed me how utterly insignificant I was in the face of greater beings.

I could not afford to stand still and wait for the truly big bads to pay attention to me, especially when preciously little of the power I'd amassed in Worm was personal in nature, and so much was dependent on the loyalty of my powerful subordinates.

I had my eyes set on greater things, even if it meant becoming a small fry in a big world yet again. And leaving before the next scheduled apocalyptic monster attack was the cherry on top.

The next world after had been another horrifying deathworld, and I left that one immediately, to arrive on a world that seemed unremarkable in the short time I explored it. Possibly good for dominating and to serve as a safe retreat, but I set off again looking for something more useful to my ambitions of true interplanar power.

Then I found myself here. A nice magical setting where I might be able to expand my almost non-existent spell repertoire, in a medieval level of civilization where law and order were weak.

A place where I was not hopelessly outmatched and threatened by beings of godlike power.

Or so I hoped.

There was no guarantee that it would be anything like the novel or show, and my knowledge of either canon was pretty spotty to begin with. I only knew the general outline of the plot for a couple of arcs, only a few events in later arcs, and not many details on any of it.

'But no matter what, this time at least we aren't trapped!' Agate thought to me.

And she was right, being able to just leave whenever was a powerful safety net, unless I got killed in the ten seconds it took to cast the travel spell.

Could any of these people here threaten me to that extent? Perhaps Colbert could, but he should be among the top tier mages in the whole country, and he didn't seem to have any good defense against my sheer speed and laser beam—unless he was so far above me he thought I was no threat at all and not worth preparing a defense, or he had read my intention not to actually harm him with that move.

The whispers started again.

"…what was that light?"

"…Louise summoned a noble…"

Louise's expression seemed to waver between delight and queasiness. Probably happy that she summoned a potentially powerful familiar, yet concerned that she had broken some law by summoning a noble.

Instead of continuing on the topic of my magic in response to Colbert's observations on my magic, I said "Good. Then please also forgive me for assuming the worst. Your magic is unfamiliar to me, and I have learned to be cautious in my travels, particularly when summoned against my will and surrounded by a large group of unknown mages."

"Ah…your caution is understandable. No harm done," he said, chuckling. "Please allow me to introduce myself, I am Jean Colbert, a professor at the Tristain Academy of Magic. And these would be my students." He gestured around to the teenagers standing around. "We are the most well-respected Crown-chartered and sponsored magic school for the children of nobles in this beautiful kingdom, so I assure you we hold no ill intentions."

"I am known by many names and titles," I said solemnly, before listing off a bunch of nonsense they couldn't possibly verify to make myself sound suitably impressive and of a sufficiently high social status to entreat with other nobles as equals.

"The Polychromic Knight, Hero of the CRUCIBLE, Saviour of Brockton Bay, the Chromatic Calamity, the Infinity Magician, the Conqueror of Terminus, the Void Traveler…"

At that, Colbert's eyes widened behind his glasses.

"…and many more, but I doubt these mean anything to you, given how far away this land appears to be, so you may call me Axion."

That wasn't my real name, of course. There was power in names and that could be used against me.

"H-hey, what's going on here? Where are we?" Saito said as he got up.

"Shut up, commoner! Don't interrupt a conversation between nobles," Louise said.

"Girl, if you've summoned him here, he has a right to know why, does he not?" I asked in a tone that promised retribution if I heard the wrong answer, as the beginnings of a plot revealed itself in my mind.

"Speaking of which, why have you summoned us? And who are you?"

The girl had an admirably cool and collected response.

"My name is Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière. And I have summoned you to be my familiar as part of the sacred rite, the Springtime Familiar Summoning."

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Initializing Strategic Intelligence Services …

Retrieving Data…

WARNING: Current intelligence is largely unverified by direct observation evidence. The following profiles are based on fictional depictions from Earth. Reality may be radically different. Caution is strongly advised.

Gandalfr Runes: One of four possible sets of Void Familiar runes. Grants the ability to use any kind of non-magical weaponry, plus significant physical attribute boosts when holding a weapon. Might also have a mental compulsion/memory erasure effect of unknown strength to ensure loyalty or cause the Familiar to fall in love with the Master and vice-versa. Would originally have gone to Saito Hiraga, a previously unremarkable teenager from a modern Earth, and allowed him to perform such feats as fighting off an army of 80,000 alone. It is unknown whether physical boosts granted by the Gandalfr runes would stack with other spells and upgrades.

Void power: A power described in legend as wielded by the messianic figure Founder Brimir, who supposedly created the magic system the humans use. There can be up to four Void mages at a given time, each of whom can summon a Void Familiar branded with unique runes that grant incredible power, far beyond normal Familiar runes. The Void magic itself is associated with non-elemental spells and all Void mages boast incredible magic power, but their spells also have extremely long cast times, a weakness for which their Void Familiars are intended to protect them.

Louise Vallière: A vessel of the Void power, which causes her great difficulty casting magic of the traditional four elements, with all of her attempts at spellcasting resulting in explosions. This has earned her the moniker "the Zero" among her classmates, and is a source of much consternation. She is desperate to be a proper mage, a feeling compounded by the teachings and expectations of her family and station. Her father holds the title of Duke, while her mother is Karin the "Heavy Wind", a Square-class mage famous throughout the Kingdom of Tristain. Her bloodline is related to the royal family, which is why she could inherit the Void power. She is also a personal childhood friend and confidant to the crown princess.

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A/N: This is a sequel to the story Any Means Necessary. Additionally, there is a quest version of the story on Sufficient Velocity forum for anyone that wants to participate in an interactive way. I highly encourage you to try it if you have an account there, or just make one.