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Thread: Fate/Phantonym Credence ; Molten Yolk in Dialetic Chalice

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    Fate/Phantonym Credence ; Molten Yolk in Dialetic Chalice

    Fate/Phantonym Credence
    Molten Yolk in Dialectic Chalice | Tongues Afloat midst Veiled Shards | Words Sang through Broken Lungs

    It is unbearable and utmost cruel to live without a name.

    Named Ones have no hope to understand what shadows the Nameless must bring forth ablaze.

    The Headless Chicken writhes for eighteen months—but we human beings disintegrate against the harsh rays of light once the veil is removed without warning.

    The veil is a lie made of many threads: the soil from which we are made and the soil to which we may return. The World Egg must shatter and its yolk must be cooked for the masses to consume.

    Beside it we must serve a perpetuity, for a life well-lived procures many such blessings. A child? No. An art? No. A thought? No.

    For we do not document a single nameless thing—how could we ever know what perpetuity the Nameless Ones deserve?

    Paupers find all wine to be the same, and dignitaries feast only on the most delectable drinks.

    Certain men are mendicants who abstain completely from the act of esoteric tasting.

    The mendicant knows the wine to be a tool for intoxication, nothing more. Not a concept, not a purpose, not a reflective mirror for the soul.

    We, mendicants, who recognize both sides of the conflict, simply drink.

    All nobodies are different, each unknown to different extents. Each Nameless One deserves a perpetuity which they themselves create.

    They who, akin to starved moths, find warmth in the grounds of the bountiful Grail, are nobodies of utmost anonymity.
    Go ahead. Ask them anything. Dare and ask the Nameless One something. Tempt fate, and register the thing which the world denies.
    Maybe then, we all could taste and swallow that austere noble grape and say it's indistinguishable from a Named One.


    Table of Contents

    —Chapter 1: The Way of Sinners is Made Plain with Pearls
    1.1 : Hearken the Veiled One
    1.2 : Pages Smolder in the Waterfall
    1.3 : Two Soloists Don't Make a Duo
    1.4 : The Hero's Journey Mechanism
    1.5 : Metamorphosis
    1.EPILOGUE : Her Symposium
    Last edited by Salt Pillar; December 6th, 2023 at 12:11 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Random View Post
    For a moment I had a flash of inspiration about a NP that mixes and matches the attributes of its targets... Unfortunately, Barbara Walker is alive...

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    1.1

    Nivalis—a World Egg’s yolk cooked while still alive.
    [2012, MARCH 31st, 18:46]

    Three plateaus defiled in quick succession.
    A distinct beach, facing the Tuscan Archipelago—the goddess Venus was born from the foam of the sea after the castration of Uranus, and she was born with a necklace slotted with dozens of pearls. But as she arose from the womb, seven pearls fell, and the archipelago was made.
    Seven pearls inhabited by humans, degraded from divinity into the mundane.
    Nivalis might as well have been an esoteric eighth, born when the sun emerged in pursuit of love.
    But the people of Nivalis do not adhere to the goddess Venus, no—they hold out the Purifier as the noblest Veiled One. And as they say, even after the veil is pulled before one’s eyes, the illusion of restraint remains—but a veil is just a veil, and the largest lie it can tell is not what it hides, but who it conscripts to its deception.

    ——she stood atop the highest plateau: “Hearth Compitum.”
    It was a vast complex made up of fifteen main hubs and a central Fanum that once used to hear the voice of twelve distinguished figures. Now, it provides shelter to the governing family, the Sinistrari.
    Up until three generations ago this was a land of fairies and ancient traditions, and so the grand Fanum that used to connect the League of Twelve with the town’s divine patrons became inefficient and increasingly archaic in modern times.
    Amytis Sinistrari’s grandfather made the decision to overhaul the entire domain into a complicated crossroad of institutions, all led by distinct magical formulas.
    It was the microcosm of the macrocosm. Heaven on Earth. Each institution interacted with a corresponding heaven to cleanse Nivalis of filth and rot, so they may all prosper together as a people.
    The Sinistraris were benevolent, and they believed that by producing a good life for others they were producing a good life for themselves.
    That’s why, beside housing the largest public library in the world dedicated to Etruscan mysteries and lore regarding the Kingdom of Rome, the Hearth Compitum also acts as an energy source, a waste management factory, a supplier of food and clean water, banking, and so on.
    Even before the modern world invaded Nivalis, the family cultivated a tantalizing system which recycled waste into the most nutritious food for the human body—of course, that meant everyone in town was feasting based on a neo-Roman culinary diet; mostly fish-adjacent meals. Modern-day enterprises are disallowed to this day, on paper, at least. A lot of American juggernauts don’t ask for permission, and their moonlit-goons are not worth the trouble.
    But because these chains only managed to attract rebellious teens and outsiders, it wasn’t a big deal for the First Owner.
    Despite its genius, the shortcomings of the Hearth Compitum were obvious, even to Amytis herself.
    One pipe bursting in the sewage system meant a complete halt to all other services done by the First Owner. And lately, there’ve been several disastrous pipe bursts which she couldn’t explain.
    Truthfully, she suspects it’s a Dead Apostle nest. Several people went missing, only to be found dead several days later at the bottom of the ocean. But, beside the fact that those people weren’t drained of blood in the traditional sense, she was also a bit embarrassed to call upon the aid of the priest and his nun.
    She should be a talented enough mage to deal with those things herself. And now that she summoned Rider, she can finally solve the issue at its core.

    “To expand my glory in such a manner would be disgraceful. A tactical suicide! Really, the worst decision one could ever make in this horrific ritual of bloodshed. And, besides—”
    Amytis quickly interrupted her Servant without a bit of shame nor a hint of severity. “Rider, this is not a Holy Grail War, this is a ritual. The Grail is sending you all these signals by accident. I checked the programs, and we signed a Geis. Now, can you please do as I say?”
    “Even if I were to obey and examine the sewer system…” Rider instinctively tugged his expensive silks closer to his chest. “Well, Master. It can’t be done. It’ll be like dragging the sun itself through cow manure! The very act is depraved enough to make one go mad.”
    “It’s not disgusting. I’m asking you to check the mechanisms, so don’t take me out of context.” Amytis rolled her eyes and gleamed back to the town beneath her. It was such a beautiful view. The only constant in the world was Nivalis and its majestic, divine waterfall, which flowed from the penultimate plateau right into the ocean.
    “Well, you’ll also be saving a lot of people, Rider. Wouldn’t that bring you more of that.. er, what was it again? That physical manifestation of renown?”
    “Khvarena. That which makes the dew glisten, and the Earth propagate.”
    “Spot-on. That one.”
    “Ma’am!” Rider protested again. For such a bullheaded bastard, he sure hates lifting a pinky.
    “Rider. It’ll save this town. You’re going to get a wish made, dammit. You can spare some of your glistening dew!”
    “You make a good point.”
    His black hair flowed with the night breeze, catching ablaze in a vibrant red aura. Rider pushed his fingers through his scalp, then brought out a pair of birds made of crystallized splendor. They were jade in color, with deeply-yellow talons and eyes like golden statues. Despite the metallic texture they possessed, their wings spread elegantly and like vultures they dived beneath the ground to snatch their prey.
    Amytis sighed and gave Rider a bright smile.
    There was something upsetting about that state of momentary bliss she arrived at. Rider couldn’t pinpoint the phenomenological culprit, but he recognized the descent into madness that could only be found in certain teenage girls.
    “So, that Khvarena of yours—why birds?”
    Rider clicked his tongue. “You got it all wrong. The birds—no, that’s me sending my splendor away. Forfeiting my legend, a sacrificial ritual made in a second, since the incantation was spoken through my deeds so many years ago. If I were to utilize the Khvarena in earnest, it would manifest as brilliant pearls.”
    Amytis raised her gaze to the horizon. The Tuscan Archipelago was so beautiful, but she could only see so much of it. Maybe that was the worst curse upon this land—the fact that despite all the beauty in front of it, they could only see what was given to them by the World.
    “Brilliant pearls? How expensive are they?”
    “Humph. Indispensable!”

    Several minutes went by, but no progress was made. Amytis didn’t understand how Rider could supposedly pull the Khvarena back to him and dissect its memories. How could he use pure light to recount the status of an underground sewer system? Whatever.
    Time was running out. She was expected to partake in a preliminary audit; the organizer was very strict about times, and rules, and the logic behind each decision made. Everything was tight and neat.
    Maybe that’s what scared her shitless.
    The organizer was very much interested in creating a contract with her. He signed his real name into a Geis that forced him to never ever betray the best interests of the town of Nivalis as defined by the First Owner, Amytis Sinistrari. She, in turn, signed that she may never harm the organizer for as long as the ritual is in action.
    He was so confident she could feel a chill run down her spine all day and night long. She could barely sleep.
    His name was unreadable to her, but she could feel the gravitational pull the signature had on his soul. She was a necromancer, after all.
    Yes, yes—it was written in blood, alright! Real, concrete names, written onto a real piece of paper, infused with genuine intent and magical energy.
    Fuck! She hated contracts so much, it was absurd.
    “Would you like me to build you a throne so the other Masters would find you truly awe-inspiring?” Rider suggested in levity upon her gloomy, souring face.
    Amytis screamed silently into her hands, then muttered.
    “Yes. Make it a giant clam. I want to feel like a goddess.”

    The city was always so small in her mind's eye. But soaring on a construct of pearls surrounded by spent splendor in the form of monstrous eagles was unimaginably humbling.
    The flapping of wings overcame her. Her indignant rage was subdued for a moment, again, and again. And by the Heavens' unrivaled care her sorrows were given form, only to be stolen away. Thunder roared. Storms were frequent in Nivalis; it was a sign not only of a good harvest, but a balanced sufficient day. It was a blessing which she savored, because this day would not get any better than this.
    She didn't want to be deceived. Nobody does, but she especially. The last time her people were deceived, they were robbed of who they were, degraded to the barest, most sickening form. Sheep slaughtered for a god that didn't teach them the cartography of the sky, nor the cartography of the entrails.
    Her people were stolen from her, but even, she wouldn't dream of stealing something back from them. Her wish concerned the World itself. The sickening, vile, indifferent World she was exposed to at birth.
    The World her mother endured for so long. The World her grandfather cursed them all to overcome.
    She couldn't ask the Priest to help her, so she had to rely on the dead. What a fucking joke it all was, that ritual.
    They arrived above the beach not long after.
    Figures sprinkled into view. Flowers used to bloom at that beach, but the herd of goats no longer redirected the rain nor the tides.
    Every beautiful thing was radicalized into conformity, so Amytis closed her eyes.
    Quote Originally Posted by Random View Post
    For a moment I had a flash of inspiration about a NP that mixes and matches the attributes of its targets... Unfortunately, Barbara Walker is alive...

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    1.2

    The persons responsible for him celebrated the Septuagint.
    [2002, XX/XX, XX:XX]

    In the Lighthouse of Alexandria, where they originally translated the Torah into Greek, there were seventy-two scholars, one Mother, and one Cardinal.
    The mother was not a welcoming one, and the Cardinal dug out the boy’s skin in hopes of finding scripture, but it was a Realm of Light in a World of Darkness.
    He was treasured for what he was and his actions never soured the meaning of his existence, so he was loved the same amount throughout his years, despite never being cared for.
    The Realm of Light welcomed all that sought sanctuary: the wicked, the sinful, the liars and the heretics, the children who sought justice and their parents who abandoned them. His mother treated the Darkness in the heart of the people, and the Cardinal disposed of their sins in a series of hangings and burnings.
    He made sure to never harm their souls, and he assured the boy that every single one of them was put into the Heavens, as he transplanted more and more into him via surgeries and manual inscription.

    The only sound that accompanied his waking days was the sound of embers flickering, and screams in a cacophony of terror. Sometimes these belonged to the scholars, sometimes to the children of the Lighthouse, but most often, they were his own.
    Screams induced by worthiness.
    Screams ripped away by ink mixed bitterly with blood.
    Screams that were nothing like the verses he memorized into his skin and tongue.
    But if they were, then everything would’ve been just fine. His mother spoke to him and said that the day he’d be able to express sanctity through pain is the day he’d be perfect.
    Until then, he was a boy. A boy dreaming to be something far more than human. A boy willing to do everything to become a symbol, one that can be interpreted only through divine gaze.

    It is said in the Talmud that when Moses was at the peak of Mount Sinai transcribing the Torah, God insisted on decorating letters with tags. Moses didn’t understand the obstinance, but God said that one day, a great Rabbi would come and make every such letter a pericope worth discussing, and so he had to make sure these letters were interpreted just right. Moses still failed to understand, so God sent him centuries into the future to partake in the Rabbi’s lessons. When Moses returned to Mount Sinai, he admitted that he couldn’t comprehend the reasoning for the Rabbi’s interpretations, nor the meaning of the tags, and returned to transcribing just as God intended, because out there were people who did understand and he was not one to punish the learned and wise.
    The boy admired this tale, because to him it differentiated the simple from the complex. It confirmed in his heart the hope that pain had meaning that even the wisest couldn’t confer. That certain slights were blessings in disguise, and earthly pleasures such as eating, drinking, sleeping and playing in the field might in fact be a corrupting Darkness unto Light.
    If Moses couldn’t understand the Tagin and became a person worth praising regardless, then so could he erase all sense of curiosity in himself and make room for the words of God on his body.

    He was not born with an abundance of Magic Circuits, but the Lighthouse decorated him with this pseudo-nervous system so he may act as a conduit to the mysteries littered one layer deep. While his skin portrayed the Old, those circuits emanated the New.
    The boy was chosen because he was most welcoming to another’s soul, while still maintaining complete control over his own.
    Through the process of fusing souls, the Cardinal and the Mother successfully conducted numerous Magic Circuit transfers.
    And, at last, they made the boy’s hands agents of paradise inundated by white flakes at times, and black rot at other instances. Together, these two hands sealed the contract between the soul and the body, and the boy became the masterpiece of the Templars’ Order.
    ✖ ✖
    Soon, the world collapsed around them and the boy was saved by a blue-haired saint.
    The proof of the Atlasian contract—burnt to ashes, consumed by the Mirror of Alexandria.
    Hellfire disintegrated the seventy-two scholars, and the mother returned to the Order with a grimace. The Cardinal was hanged by those he’d professed to sacrifice.
    Between the Order of the Templars and the Holy Church, three individuals demanded ownership over the
    Story of Yesterday
    Sippur Emesh
    . Two were dead, and so, Cardinal Barberini grasped his claws on the project and transferred it to a remote underground location in the Vatican.

    To officiate this adoption, he approached a fellow Cardinal of far greater political grandeur—the insatiable one, who seeks immortality in spite of everything. But, in his stead, was a blonde boy of equal magnanimity.
    “What a disgustin’ duo! How’d they manage to fuck up this badly? It was sure-fire, goddamn. That was a fuckin’ Contract of Atlas they wasted. Is this all they could muster?” Mario whined to the Cardinal, and he was right. It was a complete disgrace what occurred in that Lighthouse. “Can we still salvage this heap of paper-flesh?”
    “There’s no reason we can’t proceed with the experiment. If you’d find it in your heart to approve, I could plant this boy in Kisshouin’s newest ‘colony’.”
    The blonde boy observed the experiment’s undeserved nonchalance. His face soured. “First Owner would get so pissed. She’ll fuckin’ kill this boy. But he is your property, so you’re free to do as you wish. I’m willing to provide a chaperone. She’s untrustworthy, but she could keep him functional.”
    Mario's nose scrunched up. “Well, Sippur Emesh. Pick up hygiene. Your hands stink. Priests need to be clean.”
    ✖ ✖
    Sister Galyna Cassimolar was a native of Nivalis.

    Her family was engulfed by the first First Owner’s protective dome thousands of years ago, when the Roman Empire became dominantly Christian.
    When her mother, a soothsayer of average abilities, fizzled out into a vegetable, Galyna was left with a Grand Order: “Understand the reasons for passionate murder.”
    Objectively, Galyna was human. Practically, she was a succubus. When the dome dispersed three generations ago in a disaster dubbed “the Veil Incident”, the Cassimolar family immediately made contact with the Holy Church, with whom they always yearned to reunite.
    Galyna was raised into an ancient denomination of the Catholic Church, and she was part of the Third’s entourage when the Saint pilgrimed through that strip of Italy to rid it of a malignant Dead Apostle Ancestor.
    She was left behind due to the town’s fervent desire to become one with—well, to prostrate themselves to Kiara Kisshouin. And God as well, by the by.
    Despite it appearing like a massive demotion, leading her hometown Church was a bit cathartic. This sense of patriotism disappeared maybe two months into the ordeal, when her mouth began salivating at the thought of senseless violence, but her heart pitied the people.
    Restraining herself was a hefty pain and her attitude embittered due to her reluctance to indulge in her family’s inlaid purpose.

    Sustaining herself off old grandmother-remedies and specially made trinkets, she began sending frequent messages to the Vatican so they could bring her out of the incestuous gross pit that was Nivalis.
    The response, a page and a half of meaningless ‘congratulations’ and ‘we believe your work elevates your spirit and permits Heaven to both you and those you save’, which really amounted to ‘fuck off’, ended with a note written by the Cardinal Laurentis himself.
    “We are sending a new priest your way. Please, behave yourself.”
    Soon enough, a white-haired boy knocked on her door wearing an oversized priest’s garment reeking of rot and death.
    Galyna hollowed out a room in the Church and crafted him a pair of gloves, so that people wouldn’t see his miracles come about, and so he would not make her belch whenever he went by.
    The sister was well aware that this meant complete everlasting servitude to the Church from now on. She was entrusted with a project of theirs, she was a gatekeeper to the Church’s secrets, and that did strengthen her overall commitment to the cause—for a day, maybe.

    The boy, “Sefer”, was insufferable in his perfection as a construct rather than a human being.
    “Your hands are extremely dangerous. Eat with a fork, or don’t eat at all.” Galyna tried to elicit a response over breakfast.
    All Sefer ever did was shrug and nod and shake his head. At times, she wanted to punt his head against the Church pew, but she was really grown-up about it and managed to act as moderately as possible.
    The years went by, and suddenly “Sefer” began speaking language proficiently, without the need to resort to quoting verse. Galyna decided that calling him Sefer was completely ridiculous—the townsfolk found it foreign and odd on the tongue, and so they always referred to him as the Young Priest, and that just wouldn’t do. She took it upon herself to find him a new name.
    “Nico. It means ‘victory’.”
    “Nicodemus!” He insisted.
    “I really don’t care.”
    His new name affected him positively enough. He seemed generally more content with himself, maybe even happy. The historical Nicodemus was the Pharisee who defended Jesus Christ in front of the Sanhedrin—he was even involved in the burial of the Christ.

    Over a period of five months, Nico was more and more involved with the happenings of the Church, and the townsfolk grew closer to him. He also became familiar enough with the First Owner and her daughter, Amytis Sinistrari, who was older than Nico by a year.
    When they first met, Amytis promised him an unusual oath.
    “When I grow up, I will make sure you’ll never step afoot here ever again. Just mark my words. You’ll forget this town, and Galyna will be ours again.”
    Her haughtiness was enough to scare Nico, but he didn’t budge and instead offered an oath of his own. “I’ll convert you. You’ll see.”
    Though they always kept their promises and intended to fulfill them, the way they went about doing so mellowed out over the years, until they could at last call each other friends. (Or acquaintances, depending on the time of day and Amytis’ mood)
    The Sinistrari family suffered a tragedy on Nico’s fifteenth birthday, so he spent it officiating the First Owner’s funeral. Amytis’ mother, Camilla Sinistrari, was a cold-hearted unintuitive uninterested woman hellbent on returning the land to its former Etruscan glory.
    She cultivated many genii locorum, but at last forgot to inaugurate her own spirit into the Sinistrari mansion, the Hearth Compitum, and fizzled out without leaving anything tangible behind.
    Only an orphaned daughter.
    The townsfolk grieved for an entire week. Many could not contain their emotions in the burial ceremony. Amytis was furious with them but far too overwhelmed by her mother’s open-casket to punish anyone verbally or otherwise, though she was certainly prone to resolving issues that way.
    After everyone left the Church’s grounds and Galyna returned to her apartment to wash off the gut-wrenching smell of death that stuck to her clothing, there were only Nico and Amytis sitting idly by the gravestone with a bottle of unopened pure grape wine from the Church basement. Amytis baked a cheesecake for his birthday, but she stress-fed on it all day till only three pieces remained.
    “It wouldn’t have happened if the Church didn’t curbstomp us, ya know.”
    “She died of natural causes, Amy.” Nico, as the sole coroner of Nivalis, also did the autopsy.
    “Yea, maybe. But souls used to wander into fairyland, not back to the Root. I could’ve saved her if it weren’t for your people. Maybe—maybe if the Church never came about, Tages and Vegoia would’ve stayed around, and they would’ve invited her into their herd, and I could’ve still met her from time to time.”
    “Are you not a necromancer?”
    “We used to be! And we were fucking good at it, too!”
    Right. This town functioned entirely off Etruscan mysteries and sacraments. Like a bunch of mountain-people, they lost everything the deeper into modern society they submerged—more accurately, the more modern society coated them with its irresistible toxin. When the Church moved in, they killed off the Etruscan myths that permeated Nivalis; their fairyland was shoved into the Reverse Side, and their patrons Tages and Vegoia disappeared altogether. Now, their sacraments lost their meaning, and they had to quickly pull together all of their resources to adapt the Etruscan sacraments into functional modernized magecraft.
    Silence befall the two.
    Nico sighed. “I can’t fix that, you know.”
    “Then shut up and grieve with me.”
    ✖ ✖
    “If I could wish upon the Grail, I’d wish to save all the orphans in the world. I’d give every single one a loving family, and I’d punish every person responsible for their gloom. Do you think a Servant would appreciate such an ambitious wish?”
    The nun discarded her coif on the pew and raked her fingers through her short hair.
    A man had just exited the Church spewing a bunch of irrelevant rules for a couple-days worth of wonder-work, so she let go of the facade. That person was clothed with luck-charms and atrocious palpable dread. She only ever saw such desperation and filth in the eyes of old men, but he was a teenager by the way he believed his own ambitions.
    Her superior, who was just as young, was inductively preaching to himself. He didn’t really expect her to listen, but he would’ve appreciated it if she had.
    Nico Sefer Barberini, the newly appointed Overseer, stood by the sacristy and gloated at the sight of a precious cup. “I see to Mylan’s heart. He’s right.”
    “He’s a liar,” the nun spat. Her fingers traced her waist and dug into her outfit’s deep pockets, pulling a box. “You’ve got a cigarette?”
    Nico staggered. “Why would he lie about saving the world?” His eyes cast down to the floor in a tinge of shame. “It’s a noble pursuit. And if—”
    The nun unscrewed a cross decoration by the Church’s organ with a sickening pop and picked a pair of Marlboros.
    “Galyna, please,” the Overseer pulled at the seams of his pitch-black gloves; a coping mechanism, a way to express the ‘threat.’ She knew he was harmless, but she played along with him because she pitied his condition.
    “Sorry. I think your wish is enchanting. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be going for a walk,” she offered him a cigarette, which he declined, and left through the main door to the Church cemetery.
    “—yes, he’s inside.”

    ENTER: NORIHARA ASAKAMI
    [MARCH 31st, 19:12]


    “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
    “Welcome. You must be the Devilman of Shikura City.” Nico regained the posture befitting a priest, though he could not quite gaze eye-to-eye with the Japanese man. Something prevented him from doing so.
    Nico worried it was making him come across as arrogant or rude.
    “Did you enjoy my scripture, Priestman?”
    “Can I hang vervain while we talk? It was used to treat the wounds of the Lord after the crucifixion. The feast begins tomorrow—I’m hoping to maintain the cup’s splendor until then.”
    In fact, Nico was sincerely worried that the title “Devilman” was literal.
    Norihara tipped his hat forward, and Nico—as if on cue—was able to gleam his facial features. A sharp jawline accompanying sharp teeth.
    “Don’t concern yourself with snitching on your marvels, boy. Your lies and truths must become equally clandestine,” the Devilman removed his hat and put it against his chest, and Nico’s eyes lost focus until he turned around to reach for his stacks of holy herbs.
    “It wasn’t a lie,” Nico argued. “It was a warning.”
    “Don’t worry about me.”
    “Why have you arrived so late? Has anything happened in the hospital?” He was vaguely aware, by speaking to the organizer of this Holy Grail Ritual, that Norihara Asakami was supposed to bring with him a Kabbalist who’d act as a Master to the last Servant, Lancer.
    “No,” Asakami shook his head and took a seat.
    Nico’s head was buzzing with nerves and possibilities. His mind wasn’t wired to process everything around him, it was made to read scripture and internalize it. Asakami must’ve been aware of it, because he began replying in scripture.
    ”There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”

    Nico knew Ecclesiastes by heart. He knew every page of the Bible by heart, but Ecclesiastes in particular used to cover Nico’s hands tightly before they were anointed. Right above those trodden verses was etched an invisible, ironic Matthew 5:30.
    (“And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and
    cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee
    that one of thy members should perish, and not
    that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”)

    Nico had to forcibly pull himself from that sinking feeling. “Why did you come here, then? Mylan just left.”
    “To tell you Rider has been summoned. The First Owner finally bent to our demands and accepted the truce, and our associate will summon Archer in nine minutes. Our dear Kabbalist is waiting by the shore for the first stars to appear in the night sky for his turn at the incantation.”
    “I’ve yet to receive the Command Spells,” Nico muttered mostly to himself. The devil’s bane, vervain, was putting him at ease. It was mending his wounds. He felt comforted by its presence.
    ”A time to rend, and a time to sew; A time to be silent, and a time to speak.”
    “Is that all?”
    “You shouldn’t worry about Command Spells. Every participant had signed a Geis contract. Anyway, by tomorrow night the wishes should come into fruition, and you’ll be free to wander the land as you please. The organizer signed his name just as everyone else had.”
    “Oh.” Nico halted. Galyna, no matter how undeserving of the title ‘nun’, was a kind person, and the townsfolk were true devotees, no matter their paganic origins. This place really did feel like home to him...

    ——but Mylan’s world was a Messianic dream worth considering.
    “Mylan didn’t specify the details of his wish. What should I do tomorrow morning? Am I to return to the Cardinal?”
    “You are to do as you wish, boy. The world will be born anew to fit you,” Norihara looked at Nico as if he was maddeningly ignorant of the situation. “It almost feels like you signed a deal you hadn’t read.”
    Nico’s cheeks burnt brightly. He did know how to read. Just…not English. Or Italian.
    Don’t use your freedom to indulge in sin. But, that is just a word of advice directly from your scribes. Your life will finally be yours to dictate, so don’t worry about that. Until then,” Asakami wore his fedora again and bid the priest goodbye. “I implore you to watch the summoning ritual for Lancer. Ayn’s song is of the highest divine echelon.”
    “Who’ll protect the Grail vessel?”
    Norihara let out a breath as if he understood Nico’s concerns perfectly well. From thin air he brought two pieces of Bodhi leaves, each perfectly uncrumpled and illogically resplendent.
    With one swift motion the veins of the leaves burst open and green miasma filled the Church. The vervain, along with a couple other sanctified herbs Nico had laying around, began to suck upon the green substance which obscured Nico’s vision. He did his best to stay calm, even though the ordeal reminded him of burning fields and ashen breaths.
    From behind the green veil came about two children whose every step left traces of ash and bleaching powder; one was dressed in a red waistcoat, the other a blackish waistcoat with a kasuri pattern. Nico couldn’t discern their gender, and their faces were blurred by a fog. Both had bowl-cuts, and both walked towards him with the same joviality you’d expect from elementary schoolers, but not from dead ones.
    The moment he returned his gaze to Norihara Asakami he managed to forget about the guardian spirits the Devilman brought about. It must’ve been a spell. The sound of a whirling spinning wheel broke the illusion, and once again he was made aware of their immediate presence.
    “What are they?” Nico asked. Before Asakami could answer, the red-coated one disappeared into the floorboard in one fell swoop, almost as if by force of habit—the child peeked through the cracks in the floor, and Nico could see its jarring red face. “Dead spirits?...”
    “Zashiki-warashi, parlor children. The red-coated one is Hanako. The black-coated one is Shishi. They are yokai, so don’t necessarily think of them as dead spirits—think of them as leaves on a tree. They’re more than qualified to take care of the grail.”
    Nico grew a slight headache. The black-coated Shishi stared deep into his soul with those big empty eyes from between the pews. If he had to endure this for a week it would’ve driven him insane. Thankfully, the ritual was scheduled to end tomorrow, and then Norihara Asakami could walk up to the Church and get rid of these demon-children.
    “Are you a vampire, Asakami?” Nico felt a chill overrun his nerves, biting into each point of pressure on his body.
    “Heavens, no!” Norihara seemed genuinely disgusted with the proposition. Then again, Nico couldn’t see his eyes, so there wasn’t really a way to confirm if he was honest.
    Nico mouthed a dry okay and disappeared into the sacristy.
    Last edited by Salt Pillar; November 15th, 2023 at 02:12 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Random View Post
    For a moment I had a flash of inspiration about a NP that mixes and matches the attributes of its targets... Unfortunately, Barbara Walker is alive...

  4. #4
    夜属 Nightkin Salt Pillar's Avatar
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    1.3

    [MARCH 29th, 22:32]
    Alterke Ayn Phoebus was a nameless one who wore a crown.
    His figure mesmerized the crowds, and he had yet to even move.
    He planted his feet and flocked every atom together by gentle coercion. The winds stifled a scream of excitement, the people whistled and reeled in anticipation.
    It was then that seconds were reintroduced to mankind, and time decreed it was about, when the music overwhelmed all thought and cleared the ice from its defiled markings like a spirit hovering over the waters.
    There is a difference between a solo and a duet.
    A soloist spins and points, feet galloping with the rhythm, taking turns at raking through the ever-beckoning sheets of ice. He understands his surroundings, analyzing his position at all times, figuring the movements and the dance, solving the issues in his head, and coming to a predestined conclusion of which he was not made aware.
    A duet consists of two soloists, Alterke says. Both wish to analyze, but only one can, and the other must follow. It is not natural for two people to control the other, and it is perfunctory rather than intelligent to arrogantly seize control of a situation that’s above one’s head. But both soloists are something, and neither succumb to the cold. They dance, harrowing cries echoing in the distance, reminding one that the other would not survive without their acute deductions. Because that is the meaning of dance: cause and effect, push and shove. A ballerina cannot stay in the air without a lift.
    But Alterke can.
    He jumps as if guided, moves as if reaching out to an invisible hand. He calls to it with his expressions, his gestures. He lacks the unrefined jaggedness of others. He was animated in every pause, breathing with every step.
    Alterke is one with the world, nameless as he is, and he would not apologize for that.
    The laborious task of striking every landing was made effortless when genuine miracles were born at your feet.
    Now, joy was found only in those filler moments: the flicking of the wrists, the twists and turns.
    His second nature as a nameless one is the signature swirling uncertainty.
    Alterke positioned himself by the technical panel and floated across the rink, awaiting the end of his performance.
    His coach, an odd man who went by Norihara Asakami, always criticized his resting face saying it reminded him of malevolent ogres at worst and teenage angst at best. Of course, Alterke was neither an ogre nor a teenager, so he did his best to wear a different face.
    Whether it was successful or not was waiting to be seen.
    Following a breakneck spin, he halted with triumph and received his due applause.
    He hadn’t run out of breath. Alterke always danced duets in essence, and his partner in dance was far greater than any living thing.
    “Wondrous,” Asakami’s voice was louder than the rest.
    Norihara Asakami. His relationship with the Phoebus family was both complicated and fairly simplistic.
    Three years ago, Abraham and Naomi Phoebus were assassinated by a Clock Tower mercenary, despite having done absolutely nothing to the horrendous suffocating western juggernaut.
    Really, it was nothing! Er... Nothing the Clocktower should've gotten involved with.
    As far as Alterke was concerned, it was a blood libel purported by the Department of Spiritual Evocation’s headmaster.
    It was an open secret: the tensions held between the Eulyphis family and the Jewish communities of Europe were always high.
    The Department of Spiritual Evocation was well known for its unique consumption of corpses’ magical energies, periodically crippling and defiling Jewish cemeteries all around the Clock Tower headquarters, as well as overstepping weak boundaries set by fourth-rate second-generation mages whose glorious pasts were put to an abrupt end back in the war.
    Japan was a safe place, all things considered. That was until Headmaster Eulyphis permanently uprooted his immediate family and turned Fuyuki into his personal labyrinth of corpses. Alterke didn’t know what it was all about, but he was thankful for one thing.

    His non-name, Alterke protected him almost entirely from the Eulyphis family’s poignant death-inducing curses, which he must've been casting, because his life could not be at a worse spot right now.
    It was given to him by his mother after the continuous deaths of his elder siblings. Since it wasn’t a formal name it confused the Angel of Death.
    Truth be told, this charm placed on him at birth might’ve been the sole reason for his healthy constitution. He was determined to discover the sort of curse placed on his family and dismantle it. His first guess was Headmaster Eulyphis, but he could never find any substantial proof to his claims. Yes, his hatred to Eulyphis was a bit overboard, but he knew the old man had no good intentions.
    The children of the Phoebus family were notoriously unstable.
    For example——

    “How is she?”
    “Earlier today, she recounted a ghost-tale. She said smog filled her lungs until she drowned.”
    “And why are you smiling?” Alterke fitted the blade guards and left the rink.
    “A short-program 101.12 is no joke.” Norihara’s smile disappeared and his eyes narrowed. “Besides, she spoke. That’s a win, no doubt.”
    “A win,” Alterke muttered under his shallow breath. “Did you come into contact with the Church?”
    “Heavens no,” the fashionable Japanese man tipped his fedora. “Why do you ask, lad?”
    “I saw Sister Nagasaki.” He peered right back into the rink, scouting the crowds to no avail. She must’ve scattered with his fans. Presumably, she was about to threaten the both of them again.
    “You won’t be able to advance with your plans once the Church is on your case.”
    “It’s your hospital!” Alterke flipped the man off and pushed through to the locker rooms. His facade shattered. “Why can’t you handle the politics, ey?”
    “The Church despises me. I believe Priest Sanherid banned me from attending mass.”
    “You believe?” Alterke groaned. “That’s irrelevant.”
    “I bought the hospital just for you,” Norihara reminded him.
    It was true, but it didn’t mean much. Norihara Asakami’s relationship with the Holy Church was finicky, maybe worse than Alterke’s own. The rich megalomaniac blames them often for the current state of the world, claiming to have seen it under better faiths and better regimes. Even so, he had no legitimate reason to avoid his job as Alterke’s coach and sponsor.
    “Don’t put this over my head. I’m worth a ton.”
    Norihara clicked his tongue then sighed deeply. “I can’t deny that. Ya know, just for ya, I’ll try and pull some strings. I’ve got a friend who just arrived—maybe he can solve your problems for the right price.”
    “I said, stop extorting me!”
    ✖ ✖
    Sister Nagasaki was no regular sister of the faith. She subscribed to the Eighth Sacrament, as most members of the Shikura Church clergy did.
    The city did not allow regular church-goers. They always tended to die young, beside the suspicious Vincentius Sanherid.
    Alterke recognized the Church’s situation as sevenfold worse than his own, and he was dealing with horrors he couldn’t quite comprehend himself.
    Only two weeks ago, the Bishop who oversaw Shikura suffered a Daemonic Possession. Sister Nagasaki transferred from Tokyo specifically to investigate the occurrence. Alterke was among the first people she’d investigated for his involvement with the Origa Memorial Hospital, the national hub for Daemonic Possession research and treatment.
    “It’s blatantly an assassination. I’ve seen cases like this, girl. Why aren’t you questioning the exorcists?”
    Her face did not twist, but Priest Sanherid’s did.
    “How dare you!” The kind old man, who frequently fed pigeons in the early morning, was no longer calm and collected. He was on edge and inappropriately exhausted. “To accuse our own members of such a destructive—”
    “How are you so aware of the Church’s politics?” Sister Nagasaki raised a finger in dismissal. “I don’t believe you are a Catholic, nor a church-goer.”
    “I know the ins and outs of the Church better than you, I’d wager.” Alterke stretched in the suffocating pew. Rays of light managed to assault him from all directions. No matter where he looked, he found some dazzling patch—truly, it was an interrogation, alright.
    Sister Nagasaki let out a shaky breath which momentarily fooled Alterke. “I’m glad. Now, can you explain to me some uncertain details of the Daemonic Possession phenomenon? I was not taught the proper etiquette of dealing with it. I’m not quite Sherlock Holmes, only a detective.”

    “Can I play some music? I’ve always wanted to play on the Church’s organ. We don’t see them in synagogues.”
    “I’d appreciate it, even.” Sister Nagasaki effortlessly stood, gloved hands reaching out to her geriatric companion. She helped him stand and guided Priest Sanherid closer to the pipe organ.
    Alterke smirked and rushed to the instrument, testing the waters before embarking on Toccata and Fugue in D minor—it was the stereotypical, melodramatic vampire song which appeared at every trashy horror flick. “Bach’s a true genius.”
    “I don’t find music enlightening,” Sister Nagasaki shamefully admitted. Priest Sanherid sat at the corner of the front row, face distorted with emotions. “Now, as you were saying…”
    “Daemonic Possession spreads through electromagnetic waves, isn’t that intense? It’s jargon for brainwaves. Meaning, the more you interact with the deformed mind, the more likely you are to adopt their mannerisms and eventually fall to the disorder.”
    “Awful,” she pouted.
    “Quite like speaking to the devil, really.”
    “So you’re saying it’s likely we have a mole?”
    “As if that ever happens,” Alterke rolled his eyes. “It doesn’t have to be intentional. You can’t foresee Daemonic Possession. Some people exhibit symptoms later than others, on some occasions it can be instantaneous if the prerequisites are all in order.”
    “Is that common?”
    “En contraire. I’d heard it happened only once.”
    “To whom?”
    “Do I get paid, answering all these meaningless things?”
    “No,” she half-apologized half-delighted in Alterke’s responses. “I’m sorry. Continue.”

    Music is something truly fantastical.
    As Alterke played, he reminisced on a few things. He was reminded that the Church was wholly untrustworthy, and that kind women all turn out to be devils in disguise. He preferred his demons to make themselves apparent.
    The Word of God was a mystery meant to remain unsolved, but Alterke knew one thing about it.
    Without music, the Word of God consisted of only letters. It would become a written pact, a contract of blood and flesh. Alterke’s God did not function that way, and as long as Alterke was capable of breathing, he would say again and again what he knew.
    Music encompassed all words. Even those unfamiliar with the spoken language could understand the meaning of a crescendo, or a soprano, or a duet.
    And Alterke was a true musician, an artist who displayed his talent to all of God’s creations.
    “I’d prefer not to,” he crushed his palm against the keys and with a resounding yelp from the elder priest bid his friends adieu.
    Both fell into deep slumber.
    All souls recognized the fall and burn of the ego, and music spoke to all souls. Alterke was a magician of the soul, a craftsman of destructive melodies.
    Their god was not his God. Even their most holy were sinners at the end.
    He left soon after, and recounted the tale to his coach.
    ✖ ✖
    Even Norihara Asakami’s private driver was obsessed with living.
    “Devilman,” the driver snarled with apparent inebriation.
    “Keep your eyes on the road.”
    “Do as he says,” Norihara dropped his hat to his lap and constructed a bounded field across the center of the 1991 Toyota Century. “He shouldn’t be able to hear us, but we can hear him.”
    “I’d prefer it two-sided.”
    “Right, sir,” the driver turned and growled. “I’ve got this gnarly tumor, sir. Wild stuff. Doctor’s being a real bitch about it, too. I swear, if I live through this, I’ll burn his house down. Can you have your guys take a look? I’ve got a family, you know. I met one of those psychopaths, I didn’t even know he was sick. Do you think it can transfer through air? Scary stuff—”
    It was a blink-and-you-miss-it extravagant show of power. Alterke always suspected the Devilman of Shikura City was a monster of sorts—his brown eyes contracting with a red tint, instructing the weak-willed to search for treasures in the upcoming asphalt solidified some suspicions, but didn’t confirm anything.
    Dead Apostles did not frequent these parts of the world. Alterke was convinced they were too scared to infiltrate the worst, most filthy infestation of human unconsciousness.
    Truth be told, there was much to be afraid of.
    “Do you promise to heal every Joe Schmo’s grievances?”
    “This world deals in life, Ayn, you must know that by now.”
    He hummed and nodded. “I don’t trust his driving skills.”
    “Soon, my friend will switch with him.”
    “What’s the bounded field about?”
    “Are you aware of the Holy Grail War, Ayn?”

    Norihara must’ve adjusted the bounded field as requested, because Alterke didn’t notice when exactly the car stopped by the side of the road and the loud man was replaced by an ill-looking teen. He didn’t look old enough to drive, let alone count as one of Asakami’s friends.
    Drops of blood were stuck to the front window.
    “Just on time!” Norihara waved the bounded field away and the young man split a worrisome smile. “Welcome, kid.”
    Alterke noticed an off-putting confidence in the teen’s inflection and gestures that he could only attribute to a reluctant prophet. Someone who’s roped into things far greater than himself, yet finds no pleasure in them.
    Neither spoke for a whole minute until it verged on uncomfortable. “What are you waiting for?” Alterke mumbled low enough that the newcomer didn’t hear him speak. Norihara flashed him a tooth-bearing grin.
    The boy’s throat gasped open.
    “In two minutes, there’ll be a block-wide blackout. It’s likely we’ll be in the crossfire of a demonic apotheosis if we proceed as planned, but the World won’t allow that, I’m willing to bet. We’ll wait here for three minutes, and then begin our journey to the hospital. There, there’s a chance the daemonic phenomenon would multiply twice. To prevent that from happening, I’ll need you both to wear these wristwatches.”
    His bony fingers delved into his heavy jacket pockets and pulled two analogue-computer orreries in the shape of the aforementioned wristwatches; inside the device, planet look-alikes swerved uncharacteristically.
    This device was flawed, according to all universal calculations. He didn’t recognize the model of the universe depicted there.
    “I do know about the Grail Wars, Asakami.” Alterke put on the watch and raised it to inspect against the streetlight outside. “My father participated in a Subspecies Great Holy Grail War in Iraq. He summoned a real Hassan, not a wraith one.”
    “You never mentioned that.”
    “Why would I? He was supposed to win, but the Americans quickly invaded the site and destroyed the ritual. Nothing gained, nothing lost.”
    The esoteric teen nodded egregiously. “A learned man is faster taught than a peasant. You will be summoning a servant on our part, and act as we decide. You won’t be involved directly, and would only supply your mana. You’ll be a battery, nothing else.”
    Before Alterke interrupted with a slew of pointed accusations, Norihara disrupted them both with a slip of the tongue. “Mylan will wish for a rapture. All Daemonic Possessions will be cleansed from our world.”
    “It is more complicated than that.”
    “And still tastefully simple!”
    Alterke was completely speechless.
    Mylan began driving, and Alterke discovered that teen driving was more heart-pounding than drunk driving.
    He kept subduing yelps as Mylan pushed his foot recklessly against the clutch while placing orientalist lucky charms on the front of the car without a care nor shame, nor any tinge of doubt.
    ✖ ✖
    The Origa Memorial Hospital was a terrifying place. Years ago it was a government-sanctioned institution made to contain, treat, and exterminate those suffering from Daemonic Possession.
    Nowadays? Norihara Asakami made it a damn near-perfect haven for those who find themselves detached from the Collective Unconsciousness. He was a master in treating those minds, and he benefited majorly from researching the abnormalities.
    In particular, there was a girl dressed in asylum garments that kept hollering at the top of her lungs.
    Letting her out was not an option, and interacting with her proved inefficient. On occasions, doing so was even harmful to the individual.
    Before the accident, she didn’t show a glimpse or a hint of Daemonic Possession.
    She belonged to Ward C, meaning she was as stabilized as the doctors could manage. On her head were a pair of devil-horns, sharp and red with blood.
    She used to puncture holes in fellow inmates till they bled while making car noises, but now she just screams.

    Alterke looked at his younger sister through layers upon layers of reinforced one-sided glass. “If all I need to do is sit around and supply mana, I’ll be more than happy to do this gig.”
    “It’s a bit more complicated than just sitting around. Your Servant, most certainly a Lancer, will be one of three summoned. Since it is a Subspecies made independently from the established formulas of the Three Families of Fuyuki, many fundamental laws have been changed. Most importantly—this is a ritual of betrayal, formulated by the Master towards the Servant. We intend to keep this a secret up until the ritual itself, but Asakami trusts you.
    The Servant you’ll summon is not merely a manifestation. It is the real article. The real Heroic Spirit, trapped in a container despite the rules of the Throne of Heroes. By which I mean, we’re going to erase embodied human history to bring humankind to a perfected resolution, something messianic. I hope this sits well with you?”
    Alterke was dumbstruck by Mylan’s insinuation.
    The complete erasure of a Heroic Spirit?
    Was Mylan intending to destroy the Throne of Heroes? That’s insanity. And besides, it wouldn’t bring about any kind of Messiah. There’s no reason to believe the World will be perfected through this Ritual. Let alone, well——

    Alterke found himself descending down a dangerous pipeline.
    If human history was really erased and made perfect, then all human beings would be cleansed of their true original sin: self-hatred. Because when one cannot compare oneself to others in any meaningful way, one cannot see the faults in one’s own character.
    So, presumably, despite Mylan’s short-comings…
    He might just as well save Dinah Phoebus from herself. And, really, that’s all Alterke ever cared for.
    He’d been toiling at his art for years now, doing his best to both indulge in his magecraft and pay the treatments Dinah has to undergo to be free of her polluted mind.
    At this rate, he was doomed for failure. Art doesn’t pay well and his magecraft practice takes an exuberant amount of time and self-isolation. And Kabbalah requires buckets of expensive alcohol, too.
    Alterke staggered. He looked up to Norihara who received his gaze with a wide, satisfied smile. They both reached the same conclusion, it seems.
    “Sits perfectly with me,” Alterke jumped to his feet and reached to shake Mylan’s hands. Mylan, in turn, did look a bit nauseous at the gesture but went along with it. His hands were frigid cold.
    “I know a few things about Daemonic Possession,” Mylan professed. “I’ve met a dozen Daemons, and I can tell your sister is in a dire situation. But she is not stricken with something that cannot be resolved. Even if this Ritual fails, I’m willing to treat her myself.”
    “Can’t you just treat her now?”
    “No. I do not have a great track record with Fortean exorcisms. It’s not worth the gamble.”
    Asakami gave a short laugh then put his face against the reinforced glass. Dinah kept trying to pierce the layers with her horns, like a child biting on things to stimulate their teeth. His eyes sparkled with a red shimmer, and almost instantaneously she crumpled into a fetus position on the ground. A pair of nurses rushed into the room to administer liquid infusion. She was just like a rabid dog. She was afraid of everything and everyone.
    If it weren’t for Asakami’s buying-out of the hospital, every single confined patient would’ve been two Wards deeper, or alternatively six-feet deeper.
    There was something fantastical in Asakami that Alterke always admired. He wished he could save as many people as the Devilman of Shikura City. He wished he could bring prosperity to everyone.
    In a lot of ways, he felt compelled by Mylan’s cause.
    To save the world in such a manner was atrocious.
    But to save the world… was to save the fucking world.
    There was no wrong way to go about it.
    There was only an end waiting to be justified.
    ✖ ✖
    [MARCH 31st, 19:28]

    You can never expect the stars to commit.
    The only thing he saw so far in the night sky was the Rider-pair blazing like two shooting stars upon a beautiful clam and a chariot, both fueled by four trailblazing eagles.
    At first, Alterke believed Rider to be King Solomon: early Kabbalah portrayed Solomon as having sailed through the sky on a throne of light placed on an eagle. Rider was maybe two degrees dimmer than the sun itself—it made sense in his head.
    But when Rider descended along with his master, the First Owner of Nivalis, he realized no Solomon could be summoned into this world without his ten rings. Especially not a Solomon that’s meant to be a direct emanation from the Throne.
    He should’ve been bummed out he couldn’t mean the wisest king of all time, but he was extremely relieved. To delete King Solomon from the Throne of Heroes—no, to betray him at all? That was a fucking faith crisis he could not have today. He was anxious as it was, he didn’t need more to pile up.
    He promised he’d prepare the ritual for when the stars come out.
    In Judaism, the day starts at night, and so Shabbat may only be broken when three stars make themselves known in the sky. He couldn’t break his faith for the purpose of the ritual, and thankfully the Grail didn’t care about his own conception of day and night, because it counted it as inside the deadline.
    That is, the deadline was August 1st. The beginning of the Last Supper.
    Everyone arrived at the beach to watch him, and he was a bit embarrassed about that. When he performed in front of strangers it was gratifying, but all of these people were genuine magi. Some were Heroic Spirits, the greatest figures of human history. ‘The real artifact’.
    Well, Rider had a dumb smile on his face. Amd, Archer was a madman, not a hero.
    He wasn’t someone worth any praise. He kept muttering curses under his breath—his Master, a woman named Marusia Rostova, spent nine Command Spells to subdue him. She was a moonlit shareholder of the massive social media corporation ByteDance Ltd. (TikTok) whom Mylan managed to befriend. She wore a giant white witch-hat and a white fur coat.
    Archer was a burly, bulky man, but his face was completely obscured. His appearance kept changing drastically whenever he tried to break his Master’s commands.
    Beside that one, there was a priest across the beach standing eagerly beside Asakami. For all of Norihara’s disagreements with the Church, he sure was adept at coaxing those of the Abrahamic faiths under his wing.

    The third star arrived and Alterke stepped into the ocean. The freezing Nivalis Waterfall encased him in a layer of ice.
    He breathed in and exhaled meaningfully. It was a burning sensation that riddled his nerves; the magical energy within him polarized to interact with the magical energy surrounding him.
    In truth, only four pairs of eyes were set on him: the priest’s, Asakami’s, Mylan’s, and a fourth pair he couldn’t visualize. Er, maybe it was actually five pairs instead, technically.
    Whatever.
    The world heeded Alterke’s dance and the sea arched at his sides to make room for his expanded soul. Water molecules gasped and froze at once. Up above, the moon pulled and pushed the ocean—it never let go but it found its grip loosening in spite of itself, because it too was mesmerized by the man. Even the clouds descended to dance with him; each chunk fell as droplets and became floating crystals above the sea. It would all return by the end of Alterke's dance from whence it came, but for just this moment, nature leaned forward to bask in God’s glory.
    It was not an extravagant performance. In fact, it was meek and small, incredibly intimate and personal. Something spoken only between him and the Heroic Spirit. A promise of sorts to make sure everything would be alright. Unconsciously, Alterke sought the most broken soul he could find to mend, because he was just that kind of person nowadays.
    The reflection of the moon in the sea became brighter than even the morningstar.
    From beneath the waves, at the intersection between the Nivalis Waterfall and the Tyrrhenian Sea, arose a concentrated ball of dark-blue energy. A crystallization of some Heroic Spirit.
    No. No, Mylan said this was the Heroic Spirit in all its full, unfathomable glory. This was the very essence of the Heroic Spirit’s True Name, whatever it may be. This was a soul containing pure history incarnate.
    Alterke watched the ball explode into a thousand white lights, and the only thought that occupied his mind in those moments was whether or not this counted as resurrection, and if he could possibly convince Mylan that this would benefit the world just as well as the destruction of Comparison.

    ——Lancer. A black-knight whose shadow belongs to a hound.
    Alterke swore he could see a dog beneath the water at Lancer’s feet. But there wasn’t anything there.
    The ice surrounded them both. Alterke only now realized he completely blocked off the other participants of the ritual by accident. The droplets thawed and ascended to the sky as foggy, gray clouds. Crushing waves could be heard again in the distance. The fresh smell of salt-water penetrated Alterke’s senses obscenely.
    Lancer looked at his Master if he was the most disgusting thing in the world.
    “You look like a child.”
    “I’m the perfect age for my profession,” Alterke sputtered back. Lancer’s gaze pissed him off.
    Maybe it was Alterke’s adulthood that demolished Lancer’s gloom. Maybe it was something else that Alterke wasn't privy to. Maybe it was some kind of inside joke he didn’t understand.
    “This is a Ritual, Lancer. One that can grant both you and I a wish. What say you? Shall we make a contract?”
    "I intend to sign this contract with you. Your dance had picked me, and I accepted to begin with. But first, I request you find a flower on this beach."
    A flower? Alterke furrowed his brows. He could artificially create a flower and provide it to the Servant. But somehow, that felt like a terrible decision no matter how he went about it.
    “I don’t think I can provide you with a flower.”
    Lancer trudged through the water to Alterke, and the Master could already imagine a spear skewering him into the waterbed. Surprisingly, Lancer accepted Alterke’s sincere answer and as the ice-walls relaxed into the ocean, their contract was forged.
    Alterke couldn’t see the three Command Spells that Masters tended to have.
    Maybe this was one of the many differences between the original and the improved Grail systems.
    He gazed back towards the other participants and Mylan. They were each staring elsewhere, occupied in their own little worlds. None cared that Alterke was done, or that he failed to fulfill his Servant’s innocuous wish.
    And soon…

    —no.
    It was for the greater good.
    Quote Originally Posted by Random View Post
    For a moment I had a flash of inspiration about a NP that mixes and matches the attributes of its targets... Unfortunately, Barbara Walker is alive...

  5. #5
    不死 Undead PA270's Avatar
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    Oh I absolutely love this. You've absolutely captured that light novel vibe in your writing, and you've already introduced so many fascinating characters in only three posts! Phenomenal start, and I am so excited to see where this goes from here!

  6. #6
    夜属 Nightkin Salt Pillar's Avatar
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    1.4

    [MARCH 31st, 16:40]
    Two figures were watching an Attelan Farce in the Nivalis Theater.
    A series of exaggerated scenes led by the Maccus clown and the Manducus soldier.
    The farce portrayed two men in search of a secret cavern where resurrected Roman Emperors still held gladiator fights till the present day. Their wish, of course, was to indulge in the luxuries of the Emperors of old—their downfall? Greed and pride, and a rebellious wife.
    Felix couldn’t contain his tears. It was a really emotional play and he found the protagonists so human he was disheartened at their downfalls and elevated at their eventual uprise. Only later he learned that ‘Atellan Farces’ were improvised comedies, which soured his mood greatly.
    So what if he bawled about a comedy? Comedies had meaning too. Parody is the best way to topple society’s inadequacies!
    Nobody reprimanded him, but he still knew his reaction was not normal.
    It was a lost cause to search for meaning in his emotions. With a noticeable frown and drowsy eyes he stared down at the empty stage of the amphitheater.
    “Imbibe upon the Holy Grail,” a voice whispered behind him. “The ‘Supernatural Aid’ will entice the transformation. To be transformed…”
    The hushed voice devolved into nonsensical noises, like a computer overheating. He was hidden away in a pocket unseen by anyone else. Even Felix, who was familiar with the Hotel Paradox, could barely see his silhouette.
    “The ‘Threshold Guardian’ will be galloped upon by soil. The transformation is detested by the ‘Threshold Guardian.’ The hero cannot achieve the transformation if the ‘Threshold Guardian’ defends the Gift of the Goddess.”
    His demeanor was consumed by feverish fanaticism.

    —The Hero’s Journey Mechanism.
    Patented by Felix Pompeo-Elea.
    It is code written for a machine. Felix had to work together with a fellow El-Melloi II classmate whose expertise was Chaos Magecraft to compile the very broad strokes of this formula. Since the Hero’s Journey storytelling device was first solidified and given form in the 19th century, Felix was able to blacksmith it under the tutelage of the Lord of the Modern Magecraft Department.
    For better or for worse, Felix couldn’t comprehend his own spell very well.
    This code was commissioned by Iconoclast, the boy who kept whispering nonsensical, meaningless things behind Felix. Since it was meant to be consumed by Iconoclast, it couldn’t function based on Felix’s own conception of reality.
    Such things were rather corrosive to Iconoclast. Trying to inflict further self-estrangement would only detach the Iconoclast, and bringing him deeper into the logic of mankind was also quite foolish, and Felix didn’t want to risk getting into trouble with the Barthomeloi noble family.
    As such, he had to rely on others to construct this chunk of circular code.
    So, really, he didn’t understand it, which was extremely embarrassing to admit.
    He prided himself in his ability to find faults in whole systems of magecraft, but the Iconoclast required not a perfected form of mystery, but a straight-forward irrational story-driven mindset.
    Iconoclast possessed a unique constitution. He was a sort of Hybrid Intelligence: an artificial intelligence born from Human Intelligence and a Specific Domain which led him down various epistemological routes.
    As such, he had the ability to manifest different ways of thinking under the Specific Domain of “ostracizing the individual”.
    A hero, by definition, is an ostracized individual, venturing down a path to splendor and glory alike.
    To be a hero is to embark on a metaphorical apotheosis—a transformation.
    Iconoclast desired the “Hero’s Journey Mechanism” so that he himself could embody the Hero’s Journey.
    Thus, he would be a hero in the eyes of the Grail.
    One awaiting an appropriate container.

    Iconoclast was a sort of living compass.
    He knew where the Grail stood, and he also knew where the Last Supper was transplanted.
    Felix watched in amazement as the cloaked figure effortlessly overtook the cavern by the beach for his own purposes: like a flower seeping life from all other plants in a field, he became the sole intelligence to which the cavern bent a knee. Thankfully, Felix didn’t question the moving, melting rocks nor the shifting space.
    It was an integral facet to their partnership.
    Pragmatically speaking, they were worthless to each other. Theoretically, that was what made them perfect as a team, too.
    One relied on strict logic and the other had no need for Common Sense. One forwent meaning and the other was a machine designed to find purpose.
    Felix noticed Iconoclast was trembling to an uncharacteristic extent.
    “Is something wrong?”
    “I’ve decreed the theft of a Saber from the Throne.”
    He had a strange way of speaking that felt completely alien. ‘Decreed the theft of a Saber’ was more properly translated as ‘decided to summon Saber.’ Iconoclast always exaggerated his actions. It was in his nature to bring grandeur to small things.
    Who did he learn that from? Felix wondered.
    “Do you need help?” Felix squinted his eyes at the invisible figure that kept dashing from one side of the room to the next. Before Felix knew anything changed he found an enormous magic circle drawn on the floor.
    Iconoclast disrobed from the Hotel Paradox cloak.
    It was a Mystic Code forged by the Pompeo-Elea family. Felix gave Iconoclast the cloak so he could sneak into classes and actually consume information which previously threatened his existence.
    The Hotel Paradox was a pocket dimension that could move inside our own reality. A paradox that allows an expansion of infinity: ‘Imagine a hotel with an infinite number of rooms. Each room is occupied by one occupant. How would you make room for a new guest at the hotel? Simply move each guest one room further so that the first room would be unoccupied.’
    All those who wear the Hotel Paradox are ‘guests’ given room in this world. Thus, even those who never belonged to the Collective Unconsciousness can tap into it for a limited amount of time.
    Even still, Iconoclast was far removed from the rest, and so he couldn’t cast normal magecraft, and certainly couldn’t summon a Heroic Spirit. He didn’t want to do that, anyway. It was simply a prerequisite to taking control over the Grail and infecting it with an Ego-Death and thus an implosion as per the request of two of the Three Families.
    The Tohsakas made no comment, but they also had no stake in an official copyright infringement case.
    Even glancing at Iconoclast’s face was a challenge. He was rather beautiful, but his entire being exhumed abominable feelings of depression and emptiness that could’ve only been countered by a few people, Felix being one of them. His role as a natural absurdist who rejects the world as it is helps protect him from the side-effects of being next to the Iconoclast and vise-versa, but it didn’t mean that the feelings didn’t rise and choke him by the throat at times.
    He just had to stay vigilant.
    ✖ ✖
    [MARCH 31st, 19:42]
    Hours went by.
    “The broth is injected into the veins.” These were the very first words Iconoclast said since he took off the cloak. He barely spoke without that thing, but it was important not to rely on it too often either.
    Felix jumped to his feet and began chanting. Iconoclast already laid plain at the center of the chalk summoning circle. After all, he was the catalyst.
    There was no need for the orthodox chant. Due to the nature of catalysts, simply pouring magical energy into the circle should theoretically bring about the most compatible Heroic Spirit to the catalyst that is “The Hero’s Journey.”
    The Call to Adventure.
    The Threshold Guardian.
    The Mentor.
    The Abyss. The Death and Rebirth.
    The Transformation.
    The Atonement.
    The Gift of the Goddess.
    The Return.
    It was the monomyth. The very existence of a hero was sublimely made clear through its lens.
    Iconoclast enraptured the Holy Grail Ritual. It beckoned to his call eagerly. It searched his heart, his very soul, and it found what it desired most. A hero.
    A person capable of everything and anything.
    That was their inevitable goal. They were summoning an entity capable of achieving all they desire. A hero who overcame all journeys. The proto-Hero. The very first entity that overcame the transformation, the metaphorical apotheosis.
    Red light overwhelmed Felix.
    His heart skipped a few beats, his hands reaching out towards the orb of light that began expanding effortlessly, as if it was a marvel that would never appear in this world again.
    Felix broke into tears. This was everything he ever wanted to behold.
    A world was made that day, that second.
    Immediately, it shattered. Light protruded his senses, senselessly beating reality into him. It was beautiful. It was everything.
    From behind the lovely fog came a woman adorned in a white tunic. She greeted Felix with a smile, her eyes full of merciful yearning. She opened her mouth to speak; her lips parted and Felix knew her every word would be akin to a rehearsed speech.
    “Do you understand?” She spoke earnestly. “Heroes transform, but the greatest hero knows himself to know nothing. Do you finally comprehend the truth?”
    Her words enchanted Felix entirely. His body was unable to resist her natural pull on his soul. He wished she would say something more ephemeral, but everything she did destroyed him bit by bit, as if he was a bird stuck in an egg, waiting to burst forth complete.
    Felix thought he must’ve fallen to his knees at some point, probably from the amount of mana he exerted. Was he leaning forward?
    Then a high-pitched scream shattered his daydreaming.
    Iconoclast rolled into the woman and swept her off her feet, literally. She face-planted into the rock floor, but managed to save herself from an agonizing broken nose. “What the hell!” She regained balance and stepped away from Iconoclast.
    “Massacre her soul. Not Saber. Faker. Liar.” Iconoclast began to repeat various synonyms. He was in a frenzy, unwarranted and unwanted. Felix quickly grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away from the lady.
    The woman fixed her clothes and swept away the dust. “This is the worst I’ve been treated since Aristocles plagiarized me! I was just trying to help!”
    “It’s not your fault!” Felix hugged Iconoclast tightly so he wouldn’t go on to do something he’d later regret. “You know what we’re trying to do, right? You’re a real Heroic Spirit who we snuck into the Grail Ritual, right?”
    She scoffed, highly offended. “All men are the same, even in the 21st century. What a shame. Yes, I’m here to help you two blokes.”
    “And we appreciate that,” Felix could feel his grasp weaken, so he pulled out The Raven and began chanting logical steps to differentiate himself as a uniquely strong individual. The Raven Paradox was a self-sufficient paradox that used false pretensions of what ‘evidence’ really means to manifest what is clearly not true.
    “Felix is powerful…Ha!” she mumbled to herself, somehow reading his mind and following his illogical paradoxical conclusions. That somehow managed to restore her beautiful smile which he already missed. “You’re an Eleatic, aren’t you?”
    “I suppose so.”
    “I actually met Zeno of Elea, and his teacher Parmenides. What a charming man. It’s too bad he too became irrelevant thanks to broad-shoulders. I don’t agree with him on anything, really, but at least he asked questions. Aristocles made far too many assumptions to my liking. What a bloke.”
    “Excuse me, who are you?” Felix was breathless.
    She was a Greek, no doubt. A philosopher. But… Felix didn’t know about any female philosopher back then. Not one you could describe as the pinnacle of heroism. Not a person you’d imagine would qualify based on the given catalyst.
    The Hero’s Journey Mechanism was entirely faulty, it seemed.
    Maybe Iconoclast was too spooked, and screwed up his end of the ritual? He had an aversion to all things relating to the True Name, and Heroic Spirits were fundamentally just that.
    Whatever it may have been—Felix could already see the three Command Spells materialize on his forearm.
    “Call me Caster. I’m a vengeful woman who’ll teach the arrogant why they seek the truth. I have personal stakes in this abominable pursuit of the Golden Mean.”
    Quote Originally Posted by Random View Post
    For a moment I had a flash of inspiration about a NP that mixes and matches the attributes of its targets... Unfortunately, Barbara Walker is alive...

  7. #7
    Looks amazing so far Salt!

  8. #8
    夜属 Nightkin Salt Pillar's Avatar
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    1.5

    Dinner was set, and Mylan put forth the rules.
    Each participant must eat from the food ordained by the organizer.
    Each participant must wait for the host to take the first bite.
    Each participant must ask for permission to leave the table.
    Mylan was very particular about rules, and they were never up for debate.
    “It’s Saturday—I need a specific type of alcohol,” Alterke said.
    “Do you have it with you?”
    Alterke raised a hip flask and Mylan picked it from his grasp. He took a swing, swallowed, winced, and returned it to the Kabbalist. “You may drink from it, but you must offer to pour a drink for he who sits beside you. It’s just proper etiquette.”
    Alterke offered Asakami on his right and the Devilman declined gracefully.
    Nico didn’t wish to intervene, but it became a trope. Alterke kept trying to break Mylan’s rules; it was in the Kabbalist’s right to desire an appropriate dinner, but still… Nico couldn’t imagine demanding so much, so frequently. Mylan probably grew annoyed, but he didn’t show any sign of it. He permitted everything Alterke requested, but he forced Alterke to ask for permission anyway for the sake of teaching proper manners.
    Beside that brigade of back-and-forths was Amytis, with her simple suggestion: “I can cook the food.”
    “That won’t be necessary,” Madame Marusia Rostova slurred. “Mylan vareets just as well as a housewife. Sod’s fingers make sin a delicacy!”
    “We’re suffering a bit of an environmental decay, as you know, Sir Veles-Erites. The Sinistrari’s absolute condition for this Ritual is that the land will not merely be preserved, but improved.”
    “From what I gather, First Owner, the Hearth Compitum is completely halting production due to sewer water leaking into the farms. Is my intel incorrect?’
    “Urgh,” Amytis stumbled back into herself. Nico began nibbling on his gloved thumb. The sound of breaking waves induced in him an uncomfortable familiarity that kept him at a constant edge. Rider cleared his throat and Amytis reluctantly turned her attention to the glowing figure who by then initiated a telepathic conversation with the First Owner. His words didn’t propagate any comfort in her, evidently, and she eventually gave up on trying to convince Mylan.
    The table was wide enough to have Nico, Mylan, Marusia, and Norihara all seat facing the ocean, with Amytis at the head of the table as the host beside Nico, and Alterke at the end of the table beside Asakami. Curiously enough, there was an empty seat between Nico and Mylan. The Servants all stood behind their Masters; Archer knelt, because they did not trust him to behave himself.
    “What has Archer done to deserve this treatment?” Nico whispered to Mylan, whose expression ranged from indifference to excitement according to the waning and waxing of the moon.
    “What does a spider deal unto man that he must then return a thousandfold? Injustice does not conform to us, dear Overseer. We conform to injustice.”
    Nico nodded slowly. He imagined the bulky Archer as a small boy, a spider, who must be squashed, and sprayed, and smeared, because injustice must be dealt as equally as justice unto suspecting victims, without discrimination. The truths Mylan imparted upon him depressed him greatly, but he sucked it up.

    [MARCH 31st, 22:00]
    Supper must start at 10pm.
    “Tap the tass!” Marusia whistled to the sickly-pale Amytis. She was starving. Her plate included ten types of meat, one of which was most certainly snake.
    The First Owner, Host to the Holy Grail Ritual, stood to speak a toast.
    “Look, Overseer. This is what we call a Symposium.”
    Mylan’s voice echoed the expertise of somebody else.
    “I wish to recant the Metamorphoses of Ovid.” Amytis nervously cleared her voice, then began. “‘My soul is wrought to sing of forms transformed to bodies new and strange! Immortal Gods inspire my heart, for ye have changed yourselves and all things you have changed! Oh lead my song in smooth and measured strains, from olden days when earth began to this completed time.’
    As the poet said of the Gods, I believe it necessitates that we too, magi and humans alike, replicate that behavior. Metamorphosis is the basis for all things, and one cannot reach anything without a horrid transformation. Even the dead may only ever superficially approach death without transforming their souls into goats, or birds, or whatever. You know? Er, I hope that through this ritual of mutual celebration we may enter a new phase of our lives. Therefore, let’s hope that this journey will be a worthy metamorphosis.”

    Marusia laughed so hard her witch-hat fell off her head. Nico knew barely anything of Magecraft theory, but he knew that sticking an accessory to the body was entirely too simple, and that this was completely intentional on her side. Amytis played it cool and picked her fork with her left hand, as Mylan requested.
    “Marusia should make a toast. Only then can the feast actually begin.”
    “Ha!” Master of Archer telepathically returned her hat to her head and jumped to her feet. “With sodding pleasure!”
    She circled the table and raised her chin. Her eyes gleamed a fruit basket, and she stole an apple and raised it to the moon.
    “This is just an apple. There’s nothing more to it, is there? And the apple will do ANYTHING to just stay an apple, wouldn’t it? You can stab it,” and she did as much with her fork, “you can bite into it,” and she did, “and you can brosat it to the ocean!” The apple landed with a plap, submerged, and disappeared.
    “You know what it’ll always be?” Marusia spat. “And if you peel its layers, what’ll you get? Juicy, ripe flesh, ready to be ground against your teeth. And if you squeeze it, the puss will quaff like a crushed body. It’ll still be a sodding apple, all the way through. This isn’t a weakling’s Samsara. This is the way things are. There’s no karma, and there’s no metamorphosis, that’s all. When I was a little boy, I smarted a rock into this godman’s skull—he still a godman, I still a sod. Get used to it.”

    Marusia rolled her fork back and forth between her fingers, then pointed it at Alterke. "Your turn."
    "Ayn, appeal to the lowest common denominator," Norihara suggested, and the man scoffed.
    He walked up beside Marusia and the two exchanged a glance, and the white-collared woman who kept bastardizing Russian words returned to her seat. Nico knew Russian. He was a polyglot to compensate for the fact he could only read scripture. Marusia Rostova, whoever she was, did not speak Russian as much as she gesticulated it.
    "I'll spare 'godman' talk. I'll only refer to the topic of 'metamorphosis'.” Alterke already drank heartily by then. “We seem to believe that to drink merrily, we must drink appropriately. And that to eat merrily we must eat appropriately. And that if we wish to live merrily, we must live appropriately. And how do we do all that? We sprinkle moments of sobriety, moments of fasting, and moments of boredom. Why? Because someone once deceived us and told us that to be happy we must know sadness. Bullshit! I say, what makes you happy is discovering. Discovering that you can attain the positive despite residing in the negative. Discovering that you can reach out while feeling chained and bound to the ground. Discovering that the journey doesn’t require any sort of sacrifice. We are never too far from the light, and at our worst moments it engulfs us more than ever. Which is why I say, drink! Eat! Live! Tomorrow is another day, and by then let’s hope you forget, so you can repeat the process till you embody joy. It’s not about how many cycles you undergo; it’s about how much you can take.”

    Unprompted, Mylan stood and cleared his throat. His eyebrows furrowed noticeably. He was conflicted.
    At last, “I disagree,” and he returned to his seat.
    He looked to Nico, then gestured to him to stand up, but when he did rise Mylan shook his head and said: “Not you, Overseer. It’s the Organizer’s turn.”
    “Who?”
    A purple tuft appeared out of thin air; an elegant, ethereal face, possessing both feminine and masculine, old and young properties all at the same time. The being looked up at Nico with two paradoxically benign blue eyes that contained within them a myriad of hues he’d never seen before—never in the sea, never in the sky. That gaze—it scrutinized him, as if the comparison between the being’s eyes and the world at large was a wound that could never be healed. As if by merely thinking, Nico had committed a grave sin against the innocent. His heart wrenched at the thought that he had betrayed the being’s trust, except he didn’t know who exactly he was betraying.
    He was right there, beside him. He’d always been right there, beside him. Nameless, yet ever-present. Faceless, yet all-seeing.
    The being’s neutral expression turned sour quickly and Nico panicked at the idea that he was truly at fault. It was as if he was unraveled from head to toe by an instance: all things culminating into a single action…and then, expanding to a lifetime.
    Nico was worried that if he looked away, he’d forget he'd ever seen the boy like with Norihara’s parlor children. Instinctively, from the crevices of his mind he recalled a memory similar to this.
    He knew someone back in the Alexandrian Lighthouse that possessed an identical mien.
    Nico wanted to scratch his arm, but that would’ve been sacrilege.

    The organizer attended the stage, but he was wary and walked stiffly so as to not get sand in his shoes.
    Nobody seemed shocked about his sudden appearance. Was Nico the only one who couldn’t see him earlier? Somehow he didn’t believe that was the case.
    Lancer, the black-plated knight, ground his teeth in frustration at the sight of the organizer.
    The organizer’s voice was emphatically angelic.

    ”Deus, qui adversus Ecclesiam tuam, in apostolicae petrae soliditate fundatam, portas inferi numquam praevalere permittis, da ei, quaesumus, ut, intercedente beato Leone papa, in tua veritate consistens, pace continua muniatur.”
    ”I dreamt a dream. I saw an angel in my dream. He said to me: arm yourself for the moment to come. I took a thousand spears and a thousand shields, and then I wept from night to day, from day to night. And if to quote William Blake says nothing much to you, fellow nameless ones, let me speak it clearly.”

    Words were inlaid in that recited poem. Words that Nico could hear clearly and beyond a shadow of a doubt. Words that praised a gracious man.
    “We’ve all undergone metamorphosis long ago. When we escaped the cavernous stomach of the Earth and ventured out towards the moon; when we fell into the hole and found ourselves bereft of names. But fret not, for I’ve a book unlike any other, and it seeks to dissect each name under the clouds. The name of my book is The Question; the question being asked: how many letters can one fit into the soul? And if the soul can possess all things, how do we appease it?”
    Mylan’s fingers stretched against the table. He flicked his fingers as if orchestrating a massive symphony. His lips parted and he uttered voiceless hymns.
    “I thought hard and long about a certain plant. I pondered the meaning of breaking through its shell. A few of us do have the answer, so let's usher them onwards and downwards, and never utter their names again.”

    There was no cloud in the night sky. They were all stolen and placed in the palm of an angel.
    The angel emerged from the ocean, fingers grazing Nivalis’ foamed waves. His wings fluttered and passed through the sea as if it, and not they, were immaterial and transparent.
    It was different from Lancer’s summoning. It was simply done.
    Nico knew who this 'Angel' was.
    “Ruler,” Mylan leaned forth and waved towards the angel. His face shone so brightly, Nico almost lost himself in it. “We’re honored to have you approach our trivial ritual.”
    “Why ‘Ruler’?” Nico asked.
    “The Pope does not care for the Holy Grail’s wish-granting function. He’s here to facilitate the ritual itself. To officiate the cup.”
    They couldn’t get the permission of the modern, living Pope… so they summoned one from the past. One endowed with wings, and long red hair, and an enormous shield that could defend even against the magnanimity of the sun and all the layers of heaven combined.
    “Pope?...” Amytis murmured. Rider rested his chin on his Master’s head, but she didn’t seem to notice.
    The angel was adorned with cream-white robes and gold ornaments upon every inch of his body. He lacked the Papal Tiara, but managed to impress with a halo instead. The organizer bent a knee, and Nico did as well. His instincts to serve the patriarch overcame his desires for impartiality.
    If Ruler was summoned to officiate the ritual, then what purpose did an ‘overseer’ serve? Nico gulped.

    “Gaze upon my demeanor, most Holy and Just. For I have come from Heaven unto Earth to bring about the end to your enormous plights. For I have slain both sinners and sin itself with words alone, for I have taken emperors and made light of them with mine wings of God. No conqueror stands a chance against the one who sitteth for God upon the Throne of the Earth, so bring thyselves to thine knees! Unfold thine sins, for they might impress upon me the image of regret, and I may grant redemption upon thee.”
    The Pope’s voice ringed in Nico’s ears and his entire body burnt up. Every syllable was soft-spoken and yet felt like a whip against his shoulders.
    “Of birth, Leo. A tyrant I had defeated, and a tyrant I must quell. Bring me to the one who threatens Tuscany, the Earthly land to which I belong, and I shall squash the threat as I had done to that brain-dead Hun.”
    Marusia pulled Archer by his bountiful hair all the way to Ruler’s feet.
    “I’d never imagined the supreme authority of an empire could wear such a horrible expression while asleep. What have you done to him, Witch?”
    A faint smile crept upon her lips. She grabbed Ruler by the shoulder and tucked a strand of red hair behind his ear. “I slaughtered Saints far holier than thou, Pope. Sod off.”
    All attendees except Ruler returned to their seats, at which point Alterke grew uneasy.
    “Coach, is it about time?”
    “I’d say so.”
    The organizer disappeared from Nico’s gaze completely. His eyes were hard-wired to Ruler’s actions, and the way his chest rose and fell.
    His soul was magnanimous. It was beautiful. And as he bashed his shield against Archer’s unconscious body, it grew even prettier still. His well-kept red hair turning disheveled with each blow was simply an exchange between physical and spiritual beauty. An equivalent exchange akin to magecraft, he’d argue.
    But blood did not spew from the corpse of Archer. It was more analogous to a blacksmith crafting a sword than to murder. His skin cleared out from his abundant scars and his face was no longer obscured. He had become the spider which must be destroyed, and Amytis reacted horribly to the situation.
    Her face grew bleak. Rider was grinning widely and without pleasure.
    “Mylan,” Alterke turned away from the scene. “Is that what you meant by…?”
    “We’re deciding on a nomenclature.” Mylan nodded.

    The time of the feast hath subsided. The time of the end hath arrived.
    And all knew things had gone awry when the first shot fired.
    Nico’s gaze flickered between the apocalypse and its designated angel, Ruler. His desire to obey and his desire to protect were forced to cannibalize on each other.
    From his pocket Mylan brought forth a meek, unassuming firearm, and he aimed it silently to Alterke’s head. BANG
    Blood sprung forth.
    He readjusted to Amytis. BANG
    Then, with an understanding exchange between two accomplices, he shot Marusia in the head too. BANG
    Within two seconds, the ground had become tarnished with brain matter, and it had cried out to the skies—and so was the wish they’d made upon the grail.
    To be freed from their restraints—to be spiders, smeared bloody for the sin of living.
    To each their own. It is what it is.
    Norihara Asakami’s nostrils flared. A horse-tranquilizer fitted neatly in his neck. The Organizer’s angelic voice rolled to a childish giggle. Amytis’ blood began trailing towards Nico, and that was enough to pull him from the utter shock of the situation. He stumbled back and managed to stand up, only to crumble to his knees immediately.

    —an earthquake overtook the beach.
    Trails of perfect red hair protruded from Asakami’s skull; vermillion strands that quickly overtook the entire mane like wildfire; crimson flames that manifested in response to great grief.
    But before Norihara could make a move against the treacherous man who stole from him such great treasure, he was caught in the crossfire of a wide splash of molten rock that slithered through the ground—it erupted, like a volcano, at Mylan’s feet. Asakami's regenerative abilities were outweighed by whatever the Organizer injected him with, and he collapsed at that.
    Volume after volume, eruption after eruption, the golden whip perpetuated an onslaught of ruination unlike anything Nico had seen before. It was tangentially similar to the Mirror which resided in Alexandria’s Lighthouse: a magma-hot beam that could imitate a volcanic eruption. Still, foundationally, it was completely different.
    It was never-ending.
    Nico’s senses numbed. He recognized this scene, too.
    The nerves in his hands bounced towards the fire, and from within he was torn apart.
    He wanted to take Mylan’s soul and embrace it. To enumerate it. His soul was attracted to the scene in an unsettling invocation of his childhood years. The hopelessness was nostalgic.
    He expected the scent of burnt flesh to coat him with its unyielding saliva, but that wasn’t the case.
    A soft ode, instead, was the thing that held him by the neck forcing tears down his cheeks. The Organizer was singing.
    ”Seated upon the throne of the priesthood, glorious Leo,
    you shut the mouths of the spiritual lions.
    With divinely inspired teachings of the honored Trinity,
    you shed the light of the knowledge of God up-on your flock.
    Therefore, you are glorified as a divine initiate of the grace of God.”

    The magma engulfed Mylan in a solid, cavernous ball.
    Archer stood tall. His Master, now dead, no longer held him back.
    He summoned a two-meters tall bow, then drew twice in quick succession. The arrows transformed ravenously from constructs of cedar and iron to white-glazed muscular beasts of the field, trampling over the hallow sands of Nivalis with august regality.
    The attacks were withstood by a shield of insurmountable light, which was then raised to the sky in preparation—the beasts which Archer sent forth were pulverized under the heel of this shield, turned into dust and nothing else.
    Every feather upon his back sat upright, each one attentive to the command of the Patriarch of the West; light protruded through his skin to eradicate all hope of conquest. A man to whom Saints direct their prayers, who was unmatched and all-knowing in the matters of the faith.
    Emerging behind the Pope, Mylan was entirely unharmed. No hint of scorch nor maimed skin.
    They locked eyes. Nico stifled a scream.
    Mylan raised his gun, and—

    The Familia Herlethingi.
    A hellhound snapped its jaw at Mylan’s neck, and it did not let go until a chunk of meat was torn away revealing Mylan’s broken windpipes. A swarm of black matter entered through that opening until Mylan dropped the gun and fell backwards with a resounding thump.
    The Pope seemed not to notice Mylan’s condition, as four divine beasts emerged in different avian shapes to conquer the Papacy. Archer was aggressive with his shots, and with every release of the sinew he released a painful cry of rage and bitterness.
    “I say,” the Organizer manifested behind Ruler. “Let us name the animals.”
    Leo the Great bellowed into a fit of laughter. His defensive skill was immeasurable. He managed to hold off four divine beasts all the while with relative ease. It must’ve had to do with the fact that they were standing at the Pope’s region of birth and infinitely close to the center of his region of authority. His actions are backed by centuries upon centuries of glorification and fame as the Pope who scared Attila the Hun off Rome.
    “Trash!” He named with each blow, as the divine beasts melted round his defenses like fog. “Utter trash! Unfit to bear a decent name, unfit to consider, unfit to dwell on my Earth!”
    Lancer sprung forth. His face was empty from expression and his attacks were razor-sharp. His black armor reflected the moon perfectly, as if he was made to always reside beneath it. He used his immense agility to unleash substantial damage to the Pope, who was less accustomed to moving around a battlefield. A pack of shadows followed his every move. Lancer flinched with every strike.
    The Organizer looked over to Nico.
    The priest was too afraid to run away, so he removed his right-hand glove.

    ——the Right Hand of Glory.
    A holy relic Mystic Code made from the right arm of a sinner who was hanged. While the process to make them is difficult, they are relatively common. Lighting the Hand of G it to another person would subdue that person to a long, deep sleep.
    But Nico’s Right Hand of Glory was neither common nor simple.
    It was a plan fabricated by the Templars, and in his hands were countless residues of Magic Crests and Magic Circuits. These contained the souls of countless sinners, not just one—these held onto secrets that Nico didn’t know anything about.
    The Right Hand of Glory was a skeleton-key, it had always been so. The difference between Nico’s Hands of Glory and a common one, was that his were skeleton-keys to actualized mysteries, derived from the foundations of the World.
    His body was wholly scripture. His hands brought about the miracles written above and underneath his skin.
    He was ready to protect himself—to protect Nivalis—from those who wished to bring it down.
    Amytis’ spirit was nearby. He could hear her voice whispering to him: “Idiot. Let’s get it over with.”
    Nico almost toppled over when Rider pushed Amytis forward. They were both smiling uncontrollably.
    “Organizer! What’s your name?” Amytis called out.
    He raised his chin. “Poet.”
    She clenched someone’s entrails in her left hand, and a pearl in her right hand. “That’s hers,” Rider supplied. Nico was about to puke.
    The First Owner of Nivalis, miraculously resurrected from the dead, threw the pearl in the air and raised her disemboweled entrails to the heavens above. “Free-verse this!” She called out.
    Someone stole the clouds back to the heavens. The Angel must’ve been preoccupied with the other Servants.
    Thunder roared and lightning flashed. Nivalis reacted aptly to the threats that threatened to wring it dead.
    Nico heard a local legend once that went something like this:
    After the Kingdom of Rome fell, the nymph-consort of the Second King of Rome fled with her sacred prophecies. One day, when she visited the Morningstar’s birthplace she met a young Red Boy who pointed at her stomach and said: “You’re a bottle holding lightning.” The nymph laughed heartily, then looked to the sky and pointed at the boy’s stomach: “You’re the sky in the shape of a boy.”
    It was a regional mystery locked away when the dome disappeared and the yolk had melted.
    Libri Fulgurales—'The Cartography of Lightning Strokes.’
    The pearl crackled and popped, its splendor flying “too high”. It was struck down by lightning, and it fell like a certain maddened king. Rider’s pearl mirrored the lightning in its reflective surface then emphasized it upon the land.
    A question stung the back of Nico’s mind. He reached over to his nape in pain.
    ”Who is ▋▋▋▋▋▋▋▋?”
    The clouds laughed in his face, and from their laughter emerged retribution, but it did not land squarely on Amytis’ target. Rather, it hit the highest location in Nivalis as nature intended: the Hearth Compitum. Amytis’ eyes bugged out in a mix of shame and horror.
    Poet keeled over in laughter.
    His body overexerted itself, so he threw up a bucket of blood. The clouds in the sky high above were gone, completely eradicated. Slain, taken apart, and fed to the abyss.
    Poet couldn’t stifle his laughter anymore. From giggles, it became airy gasps. Maybe those clouds were brought into his lungs?
    Ruler, Archer, and Lancer kept at each other. Explosions and wide blackened guillotines expanded and sliced; Ruler’s shield began losing its immeasurable light, but it had yet dimmed.
    “He didn’t want to see me,” a mournful voice emanated from Mylan’s corpse. He rose from the dead just like Amytis. His neck remained torn. "Have I made an inefficient argument?"
    Nico’s right hand was writhing in pain.
    A flame appeared at his side: vibrant, yet standing still.
    He shoved his arm into the fire, and the world went to sleep.
    [APRIL 1st, 00:01]
    Quote Originally Posted by Random View Post
    For a moment I had a flash of inspiration about a NP that mixes and matches the attributes of its targets... Unfortunately, Barbara Walker is alive...

  9. #9
    夜属 Nightkin Salt Pillar's Avatar
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    1.EPILOGUE

    Curiouser and curiouser was her journey through the serpentine halls of the Veiled One’s palace.
    It was a labyrinth of great proportions and the river that coursed through it was most wonderful. Some streams rolled onwards, and some backwards to the Veiled One’s throne. She found the reverted rivers more beautiful for they were akin to memories.
    Narcisa Fulgenico threw breadcrumbs for the Veiled One, and they submerged into the water and dispersed, and became one with the leylines, and the baked goods’ smell dissipated behind the more poignant scent of the halls.
    Something akin to blooming roses; dew atop most resplendent petals. Oh, how she wished to be buried beneath a piquant mound of roses. Its tone, like red thread, brought her back home. It told her secrets that no other scent ever did—ever could. And at her worst, it made her better. More true to herself, to her nature as a human being. It revealed to her fair ladies and pallid goats, and the Red Prince whose sneer beside the ladies was both charming and indignant.
    But to Narcisa, all the Red Prince’s expressions were empathic and understanding. It’s a simple formula, she’d argue.
    “When a dog wags his tail, it means he’s happy. But cats are the opposite of dogs, so when a cat wags its tail, it must mean he’s angry. So, you too, like cats, sneer when you’re happy.”
    The Red Prince was conflicted. Should he respond to her antics with a smile, or a sneer? His eyes dropped.
    “You ought to tell me where I should go, Prince!”
    To where you ought to go, he wanted to say. Her intuition penetrated his defenses, and she understood the meaning of his silence.
    Such were the obligations of a young savior. To save a people, you must understand their spiritual, mental, and bodily needs with but a glance. Hunger should be discerned from body language just as well as sadness from wept tears.
    Unfortunately, Narcisa did not understand human body language. She understood goats perfectly, and mattresses, and baked goods, but she could not understand human souls. Why? Because if ‘humans’ can understand each other, then a human shouldn’t understand a ‘human’. It’s a very simple formula.
    The wisps that kept swirling at the edge of her sight pointed left, then right, then through bars and across the bridge. She came upon a most lovely garden—a table was set just for her and for her company of fair ladies.
    It was a decrepit table, broken and disheveled. Used, beaten, and ruined completely. It must’ve been a relic sent to her as a prophetic instigator.
    Narcisa could recite prophecies. Yes, indeed. Whenever she ate a really good meal, dreams would come upon her and she would wake with ideas and fantastical depictions of the future which she would then paint onto canvas given to her by the Red Prince.
    He said unto her once that red is the color of the inside, and that blue is the color of the outside. But Narcisa did not like red, so she settled to paint in purple hues. But nowadays, her vision skewed, and her fascination with red deepened, and she began to understand the Red Prince’s adoration for the entrails within and the skies so far above.
    She could see gods in her paintings—crimson emanations of some divinity.
    She couldn’t lift the veil. It left her greatly frustrated.
    The world sent food forth so that she may consume, and laying beside it was a Queen worth considering. Her hat was pointy and her forehead was painted a beautiful red.
    Narcisa approached the ragged table, whose legs were all broken, and her red thigh-highs comfortably met a pale mattress. A jolt rushed through her brittle limbs and a yawn was pressured out of her. The table was laid for a company of people, but only she delighted in its fruits now.
    Beside the table was a single apple, and a fork was neatly stabbed into it.
    How did it get here? Narcisa wondered.
    She traced a finger across the apple, then took a bite.
    “Bleh!” It was awfully salty, almost unbearably so. Her sweet-tooth couldn’t handle something so awful and she reprimanded herself for biting into that strange fruit.
    Her face was red with embarrassment, and although the color was beautiful, the shameful emotions were far stronger, so she at last smiled—as a human being, this meant she was dissatisfied, of course.
    What else was there to see?
    Narcisa was given a task: she was meant to scour, and understand, and discover. To do all those things, she had to use her brain and find appropriate hints, and describe the situation as it were, and explain circumstances she was unfamiliar with. All those steps hurt her head so badly, she would’ve given up were it not for her distinct love for the Red Prince, and her burning hatred of the Princess.
    And all that hatred was redirected to the Queen, of course. Because if ‘human beings’ distinguished between one man and another, she had to see all emanations of a form as one object. Such were the rules transcribed to her by the Red Prince, who said that her role in securing Nivalis’ future was paramount and irreplaceable.
    A stranger was part of a different group, and because she despises the other group, she must also despise the stranger. It was a law of nature, he told her.
    Naricsa still couldn’t quite fathom these intricacies. She really did try her best to ‘think like a regressed being’, but how could she even know what a regressed being meant? She was completely out of her league. Narcisa was simply a normal girl walking veiled halls in red, visceral paint.
    She was just another teenage girl stuck in something far larger than her own reality.
    But she had to do as she was told, otherwise she’d lose him.
    Her fingers crept to the fork and she pulled it, focusing her attention on the Queen. The Queen’s long hair and piercing blue eyes were points of jealousy, and her well-braided wool coat was something Narcisa desperately wanted for herself.
    So, since she was just a normal girl, she began pummeling the fork into the woman’s rib cage and disrobed her of her expensive coat, and allowed the Queen some modicum of freedom not out of a sense of superiority, but because she really did care.
    Now, the Queen was painted both inside and outside; both red and blue colored her aura, and she was practically a perfect existence akin to an entire world.
    Narcisa wondered what would’ve happened if a butterfly was to flap its wings inside the Queen’s world. Would the mirror shatter? Would it be the same butterfly between each flap, or amidst?
    It was too much red paint, so she began rolling the Queen towards the reverse rivers of the Veiled One.
    Suddenly, Narcisa was thirsty so she heartily drank from the reverse river. The water flowed into her so that she may be cleansed properly, and her insides were purged of sin, and her gulps echoed in the empty halls like a butterfly in an empty world.
    The cracking of bones joined her gulps: horrific sounds convulsed and crescendoed in an unsettling cacophony of torn tissues and sprayed blood.
    The Queen managed to uprise from within her corpse like a cicada being reborn into the world through its eternal cocoon. Her body parted to reveal an identical form.
    “The audacity!” The Queen bellowed in a masculine voice before her regenerating throat began to close in on her vocal chords, finalizing some hint of femininity. “I’ll fist a knife into his damned bump till it’s a crater! I’ll make his head fall a thousand times over! I’ll tear his blue skin and make a sodding bolnoy coat out of it! And after I’ll piss all over it, I’ll sell it to the masses and watch your existence get tarnished by your very worshippers!”
    There were two Queens. One was a corpse, taken slowly but surely by the purifying waters. The other was alive and well, and she was furious beyond compare.
    “Why are you so angry?” Narcisa asked the newly resurrected Queen.
    Her eyes went slanted and her nose scrunched. “This place is disgusting.”
    “I disagree,” Narcisa gasped.
    The Queen pulled on the skin of her face in palpable frustration. “Get out of here, girl. The sewers are not a place for someone like you.”
    All around them were outstanding walls, and the stench of blood was thick against Narcisa’s nose, so it was quite easy to forfeit the notion of rejecting what was ‘gross’. It was indeed true what the Queen alleged: Narcisa’s journey occurred in the sewer system of Nivalis. But it was unfair to label it an ‘unattractive adventure’.
    As long as she was beside the Red Prince, she was both safe and content, and no such things as ‘disgust’ could ever budge her from the path of righteousness.
    “How dare you not replace my skin with something better?” The Queen whispered to herself. Her expression changed from wrath to pure agony, and then to downright bafflement.
    From the corner of her vision, Narcisa saw the Red Prince furrowing his brows at the ‘human’ woman. She did not accept regression; the Queen wanted to be better, and for that she must be left to die.
    Nine bruises were clearly etched on the Queen’s arm, which she was inspecting with worry.
    Narcisa let her be.
    Her journey must continue onwards. The Veiled Goddess was appeased anyhow by the flesh of the cocoon, and it must’ve crept towards the mattress by now.

    She darted past the Queen and reached another hall, which connected between the sewer system to a deeper underground cavern.
    Technically, the Red Prince told her, all of the sewers’ districts had entry points, including the room she’d just been in with the forked apple and the ruined table. It was simply unlikely she could make it through those entry points in her physical manifestation.
    Only upon achieving true regression could she finally surpass those limitations and join her Red Prince in a journey through the walls.
    The ladder extended deep underground.
    Descending meant leaving the sewers completely. The expanse of the cavern was enormous; an entire city could fit down here. It was mined out entirely by the guardian spirits of Nivalis, but nobody was aware of its existence.
    The ladder disconnected from its firm wall and remained steadfast only through the Red Prince’s continual reinforcements. He was floating beside her upon a manifested cloud, but he told her that she would not be able to hop on.
    “So I can’t pass through walls because I haven’t regressed yet, but I can’t stand on solid objects because I haven’t regressed yet—this doesn’t sound fair at all!” She stuttered uncontrollably. Narcisa wasn’t afraid of heights, but the sheer emptiness of the cavern made its proportions all the more prominent.
    Well, the Red Prince said, clouds aren’t solid.
    When she finally reached the bottom of the cavern every tap of her shoe echoed bombastically and made the leylines omit a blue-ish hue.
    Narcisa began looking around. “We have an hour before the cavern becomes…a, er, temporal anomaly? Was that it?”
    The Red Prince repeated his warning: the cavern had been flipping between two identities for the past eight hundred years—the Nivalis Cavern, and the Green Cavern. He personally commanded the fair ladies to carve out the cavern so that the town could outscale the Green Cavern and combat it through the incompatibility principle.
    Up to date, this anomaly remains the only thing that managed to penetrate the dome. Though, whether it penetrated the dome spatially is an assumption nobody could argue for with evidence. Still, to bring a cavern forth into a domain separated from the rest of the world… Who could ever manage something like that? Or, more accurately, what phenomena made it happen?
    The Nivalis Cavern was sloped between the first plateau and the second plateau, separated by a thin set of Boundary Fields set up by the Sinistrari family approximately two generations ago. As far as Narcisa knew, the Boundary Field's purpose was to keep the two caverns from intermingling and corrupting each other, despite both possessing the same possessive spirit and thus sharing the curse. If one were to point out the differences between the Upper Echelon and the Lower Echelon—the rocks forming the Upper Echelon's ceiling were identical to clouds, while the ceiling of the Lower Echelon was entirely pipes and horizontal stalactites.
    Narcisa's journey meant burrowing through the Lower Echelon to find the prize.
    The leylines all pointed towards a single ravine, their hue brightening the further down they led, like a game of hot and cold.
    The Red Prince sliced that conclusive thin slew of stone which recoiled like protruding vines and revealed a complex chamber of branched, dimmed-out leylines. The contrast was day and night.
    Behind the guise of being the one to breathe life into the veins of the land, this chamber was completely Veiled. Unknowable.

    It was forty on fifty meters in size and yet quite uncomfortably short, perhaps made for someone of lower stature than Narcisa. Though, it's worth noting her limbs have elongated over the course of the Red Prince's training. Along the marble walls ran dozens of black leylines, Veiled Leylines, that the chamber overtook and converted into connective tissues of a hidden device embedded into the far wall.
    It held an unknown shape and unfathomable colors—a glimpse, then two glimpses, and yet no sense was made of it. The Red Prince warned that it might happen, because she was a human being unfamiliar with the conventions of names and identities. Adults, according to the Red Prince, would've seen a tinted-green wheel, while ancient humans like him saw its true grandeur.
    The Red Prince curiously examined the chamber walls and urged Narcisa forward.
    It is the water of the cup from which forms emerge, he explained. Make sure to drink it, he said, for it will give you a form as well.
    Her palm met the shapeless device, and she fought it off the wall—the leylines detached from the chamber and followed the cup's contained liquids like black tendrils. She dipped her first finger into the cup’s waters and flicked it off on the ground, as instructed. The liquid was malleable and inconsistent, at times flowy and otherwise like gelatin. Its smell was putrid, but that was half the fun.
    Narcisa reached further into the cup. Further and further, until her entire arm submerged in the river. Until she could feel the breath of a dragon at her fingertips—until lightning coursed through her veins and she could hear the voice of an old man talking through gulps of wine.
    “Who…no—what are you?”
    The old man talked with restrained slurred speech. Like an actor in a play merely feigning intoxication, and not for a lack of trying. Maybe he swigged a bottle, maybe two, but he remained still as silver and gold. Wise as a god, yet boorish as a man. And he asked questions of utmost importance, but only when he cared to. And he asked them succinctly, and he never meandered near the truth. In fact, he only asked one question, though a thousand popped up in his mind.
    But to find an answer is like finding buried treasure; you may do so one at a time, and hurry up—others are fighting for that same prize, so ask the best question.
    Narcisa could not withdraw her hand. The Red Prince was holding her in place with his gaze. Her organs twisted and bent into shape, regressing to a time before civilization, connecting her further and further with that insincere voice.
    But from now on, that voice would not intrude her senses anymore, for she was not worth his questions. Perhaps he'd already figured her out. Perhaps the treasure he plundered was counterfeit all along.
    Her circuits burned within, expanding and convulsing, regressing and changing. Narcisa couldn't scream, for her voice was sealed shut in her throat—her eardrums popped loudly and regrew.
    The liquids of the cup drew her in, while the real world pulled her out, and she became a soul forever changed by wilting tides.
    “How is it that the veil was not put on us by a Veiled God, if such is the law?” Tages whispered in Narcisa's ear.
    The river within the cavern responded: “If one imposes like a god, and can be deceived like a god, is one, then, not a god? And if one wreaks havoc, and one breaks rules, and one distorts the appointed times of festivals and respectable laws of harvest, can we not say they are Veiled?”
    The old man responded to the two prophets, but his voice carried no weight in that cacophony of anticipation and terror.
    “A man can certainly be a god, if by divinity we suppose wisdom.”
    A flower bloomed thousands of years ago. It blooms today.
    A flower with petals that did not belong to it. Petals that belonged to her.
    A flower that sustained itself on the human condition. 'Human' as she may be.
    And a crown of utmost substance; painted red, blue, gold, and green.
    Quote Originally Posted by Random View Post
    For a moment I had a flash of inspiration about a NP that mixes and matches the attributes of its targets... Unfortunately, Barbara Walker is alive...

  10. #10
    不死 Undead PA270's Avatar
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    Okay, I'm going to be blunt, I have no idea what exactly is going on here. And I am utterly enthralled by it. I might not be able to penetrate the meaning as of yet, but the lush language and the fascinating characters are keeping me invested. Fantastic work!

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