Guess who's back?!
I think I've finally (for real this time) gotten over my hate-boner for Mashima and Fairy Tail. Someone told me to read the Fairy Tail 100 Years Quest, and I did, caught up to the latest chapter... and... (spoilers) Mashima's still making the same mistakes and doing the same shit that got many people hating Fairy Tail in the first place. PoWeRoFfRiEnDsHiP!
The only highlight is that Natsu's actually using his brain in fights and bloody hell it's surreal to see.
Just going to point it out now, this story is going to contain spoilers for 100 Years Quest. If you haven't read it and would not like to be spoiled, head over to your manga piracy site of choice (or buy legit copies if you live in a country where it's sold) and catch up on the story.
That said, I'll tone down the overall edgelord-dark vibes this story had in the earlier chapters. It'll still be dark, but more of Goblin Slayer level dark than Warhammer 40K dark.
November 19, X776
"Misogyny?" Old man Titus scrunched his nose. He sniffed twice into the air, clearing his throat of phlegm. "The hell is that supposed to mean?"
"The hatred, fear or dislike of women."
Titus tugged on his fishing line, cursing under his breath. "Damn ol' man can't catch a thing 'round here no more –"
The old man clicked his tongue. "You've got the wrong old man, boy." He reeled in his line. "Titus fears no woman." He rose his right hand. "See this? This hand right here, it did its fair share of inflicting fear on women in its day."
He snorted. "You wouldn't. How would you?"
"One of those women paid me to find you."
Titus laughed. "Did they now?" His expression turned sour. "Wait, don't tell me you're –" His nose scrunched up. "No, no, you can't be one of mine. Don't got the eyes for it. Face is all wrong too."
He turned back to the lake, muttering under his breath. A small box sat beside him. Aged. Old. At least half as old as the man himself. Titus grabbed the box, pushing the side of it. A mechanical sound tinkered from within. It snapped open with a forceful click. Within it, a set of cylindrical objects, each one a different color. He selected one and closed the box. With a flick of his finger, the object came alight, and landed on his lips.
He inhaled. His withered form and bony skeletal body expanded as he did so. He exhaled, colored smoke wafted from his lips, swaying outward over the open lake. His body returned to its skinny, malnourished state.
"So," Titus said. "Which one of them sent you, kid?"
"T'was Mariel wasn't it?" Titus laughed. "Only she'd bother. She was always the bitterest one. Always the one spouting them stupid ideas, crying the most, sitting in the corner acting like she was better than her sisters."
Titus took another drag.
"Five hundred thousand."
Titus blasted the rainbow-colored haze in my face. "I may be old and lost a few of my senses, but I can still smell bullshit kid."
"My work isn't cheap."
Titus' laughed "And why's that?"
"High demand, low supply."
The old man laughed even harder. Laughed until his pale form and thin neck form-fitted against his bones. Laughed until his spine was visibly heaving, his ribs visibly quivering.
"I like you, kid." Titus said. "I like you. I like you, but I'm no fool. So, sate this old man's curiosity. Why bother conversing with a person you're hired to kill?"
"She did not mention that my target would be a mage."
Titus' bony grin emerged. "Oooh. Sharp. Sharp, sharp, sharp. How'd you figure it out?"
"You're smoking powdered lacrima. A normal human would already be dead."
Titus crossed his arms, inhaling from his cylinder. "I suppose that gave it away rather easily." He scratched the back of his head. "Tell you what kid, I'll give you double what you were offered to kill me."
"Hah!" Titus barked. "And why would I give you tri –" Titus stopped. His gaze glanced down. A small line of blood fell from his Adam's apple. A cut was present. A cut that had not been there previously.
"Oh." Titus said. "Huh. She actually sent a capable one this time." Titus turned, slowly. "Black hair, red eyes, dark cloak and…" he shuddered. "A magical presence yearning to devour." Titus laughed. "To think the famed Abyss Child would come for me. Or is it the Nosferatu they call you now?"
"Triple." The line on Titus' neck grew. Blood began to spill more visibly.
"Triple." Titus agreed. "But," he rose a finger. "I want Mariel brought to me. Begging, screaming and kicking if you have to."
Titus cleared his throat. His right hand went to the wound, touching it softly. A rough sound emerged from his gullet. "To betray your client so easily, hah! This old man wonders, won't it hurt your business?"
"Hmm…" the man rubbed his chin. "Why is that?"
"I can tell when people are lying. They usually don't live long enough to complete the lie."
Titus let out another bark. "Yes, kid, I really like you."
We met at midnight by an uninhabited road behind a tiny fishing village.
I checked the briefcases. The one-point-five million jewels were in order. No traps. No falsities. No magic tricks. Titus grinned with yellowed teeth at my paranoia. Unnecessary, must have been his thought. I clapped my hands twice. A small form landed beside me. A human shaped bundle wrapped in paper landed on the ground between myself and Titus. The bundle squirmed.
My Phantom Claws flashed outwards. The paper cut open. A middle-aged woman emerged. She gasped for air. Her eyes flashed, confused, back and forth between myself and Titus.
"What – what's going on – you –"
"He offered three times what you did."
Her eyes went wide. "I – but –"
"I informed you from the start." I crossed my arms. "I work for the highest bidder." I gestured to the briefcase. "If you can double his offer, I shall kill him here and now. If you are unable to, our business is concluded."
Her emotions wafted out. Helplessness. Anger. Rage. Fury. Her expression mirrored each one, travelled through each one, back and forth, faster than a normal human eye would be able to catch. Normal human senses would never be able to catch them. Read them. See them as quickly and as pristinely.
Saliva budded slowly in the back of my throat. I fought the urge to lick my lips. Titus' emotions were clearer. The swagger in his step, amused light dancing in his eyes, and grin, hiding behind his lips. They told the tale of satisfaction. Confidence. Sadistic anticipation. My stomach rumbled as the scents assaulted my nostrils.
"My job here is done." I turned around. "Angel, the cases."
She reached out. My nostrils picked up the scent of her magic. Re-Quip Magic, forcing its way into existence. An invisible portal to a sub-dimensional space emerged in the fabric of space and time, only perceivable to me because of how attuned my senses where to magic – to ethernano.
"Thank you, Abyss Child, for bringing this unruly one to me." Titus said. "Are you sure you do not wish to wait behind? I'm certain I have other ways that I can prove useful to someone with your… many talents."
"You basta –"
A thick smack echoed. Titus backhand was outstretched. My former client lay on the floor, dazed. Another slap echoed out. A third followed. The fourth and fifth came just as fast. Titus panted, sweat dripping down his brow, and blood dripping from his bruised knuckles.
"Right," the old man said. "Now, as I was saying –" Titus cleared his throat. "I used to be quite the mage in my day. I even ran a Dark Guild for a short period of time… alas…"
He gestured to his body. His frail, weak, skeletal looking body.
"This is the result of a certain Lost Magic. I was not compatible with it, you see, not as I hoped. I tried, severely, to see if one of my children would be but –" he furrowed his brow. "Invalids, all of them. My six daughters, none of them could inherit the power. So, I felt, perhaps it was because the blood of their mother was interfering, and I tried again, with my six daughters. But – again, their children, my grandchildren, failed to inherit my power. Instead, they all became like this…"
He sneered at the bleeding woman on the ground.
"Useless, magic-less invalids. They were born from the seed of my seed, and yet…" Titus shook his head. "Wastes."
"Your point, Titus."
"Of course," Titus grinned. "You are young, promising. I can sense the power in you… the potential in you. Let me teach you my Lost Magic. I fear that if I do not teach it to anyone, it shall die with me, and that would be such a waste."
I glanced over the man. This mission I had taken on a dime. A whim. From his scent, I knew the old man had been a mage. The lingering allure of magic power was what made me cautious when I initially approached him. Lingering, faint, weak – but with no reduction in the sense of danger.
"This Lost Magic…" I said. "What is it called?"
Titus smiled at me. "The Arc of Stipulation."
He was not lying. My nose furrowed. I knew of the Lost Magics. I knew of the Arc of Time used by Ultear. I knew of the Lost Tree Arc and Arc of Embodiment. Yet, I had not known of this one.
"And what does it do?"
"Fully mastered, it lets you do… anything."
"I find that hard to believe."
"Fully mastered," Titus wagged his finger. "That's the catch. You see, I never fully mastered it. And so… here I am, withered, old and frail. But I believe you can master it."
"And why is that?"
"Because," Titus said, "You've already cleared the first condition to do so."
He pointed straight at me.
"You've killed people... and enjoyed it."
November 20th, X776
Titus, the old, perhaps insane ex-Dark Wizard, lived in a house hidden within a cave. Sorano walked beside me, clutching to my arm, whereas Titus holstered his unconscious daughter over his shoulder in a surprising display of strength for his old frail body, talking endlessly as we approached.
"Now, here we are – home as I like it."
The inside of the dingy wooden shack was significantly larger than the outside. My nose sniffed and smelt the tang of magic in the air. A peculiar scent of magic, similar to the dimensional Re-Quip magic, but significantly far more complex. Titus plopped his daughter unto the ground without a care in the world, and gestured us in with a smile that exposed all his yellowed teeth.
"Make yourself comfortable and at home. I haven't had guests in forever." Titus laughed. "To think I'd get this opportunity…"
"This Lost Magic of yours, I need more information."
Titus barked a laugh. "Eager to learn are we?" He grinned. "Fair enough. Tell me, Abyss Child, how much do you know of magic theory?"
My brow rose. "Magic theory?"
"All of Earthland is filled with ethernano in the air, yet only a select few are capable of harnessing that power and utilizing it to perform godlike feats. Does it not strike you as strange, boy, that no one thinks to study this phenomenon in depth?"
Titus moved further into the house, and I followed. My perception of space felt altered. Despite having merely walked a few feet, the house looked simultaneously smaller and larger than I remembered. The door and entrance was significantly smaller, as if it'd shrunk the second I moved past it. The corridors grew larger and wider, with bookshelves upon bookshelves seemingly appearing from thin air. The entire house seemed non-Euclidean in nature, and the scent of magic grew increasingly and overwhelmingly stronger.
"There should be academies," Titus said. "Academies at every corner, dedicated to the study and mastery of the phenomenon of magic. The existence of magic has altered our history and development, magical tools are found in every household used by mage and non-mage alike. And yet, yet, no one asks the grand questions. There are no societies of scholars, philosophers, pondering upon our gifts and pushing the limits further. Has it not struck you as odd?"
Titus cleared phlegm from his throat, an irritating sound emanated from his nostrils before he spat to the side. The spittle vanished before it hit the floor. My nostrils perceived the faint smell of fire-laden ethernano as he did so.
"Instead, we have Guilds," Titus spat the word with distaste. "Guilds and Guild Masters, where magic users spend their entire lives in pursuit of mediocrity. Wasting their talents on menial fetch tasks and exterminations of beasts in an endless cycle, only to return, spend their earnings on booze and parties, and repeat the process until they are too old and feeble to quest and decide it is time to bare progeny who will repeat the process."
"Not fond of the status quo?"
"I abhor the status quo." Titus said. "It's all a conspiracy by the Magic Council. The current magical guilds are filled with destructive idiots who have been brainwashed by ideas of fame and fortune and can no longer think or ask the pertinent questions. Powerful mages are awarded titles like gold stars handed to a class of imbecile children, and the most powerful are given recognition as 'Wizard Saints' in order for the Magic Council to maintain their absolute hegemony."
The old man deflated as he spoke. There was a brimming fire in his eyes and from deep within him, the emotions that wafted told me he believed every single word he uttered was true. There was so much hate and loathing that the scent of it almost had me salivating for a taste.
"Magic – the study of magic, the pursuit of its origins and form and nature, no matter what road you follow or where you begin, you will ultimately arrive at the same path I did."
Titus spread his arm outward. One of the bookshelves began to shake, and from within it, a worn, battered and beaten book emerged. My eyes latched unto the book because of the unmistakable scent that wafted from the magic around it. The scent of death.
The book landed in his outstretched palm. "The Messiah of Magic… Zeref."
"This was given to me by a man I met, a fellow pursuer of the truth of magic, many, many years ago. It contains the information on the Lost Magic, the Arc of Stipulation. I was never able to fully master it, but, if I succeed in teaching you, then I will have upheld my end of the bargain, and I would have fulfilled my promise to Gaebolg."
"Precht Gaebolg," Titus said the name fondly. "The man closest to unravelling the lies of this world, bringing back the Messiah, and unleashing the One Magic."
Precht Gaebolg? The name sounded familiar. I felt I should know it. The knowledge was at the back of my mind, lingering in the depths of my subconscious as something that was familiar. Yet, I could not recall. There were too many memories in my head for me to recall. There were memories of slavers, memories of bandits, memories of evil and cruel men, each one, competing every second to devour me. I stored the name to memory. Perhaps in time I'd remember.
"Now, beware," Titus' voice dropped to a serious tone. "The Arc of Stipulation is considered a Lost Magic for a reason. Whilst immensely powerful, it comes with a great cost. The first requirement to use this magic is that one must have taken the life of another and reveled in the act. This alone makes the Arc of Stipulation dark magic simply by its initial requirement."
"And the second requirement?"
"The second requirement is that you must sacrifice a part of yourself in exchange for power. The more you sacrifice, the greater the power you shall receive."
"A part of myself?"
"It doesn't have to be physical. You may choose to sacrifice your longevity, your lifespan, your memories or ideals. You could sacrifice your ability to feel love or ability to make love, or simply choose to do away with all emotion entirely."
"I see." I closed my eyes. "Anything else?"
"Why yes," Titus said. "There cannot be two users of the same Lost Magic alive and using it at the same time. So, there will be one final sacrifice."
"You want me to kill you."
"Boy, I'm dying anyway. The only reason I paid you so much to spare my life was because I did not want to die without finding a successor for my magic."
"Hah! Not even a twitch on your face." Titus grinned. "I knew I chose the right person." The old man clapped his hands. "Now… let us begin. Place your hand on the book, and declare what you're going to sacrifice for your power. Remember, once you've made the sacrifice, it's gone forever. So, I'd advise you to think carefully about –"
"I sacrifice my undying soul."
Titus' eyes went wild. "What? You – "
I couldn't and didn't hear what he said next. I was no longer in Titus' shed. I was once more standing in a familiar void of darkness and nothingness, one which I was belatedly tired of seeing. A woman emerged before me, sitting atop a throne, looking far less pleased to see me than I was to see her.
"Champion," her voice was like ice. "…It's been a rather long time since we last talked."
"Yes, yes," she waved her hands. "Would you mind telling me what you're thinking? Have I not made it clear that your soul belongs to me? Did you truly try to wager your soul on a ritual, despite knowing I have ownership of it?"
"Either I lost my soul and died, which is a win for me, or you stop me from losing my soul, and I survive, which is a win for me regardless."
"Have you so little value for your own life?"
"Is that meant to be a rhetorical question?"
"You've managed to sow a lot of chaos in my name, you know. The land of Fiore is ripe with terror. Children sleep at night with fear and adults clutch their weapons at night when they travel. Abyss Child, they call you… Nosferatu, they whisper in the dark. Such lovely names. Ah, and that massacre you committed at the village on the hill –"
She made an erotic sound, her fingers dipping into her mouth.
"To think that all it took for you to go on a murdering frenzy was someone hurting that little white-haired slut of yours…"
"What do you know about this magic, the Arc of Stipulation?"
"I'm a Goddess, dear champion. Do you believe me to care enough to research some trifle human tricks? I know nothing of it save for how it seems to work on a contractual basis… I suppose you could call it a magic of contracts. Regardless, Lost Magics are still playthings in the eyes of beings such as I."
She waved her hand.
"Well, I'll allow you to try something like this just this once. But try any future attempts to abuse my gift of immortality and I will punish you for it. Now, off you go, my Champion. I'll be expecting the best from you."
The world spun back into place. The shed returned, as did the old man, staring over me, along with Sorano, looking over me with concern and worry.
"You… mad… fool!" Titus' face did not match his words. He was grinning, grinning from ear-to-ear like a madman who'd won the lottery. "To use your own soul, yet – to still be here – ha! Hahahaha! Yes! Yes! Another will arise! You – you have been chosen by the God of Death! Another! Another of Ankhersam's blessed!"
"Let's get on with it."
"Yes, yes." He gestured his hands into the air. "The final step – you must kill me. Strike me dow–"
My Phantom Claws shot out. Pierced, straight into Titus' heart. The man glanced down at his chest, blood pooled from his lips, and his smile never once wavered from his face.
"It… is… done."
He dropped, backwards unto the ground.
"…The book… will… teach you… my… successor."
The scent of blood rushed into the room, but not before I absorbed Titus soul. His soul at his dying moment was filled with the emotion of satisfaction, accomplishment. The taste was somewhat acrid, but I swallowed it down all the same, because it was far too valuable to let go to waste.
Titus had been a horrible man. A man who assaulted his own wife and his own daughters all in pursuit of a 'worthy successor.' I cared little, for his drama and chaos, and pushed aside the horrendous memories in search of the ones that would serve me. The knowledge of the Arc of Stipulation.
The Arc of Time allowed one to control time, rewinding or fast-forwarding the time of an object, and, if the user was powerful enough, they could rewind the time of living beings and people. The Arc of Embodiment enabled one to bring objects into reality, simply by converting the user's imagination into ethernano, and converting that ethernano into solid matter. A vivid imagination and immense focus was needed for it to work perfectly.
The Arc of Stipulation however, which I'd never seen in canon, was a Lost Magic which allowed the user to set conditions, specifications and/or requirements in spacetime with heavy reliance on causality. Titus had not been exaggerating when he said it allowed you to do anything. However, that 'anything' came with a few limitations.
The Arc of Stipulation was the magic version of programming, with heavy reliance on Boolean logic. There were four stages for the Arc of Stipulation. The first, was a set condition. The more specific and unique the set condition, the more powerful the Arc of Stipulation became. Say for instance, I set a condition "If a Wizard Saint is within 30 feet" the power of that condition would be strong, because there were only 10 Wizard Saints in the world, and my odds of meeting them weren't favorable. Now if I set a condition "If a Wizard Saint and a Dragonslayer are within 30 feet" there would be more power to it because of how low the odds seemingly were.
The next stage of the Arc was known as the Kindling. It required me to use a power source. I could either use the natural ethernano in the air, which would make things more powerful, but in exchange make the casting process slow, or I could use the ethernano in my body, or, I could simply use 'alternative fuels.' People, objects, souls – the rarer and more unique the better.
The next stage was the Effect. It required me to decide what effect I wanted to happen based on my set condition. For instance "If a Wizard Saint is within 30 feet, create a shroud of darkness." That would be the Condition and the Effect working in tandem. Conditions and Effects could be stacked, but it'd cost more Kindling.
The final stage was the Activation stage. At this point, the Stipulation was set, and the results of whatever one chose would immediately start to commence. If there was not enough Kindling or if the Condition is false, then the activation stage fails and nothing happens until the condition was set to true.
I tossed both hands into the air, breathed in, and exhaled. "Arc of Stipulation."
Condition: IF dead mage, AND immortal are present.
Kindling: Corpse of Dead Man, Ethernano reserves
Effect: Slow my perspective of Time by 95%
My perception of time slowed down to a complete crawl. Sorano appeared almost frozen before me, and I noticed, or watched, as Titus' body dissipated into flecks of light as his physical form turned into pure magic particles powering my Lost Magic.
Only my perspective of time had been slowed, so my body moved incredibly slowly. It was a simple test run to see what the Arc of Stipulation could do, and I realized that this magic was incredibly complex. Far more complex than what many in Fiore and Earthland were used to. In the heat of battle, it would be difficult to effectively use, especially when comparing to several other caster-type wizards who would simply spam fire balls or ice missiles at you while you were trying to set down a condition and effect.
My perception of time returned back to normal once Titus' body vanished completely. The condition was now false, because there was no dead mage present, so the effect was ultimately dissipated.
It was powerful magic. Tricky magic, yes, but powerful magic. Eris referred to it as the magic of contracts, and I understood why. I could set a condition on someone else which would only take effect once the condition was set to true, and effectively curse/kill someone thousands of miles away without them ever being the wiser, and without them having any means or method to prevent it.
That was the importance of the Kindling aspect of the Arc of Stipulation. By being able to choose what powered the spell, you didn't need to be nearby for it to work. I could set the Kindling to 'natural ethernano' and be sure that the spell would work anywhere in Earthland.
The fact that I could convert corpses into ethernano was another thing that bothered me. If so, could I convert living beings as well? Titus' memories said yes. However, they needed to say they were willing, or to be forced into saying that they were willing.
That immediately changed the stakes. The Arc of Stipulation could quite literally turn my enemies into fuel to power magic spells, so long as I tricked or forced them into a verbal or written agreement.
At the same time, I felt I was barely scratching the surface of what the power could do. My thoughts turned towards Titus' shack, which, clearly, ran on the power of the Arc of Stipulation. He'd combined it with other minor magics to give it the effect of spatial distortion, and already, my brain was working.
"Nos-sama, are you alright?"
"I'm fine Angel."
Yes, yes, I was fine. Today had been, altogether a good day.
"Take everything you can that looks valuable from this place, and let's leave. We have things to do."
"What about the woman?"
Angel pointed to Titus' unconscious daughter.
"Leave her. We have more important things to take care of."
Somewhere in Earthland
Grimoire Heart Airship
"Master! Master, is something wrong?"
Hades hissed. A burning, stinging sensation ran across his arm, and the man rolled back his sleeve. There, present, a sigil appeared, branded into the flesh. A name likewise, appeared with the sigil, curling around it. The man barked a laugh as understanding dawned on him.
"Relax Ultear." He mused. "This is merely one of the seeds I planted long ago, finally bearing fruit."
In truth, Hades had not expected it. That particular Lost Magic was one so deviously foul and complicated that he'd disregarded the likelihood of it ever being truly mastered. Only a suicidal-fool or an utter sociopath willing to make impossible sacrifices would ever come close to using it to its full potential, as such, he'd discarded the book and gave it to a young aspiring dark mage, with a strong compulsion placed on the man that ensured he would do his hardest to find a suitable user.
Of course, the Arc of Stipulation was one of the books in the Lost Arc series, all of them, magics created by the Messiah of Magic. Hades theorized there was a reason why Zeref created these magics. A magic which could turn back the hands of time, a magic which could bring your imagination to reality, a magic which could perform the impossible as long as the right set of conditions were met.
The Messiah of Magic had spent his lifetime creating and experimenting endlessly, and ceaselessly. Yet, the documents of his reasons or goals were scarce. He either seemed to be searching for something, or seemed to be trying to prevent something.
Hades disregarded the thought for now. He glanced at the brand and name on his flesh, musing it over. Jason?
Such a simplistic name for a person who'd managed to become the first true wielder of the most complex of the Lost Arc series.
"It seems you may soon be getting another Kin of Purgatory, Ultear."
The girl did not even try to hide her distaste. "Another one, Master? The last one we got is trouble enough."
Hades chuckled. "And how is young Erza?"
"…burning things." She said irritably. "She's always burning things. Destroying things. Breaking things. Exploding things. She's such an angry, bratty child."
Hades closed his eyes. That girl…
She was abnormal. She had far more magical power than any child her age had any reason to possess. There were moments in which Hades began to question if she was truly purely human. More than that, with neither any instruction nor formal magical training, she picked up the magic of telekinesis and flame all on her own. Calling her a genius would be an insult; calling her a prodigy would be an understatement.
Her only problem was her temper.
Moments later, the girl appeared. In the nearly eight months since he'd found her, she'd become nearly unrecognizable. Her hair was still as red and as long, but her body was different. Gone was the malnourished slave girl, covered from head-to-toe in scars and burn wounds. Instead, there was a young girl clad in admittedly inappropriate clothing for a young girl. Inappropriate, because it barely covered her skin. Some bindings for her chest, shorts for her legs, and plain sandals on her feet. That was all she would wear.
Ultear stood beside her, not even bothering to hide her disdain.
"Dressed like a slut again, Scarlet?"
"Takes one to know one, Milk-Bitch."
"Ultear, Erza – enough."
Both girls bowed.
"Yes, Master Hades."
Hades couldn't help but feel melancholic. Grimoire Heart was a guild of his own making, yet, whether he'd meant to or not, his years as Guild Master of Fairy Tail still bled into how he ran things. A sense of family and familiarity would ever so slightly seep into his business, to the point in which he named his chosen elite his "Kin" and urged them to be as siblings to each other.
"Ultear, try not to antagonize Erza needlessly," Hades said. "And Erza, Ultear's concerns are not without merit. There have been… complaints about your dressing."
"I haven't heard any complaints."
"They were reluctant to bring it up to you."
"The chatter of cowards then."
Hades could almost feel a headache coming.
"Why do you choose to wear as little clothing as possible?"
Erza tilted her head up. She turned to Ultear, and pointed a finger. There was a gasp and a cry, as Ultear's clothes vanished in a bright flash.
"Clothes burn too easily."
Hades closed his one exposed eye and resisted the urge to sigh. He opened his eye once he was certain Ultear had fixed the damage done to her clothes with her Arc of Time.
"Acquiring fire resistant clothing would be the best solution."
The girl pointed to Ultear again. In a single flash, Ultear's clothes were ripped to shreds.
"Then they'd rip too easily."
"If you would kindly refrain from destroying Ultear's clothes to prove your point," Hades said, "There may be a better solution. Have you heard of Re-Quip magic?"
Erza tilted her head. "Re-Quip magic?"
"With it, you'll be able to switch and change clothes on the fly. Perhaps have an outfit for every occasion? One resistant to fire, another to frost, another to slicing… and so on."
"…That might work. Thank you, Master."
"Master Hades, you're teaching her another magic?"
"Another? Ultear, I have yet to teach Erza any magic. Everything she has accomplished so far is a result of her own innate talent."
Hades was no fool. He could see Ultear's ego was bruised. He could tell from the glances that Ultear shot at the redhead, that there was jealousy simmering within. Why would there not be? Ultear, the daughter of a potential Wizard Saint, believed that her own mother abandoned her for her lack of magical talent and chose to train two boys instead. No doubt, she was weary of yet another abandonment.
This meant she'd be far more eager to prove herself.
"Perhaps, Ultear, if you improve your current control over your Arc of Time, I would be willing to teach you a supplementary, secondary magic."
"Improve my control?"
"As it stands, you can accelerate and rewind the time of objects… but that is merely scratching the surface. Zeref, with that magic, was said to be able to freeze time itself. While you are yet to be anywhere near that level, I believe, freezing your perception of time should be a goal to strive for."
"Yes, Master Hades. I'll work harder."
"Good." Hades said. "Now, there is a task that I need you both to accomplish."
Hades unrolled his sleeve and pressed down on the name atop his scar. A visual map of Fiore appeared immediately, along with a blinking red dot. The red dot was moving, but not quickly. A decent enough pace that meant he was either on foot or in a magic vehicle.
He pressed over the scar and the map changed to the image of a hooded figure with glowing red eyes.
Ultear gasped. "The Abyss Child?"
Hades rose a brow.
"You know who this is?"
"Through my connections." She said. "The Magic Council recently put a two million jewel bounty on a figure with that description. The Abyss Child – they say he's an anti-mage. A mage with the power to take the magic of others, or nullify it completely."
Hades snapped his head to the younger girl.
"You know who this is?"
Her eyes were wide. Her body was shaking. Fear? No, not fear. Shock, surprise. "He… he was a slave… like me, in the Tower. It was because of him that we were able to escape… he… killed several slavers and –" she stopped.
Hades glanced back to the image. His own eyes widened as he stared at the red eyes. It's him! Him! The boy, the boy whose magic power split the ocean in half! He had become the user of the Arc of Stipulation?
Rich, thick laughter escaped from his lips before he could help it. "Is this the hand of fate at work?"
Hades gestured the image.
"Ultear, Erza, I want this boy." Hades said. "Bring him to me."
"Yes, Master Hades."
Diamonds in the rough, all of them. Soon, he'd gather the full force of the Kin of Purgatory, each of them, wielding magics of Zeref. Then they would acquire the keys needed to awake the Messiah from his slumber and bring about the prophesied Golden Age of Magic. Yes, Hades knew that it would be a difficult task. Many would stand in his way, but as long as he had his chosen warriors, he was confident he would succeed.
Yet, Hades had doubt in his heart.
He wondered, truly, if the Heart of Darkness and Kin of Purgatory would truly be enough to face the final trial. The ageless beings, the final creations of the Black Mage… the Demons of the Last Book of Zeref.
The Magic Council and the Light Guilds of the Earthland were oblivious to the monsters that roamed the earth and lacked the stomach to do what needed to be done to stop them. It was up to him, Precht Gaebolg, to reach the Messiah before Zeref's demons did.
Else the Dark Age of Magic would begin, and humanity would surely perish.
December 1st, X776
Sorano let out a yawn and stretched out her limbs as far as she could. We'd entered into Oak Town just as dawn was beginning to role over. My black cloak and eye-color were notable identifying markers, as such, I disregarded the cloak and donned a plain white mask layered with enchantments from the Arc of Stipulation.
"Nos-sama is this the place?"
Oak Town was a simple town. Most towns in Fiore were. Some towns in the backwater and sticks of Fiore were simpler than others, with medieval level development, high levels of illiteracy and an over-reliance on magic for daily necessities.
Earthland was overly reliant on magic. Yet, as Titus had said, they cared little to study its origins or structure. The old man may have been insane, but he was not stupid. Schools only seemed to exist in major towns like Magnolia, and even then, there was no true formal or standardized education beyond learning how to write and read. Magical education was minimal and costly. Magical higher education was nonexistent.
It was not wrong to consider this place a world of idiots. Magi of the Fate universe would be utterly appalled at the wish-washy ways that magic was treated here.
"For the next few months we will be using different names." I said. "I'm Geralt. And you are Yennefer. Yen for short."
'Yen' pouted at me. "Different names again?"
"Different appearances as well."
I approached her, and tapped her hair. "Arc of Stipulation."
Condition: IF conscious, AND near an external observer.
Kindling: Natural Ethernano
Effect: Alter hair color: black, and eye color: purple.
'Yen' summoned a mirror from her personal subspace, glancing over her changed appearance. "I'm… pretty?"
"You're always pretty. I just changed minor attributes."
'Yen' put aside her mirror. "Jas- um, Geralt, why do we always have to change our names so often?"
"We were being hunted, a week ago."
We were. I sensed it. Rather, smelled it. Magic was being used to observe me. I knew it was not Eris. I could not be sure if it was not one of Eris' enemies, come to attack me. Eris was the sort of goddess who would fail to inform me of such an event simply because it would amuse her.
If it was not an enemy of Eris, then it likely could have been a Mage after my bounty or someone from the Magic Council. I had no interest in fighting those individuals.
Whatever the case was, I placed a Stipulation over myself to make anyone attempting to scry on me only see a continuous loop of me in my dark cloak moving around different forests in Fiore. I would appear to always have moved to a different area once they reached the area I was supposed to be. So far, it seemed to have thrown my pursuers off my tail.
The Arc of Stipulation was more or less the magic of enchantments. In a way, it was more disciplined 'magic' than the rest of the so-called magic in this universe. Caster type magics like Ice-Make or Memory-Make which only required one's imagination and magic power to create literary anything was far more ridiculous in hindsight.
My power had limitations and exceptions, and could fail if my information was incorrect or incomplete. That said, it was an optimum power, because I possessed information about this world that many others lacked.
"Let's head into town."
Oak Town was simple. While 'Yen' was always excited whenever we visited a new town, as a true child would be, I was unimpressed. In a world beyond this one, I had seen cities and architectural marvels, skyscrapers and grand towers. There was little to be impressed with by cobblestone roads and cozy village-style huts and homes. There was little variance in Fiore's architectural style. Little innovation. Of course, it was expected. In a world where magic was the to-go solution to most problems, technology and innovation were incredibly stifled.
We passed the market district and farmlands, and where I ignored the gazes shot in my direction, 'Yen' was more than happy to smile and wave at those who gave her attention. She was enjoying her freedom. I was not one to deprive her that privilege.
"Geralt-sama, um, why did we come to this town?"
I pointed straight ahead. "We will be settling here for the next several months."
"Stability," I said. "Normalcy. Home. A place to return to and head out from."
She pumped her fist into the air. "Does – does that mean… no more camping outside? No more mosquitoes and tents and eating magical monsters that attack us?"
I tilted my head. "For now."
"YES!" She sighed. "Finally!"
"You dislike my cooking that much?"
"Geralt-sama, you don't have a sense of taste. Your cooking is horrible."
My lips twitched minutely. "You could always cook yourself."
"Ugh. That would mean skinning and gutting those animals and… and it's…"
"Disgusting." She scrunched her nose. "Also, Geralt-sama… if we're settling down what are you going to do about… you know?"
I let my shoulders rise and fall. Due to Eris, I couldn't eat normal food. I could still drink water, yes, but my main source of sustenance came from consuming negativity and emotions. Oak Town was the opposite. Brimming with positivity. Except, there were corners here and there with hidden negative resentment. Then of course, there was the location we were headed to, the largest accumulation of negative emotions in the entire town.
Before us was a large, imposing and compact building composed of stone, taking on the architectonic form of a single body ending in a variety of differently shaped domes. The entrance was topped by an extremely high, ornamental part, consisting of an arc held up by two long, square pillars, complete with some arched windows below it, and placed above the smaller arc of the door itself.
To the entrance's right was an angled zone with several orders of large arched windows lined up one at the other's side, with the orders being six, and the top sporting battlements. The part to the left was instead reminiscent of a hexagonal tower fused with the building, possessing very high and ornamental windows in groups of three in its lower part, with bas-reliefs below them, and simpler, smaller and more numerous arched windows in its upper part. Each of the tower's angles was marked by a long, round pillar, possessing bulges in correspondence to the various architectonic orders of the building, and going up to the structure's top, where it ended in three bulges topped by an elongated part.
The top itself consisted of a large dome, bearing on its top an elongated protrusion similar to those on the columns. Behind the dome, in the central part of the building's top, stood one more dome, smaller, slenderer and more topped by a light flag with a symbol on it.
The building's most distinctive feature was probably the pair of towers adorning its sides on the front: these were extremely high, and consisted of many floors which seemed to be separated from one another, as if they had first been built individually and then piled up one on the other.
'Yen' squinted her eyes towards the large, towering building. "Geralt-sama… this is a guild."
"A Magic Guild."
"Yes." I said. "Come on, we're going in."
The doors were easy to push through. Rather, a single tap, and the doors swung open. Several pairs of eyes turned in my direction immediately. I examined the guild. It was completely unlike what I anticipated. A large, elegant lobby existed on the first floor. Designs of red and gold, bright lights and chandeliers, comfortable sofas and a giant board, pasted with paper after paper.
We walked forward into the guild, straight until we encountered what appeared to be some sort of hybrid receptionist desk and bar. A beautiful young woman with dark brown hair stood there, smiling as we approached.
"Welcome to Phantom Lord, the Greatest Magic Guild in all of Fiore." She said. "How may we help you today?"
I examined the woman. Unexpected.
Again, my knowledge from the anime and manga had failed me. Phantom Lord, at least, from what I knew, had never been anywhere near this fancy, classy or extravagant. We were still years before the start of the canon timeline, and it was hard for me to believe that this guild would be reduced to a pitiful state by X784.
"I wish to see Jose Porla."
"Master Jose is currently unavailable. However, if you have a message for him, I'll gladly deliver it once he returns."
"I and my companion are here to join the guild."
The woman's expression became strained. "Ah…" she looked over to me, and then to 'Yen'. I smelt it before she said it. Doubt. Annoyance. Irritation. "Unfortunately, Phantom Lord is currently not accepting new members into the guild without –"
My Phantom Claws shot out. She did not see them. She did not feel them. Had I wanted to, her head would be on the ground. I settled for her clothes instead. Was this not the world of incessant ecchi and nakedness after all?
She tried, in vain, to cover her exposed chest.
"I am Geralt. This is my companion, Yennefer. If this is all what the strongest guild in Fiore is capable of, I am disappointed."
She glared at me. Anger, embarrassment, humiliation.
"I believe that is enough for now, Emilia."
The use of magic made my nostrils flair. A scent unlike any other made it's way to me.
A tall, slim man with long, straight, dark red hair reaching down to his shoulders and a thin mustache. He had a long and sharp face, vaguely pointed ears, prominent eyelashes and dark-colored lips.
His attire bore a resemblance to the fictional depictions of both a sorcerer and a jester, consisting of a flamboyant coat with a high collar that sported a jagged mantle and jagged lower edges. It came with a matching witch-like hat bearing Phantom Lord's symbol, and most notably, a medallion, his Wizard Saint's medallion, hanging around his neck.
"Geralt-san, was it?" His voice was slithery and silky. I felt as though I were talking to the serpent of the Garden of Eden. "And Yennefer-chan, quite the pleasure to meet you. I am Jose Porla, Master of Phantom Lord."
"Where is the real you?"
Jose blinked. "Excuse me?"
"I wish to speak with you, not your thought projection."
Jose's grin widened so much it might as well have been demonic.
"You can tell?" He whispered. "At a single glance?"
Jose laughed. "Not even some of my fellow Wizard Saints can tell the difference. You… you are something special, aren't you?" A diabolic grin came from him. Despite being a thought projection, the emotions he emanated were clear as day. Greed, anticipation, delight.
"Emilia!" He barked.
"Yes Master Jose!"
"Bring the Guild Stamps." His gaze flickered between 'Yen' and I. "Phantom Lord has two lovely new guild members."
I glanced at the Phantom Lord guild insignia at the back of my palm, and took a deep, long breath. Emilia showed us to our rooms, which, unexpectedly, were extravagant. Mine had a bed, a bathroom with functioning heating and plumbing, and even a small kitchen with cooking utensils on the side. Sorano's room was directly next to mine, and I knew she would either move her stuff to my room or tear down the walls and connect our rooms together.
"If there is anything I can do to be of service, Geralt-dono, please do not hesitate to inform me."
Emilia, the guild receptionist and Jose's assistant, bowed at me, after getting a fresh change of clothes. There were simmering emotions of annoyance and resentment from tearing her clothes to shreds wafting off her.
"You are a mage, aren't you?"
Emilia nodded. "Yes, Geralt-dono. Everyone in the Phantom Lord building is a Mage of one caliber or the other. We are currently on the sixth floor, reserved for either A-Class Mages, or Mages directly recognized by Master Jose himself. The seventh floor above is reserved for S-Class Mages only."
"And how many S-Class Mages does Phantom Lord have?"
"With the inclusion of Master Jose, we have three." She said, brimming with pride. "That makes us the guild with the greatest number of S-Rank Mages in Fiore."
Only three? I closed my eyes. It's the year X776. None of the dragon slayers have been sent to the future. Gildarts likely has not joined Fairy Tail. Mystogan is a child. Laxus as well. Makarov would be the only S-Rank Mage there.
It was true. Phantom Lord was the strongest guild in Fiore.
This worked to my benefit. Jose Porla was the type of guild master that would allow me to operate without incessant rules or restrictions. As far as Legal Guilds went, there were no better guilds to join than Phantom Lord.
Joining a Legal Guild was perhaps one of the fastest ways to pursue my means of slaying Eris. Regardless of acquiring magic power and different spells, I needed knowledge. I needed to know where Eris was. In Fairy Tail, very little was mentioned about the domain or dimensions of the gods. Even little further was mentioned about the origins of God Slayer Magic.
Dragon Slayer Magic was created by Irene Belserion.
God Slayer Magic had no known creator.
There were only three God Slayers I knew of: Zancrow, Sherria Blendy and Orga Nanagear. Zancrow learned his magic from Hades. Sherria was said to have attained hers from a book. Orga's origin was never mentioned.
As of now, Orga Nanagear was no doubt a young child. Sometime between now and the next ten years he would encounter a Lightning God that would teach him Lightning God Slayer Magic.
There were four options:
Approach Irene Belserion in hopes that she knows more of God Slayer Magic and the domain of the gods.
Approach Hades in hopes that he knows more of God Slayer Magic and gods.
Find and stalk Orga Nanagear to discover how he attained his Lightning God-Slayer Magic.
Find and stalk Sherria Blendy to discover the origins of the book that gave her Sky God-Slayer Magic.
For obvious reasons the last option was impossible. Sherria was not yet born. The antepenultimate option was equally unfeasible – Orga was likely still an infant. The second option was unwise, as Hades had not known of Zeref's curse nor of the fact that he was never 'asleep'. There were gaps in the man's knowledge. I doubted he knew much of the gods.
The only option left was Irene. Meeting Irene meant travelling to Alvarez. I had no delusions as to surviving that task with my current abilities.
Alternatively, it was not impossible for the demons of Tartarus to know something of the gods. Similarly, as the Celestial Spirits had a realm of their own, they were also likely to possess some sort of knowledge as to the world the gods resided in.
The Demons of Tartarus were however sooner likely to kill me than help me. Or upon realizing I could not be killed, enslave me. This meant meeting Layla Heartfilia or Karen Lilica, both Celestial Spirit Mages, was my best chance at finding the answers I sought.
To accomplish that…
Fame, power and renown was a necessity.
"How does Jose decide who to promote to S-Class Mage?"
Emilia stared at me. "Master Jose does not decide. Phantom Lord does not hold promotion exams. In Phantom Lord, the prerequisite to be officially recognized as an S-Class Mage is to successfully complete three S-Class Quests in a row."
"Is that all?"
"You do not get to pick the three quests. They are chosen at random from the S-Class quest board. Also, you may not complete the quests with more than two people."
I nodded. "Anything else?"
Emilia looked flustered. "You must be at least an A-Class Mage to attempt this, and should you fail three times, you are immediately banished from Phantom Lord."
I nodded further. I could smell the disbelief wafting off her. "…what?"
"You don't seem too bothered, Geralt-dono."
"Should I be?"
"Most mages are usually disturbed and angry upon hearing the strict requirements."
"I am not most mages."
Emilia sighed. "If you say so, Geralt-dono."
"Sign me up for an S-Class quest tomorrow."
"Forgive me Geralt-dono, but you just became a member –"
"Is there a rule preventing new members from attempting S-Class Quests?"
Emilia sputtered. "N-no, but –"
"Then I do not see the problem."
"It is getting late. I need my rest. Goodnight, Emilia."
I slammed the door. Sighing, I inhaled the fresh, new-room smell of my current living quarters. Too long had it been since I slept on a bed. Even longer still had it been, since I bathed in an actual tub rather than a river or stream.
Three sharp knocks hit my door. I knew who it was before I opened it.
I gestured her in.
"So… I –"
"Yes, you can connect the rooms."
She beamed at me.
"Also I – "
"And we can take the shower together when we're done."
She pouted at me.
"I hate it when you do that."
I patted her head softly.
I gave 'Yen' my best 'smile.' I could smell the positive emotions she had. Admiration, compassion, affection. For the past eight months I trained her, fed her, cared for her. If the One Magic was truly love, truly self-sacrifice...
It would soon be time to reap the benefits.