AN: I can only really apologise that this chapter has come out so late. I can say that I've been very busy lately, and it doesn't look like I'm going to get much free time any time soon either, but even then, this chapter just did not want to be written at all, and had to be pretty much forced out. Hopefully, that doesn't detract from it too much, and it will hopefully be as interesting as other chapters I've typed up for you guys.
Beta'd by: The trolling SnarkLord
Chapter 18 - Changes
Harry led Irisviel into his current 'home' – though as comfortable as it was, he had no intention of taking it with him after this Grail War was over with – and right into the living room. He felt her emotions and thoughts flicker when she saw the room was already occupied, and by more than simply 'Avenger's 'master'. She felt particularly confused when she saw what could only be an Einzbern homunculus.
"Oh, I didn't know you weren't working alone." Irisviel murmured.
Helel looked up from her book and rolled her eyes. "You'll find quite a few things won't be as you expect them to be." She commented dryly.
"I… see." Irisviel frowned, looking once more at Illya.
The Archer class Servant noticed this and gave her a wide smile. "Hey, mom!" She chirped.
"Mom?" Irisviel asked. "I don't know how or why an Einzbern homunculus is here, but you're not my daughter."
Illya glanced in Harry's direction, and when he only shrugged back at her, she grinned wider and got to her feet. With as elegant a curtsey as she could manage, she introduced herself to this world's version of her own mother.
"I am the Archer class Servant known in life as Illyasviel von Einzbern, it's a pleasure to meet you, alternate of my mother." She smiled warmly at the now wide-eyed and shocked woman.
"That's impossible, the Archer of this war is a golden-armoured man." Irisviel shook her head.
Illya shrugged. "Who said I was summoned for this war?" She asked.
Harry rolled his eyes behind his blindfold. "Are we going to sit here and reveal all of our secrets?" He grumbled.
"Is there any reason not to?" Aphrodite poked him in the side, making him jump slightly.
"No, I suppose there isn't any particularly compelling reason not to tell others of it." Harry sighed. "Shall we take a vote on it? I'll abstain myself, it doesn't really matter either way to me."
"I vote for telling." Illya answered immediately.
"I'll agree." Helel agreed with the homunculus.
"I vote against." Holly shook her head. "If they wanted to know something, they should try and find out themselves."
Harry tilted his head back. "Serial Phantasm abstains as well, Tyrant says 'why not?', Dream or Destruction says no, Twisted Whisper says no, as does Ruinous Aegis, Warped Caress says yes… and so does Shadow of the Heart. Huh, looks like we're sharing then."
Immediately, Harry reverted to his 'standard' form. His arms fused into a single pair, his hair turned purple, the black vein-like marks retreated to the area immediately around his exposed heart, and he shrank down to roughly thirteen or fourteen years old physically. His clothes shifted back into his usual ensemble, and then he removed his Breaker Gorgon from his face.
"Okay, simply put, I'm actually a master, not a Servant, the one you thought was my master is actually my Servant, as is Illya, and others that are elsewhere right now. The one your daughter is chatting to is Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, the midget fairy is the spirit of a castle, and there's also a TYPE around." Harry quickly introduced everyone in his own way.
"Now, the relevant things; I've already killed the Caster of this war, but I'm holding onto his soul for now. A manifested fragment of my soul is creating an alternate grail so you don't have to be sacrificed – oh, and the grail was corrupted by the Servant your family summoned in the last war, making it into a 'monkey's paw' that grants wishes as destructively as it possibly can." Harry rapidly rattled off. "Any questions?"
Irisviel looked stunned, and for more reasons than just Harry's transformation. What he claimed, if true… it changed everything. If they truly had a TYPE on their side, there was literally no way for any other master or Servant to win if they tried to take them out. Irisviel had also prepared herself for death, as fatalistic as that may sound. She may not really understand what it was Kiritsugu wanted, but she was devoted to him and his goals, and would gladly die for him. With an alternate grail, she could live, or at least last another year or two, Einzbern homunculi always had a flaw, and a short lifespan was one of the most common.
Then there was the grail…
That was something she could verify herself. He had said it was the Einzbern family that had summoned the Servant that had corrupted the grail, and if that was true, the backlash they could suffer would be quite devastating on the political front. As powerful as the Einzbern family were in terms of magical strength, their combat type homunculi being their main 'force', they were also fairly reclusive and fouling up a ritual that had been going on now for one hundred and eighty years due to trying to play the system would be a big blow to them. It would be even worse if the Tohsaka family caught wind of it, the Makiri too if they hadn't been effectively reduced to a single decrepit old man.
"Can you prove any of your claims?" Irisviel asked, keeping her voice surprisingly level.
"I can." Harry bowed his head. "You already know how to verify my claims regarding the previous war's Servant. I can expose you to the greater grail myself, though I will filter out all of the harmful curses in there. V/V can show you her true form herself, and as for Caster and an alternate grail-"
Appearing either side of Harry were two of his aspects. On his left, DoD appeared clutching the grail she had created, though judging by her expression she'd already lost interest in it and wished to be back examining and experimenting on something new. On his right was Serial Phantasm, looking as bored as ever, with Caster's soul that Harry had collected floating above her open palm.
"Here they are." Harry finished.
Irisviel hesitantly reached out for the grail held in DoD's hands, completely ignoring her blatantly non-human features and her youthful appearance. She picked it up and couldn't help but release a gasp as she felt it resonate with something inside of herself, the grail within her own body.
"This… this..." She couldn't form sentences, and her sight blurred as tears began to slowly slide down her face.
"It means that Illya will never have to grow up without you." Harry bowed his head. "Truthfully, you are one of the reasons I'm even here. Your daughter might not be the Illya I knew, but I don't want her to grow up alone either, not when I know exactly how to prevent your death… and how to extend your lifespan to resemble that of a humans."
"How would you know how to extend a homunculus' lifespan?" Irisviel asked, more sharply than she'd ever spoken before. "Not even the Einzbern family, the greatest experts on homunculi creation, know how to erase the flaws homunculi are created with."
"Suffice to say, I learned due to reasons of my own." Harry answered. "I intend to modify you so that, like I said, you won't die too young. Illya deserves better than the life I know she would have, and if I have to chain you to the poor girl myself, I will ensure she gets better than she did in the last world I was in."
The seriousness that Harry spoke with surprised Irisviel.
"What happened to the Illya I knew is my greatest regret, and something I will not allow to happen to this one." Harry continued, memories of Illya's death at Gilgamesh's hands playing out in his mind. "So please, just accept that I mean you no harm, quite the opposite in fact, and that I wish for you and your daughter to live happy lives."
"What do you mean by that?" Irisviel questioned, her voice barely above a whisper as a frown marred her brow. "Just… what will you do?"
"You mean 'how far will I go?', right?" Harry sighed. "I'm not going to dictate your lives, if that was your concern, but for the duration of this Grail War, if I have to knock you out and stuff you in a cupboard somewhere to keep you out of the way, I will. After the war though… you may do what you wish, I'm giving you an opportunity, not forcing my will upon yours."
"I see." Irisviel murmured. "Well I suppose I should thank you then." She said, curtseying to Harry.
Harry snorted. "That's not quite the reaction I was expecting, I anticipated indignation and you feeling more suspicious, I am after all almost treating you like a child."
"I am only ten." Irisviel shrugged. "And it's not like you're trying to hurt me or anything, quite the opposite. I wasn't expecting to survive the next two weeks, if that, and you are saving not only me, but my daughter as well, so why would I make it any harder for you than it already is?"
"A rather mature outlook, but why aren't you… distrusting me?" Harry replied, his brow furrowing in confusion. He could feel Irisviel's soul, and he could tell that she wasn't lying about trusting him at all… and that was what confused him. He did not understand how someone could trust a stranger so easily.
"That false grail of yours, I can feel it resonating with me." Irisviel told him. "That shouldn't be possible, not without detailed information on me that you couldn't have, and plenty of time around me as well. You can do what you shouldn't be able to, and while not enough to confirm your story, it does make sense, no?"
Harry shook his head, a small smile on his face. "You know, you're far more logical and far less childish than I was lead to believe. I expected someone far more… emotionally driven and naive."
"I am emotionally driven." Irisviel responded. "I would do anything for Kiritsugu's dream, even though I don't really understand it myself. World peace sounds so simple, but even I know how greedy and troublesome people can be, so I know that it can only be achieved once human nature has been changed. Still, Kiritsugu is everything to me, and I will do anything he asks of me, and anything that is in my power to help him.
"That doesn't mean, though, that I can't make rational decisions myself. The Einzberns wouldn't like a 'stupid' or 'suicidal' homunculus after all, especially not one meant to be the vessel of the lesser grail."
"I suppose so." Harry sighed. "So, do you mind if I 'fix' you now? Neither of us would want your body failing if the Servants started dying off now after all."
"Very well." Irisviel curtseyed again. "I place my life in your hands, please treat me well."
At the Fuyuki City church, Kirei Kotomine sat and thought about his recent strange encounter. 'TYPE Venus', an alien creature by any definition of the word, and it took the form of a biblical angel, or at least the modern interpretation of an angel. In ages past, angels had been thought of in rather monstrous and abstract forms. After all, were not the angel's Gabriel's first words to the shepherds 'be not afraid'?
What was an angel?
Were they minor spirits bound to the service of the biblical god? Were they forces of nature that represented various virtues that collectively acted in a manner similar to a pantheon of gods? Were they inherently 'good' and 'holy', or were they simply the definitive limits of 'order'?
Good and Evil. Light and Dark. Truth and Lies. Order and Chaos. One cannot exist without the other, they are… extremes, and absolute extremes are never perfect. Pure order is stagnant, always the same, unchanging and bland. Pure chaos is a contradiction, with no patterns, no rules, no sense, and no stability.
Why was he even thinking about this? What had driven the dull-eyed man into contemplation? Was it an abomination in the form of a holy symbol? Was it the contradictory nature of an alien existence that seemed far more in tune with the earth's inhabitants than he was himself?
Even Kirei himself could not say what it was. Perhaps it could even be the way his own multiple-bodied Servant was dropping like flies.
That was… frustrating. Kirei knew that the Assassin class of Servants was considered the weakest, and that his Servant was even weaker when it split into multiple bodies, the only thing remaining constant is the strength of its Presence Concealment. Still, for not even one of them to catch sight of the attacker was annoying.
The only clue that Kirei had was that, when his Servants travelled in groups, a dense fog came out of nowhere before they were slaughtered like cattle. Unfortunately, he didn't have many Servant bodies left, and he had considered pulling them back into a single group, there were only twenty-three of them left. However, Tokiomi Tohsaka did not believe that a group of assassins would be of any use as a 'fighting force', and had told him to leave them scattered around the city.
Kirei was feeling rather useless at present… and that in itself was strange. He was unused to feeling anything at all, his own wife had committed suicide and all he had felt was a desire to have seen it with his own eyes, to feel her throat beneath his hands as he slowly choked the like out of her.
Why did he feel like this? He was a priest, and no priest should have such… homicidal thoughts, should they? It was wrong, Kirei was aware of this fact, and he did not deny that his mental state could be considered evil, yet he still had to wonder, if all of this was so wrong, why did it feel so right in his mind?
Kirei looked up when he heard a noise, only to see Archer cheerfully step into the room, a joyous expression on his face and a spring in his step, quite the contrast to the stern, arrogant man that he'd been when Tokiomi had first summoned him. The change was both drastic and concerning for Kirei's master, as he did not understand the cause of it, not to mention Archer seemed far more inclined to do his own thing than listen to Tokiomi at all.
The golden Archer, though he was currently wearing a casually stylish jacket as opposed to his armour, paused when his eyes fell upon Kirei. Gilgamesh remembered the last Kirei he had met, the man he had pointed in the direction of self-indulgent destruction and taking pleasure in the pain of others.
He would not do that a second time, that was too… dull. What is the point of repeating a performance exactly, if one could perform another, different play? Still, one could only mould something appropriate if they had the correct materials, and Kirei Kotomine was a man who wore shades of grey like a cloak, yet currently believed himself to be a man of the church, who should be ever so 'pure'.
"Priest, where is your mind?" Gilgamesh asked, though if another spoke like him, it would almost sound like a demand.
"I am deliberating upon thoughts of my god." Kirei replied blandly. "I am attempting to comprehend, as much as a man is able, the true nature of the creator."
Gilgamesh almost raised an eyebrow at that answer. This was… different. Of course, as the one true king of the world, perhaps he could enlighten this man, who both had been, and possibly could be, one of his greatest servants, though he would never say as such out loud.
"Your god is much like any other, a powerful force with a mind to direct it. Gods are limited and pitiful existences, forced into a mould by their worshippers from which escape is nigh impossible, shaped by the whims of mankind, and incessantly nagged by lesser beings to bestow upon them a boon in return for empty words of 'prayer'." Gilgamesh told him.
"Is that what gods really are, or how you see them?" Kirei murmured, almost inaudibly, as if speaking more to himself than Gilgamesh.
"Why must they be different? Must one's opinion differ from fact, or can a point of view be factual? You can twist and tease my words as much as you please, but tear aside the pretty curtains, and you will see the truth of which I speak, gods are simply that, and not one of them is all-powerful or all-knowing. Even the Magi's precious 'root of existence' has its limits." Gilgamesh retorted.
"The Root is the goal of all traditional magi because it is limitless. It contains all of the knowledge, past, present, and future, of the multi-verse. What could possibly be beyond that?" Kirei asked.
"I am a king, even more than that I am the king." Gilgamesh stated. "However, I have no interest in ruling what is not mine. This world is mine, but other planets hold nothing I want. Other dimensions aren't my concern, yet I know of them. Tell me Kirei, you accept the fact that there is more than one universe, so why is it not possible there is more than one multi-verse?"
That got Kirei's attention.
Harry looked at Irisviel's currently unconscious body laid on the padded table in front of him, fully clothed of course. He hadn't needed her unconscious to modify her body, but if she had been awake while he was messing about inside of her, and with her essence as well, she would probably have been, at the very least, uncomfortable.
"Well, that's done." Harry mumbled to himself, before he raised a hand in which the soul of Gilles de Rais appeared. "Now to stuff you in the new vessel. After that, I'll just have to drain as much of Angra Mainyu as I can from the grail, rewrite the active parts of the ritual to harmlessly collapse in on itself, and… I guess that's it. I suppose I should leave this 'war' alone after that."
"If you're so sure, but what about Mordred?" Helel asked. "You know that she has something she wants to prove to her… 'father'. I don't believe she would take leaving right now very well."
"She can stay if she wants to, I'm not forcing her to do anything." Harry shrugged. "However, there's nothing for me in this war, and once I've done what I came here to do, there's no reason for me to hang around. It was never my intention to 'win' the war, and so there's no reason for me to stay until the end either."
Helel chuckled, her warm and rich voice rolling with amusement. "Understandable, there's nothing for me here either and I find myself… disappointed with this world. It's not mine, and that's obvious to all but the common humans, so there's no reason for me to even try and do anything."
Harry shook his head, a small smile on his lips, but didn't say anything in reply to his Deceiver Servant.
He went to put Gilles de Rais soul into the alternate grail, but paused when a voice spoke up in the back of his mind. A moment later, small orbs of light seemed to gather beside him, coming together to form a human form, and after a flash of light, a blonde woman with blue eyes appeared there.
Superficially, she looked similar to Arturia and Mordred, though there were differences. While all three of them were European, this 'new' woman had a slightly different bone structure if one looked close enough, and appeared more relaxed than the King of England, and less aggressively natured than Mordred was.
"Please, my contractor, allow me just a short while to speak with him before you get rid of him." She said. "There are just… so many things I need to ask him, I need to know just how and why he fell so far, and if there was anything I could have done to prevent it."
Harry sighed. "Very well, Jeanne, I'll let you talk to him, but don't expect too much, from what I can read of his soul, he's lost his grip on reality and willingly indulges in some rather depraved acts with no thought for the effect he has on others, or really for any other reason than for his own… Never mind me, just talk to him yourself."
With not even a flick of the wrist, a twisting portal opened up next to Harry to a small world he'd just created for Jeanne D'Arc to speak with Caster, before his soul was consigned to the grail, and then to destruction once the system collapsed.
Jeanne stepped through, the orb that was Gilles De Rais' soul following her, reforming his body just as Harry closed the portal to the temporary world he'd created.
"Okay, that wasn't entirely expected." Harry mused. "Now… what was I going to do?"
Helel raised an eyebrow. "If I remember right, you still have to drain Angra Mainyu from the grail, set the system up to collapse without wiping this city of the map… and see if Mordred wants to stay here or come with us when we leave." She responded.
"Yeah, might as well get on with that." Harry sighed, a desk and chair appearing next to him.
He sat down, and began to draw and scribble all over some paper that had appeared out of nowhere – along with the pencil he was using – and while Helel understood that what he was writing was probably something important, she couldn't make heads nor tails of it herself.
Holly, on the other hand, who flew over and landed on his shoulder, seemed to understand bits and pieces of it, if her comments on certain parts were any indication. In fact, Holly's comments helped Helel understand what everything was about, because when she points at something and says 'maybe you could drain the mana it has stored up', that kind of indicates what she was pointing at somehow related to some form of mana battery or reserve or something, even if Harry's reply of 'and where should I put sixty years worth of mana from multiple leylines?' wasn't exactly comforting.
They kept on like this for several minutes, bouncing ideas backwards and forwards between each other. Holly was adamant that the best solution was to create a 'leak' of sorts to spread the mana out over an area, preventing the Grail from building up enough mana for another war, and while Harry agreed with her, that didn't tell them about how they should deal with the currently active grail, because even when he did drain Angra Mainyu out of it, there would still be traces of malevolence in the system which could cause all sorts of problems for everyone.
The problem was that the Grail was currently active. That meant that, if Harry made a mistake when trying collapse the system, the sheer amount of raw magic gathered would detonate like a bomb, or a more accurate metaphor could be an over-pressurised boiler that explodes and sends shrapnel everywhere, because that is what the problem basically amounted to, the system being full of mana, at the capacity of detonation.
Usually, this energy is supposed to be released all at once to fuel a wish, or more traditionally, rip a hole in the multi-verse and create a path to the 'root of all existence', the place that was at the centre of this multi-verse that was named Akasha by Magi.
"Why don't you just use up that mana yourself?" Helel decided to cut in and offer her opinion. "Are you capable of hijacking the grail and forcing the grail to grant you a 'wish' of your own? If so, then do that before anyone else tries it, and you'll have drained the grail of all of its mana, and you can prevent further wars occurring."
"That's a good idea, but the grail has, for lack of a better term, a 'lock' on it that has certain requirements to be unsealed. The simplest way to get past that is to have six Servants defeated..." Holly spoke up without thinking, before blinking at her answer, her eyes sliding sideways to Harry.
"What?" He asked the fairy girl.
"We have Caster's 'soul', and with the rate Jack is dispatching the Assassins we'll soon have two of six. Berserker would make three. You could make three more blank souls to fool the lock, couldn't you?" She questioned. "If we do that, we'll end this war with no one the wiser, and regardless of who wins after that, there won't be any catastrophic results, will there?"
"No, there wouldn't be." Harry agreed. "So, does that sound good to you?"
"Assuming of course that you can craft souls that can fool the Grail, then yes, it seems to be the best option right now." Holly nodded her head. "So, are you going to get on with draining the grail already? Where do you need to go to do that, or can you do it from here?"
"I can do it from here, the grail's 'influence' is spread out over the entire city right now, and a bit beyond it too, so I can drag Angra Mainyu out of there. I'll have to set up a few bounded fields first though, so its influence doesn't leak over and affect any of you." Harry replied.
"Then let's get on with it." Holly said. "The sooner that's done, the better."
"Yes, ma'am." Harry drolly replied with a small salute and a roll of his eyes.
It was the work of a moment for Harry to erect the necessary bounded fields to keep the others safe while he did just that. Of course, even though they were protected from the effects of the curses didn't mean being near such a concentrated mass of them was in any way pleasant.
Helel watched in fascination as black mist seemed to condense around Harry before being absorbed into his body. It wasn't much at first, but as he pulled more and more of it to himself, it became thicker, until it seemed that sludge-like tar was being pulled from nothing and absorbed into the fae-like child's body.
She shivered in disgust as if that substance was sliding over her own skin, staining her skin blacker than how the bible portrayed her soul. As fascinating as she found the process, she didn't know how Harry could stand there and simply take all of that into himself, especially as he would be feeling it completely, with no bounded fields to shield him from the sheer malice in that muck.
Holly, who had been with Harry longer than Helel, and understood better what exactly it was he was doing, wasn't doing much better than the Servant. She hadn't been with him when he'd last absorbed Angra Mainyu, and while this time around was less traumatic than then, it was nevertheless highly unpleasant.
She was distracted however when there was a slight flash of light and Len and Nel appeared in the corner of the room. She wondered how Sakura had taken the news that her uncle Kariya was beyond Harry's ability to save, or at least that his mind wasn't something Harry could do anything about, even if he fixed him up physically.
A few minutes later, the thick miasma of curses began to fade, Harry having taken in the vast majority of them already. Now that he was visible again, they could all see the physical changes taking in so many curses had caused. The black vein-like markings that Harry sported in 'curse mode' now spread even further across his silvery pale skin, and his eyes were pure black, with no defined pupil, iris, or sclera, while his bone white hair looked ragged and dead.
Harry took a deep breath and pulled the curses back beneath the surface, the black markings retreating to the area just around his exposed heart, his eyes regaining their colours and shape again, while his hair once again became purple and neat.
"So much easier, and I didn't even need to get stabbed in the heart this time either, nor was my soul torn into any more pieces than it already is." Harry dryly commented, before turning to the two cats that simultaneously shifted into young girls. "Len, Nel, how did she take it?"
"About as well as could be expected really." Nel shrugged. "The trauma she's suffered has made her rather detached from things, so she wasn't emotionally crippled by knowing he wasn't salvageable. She did ask that we make his end as painless as we can, it seems she does not wish for him to suffer needlessly."
"Of course." Harry agreed. "I can send Mordred off to fight Berserker while I handle Kariya, an injection of a pain reliever along with a lethal poison will make it both quick and painless."
"Do you even have something like that just lying around?" Nel asked with a raised eyebrow.
Instead of replying, Harry simply raised one hand, a tranquillizer dart appearing in his palm, filled with a yellow liquid. In Harry's other hand, a gun appeared, obviously to fire the dart out of, but instead of a regular gun, this one appeared to have a multitude of runes etched all the way down the barrel that were glowing a light blue colour.
Nel snorted. "I should have known."
"You really should have." Holly agreed, her eyes alight with amusement as she saw Len was silently laughing behind her 'twin's' back. "This is Harry after all, and you know just how much he's always doing. Researching this, that, or something else, making something, experimenting with ideas, etcetera, etcetera." She perked up for a moment, turning to Harry himself. "How are your most recent projects going anyway? The mecha you were building and the book you took of Caster?"
"The mecha have been completed, all of them, even the transformable ones, and the weapons have been made too. I'm not using something like that in the grail war though." Harry gave Holly an odd look. "Even if I did give some of them active camouflage, they're still not what I'd call particular subtle… or appropriate either. I might use one or two against Voldemort though, that'd be amusing."
"And that book of Caster's?" Holly prompted him.
"Prelati's spellbook?" Harry paused a moment to send a mental message to Dream or Destruction. "DoD is… confused by it, she doesn't even understand how it exists. Apparently, the creatures called by the book aren't just from another dimension, but another multi-verse entirely. They don't just follow a different logic, but they aren't even subject to Akasha at all."
"What does that even mean, you know, for those of us who don't understand mutli-dimensional physics?" Nel asked.
"It means that we're lucky that Caster isn't capable of summoning anything stronger than that massive tentacle thing he uses in some worlds, because otherwise these creatures would be able to overwrite the rules of reality in a similar way to a reality marble, but be self-perpetuating, like some sort of disease that would slowly consume our multi-verse."
"Couldn't Akasha just kick them out of this mutli-verse?" Holly asked. "It is the central existence, isn't it?"
Harry shook his head. "Akasha is limited to this multi-verse, just as those creatures should be limited to their multi-verse." The book they were talking about appeared in Harry's hand, who looked down at it. "The only reason they can come to this world is because they are invited here by the summoner. The only way for Akasha to get rid of them would be to… quarantine the reality they ended up in and annihilate it before they gained too strong of a foothold there."
"Which is something I'd prefer to avoid." A female voice spoke up, shocking everyone who hadn't felt someone else appear with them.
Harry's eyes focused on the 'woman' with a laser-like intensity. She looked… fairly ordinary physically, but the way she was stood seemed a little off. She also didn't blink once while Harry looked her over, and some sort of ethereal wind seemed to pull at the ends of her hair. She was fairly average in height, with a slim figure, and clothed in a long blue dress, with boots peeking out of the bottom.
However, it wasn't her physical presence that Harry was so focused on, it was what his more supernatural senses were telling him about this being. She felt almost like a black hole, but somehow more at the same time. She was like some sort of unfathomably deep pit, like infinitely deep, but while there was nothing there, it felt like that nothingness actually was something.
Harry had read Nietzsche, and thought he understood about 'staring into an abyss that would stare back at you', but this 'person' took it to a whole new level. She was… she was everything, everything that was, everything that is, and everything that ever could be.
"Akasha." Harry murmured. "No, not quite Akasha, but a puppet operated by that which is Akasha, that which is everything in this multi-verse."
"Correct, much like yourself." Akasha confirmed. "You are no more 'Harry Potter' than this doll I'm using is 'Akasha'. Like I, you are a presence that exists, an accumulation of knowledge, power, and sapience, given direction by our own whims and desires."
Harry knew that was true. He did not need his body, he did not need any of the bodies he was currently using, not the one currently in Fuyuki, nor any of those currently in the Chamber of Secrets that were carrying on with his projects. All of those bodies were simply puppets for his will, that moved according to his desires… just like the 'avatar' that Akasha was using to interact with him on a physical level.
"You're the one who is testing me." Harry murmured. "You sent that creature at Hogwarts, you're the one who made me face Leviathan, and now you show yourself. Why?"
"I gave you three tests. The first was awareness, that stealthy creation of mine was to ensure you were not careless, even somewhere you believed yourself safe. The second test was to see how you dealt with something not easily stopped, to see how you responded. You could have wiped Leviathan out with a single spell-"
"But the damage I would have done to everything else would have been catastrophic, so I had to limit myself lest I wanted to cause untold damage. I may not much care for people in general, but I'm not going to careless throw my power around for the sole reason of it being more convenient for me." Harry said.
"Exactly." Akasha agreed. "You showed a level of concern for others, despite having no reason to care for them. Your third 'test' was one of responsibility." She indicated Prelati's spellbook. "You knew that book was capable of summoning entities from another world, yet instead of using it in that fashion, you instead chose to understand it more thoroughly before attempting anything."
Harry frowned. "Of course I wouldn't use it straight away, why would I do that when I don't understand how it works. I've always invested heavily in theory, whether that be mundane sciences, technology, or various magical systems. How can I do something if I don't know what it is I'm supposed to be doing?"
"You say that, but you nevertheless have no issue with magic that relies more heavily on instinct and force of will instead of just calculation and manipulation of various different energies." Akasha countered.
"Because I know how those spells are supposed to work." Harry returned right back at her, not entirely sure how he had gotten to arguing with the closest thing he knew of to an omnipotent and omniscient deity figure. "Emotional control isn't that difficult, and it's not like I'm some sort of unfeeling doll."
"Regardless, you are a highly capable individual with powers beyond those of mere gods, have an indefinite lifespan, and you possess a desire to travel to many worlds." Akasha summarised. "While you are more of a neutral entity than definitively virtuous, you have a moral code of your own that you stand by without faltering."
"Where is all of this leading?" Harry couldn't help but wonder.
"Your 'Soul World'." Akasha said. "Do you know what you did when you created that? It is a world limited and defined only by yourself, attached to your own soul that acts as a 'core', yet is not a part of that world. Do you understand just what it is you have done?"
"No." Harry shook his head, wondering what Akasha was getting at.
"You took the first step in becoming like me, a central multi-versal entity." She stated. "You set your soul up as a central focal point of a space not directly connected to a universe of my own creation, and while you only have a single reality anchored to it, you could easily create more, and likely will in time. On top of that, you are only tenuously connected to me, you are beginning to exist purely by your own laws of reality, though for now your natural laws resemble mine."
"That… is really not that surprising." Holly piped up, having so far kept silent, but decided to add her own opinion to the conversation. "He started off a relatively normal human, and in a rather short span of time, he became a demigod with some vampiric influences, which developed fully, and then he went full god, and then to an equivalent of a TYPE, and he was already developing along the lines of an Aspect of Existence… so why should this come as a surprise to anyone?"
"There are things known as limits, Holly, surely you've heard of them." Harry grumbled.
"I've heard of them, I just don't really believe in them." The small fairy-girl responded. "Did the average muggle two centuries ago envision commercial airplanes? Sails were once upon a time the best method of travelling the seas, and if you didn't walk everywhere, you only had an option of horseback or carriage way back when. All things deemed impossible in the past, but that's no longer true now."
"Those are technological limits, not the limits imposed upon the world due to the restrictions of a reality's natural laws." Harry told her. "Those are two completely different things. We're talking about things that should literally not be possible, not things that are currently impossible."
"Oh, fine, have it your way." Holly huffed. "That still doesn't change the fact that, regardless of how 'possible' it might be, it's still happening to you right here and now, no?"
Harry sighed. "No, it doesn't change that." He turned back to Akasha. "However, that still doesn't explain why Akasha here has decided to meet up with me, or decided to test me even. I doubt that she did any of that without reason after all."
"You would be correct once more." Akasha confirmed. "There were several reasons for me doing as I did, not the least of which is a… character test, to see whether I should allow you to remain within my multi-verse, or quarantine you and bar you from my domain forever."
Harry nodded in understanding. "This multi-verse is your domain, you wanted to see if I would try and wrest control of any of it away from you, or simply be satisfied with dabbling here and there."
"That is accurate, yes." Akasha affirmed. "However, I was thinking of a more… unified deal with you. Like with that book you now possess, there are those that seek to force their way into my realm of influence and infect it with their presence. As you have stated, the only method I have for dealing with such an intrusion is to quarantine a universe and then annihilate it, a very wasteful choice."
"And how would I be able to help you solve that problem?" Harry asked.
"I propose that, if and when such a situation occurs, I quarantine the reality and send you in." Akasha suggested. "Once there, you could create a temporary world of your own and 'exile' the intruders there, before destroying it. This would allow me to not have to destroy one of my own worlds. In return, I will assist you in becoming like I am, or more accurately, accelerate your development to reach the next level of existence. Is this something that would interest you?"
"I'm always interested in pushing myself further, it's perhaps my greatest flaw." Harry admitted. "However, you said it yourself, you would 'accelerate' my development, not make it possible on your own. Right now I have more power than I know what to do with, for what reason would I need even more?"
"Unfortunate, I had thought that would be something you would want considering the rate you were acquiring power yourself." Akasha responded. "Is there something else I can provide that would encourage you to accept my offer?"
"I never said I wouldn't accept an 'alliance' of sorts." Harry retorted. "I simply said that I had enough power already, though I won't turn down more if it's offered to me, so long as there aren't any unpleasant repercussions attached to it of course. What I'd prefer over power, is knowledge. Do you think we could come to some sort of arrangement in regards to that?"
"That is possible, yes." Akasha agreed. "Shall we discuss terms?"
What followed was perhaps the strangest negotiation that Harry had ever been a part of, possibly the strangest that he ever would be a part of too.