Authors Note: Yo. I've decided to upload the first chapter of my ZnT story so I can see what you all think of it.
I am actually curious to see how this story will be received, due to 'Saito being summoned with special abilities' stories being fairly common.
For those of you who follow my Code Geass Story, have no fear; Chapter 9 will be uploaded on the 18th. It would be sooner but I have family obligations to take care of that push my upload date back.
Anyway, ONWARDS TO THE FIC!
Disclaimer: I don't own Zero no Tsukaima (or Familiar of Zero, whichever name you prefer), so don't be suing me.
Chapter 1: The Adept and The Zero
Cloister of Trials, Academy of Onmyōdō, Kyoto, Japan
"Talisman of Fire, come to my aid!" Hiiraga Saito shouted as he threw a strip of paper at the human-shaped target across the room from him. As the paper flew from his right hand, his left hand formed a handsign and Saito channelled the exact amount of mana needed for the spell he was about to use.
"Hiotoko! (Fire Man!)" Saito yelled, completing the spell and activating it. The ink on the Talisman glowed red before it was consumed in a ball of fire. The fire then shifted into the shape of a samurai in full armour with his katana drawn and ready.
The fire-Samurai sped towards the dummy and impacted on it with a great [FOOM] in the centre. Saito sighed in relief as his target burned merrily. Fire element spells were not his forte, so he had been worried that the spell would backfire, which would have been embarrassing.
Not to mention painful.
"That was well done, Apprentice Hiiraga." A voice spoke from behind him.
Saito turned from the sight of his burning target to face his examiner, Tsubaki Kaname. He was dressed in the full regalia of a fully accredited member of the Ministry of Onmyōji: white Shinto robes, blue hakama and a tall black hat.
"Arigatou, Tsubaki-sensei." Saito replied with a small bow. He was dressed in the robes of an Onmyōji Apprentice. His white Shinto robes had three blue stripes on each sleeve, marking him as a third-year apprentice. He wore a black Hakama and had no headgear, showing his short black hair to the world.
Tsubaki shook his head with a small smile. He was quite fond of young Hiiraga and had thus been slightly harsher on him than he should have been when he taught him. This had actually encouraged the young apprentice to try harder and his skill with the Eight Elements, already impressive, had soared to new heights.
Except from fire.
"No, Hiiraga-kun. The simple fact is that fire spells are very difficult for you. We have been unable to determine why that is, but you have nevertheless persevered in your studies and, as proof of your dedication and hard work, that spell just now was executed flawlessly. You have successfully passed the Trial of Fire." Tsubaki said proudly.
Saito flushed in embarrassment at his sensei's praise. Tsubaki was very sparing with his praise, so any praise given was a rare treat.
"[Ahem]" Saito cleared his throat, "So then sensei, are there any further Trials left for me to do?"
Tsubaki's smile grew a little larger. "No, Hiiraga-kun. You have successfully completed the Trials of Light and Darkness." The older man's voice was definitely leaning towards wry amusement now. "Return to the waiting room once you have changed into your spare robes and await a summons from the Grandmaster."
Saito bowed at his sensei and left via the room's only door, to await with bated breath the one thing all teenagers fret about most: Exam results.
2nd Year Classroom, Tristain Academy for Magic, Tristain, Halkaginia
Louise Françoise 'le Blanc' de La Vallière, youngest daughter of the Duke de La Vallière, sat in her seat, bored, as the teacher at the front of the classroom gave a lecture about a basic application of Earth-based magic - Alchemic transmutation of pebbles into brass.
'This is ridiculous!' Louise thought moodily, 'I know the theory of this spell inside and out. Basic transmutation is supposed to be easy, and it is…for everyone else! But for me…'
The pinkette sighed quietly. And yet, whenever she tried to cast even the simplest spell, it blew up in her face. Very literally.
To make matters worse, her spells blew up in everyone's faces!
Louise gnashed her teeth together -quietly- in frustration and returned her attention to the lecture, where the teacher, a jovial pleasantly plump woman with brown hair tied into a bun, had just demonstrated the actual spell for this specific transmutation -Rem In Yan. The pebbles had rattled, glowed and turned into solid brass.
"Now, I would like one of you to attempt this spell." The teacher announced to the classroom at large. She looked around for a moment before indicating Louise, who had picked up her quill and had started jotting down notes about her observations of the spell.
"You, the one taking notes." The teacher declared. Once the class saw who she was talking about, they all burst into chatter, unease written across their faces. "What is your name?"
"Louise Françoise de La Vallière, ma'am." Louise replied as she laid her quill down and stood up from her desk. Malicorne de Grandpre, a stout blond haired boy sitting in the middle of the classroom, raised his hand nervously.
"E-Errr, Miss Chevreuse," Malicorne stammered out, making the teacher look at him with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes, is something the matter?" she asked.
"I-I think it would be better if you chose someone else…" the boy said worriedly.
The entire class, except Louise, nodded in agreement. Louise's eyebrow started twitching in annoyance.
A tall redhead stood up, her impressive cleavage straining the shirt she wore as they jiggled when she moved. "I agree, it's too dangerous to let her do it. Let me try." The girl, Kirche Augusta Frederica Von Anhalt Zerbst, protested stridently.
Louise's eyebrow was now twitching rapidly in pace with her growing anger. Had it been anyone else, the pinkette would have let it pass, but Von Zerbst was the one person that she absolutely could not abide criticism from, as it had been the busty redhead who had given her the thrice-accused moniker that she oh-so despised.
"Dangerous?" Miss Chevreuse scoffed with a small laugh, "Nonsense! Simple Alchemy is not dangerous!"
Louise, having had more than enough of being talked about as if she wasn't actually present, ended the debate by stomping down to the teacher's lectern and sending a smouldering glare at Kirche. She then took out her wand, prompting the whole class to take cover.
'This is a reeeaally bad idea.' Louise thought morosely. She would still try, because she always hoped that maybe, just maybe, the next spell might not go awry.
A couple of minutes later, an explosion of noise and black smoke erupted from the classroom, prompting everyone in the academy to think a single sentence in unison as they rolled their eyes.
'Louise the Zero strikes again!'
Audience Chamber, Academy of Onmyōdō, Kyoto, Japan
Hiiraga Saito knelt in the seiza position in the Audience Chamber with his year-mates. They had been summoned about half an hour after the last of their number had completed the Trials of Light and Darkness.
There were only four other Apprentices in his year: Amekage Chizuru, Akagi Ryuunosuke, Honda Kanna and Yotsuba Toru, and they were all just as nervous as Saito was.
Arrayed behind them were the first- and second-year Apprentices, over forty of them, followed by the five years of Initiates.
The Apprentices had blue lines denoting how long they had been an Apprentice on their sleeves.
The Initiates wore a simple black and white kimono with the Yin and Yang symbol of the Ministry of Onmyōji on their right breast. They had a different coloured sash or obi denoting which year they were in.
In front of the graduates stood the Senior Teachers of the Imperial Onmyōji Academy of Mysticism. The Masters of Fire, Ice, Earth and Water stood on one side of the Grandmaster, with the Masters of Wood, Wind, Lightning and Metal stood on his other side.
The Grandmaster of the Academy was a white-haired man with a neatly trimmed handlebar moustache and an elegant goatee, giving him a very distinguished appearance. He stood with his arms crossed in front of him as he dispatched a runner to complete some task or other, his face stern.
Saito was curious as to how he had done in the Trials. The Trials of light and Darkness, the final exam of a student at the Academy, tested the Apprentices on their knowledge, control and power of magic in the four basic elements -Water, Wind, Earth and Fire- as well as the four Dual Elements -Metal, Wood, Lightning and Ice- extensively.
Other subjects tested included Shikigamijutsu (The Art of the Paper Gods), Divination, Fortune Telling, Alchemy, Astrology and Shinto religion.
Saito himself (with no false modesty) was proficient in Ice, Wood, Water, Earth and Wind magic. He was alright at Metal and Lightning magic, but his biggest weakness was Fire magic.
Both the Grandmaster and the Academy Fire Master had been left puzzled as to why he couldn't reliably control the magic of Fire. The vast of majority of the time, Saito managed to maintain a tenuous grasp on the mercurial energies of Fire. Occasionally, however, his control slipped and he walked away with burnt robes and singed eyebrows.
Saito was drawn from his internal pondering by the sound of a gong being struck. Almost instantly, the background hum of low pitched chatter from the students ceased and all attention was riveted on the Grandmaster.
The old man cleared his throat and spoke in a hoarse, creaky voice that still somehow managed to boom across the room.
"Attention, Attention. Bring ye attention, students." The Grandmaster spoke the traditional opening phrase of the Graduation Speech. "I welcome you, one and all to the Imperial Academy Graduation Ceremony!"
A small cheer erupted from the crowd of students. It tapered off at a gesture from the slightly smiling Grandmaster.
"Before us," the old man continued, "are five mystics. Five young men and women whose teachers have deemed them both ready and able to partake in the Trials of Light and Darkness."
A small murmur made it's way around the hall before falling silent.
"All five have submitted to the trials and have been tested in their magical ability and knowledge, as well as their knowledge of more mundane knowledge, to the fullest extent. Their examiners shall now announce their findings."
With that, Miyazaki Daisuke, Master of Metal Magic strode forwards and regarded the assembly fore a short moment before focusing on Chizuru.
"Amekage Chizuru, you have shown exceptional skill in the Disciplines of Fire, Earth, Water and Metal magics and competence in the Discipline of Wind magic." he announced with a slight tone of smugness when he mentioned his own Discipline. "You did not show reasonable skill in the remaining three Magics."
He then announced her written examination results, before stepping back into line. The next to step forward was Hasegawa Kagerō, Mistress of Earth.
"Honda Kanna, You have shown a high aptitude for the Disciplines of Water, Wind and Ice and competence in Fire and Earth." Kagerō spoke in a harsh voice that had undertones of weariness and exhaustion, understandable considering she was in her mid-nineties, "You have not shown the requisite skill required in the remaining three Magics."
And so it went, with his classmates receiving scores from their examiners. Yotsuba Toru's examiner, the dourly Master of Wood Kobayashi Kaoru, grumbled that he had only shown competence in the Discipline of Wind, then praised his skill in Divination. Harada Yusei, the Master of Water, declared Akagi Ryuunosuke a prodigy in the use of Fire Magic. He had also scored high in Metal, Lightning and Earth.
Finally, it was Saito's turn as Tsubaki Kaname, Master of Ice, strode forwards. Saito gulped nervously.
"Hiiraga Saito." Tsubaki-sensei said slowly, "You have shown exceptional talent in the Disciplines of Ice, Water, Wind, Earth and Wood. You have also shown reasonable competence in the Disciplines of Metal and Lightning."
Tsubaki paused for a moment before he continued. "Your skill in Fire Magic has always been unpredictable and haphazard, Hiiraga-kun, yet you preformed a low-mid ranked spell almost perfectly during your Trial of Fire. After consultation with the Academy Fire Master and the Grandmaster, you have been deemed skilled enough in the Discipline of Fire to pass. It is however recommended that you maintain the somewhat…zealous training regimen that you currently undergo, in order to maintain your control."
A murmur of disbelief ran around the hall at the Ice Master's words and Saito had no illusions as to why. An abrupt gesture from the Grandmaster silenced the chatter, which allowed Tsubaki-sensei to announce Saito's (admittedly mediocre) academic scores and marginally above-average Shikigamijutsu score.
As Tsubaki rejoined the other teachers, The elderly Grandmaster shuffled forward.
"After some debate, the Masters have concluded unanimously that all five Apprentices are to be elevated to the rank of Junior Adept in the Imperial Ministry of Onmyōji!" He announced with a small smile.
He made no effort to try and quell the cheer that filled the hall at his announcement.
The Room of Louise de la Vallière, Tristain Magic Academy
Louise sat on her bed and glowered at the floor. 'I am not crying, I merely have something in my eyes, that's all!' Is what she would have insisted to anyone who had been present.
Not that anyone was there, or would bother visiting 'The Zero'.
Louise dashed her tears away angrily and thought back to the aftermath of her -latest- magical screw-up. She had not been blamed for it happening, as Miss Chevreuse had been told not to choose her for any magical demonstrations due to the spectacular failures that had happened in the past.
After Old Osmand, the headmaster of the Academy, had once again cautioned her not to use magic around others ('What am I, a pistol?' She thought bitterly) until she didn't blow things up with every spell, she had encountered Kirche, along with two of her friends, Tabitha, a Gallian, and Montmorency Margarita 'La Fère' de Montmorency, as she made her way to her chambers.
Tabitha was a slightly built girl with short blue hair and red-rimmed glasses. She was one of the few girls Louise's age that had a smaller bust than she did. She was very quiet, rarely speaking more words than were necessary to get her point across, and was always reading one book or another. Her mastery of wind and ice magic earned her the runic name 'La Tempête de Neige (The Snowstorm).
Montmorency had long blond hair styled into ringlets. She was an expert when it came to potions, so much so her runic name, La Fère (The Fragrance) alluded to it. Montmorency had a long-term boyfriend, but from what Louise heard, he cheated on her almost religiously. She had often wondered if the blond-haired girl was a sadist as she almost seemed ecstatic whenever she beat her boyfriend up after she discovered his latest girl on the side.
"Yet another trip to detention, Zero?" Kirche had asked archly. She had been on Louise's case from day one because of the rivalry between their families. Things had gotten worse after Louise had shown her magical aptitude or, rather, her lack of thereof.
Louise had, rather calmly, rebuffed the accusation and informed the redhead of the headmaster's ruling on the subject, which had prompted both Kirche and Montmorency to erupt into gales of laughter, followed by more teasing and mocking.
Things had really come to a head when Kirche wondered aloud, "I wonder what kind of Familiar you'll summon tomorrow. Or if you'll even be able to summon one at all!"
That had been the very last straw.
Louise had lost her temper and declared that the spell Summon Servant was the one spell that she had absolute confidence in. In a fit of childish pique, she had further declared that her familiar would far outstrip anything that Kirche or Montmorency could summon. Louise had stomped off, leaving Kirche and Montmorency perturbed and Tabitha indifferent.
'Of all the things to say, just why did I have to say all that?!' Louise thought morosely, 'If things go as they usually do tomorrow, Kirche and Montmorency will never let me live it down!'
Biting her lip, she stood and walked over to her bookcase, which was crammed with various treatises on magical theory and its application from various countries, although a fair number of them were from Tristain. Running her finger across the spines of the books, Louise smiled crookedly. She had bought all of these in an effort to cast a spell without it blowing up on her.
As of yet, it hadn't worked, but she was convinced that the last few explosions had gotten somewhat smaller. Progress was small, but palpable.
Finding the volume she sought, Louise slid the book from the shelf and sat at her desk. Paging through it, she found the page she was looking for…the Summoning Spell: Summon Servant.
All second years are required to summon a Familiar in order to advance to the next stage in their training. In addition, the type of Familiar summoned usually confirmed the Summoner's primary element and thus the element they should focus on learning first.
For those, like Louise, who had no clue as to her primary magic affinity, the Summon Servant spell would confirm it beyond all doubt.
Louise had memorised the spell weeks ago and she was surprised at how simple it was, considering what the spell did. 'Summon Servant' reached across the world and brought forth the one being that was the most suited for the Mage performing the summoning, and bound them together for life.
"Right then." Louise muttered as she bent over the spell book intently. She would not accept failure, not this time. She would study the spell down to its basic framework and in all its forms. Each of the four countries of Halkaginia had their own variant of the summoning spell, but the change in wording was mostly superficial and didn't affect the basic spell structure to any serious degree.
Instead, the variant seemed to act like a signal, designed to draw the being that was being summoned to the country of the spell's origin. Louise would have to use the Tristain standard version, but she reasoned that there was no harm in comparing all four versions.
Just in case.
The young Mage focused on the book intently as the candles burned cheerily, in contrast with the sole occupant's mood of grim determination.
Cloister of Rituals, Academy of Onmyōdō, Kyoto, Japan
Saito stood in the centre of the Cloister of Rituals gazing around avidly at the intricately carved woodwork that most of the Cloister was covered by. It wasn't for mere decoration however. Each carving was the anchor for spells of various kinds.
Charms to draw good luck, barrier spells and charms against evil were the ones Saito could recognise. Some were so elaborate and powerful he couldn't begin to guess their nature. The sheer number of carvings staggered him.
'There must be thousands of carvings here!' Saito thought in awe, "And each one anchors a spell, charm or ward! And the entire damn room is covered in carvings, even the floor and ceiling!"
Saito took a moment to once again view the carvings before he strode to the centre of the room, where the carvings formed an elaborate Yin and Yang. Saito assumed the seiza position and smoothed down his new robes.
His new, Junior Adept,robes.
A Junior Adept was the lowest rank in the Ministry's hierarchy. They were generally assistants, clerks and general workhorses for the more senior ranks. All ranks in the Ministry were shown by an enchanted pendant that had the Seiman (Seal of Abe no Seimei) carved into it.
The pendant changed colour depending on the rank of the one who owned it. A Junior Adept was signified by a pale jade, which would shift to a deep jade upon promotion to a Senior Adept. At that point, the wearer would have to consider in which direction their career (and magical studies) would go.
Saito hadn't though of which direction his career would take yet, but he knew that it would not have anything to do with divination or fortune-telling. He had always been somewhat suspicious of such woolly arts and had never had any degree of success in them.
Saito was drawn from his musings by the scent of sandalwood as it tickled his nose. Tsubaki-sensei had lit the braziers in the four cardinal directions and thrown some of the scented wood in, knowing it was a favourite of Saito's when he was meditating.
"Hiiraga-kun, you have up to twelve hours to complete the ceremony. You may only leave before that time if the Cloister's wards detect that you have completed the task set." Tsubaki-sensei told him, his face blank and emotionless as his position required.
With a sharp nod and a hand gesture Saito recognised as 'good luck', Tsubaki-sensei strode out of the Cloister, the doors sliding shut with a hiss behind him. A sudden 'hum' let Saito know that the Wardsmen had activated the Sealing Kekkai, which prevented anyone and anything from entering or leaving the Cloister until a set of prerequisites had been fulfilled.
Saito took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then released it.
It was time.
He got up, reached into his sleeve and withdrew eight talismans, each one with a different symbol on the centre. He selected the uppermost talisman that was marked with the symbol '氷' and closed his eyes. Reaching within himself, he grasped a slender tendril of mana and carefully imbued the talisman he held in his hand with it.
The new Adept threw the talisman into the air before him and ran through a swift and precise series of one handed hand signs before he spoke.
Immediately, the talisman glowed a pale blue and began to hover in mid air in front of him. Saito repeated the process for each talisman, speaking a different element each time as well as a different series of handsigns. The talismans then glowed an individual colour for their element.
"Moku (Wood)" A light brown glow.
"Tsuchi (Earth)" A dark brown glow.
"Kaze (Wind)" A pale cream glow.
"Kin (Metal)" A light grey glow.
"Ikazuchi (Lightning)" A bright yellow glow.
"Hi (Fire)" A pale red glow.
As Saito added more talismans, they formed into a circle before him. Once he had added the final talisman, Saito ran through a series of double handed handsigns.
"Hachi Yōso no Kagami! (Mirror of the Eight Elements!)" Saito commanded as he completed the last handsign.
The glow around each talisman changed to green and the circle of talismans began to rotate clockwise, slowly at first, then it gathered speed.
Saito sighed with relief as he saw this happen. He had set the stage for the Rite of Summoning.
Every Onmyōji had a pair of Familiars, commonly referred to as 'Demons', although the types of beings summoned by the Rite were actually many and varied.
Each Familiar had a specific role. The 'Superior Demon' was usually an attack-oriented being, being physically imposing or magically powerful, whereas a 'Protective Demon' rarely left the side of its master and was defensive in nature.
The Cloister of Rituals was where these beings had been contracted by every graduate of the Academy since its founding in the Heian Era over a thousand years ago.
The Rite of Summoning searches the world for beings suited for the roles, then it chooses a being for each that is possibly compatible with the Adept performing the Rite and creates an image of the being in the Cloister.
One the images are summoned, the Adept negotiates and bargains with the beings, to from a working relationship. If one or both beings are disagreeable to working with either the Adept or the other being, the Rite automatically searches for a new candidate. This process continues until the adept has a team that can work with him, as well as each other.
Once the beings agree, the Adept receives tattoos, one on each arm, that connect them to their Familiars. Likewise, the Familiars receive a tattoo one their bodies that connect them to their Master. These tattoos allow the Adept to call forth their Familiars and maintain a two-way telepathic link between them.
Very, very rarely, the negotiations necessitate the physical manifestation of one of the Familiar candidates into the Cloister itself. The reasons could be for an exchange of blood, a magically binding oath or even just for confirmation that the Adept is who he looks like. The wards on the Cloister are for precisely this sort of instance, preventing the otherworldly beings from possessing, maiming or otherwise harming the Adept in any way, although they had only been necessary once, about 400 years ago.
Saito massaged his temples as he decided to begin the Rite at once. In the Scroll of Summoning (which was in serious need of an overhaul, in Saito's opinion), it was recommended that the Adept performing the Rite fast before entering the Cloister and meditate for a time on their best qualities, for the negotiations. Saito preferred to be upfront and honest about who he was to people in general and he had decided long ago to do the same with his perspective Familiars.
Besides, no-one fasted these days.
Locking his hands into an intricately shaped handsign, Saito began chanting in Ancient Japanese, invoking the Spirits of the Chamber and the Protection of the Gods upon the endeavour he was about to undertake and so on and so forth.
Slowly and carefully shifting to another handsign, Saito cautiously sent a trickle of mana towards the steadily rotating wheel of talismans and imbued them it the magical energy. Seeing no destabilisation, Saito gradually increased the amount until a steady stream of mana flowed from him to the talismans. The volume and cadence of his chanting grew apace with his mana transfer.
As he came to the end of his chant, he went through eight deliberate and precise handsigns that were accompanied by eight words to seal and complete the spell.
"Rin, pyo, toh, ka, sha, retsu, zai, ZEN!"
A flash of green light temporarily blinded him as he felt the mana streams connecting him to the talismans before him wither and collapse. Once he could see again, he could see that the spinning wheel before him had sped up to the point that he couldn't distinguish the individual talismans.
Slowly, the wheel began to separate into two separate wheels, which made Saito raise an eyebrow in surprise. That wasn't supposed to happen until two beings had been located, which took at least half an hour at the bare minimum. How had it located two beings compatible with him in less than two minutes time?
Saito watched as the two circles of spinning light fully separated from each other. He flinched and shielded his eyes as a searing white light appeared in the centre of both rings.
Gradually, the light dimmed and faded to the point that Saito could safely uncover his eyes, so, taking a deep breath, he did so.
Hiiraga Saito looked into the mirrors of light that revealed to him his prospective Familiars and gulped loudly.
Next Chapter: The Mage and the Mystic Meet.