Chapter 16 A Matter of Time
The Windflower Scripture specialized in information gathering and espionage, done remotely from a high-secured section of the main Astronomy Tower, inside the Theocracy's capital. It was different from the Clearwater Scripture, that specialized in foreign infiltration and intelligence gathering at close-range, directly from the source.
The Windflower Scripture had been appointed to surveil remotely the mission of the Holocaust and Black Scriptures. They were using spells of the highest caliber, 5th tier, and it had served them well during most of their travel.
But the moment both scriptures entered that cave in the Katze plains, their surveillance was forcefully stopped. No spell worked anymore, no matter how many variations they tried to use. In the end, they didn't have much option but to request permission to use one of the artifacts left behind by their Gods.
The legendary mirror of Erised.
It was capable of going through all known anti-detection spells, and it had never failed them in the past, no matter the distance or magic involved. This item was specialized in performing remote surveillance over a specific being, so they were quick to assign the Captain of the Black Scripture as the target.
It was thus, understandable, that when the artifact failed to conjure the image, the Wildflower scripture panicked. The mirror was showing the Katze plains, so they had a good view of the deserted land and the cave-like entrance that protruded from the ground, but they were unable to follow the scripture's progress in their mission. All they could do now was wait for them to exit the cave.
And if they didn't… well, they would need to gather the Cardinals, so they could determine what would be done. Most likely, Zesshi would be mobilized.
A whole hour passed without nothing of importance showing in the mirror. As the second came through, they were starting to prepare to ring the alarm when something showed in the plains.
A small group of five, mounted in all kind of creatures, had arrived at the plains. Two young elves, an armored warrior, an undead, and a magic caster. The new arrivals stood still for a short while, seemingly discussing among themselves, before the magic caster separated from the group.
The Wildflower scripture watched in awe as a salamander came out of the cave, obviously following the caster's orders.
A magic caster could only control monsters that were weaker than themselves, that much was common knowledge. Maybe if several casters reunited and made a magical ritual, concentrating numerous spells from numerous people, or if they had powerful magical tools available, the result may differ, but that situation was unlikely.
Expressed simply, this magic caster was stronger than the creature he had summoned. Stronger than the legendary beast, the god-like reptile that had fascinated their ancestors so much as to leave behind stories, folklore, songs and works of art all revolving around the creature.
A Fire Salamander.
Rumors of its existence circulated around, but no one had ever witnessed such a living creature before. The Wildflower Scripture considered themselves lucky to be able to witness such a scene.
The fire salamander was, if their tales were correct, almost as strong as the Captain of the Black Scripture, one of the strongest in the Theocracy.
"Zoom in, I can't see his features… what kind of magic caster is he?"
"I'm trying, it's not like this came with instructions."
The reason they preferred to rely on magic instead of the mirror of Erised, even when the powerful artifact was a legacy from their Gods, was that nobody knew how to properly use it. It was difficult, no matter how many different things they tried, the results were always unpredictable and impossible to reproduce.
The image had finally, somehow, focused on the group that was now going towards the entrance of the cave. They could now see that the elves were related, since they resembled each other. They could see that the warrior was actually female, that the undead wasn't a simple skeleton but something much, much sinister, and that the male magic caster—
…that the male— impossible.
"Is this… this—"
"No, no, it can't be. He can't— but— perhaps an illusion of sorts?"
"If it is, then it's highly disrespectful. To mimic such appearance…"
"But if it isn't, then what does it mean?"
Everyone fell silent, not knowing how to reply. They watched incredulously as the group disappeared inside the cave, the mirror now focused on the entrance, still unable to get in for some reason.
"Call the Cardinals. This is— can we focus the surveillance on… that man?"
"I'm trying, but the mirror is not cooperating. Let me just—"
"No! What did you do?! Go back! Go back!"
"I'm trying! This thing doesn't—"
"What is this place? Where are the plains?"
"Come here and do it yourself, if you think you can do it better than me!"
The image shifted randomly, so they were stuck watching grass, then the sky, then it switched so they were watching some sort of forest—
They had returned to the plains. Not wanting to risk another misfunction, they refused to try again to switch targets, so the mirror remained targeting on the Captain of the Black Scripture.
For the first hour, they waited anxiously for any kind of movement. When nothing happened, they sent two people to gather as many books from their churches as they could; while some others tried to create a picture, drawing the appearances of the members of the group they had seen.
It was only after the night had arrived that the group excited the cave, with two members of the Black Scripture held unconscious and carried bridal-style by each elf.
The Wildflower Scripture immediately started to discuss among themselves. What had happened to the other members of the Scriptures? Was this a rescue? A kidnapping? Were they allies or enemies?
That last question was almost sacrilegious. After all, if that magic caster wasn't faking his appearance, if he was really…
"They're— what is that?!"
The man had created a rift mid-air, the purple fissure swirling with unknown magic. It opened wider when the group approached it, and the Scripture watched as they disappeared in it as if that was some sort of doorway.
A moment later, the plains were empty.
"What do you think I'm attempting to do?!"
"Move aside, let me try!"
"By all means, you git!"
They discussed among themselves, trying and failing to find them again. Not even with the target set on the Captain — that had been carried away by the female elf — did the mirror manage to conjure any image. They cursed, admitting defeat only after wasting a couple of hours in trying to get the mirror to work, before leaving to reunite with the gathered Cardinals.
There were a lot of things they needed to discuss.
— Harry —
Deciding it was better safe than sorry, Harry walked towards his room and knocked twice on it.
"Fuck off," his own voice grumbled back at him, words blurred together.
"Mad-eye used to say something. What was it?" Harry pressed, wand in hand just in case things turned ugly.
"Ugh, something about vigilance. Leave me alone already," his own voice replied back, which made Harry relax and nod approvingly.
When double-checking that he was, indeed, seeing another version of himself, Harry always inquired about something that he only partially remembered. It was trickier that way for the impostors to answer correctly.
That still didn't help him understand why the time-turner was necessary though.
"At least give me a hint or something?"
"Come on, throw me a bone here," Harry pressed again, only for a loud yawn to answer his query.
"Ugh… Jarvis. Memories today. Jald's an asshole," the voice complained with an exhausted sigh, which made Harry wince empathetically.
Damn, his future didn't look promising.
"Ok, thanks. Put on a quarantine so you're not bothered, I just finished my match with Rubedo after all," Harry reminded the other, tapping the door lightly with his wand.
There was a grateful mumble, before the runes of the door shifted and glowed an angry red. Warning. It was programmed to give out a message, that Harry was in the middle of a delicate experiment and could not be disturbed, so entering or communicating was going to be impossible.
Basically, no one would be able to enter, and the room was sound-proofed until the quarantine got deactivated once more, so Harry didn't have to worry about anyone encountering his future-self on accident.
Nodding in satisfaction, Harry turned on his heel and sent a [Message] to Jarvis.
"Hi there. Where are you?"
"Where— I'm still in the fifth floor Sir. As ordered…?"
"Just double-checking bud," Harry said calmly, activating his ring to go to the 5th floor, [Message] still active, "just wanted to ask— oh, there you are."
Standing at the entrance of the prison, the Zerg nodded politely at him as the [Message] dissipated. Harry quickly walked over the snow towards the prison, patting his NPC on the shoulder once he caught up with him.
"How's everything going?"
"I was just about to start the interrogation Sir," Jarvis answered with a confused expression, which made Harry freeze for a moment.
Just about to start? What had he done all day then?!
"I know that," he lied swiftly, summoning his wand while motioning for the zerg to bend down a little.
"I… don't understand what you're referring to, then?" Jarvis looked befuddled but lowered his head obediently.
"Sorry, sorry, now that I think of it— we're pressed for time, so it's better if I just take a look at it myself. Can you think of what happened this morning, please?" Harry asked lightly while transfiguring an empty flask.
Jarvis paused, looked at him weird for a long moment, before slowly nodding his consent.
Placing the tip of the wand on Jarvis' temple, Harry took a rather long, shinning memory and placed it on the flask, the swirling liquid almost filling it completely.
"Woah, those sure are a lot of details. You've got a good memory Jarvis," Harry praised sincerely. For memories regarding a single day, a normal person wouldn't take more than half of the flask.
"I take note of everything important Sir," Jarvis agreed, looking curiously at the now-filled flask, "what exactly is that?"
"Your memories from today. I need to see things from your perspective," Harry said honestly, surprised when he got an understanding nod from the zerg.
"Of course. Let me know if you need anything else on regards of it," Jarvis said confidently, in a tone that suggested he felt proud of something. Huh.
"Will do, thanks! Now go, time's a wastin'," Harry all but shooed, which made Jarvis smile sincerely before bowing in farewell.
Now standing alone in the entrance of the prison, Harry dwelled lightly on where to go before settling for the 4th floor. There was nothing but golems there, after all, so the chances of being disturbed mid-way were unlikely.
Calmly, as if he had all the time in the world, Harry walked towards the lake and sat at the edge of it, looking at the flask indecisively.
Usually, a pensieve would be recommended, but he didn't want to take much time on surveying the memory. Placing it directly on his head would cause a minor headache, but was faster, and he could always just get rid of it with occlumency once everything was said and done.
With that in mind, Harry took the memory and placed it on his own temple, the record-like vision immediately overwhelming his senses.
"—to interrogate the prisoners, as you and Sir Momonga have instructed. Is something wrong Sir?"
"I wouldn't say wrong… I just— this is something that can't wait. Knowing him, Momonga will want to take action as soon as we get the information out of them, but we can't keep delaying— you understand what will happen if we do, right? I'm not overthinking it, am I?"
"…I think you're right Sir. The longer it takes, the harder it will be."
"Exactly! So please do me this favor, yes? You're efficient, it probably won't take longer than—"
"Ah, but if Sir Momonga inquires—"
"Oh, I know, I know. Don't worry, I've got something planned for today— let's just say the whole dungeon will be too busy to notice your slight delay."
"…should I worry?"
"Of course not! I'll just have a friendly spar, that's all. Just to get everyone in tune of what I can do, since no one seems to want to believe me. Doing a solo-conquer of a dungeon seems to be too much for them to grasp."
"Can't imagine why, Sir."
"Yeah, me neither. I'm obviously awesome like that."
The Jarvis on the memory chuckled. Deciding it was going too slow, Harry mentally sped it up to later in the morning, so he could see what— oh, oh, OH!
So he had sent Jarvis to do that!
But it didn't make any sense. Between that short-mission, and the interrogation of the prisoners, obviously the latter was much more important. Unless…
Unless the mission was just a distraction, and Harry had simply wanted Jarvis to leave the 5th floor for later.
Understanding what had happened — kind of, most likely? very probably? — meh, there were no wrong answers where time-travel was concerned. He had already done what he was about to do, after all.
Still, it was better to be prepared, so he apparated at the Treasury to get a hold on his world item, quickly placing it in the bag around his neck, before accio-ing two items from the same bag.
The time turner, and the invisibility cloak.
He covered himself with the cloak first. It was bothersome — which was the reason he almost never used it — but some of Nazarick denizens could see through [Perfect Invisibility], so he didn't have another option. The cloak was the only thing that could deceive all of them without fail.
After all, if one could hide away from Death, then there was no chance for anyone to bypass the cloak's power.
Making sure he was fully covered, he added charms for silence and to mask his scent, waving his wand over himself until he was satisfied. Finally, placing the time-turner around his neck, he chose to stay in the Treasury as he turned it a few times, enough to get back to the morning.
Walking past his morning-self and Pandora — who seemed to be about to begin the tests — he silently apparated to the 5th floor once more, swiftly taking off his cloak just before he called for Jarvis.
"Oh, it's you Sir!" Jarvis somehow managed to sound both, relieved and panicked, "I just finished the preliminary interrogation—"
"Yes, and it doesn't— I'm not sure—"
"Calm down, hey—"
"—if it would be wise to share this with Sir Momonga," Jarvis hurriedly finished, giving him a pleading look.
Bloody hell, this was unexpected. What was he supposed to do now?
"I… see. Ok, follow me."
They were alone, and he was confident no one had eavesdropped, but it would be safer to have this conversation in a more secluded room just in case. With that in mind, Harry led his NPC to one of the rooms that were deeper in the prison, locking the door and placing all kind of privacy wards around it.
He hadn't seen any of this in Jarvis' memories… which meant that he was going to obliviate the zerg very proficiently, once this conversation was over.
"Ok, first things first. How are you feeling?"
"Sir," Jarvis snapped at him with an expression that seemed to scream 'that doesn't matter' but Harry didn't agree.
"That bad, eh? Come here, I'll help you calm down."
"…yes Sir," Jarvis agreed after a short pause, his gaze softening a little. Deep inside, the zerg was probably grateful.
Once his NPC was at an appropriate distance, Harry made a stop motion and summoned his elder wand, using the spell the healers in his world had created to calm down patients.
"There you go. Better?"
"Yes Sir, thank you."
"Happy to help," Harry said sincerely, waving his wand to transfigure the chairs already in the room into comfier, single sofas, "sit down, let's hear your report."
"Understood. As you may be aware, the male human is immune to my infection, since the zerglings can only infect those of level 60 and lower, so I had to make do with the old lady that accompanied him. If you require specific information from the male, I'm afraid we will have to use a less… polite method of interrogation."
Torture? No thanks.
"Not really, I can just use Legilimency on the guy, if it's really needed. It would take some time though, so let's just start with what you've gathered from the lady, yes?" Harry contradicted softly, smiling when he noticed Jarvis had relaxed his wings a little.
"Of course. The lady, she is called Kaire, and is the oldest member of the Black Scripture. The human male is the Captain of the same Scripture, and something known as 'God-kin', the general term used to associate those who are descendants of the Six Great Gods: the beings that founded the Theocracy six hundred years ago."
He listened with rapt attention as Jarvis described, that with the genes of the Six Great Gods coursing in their veins, God-kins were viewed as one of the most powerful individuals in this New World. It seemed to be a common belief, that the God-kins' potency wasn't restricted by the confines of human limit, as they were leagues above their level.
The Captain seemed to be considered as an "awakened" God-kin, which would explain how he got to reach level 70 in a world were a being of level 35 was considered to be a strong threat.
"But if that's true— how come the Empire made us fight against a Level 35 Death Knight?"
"The Slane Theocracy is very tightlipped on the subject, even among their own people, only those at the highest positions have an inkling of this. From what I gathered, they are the only nation that has these… God-kins, so the surrounding human nations make do with their common folk and heroes, which is normally enough to survive. There is a huge difference in what they consider as strong for this reason."
"Huh… then, what do they do when something over level 35 appears then? Let the other nations die?"
"No, the Slane Theocracy seems to be focused on salvaging and preserving the human race as a whole. They provide support from the shadows, but only to the surrounding human regions, and only so long it doesn't impact negatively their own nation."
"I guess that makes sense… so we're probably the strongest in the surrounding regions— well, us and Jald's dungeon, I guess. I understand why Jald was so relaxed at the prospect of invaders then," Harry mentioned in understanding, before frowning confusedly, "but if that's the case, why didn't they attempt anything sooner? Jald's been here for some years now."
"Since the creatures only roamed at the Katze plains, and the death count wasn't that high, it was decided that their intervention wasn't necessary. The Theocracy only helps the surrounding nations when it comes to a major threat, like the complete extinction of a main city, for example."
"Huh. But then, why send a party to Jald's dungeon? Nothing major has happened—"
"The issue is… that— that was my fault. When the zerglings were discovered, it seems they were not recognized as such. The Scriptures believed them to be infernal spirits, that the dungeon on the Katze plains was attacking the Theocracy directly."
Well, Harry could see the similarities between both species. It was understandable, if they didn't know the zergs existed, that the Theocracy would associate them with the infernal spirits.
"How were they discovered, to begin with?" Harry asked next, leaning forward in his seat so the elbows were over his knees, one hand supporting his chin.
This conversation was enlightening and all, but he still couldn't understand why Jarvis thought it was better not to involve Momonga.
Jarvis sighed deeply, hesitating for this first time since this conversation started.
"I… this is— it's actually related to a major discovery," Jarvis started, wings fidgeting uneasily behind his back, "Sir, the reason the zerglings were discovered is because the Theocracy has multiple powerful artifacts, a legacy left behind by their Gods. One of them is a pair of round glasses, that can see through disguise and illusion alike. Since this was a permanent infection, they were basically zerglings hiding beneath human skin, which is deemed as a disguise, so they were discovered."
Jarvis rushed it out, as if saying everything in the same breath would make it somehow easier.
"…that doesn't explain why Momonga shouldn't be informed? What—"
"Sir," Jarvis interrupted, sounding terribly troubled. He paused, hesitant, before reluctantly continuing, "it was… you who gave most of these artifacts to them."
Harry stared incredulously at Jarvis, waiting for the other shoe to drop, thinking that, perhaps, this was just some sort of elaborated prank. Perhaps Momonga had recruited Jarvis and was just pulling his leg, perhaps—
But the zerg remained quiet, just looking at him almost apologetically.
That— that didn't make any sense. It just didn't.
No, actually…. There was a way. It was unlikely, but—
"It— ugh, it's impossible. The probability, it's so small it's — I mean, truly, what are the odds?" Harry muttered to himself, still disbelieving. He turned his gaze down, looking at the floor as if it held all the answers; his right hand now supporting his forehead.
"Sir… can you please explain from the beginning?" Jarvis asked softly, cautiously. Damn, he probably looked agitated as fuck, if his own NPC felt the need to thread carefully.
Harry let out a self-mocking laugh, passing a hand through his hair as he took a deep breath to calm down.
He still couldn't tear his gaze away from the floor though.
"It's ridiculous, you know? So very ridiculous. I don't get to choose my destination, when I… jump to another world. The odds at arriving back, to one where I was already— to one where I had already lived before. It's so, so small it's laughable."
Harry chuckled in disbelief, before taking a deep breath and finally managing to rise his head again.
Poor Jarvis looked really confused.
"Yes. I can't— I'm in no state to explain this to you right now; but believe me when I say…. this is not the first, nor will it be the last world I live in. Sometimes I jump before the world reaches its natural apocalypse, so six hundred years ago… I must have…"
"…lived in the Theocracy?"
"…I guess? Fuck. So that... that happened. Oh, bloody hell, Jarvis?"
"Please tell me I'm not— not some kind of famous hero?"
Jarvis' wings fidgeted before he smiled thinly, "You're not a famous hero Sir."
"Oh Merlin, it's worse, isn't it?"
"You're considered one of the Six Great Gods, Sir. My apologies."
Harry cursed colorfully, hiding his face with his hands as if that would save him from his misery.
"How come the Light Scripture didn't know of any of this?!"
"The Theocracy is divided among regions, one for each Greater God, and the Scriptures are not different. The Light Scripture knew of… the existence of the Gods from the other regions, but it wasn't detailed enough for me to tie it back to you, Sir. It seems the Black Scripture has you as their main God though."
Harry cursed again, still hiding his face behind his palms.
That explained why that item, True Answer, had had such odd conditions of use.
It wasn't a World item created by the devs. It was just one of the items he himself had created and left behind.
But then— oh fuck, oh fuck, how many of those where in their possession then?!
"Jarvis, do you have any idea of how many… items they have? That I made?"
"Sir with all due respect," the NPC said after a while, expression almost pained, "perhaps it's not about the quantity, but the quality of them?"
"… what do you mean?"
"From what I gathered about their… religion, their legends, it seems that… that these Greater Gods, and the artifacts they left behind, are the main reason the human race has survived until today, in the first place."
Fucking damn it.
"…then, the items are strong enough to—"
"Ensure their survival, from the moment of your disappearance and to this day. Six hundred years."
"…well, a Death Knight is considered a threat, so perhaps it's not that bad," Harry replied after a while, slowly standing up from his seat, "better start meditating then."
"Meditating?" Jarvis repeated, standing up from his seat as well.
"Yeah. I can't— um, have all of my memories on the conscious side all the time, so whenever I jump, I keep most of my past memories in the subconscious. I need to meditate to bring them back," Harry explained, passing a hand through his hair before releasing a long sigh.
"Understood Sir. What do you need to meditate? Do you require my assistance?" Jarvis asked eagerly, probably wanting this to be done as soon as possible.
Aaaaand triple fuck.
"Shit, I need my portrait. Which is currently with Momonga on the bloody room of requirement!"
"Would you like me to retrieve—?"
"No, that's not it. That guy was still there when I— no, moving the portrait is not the answer."
Think, think, think! There are no wrong answers where time-travel is concerned, he had already done what he was about to do.
So, if he couldn't retrieve past memories from his portrait, then what had he done? What was he about to do?
Something that would leave him tired but relatively unhurt, judging by the state of his future self.
Something about Jald being an asshole?
"Ok, I think I know what to do now. Thanks for explaining this to me, Jarvis."
"Then, are we going to—"
"No, Momonga needs to know, just… not right now. Which is why I will erase your memories and send you off in another mission to postpone this. Ok? We just need to gain time, at least until nightfall."
"A short one, should just occupy some hours. I need to erase your memory before explaining it, though. Are you ready?"
Jarvis looked concerned, but nodded his consent all the same. Harry was pleased to see that, if anything, his NPC trusted his judgement enough to confide him something of this magnitude.
"Thank you bud, I really mean it. Obliviate."
After that the talk went by just as he knew it would, as he had seen on Jarvis' memory. Ignoring the strong sense of deja-vu, he bid farewell to his NPC, and waited a few moments before hiding under the invisibility cloak once more, renewing the silencing and scent-masking spells around him.
Good. Now, the next step.
"[Message] Hey Jald, what's up?"
"… you literally just left."
"Aaand I know you missed me already, so here I am. Well, not physically, but you understand—"
"Yes, well, as lovely as hearing your voice is, spare me the pleasantries and just get to the point."
"Pfft. I will, but not because you asked me to," Harry added in a tone of voice he knew would make the demon roll his multiple eyes. He almost wished he could see his gigantic friend, just for that. "So… I just wanted to give you a fair warning, remember yesterday's invaders? Well, it seems they… um, have some of the artifacts I've made, and that's the reason they could trespass the wards and everything—"
"Please tell me that when you say 'they' you're talking about that specific group, and not their human nation."
"...I could, but I'd be lying, Jald."
"I hate you so fucking much," the demon exhaled exasperatedly, "I don't even want to know how that happened."
"That's good, because I'm still investigating that. Just— uh, don't leave the dungeon, yeah?"
"I never do."
"Just be patient and— wait, seriously? Never?"
"…I already explained the reason my dungeon exists. I won't do it again just because you're a moron."
"I don't mean it like that, you lazy ass. I just find it hard to believe— in all these years, you seriously didn't? Not even once? How did your dungeon survive before Clementine arrived?"
"Well, since nothing could trespass the wards, my subordinates would go out and forcefully drag them inside—"
"Woah there Satan—"
"— most of the time inside someone's mouth. It didn't really matter in which condition they arrived, so long they were still alive—"
"I said woah there," Harry repeated more forcefully, not wanting to imagine people being half-swallowed or worse, "as nice as hearing your voice is, spare me the details."
Jald chuckled as Harry used his own words against him, and thankfully interrupted the unwanted, detailed explanation.
"Was that all?"
"Not really. I… I know you don't feel comfortable sharing this, since you always avoided the question back then, but I really, really need to know how you gather information without leaving your dungeon."
A short pause.
"Oh, I didn't tell you? Then it must be none of your business."
"Jald, you have your entire life to be a jerk. Would it kill you to take today off?"
The demon hummed, as if genuinely contemplating the question.
"Ugh, don't answer that. Jald, please? I need to know about this world, I… I fear for our safety."
"Harry. What. Did. You. Do?"
"Firstly, ouch. Your lack of faith wounds me deeply—"
"This is your fault somehow. Whenever something goes to hell—"
"Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm the living embodiment of 'it could be worse'," Harry interrupted Jald's no-doubt justified rant, "I'm still investigating how bad it is on my end, and I'll give you the details of what I manage to find, but before that I'd like to— I just… don't want things to go to hell, as you eloquently said."
Another pause, this time longer, before he heard the demon release a tired sigh.
"I fail to understand how I became friends with such an illiterate goddamn elbow—"
"Huh, I didn't know it was possible to make an elbow sound insulting."
"—but it's too late for take-backs now, so drag your sorry existence back to my dungeon."
"…can't you explain me via [Message]?"
"Harry, my friend," Jald said in a patronizingly sweet voice, "you're as bright as a black hole and twice as dense. You won't understand a thing unless you do it yourself."
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Harry thought sarcastically, before throwing a silent Tempus and deciding that, yeah, he should have enough time to come and go.
"Since you're helping me out, I'll overlook the insults. Thanks Jald, I'll apparate directly to your chamber."
"Then do so already, I don't have all day," Jald scoffed, but with no real bite behind his words. Harry could probably make him wait for hours, postpone his visit until nightfall, and the demon would still receive him with nothing but a 'you're late' for his troubles.
Jald was a good friend.
"I can practically hear you overthinking. Stop being an idiot and— oh, sorry, shouldn't ask for the impossible, right?"
Jald was also an insufferable asshole.
Mentally preparing himself to be insulted during the full duration of his visit, Harry snickered while he removed the invisibility cloak, placing it in his bag once more.
After that, he turned on his heel, silently disappearing from the 5th floor's prison.
— Jaldabaoth —
How can someone so small be so troublesome? The demon thought after Harry appeared at his Raid Boss chamber, the righteous prick admonishing him for something and the other.
"I mean, I'm sure it's a struggle, but surely you can manage a couple of sentences without insulting me in some way?"
"I'm not insulting you; I'm describing you," Jald clarified with a smirk, which made Harry snort while making a rude hand gesture.
Not everyone could get his humor, so the last few years had been very boring. It was good to have Harry back, even if he would never say so out loud.
"Man, I missed you."
Harry, apparently, didn't have the same qualms.
"Who wouldn't?" he replied smoothly, starting to walk away from his main chamber. Harry followed slightly behind, so he tried not to move his tails too much, lest he accidently slap his much smaller friend.
"Humble, as always. So, about the thing—"
"We're walking towards it."
"…huh. So, it's a room—"
On second thought, perhaps he could just smack Harry on the head and make him forget he ever asked about this. It would save him the trouble.
"—or maybe some kind of— woah! Careful with the tails!"
"My bad." Well, it had been worth a try.
"You don't sound sorry."
"I didn't say I was."
They bantered back and forth as they crossed through the main tunnels of his dungeon, some of his subjects approaching Harry with welcoming sounds.
"You've grown so much!" Harry cooed at a one of his kitsunes, which moved all nine tails happily like some sort of overgrown dog.
"Don't spoil them. It took me ages to stop them from rubbing themselves against my ankles—"
"You don't allow it?! What kind of heartless monster are you!"
Figures Harry would be offended by that.
"Look, I don't tell you how to treat your subjects, and I expect you to return the favor—"
"Don't listen to him, buddy. You're a good boy, such a good boy! You can go and bite off his tails if he doesn't let you around his ankles."
The kitsune looked up and gave him a predatory look. The traitor.
"I thought you were in a hurry," Jald reminded Harry, nudging him lightly to get his point across. They were almost there, damn it.
"Oh, right. Sorry buddy, gotta go," Harry said sadly, rubbing under the kitsune's chin one last time before he stood up and finally started to walk again, "so, where exactly are we going?"
"Are you incapable of just— walking in silence?"
"Yep. Thanks for asking. So, are we there yet?"
"Because— wait, really?"
"Yes," he repeated, because apparently, Harry's single remaining brain cell hadn't understood him the first time, "this one is it. Come on, open the door."
Harry looked at the door with surprise, as if only just noticing its existence.
Jald crossed one pair of arms over his chest, watching as Harry moved to touch the simple door. If Harry couldn't enter then he couldn't use it, and no amount of bitching would change that—
The door shivered, as if torn between opening and remaining closed, but in the end it didn't budge.
"Then you can't."
"Jald," Harry said in his no-nonsense voice, which probably was supposed to be intimidating. He stared right back at him, unimpressed.
"I don't control this. If you can't enter, then you can't use the same method I do for knowing things. Simple as that."
"Sorry? I didn't get that; I don't speak bullshit."
"I'm not lying."
Harry stared, silently defying, before sighing tiredly.
"Then I just have to find a way to enter," Harry said stubbornly, and seemed to really believe that was possible. Bless his little delusional heart.
"Be my guest," Jald replied amusedly, sitting down because this was obviously going to take a long while.
He watched as Harry tried his thief-oriented spells to unlock the door, then tried and failed to unhinge it from its frame, then the destructive spells that didn't even leave a scratch— and a multitude of things that he hadn't even thought possible, but were still unable to open the door.
Jald, naturally, just laughed and teased him after each failed attempt.
"Do you honestly think this is a good idea?"
"Fucking door— ah, nope."
"Good. I'd be concerned if you did."
"Runes. Runes should work."
They didn't. Obviously.
"Wards. Triggered wards should work."
Jald was about to mutter a particularly snarky remark — to tease his friend yet again — but in the end didn't get the chance to do so.
What happened next, Jald couldn't even describe. He just didn't have enough words in his vocabulary that could highlight the pure, raw, idiocy of Harry's next attempt.
From a pea-sized bag hanging around his neck, Harry took out a familiar item. The World item he had gained after defeating him, after conquering this very dungeon, all those years ago—
And without a single pause, without any hesitation whatsoever, pointed it at the door and fired… some kind of highly destructive magic.
Jald felt the whole dungeon shake, as if under the effect of a reality-tearing earthquake, and mentally cursed Harry to hell and back. The demon was pretty sure that the only reason his lair hadn't sustained damage was due to Harry's own protective wards.
Jald was also sure that the only reason he himself hadn't been accidentally injured, was because the unbreakable oath prevented them from harming each other.
"The hell is wrong with you!" he snarled amidst of the trembling, but Harry didn't seem to even register the words.
"Fucking dammit!" the imbecile exclaimed, upon noticing the door was still very much closed and unaffected.
The attack finally halted, Harry lowering the weapon hastily, as if it was too heavy for him to continue to lift it. He was panting, covered in sweat, exhaustion oozing from him.
It was… a pitiful sight.
Jald felt his righteous anger recede somewhat, sighing deeply a couple of times to let go of it completely.
His dungeon hadn't been harmed, no one was hurt, nothing had happened.
He repeated this small mantra to himself until he was calm enough to act normally again.
Harry had been trying and failing for hours now, so if anything, at least Jald could admit he was a persistent idiot. He looked abnormally tired though… he must have done something magically-draining before coming to visit him. Had his stats been full, he wouldn't look so —
"Ugh... I'll just— I'm going to aggressively ignore it until it goes away," Harry said breathlessly, palms over his knees in a defeated posture.
"That should definitely work," Jald replied sarcastically, resting his chin over one of his bent knees, "or you could, you know, give up."
"I'm— hah, I'm surprised you haven't tried to stop me," Harry admitted weakly, grudgingly picking the world item from the floor and placing it within his bag again.
"I know better than to try," he scoffed, multiple eyes narrowed at his friend.
If Harry tried something so destructive again, however… he would have no choice but to.
Harry wheezed some more, grumbled some curses under his breath, and then suddenly raised his head at an alarming speed. Jald could swear he had heard his neck snap painfully.
"I have a solution."
He said it with such certainty, Jald felt concerned for his sanity.
"It involves you."
"No, no, hear me out! The door works with you—"
"You can't just tail behind me, Harry. The door will close on your face." Probably breaking your nose in the process, and at this point that would be more sad than funny.
"If I did normally, yes, but with my cloak— just… just let me try? Please?"
The day Harry realized he could pull off the kicked-puppy eyes, the world would be doomed. It didn't help matters that he looked so exhausted it was downright pitiful.
"Whatever," he shrugged, slowly standing up, "but this is the last attempt. If it doesn't work, then that's it, and I don't want to hear you bitching about it."
"First, I don't bitch about anything, ever. And second, it's going to work, so don't… hah, don't sweat it."
Jald rolled his eyes, already picturing Harry's broken nose, but complied and went to open the goddamn door. He turned his head to look back at his annoying friend—
But he wasn't there anymore.
It wasn't like Harry to just leave like that, so Jald was probably just unable to perceive him. Internally shrugging, he stepped into the room, the door closing behind him with an unassuming clicking sound—
"I KNEW IT!" Harry's victorious yell came from somewhere at his left, which startled him so much his first reaction was to attack the source of the sound.
"Ouch! But I'm here!" Not to be deterred, Harry appeared from underneath the rubble— one hand grasping a silky-looking cloak— grinning wolfishly. He still looked a heartbeat away from collapsing due to fatigue, but the accidental attack seemed to have woken him up a little.
"You fucking moron," Jald said with a similar grin, proud of his gremlin of a friend, even if he couldn't understand how exactly he had fooled the door.
"Hah! That was fun," Harry said breathlessly, as he pulled free from the remaining debris and dusted himself off, "I told you it would work. So, what now?"
What now, indeed.
"Usually, a… voice, updates me on the on goings of the outside. Big events, you know? Like the Zerg's invasion on Nephilim. Stuff like that."
"Huh. So you don't do anything special once inside?"
They paused for a moment, expectantly waiting for the silence to be interrupted by the voice, but nothing of the sort happened.
"Perhaps it feels you, intruder," Jald snapped at Harry playfully, one of his tails nudging his back as if to shoo him off the room. It served as testimony of how tired Harry was, the fact that his friend actually tumbled over and fell to his knees.
"Or this room isn't supposed to have two people in here. Get out, jackass," Harry countered, slowly standing up and grabbing the end of one of his tails, as he pulled him towards the door.
He was about to be forcefully dragged out of the room — Harry was physically strong, despite his size, and he wasn't resisting — when the familiar voice finally spoke.
"Yggdrasil update patch notes, as of this week, include —"
"There it is— ouch!"
"Shut up, let me listen!"
"—relocation of the chaldean villages. Also, the new starter zone, Sanguine, is now open to anyone that manages to find it. Good luck players! And don't forget that the special Christmas event, Kryzerok, is coming soon. For those that remain connected on the festivity, a big surprise is coming! Thanks to everybody for the continued support. We would like to remind everybody to stay safe, keep social distancing where possible and wash your hands."
There was a clicking sound, which meant the message was finished.
"What the hell was that!"
"It's different from the voice that announced the end of the worlds— of Yggdrasil, but the messages sound similar enough."
"So those are the devs?!"
"…what's a dev?"
"That is— that— no. No, never mind, ignore I said that, but holly damn— have they announced anything relevant since you arrived on this world?" Harry asked expectantly, exhaustion momentarily forgotten, "something that you got to witness? Any big events?"
Jald had only come to this room two times since his arrival. He didn't feel the need to visit often, having a hutch that most of the announcements would be irrelevant for him.
"Hmm… well, on my first day here, I heard them say something around the lines of 'there's a surprise at the Katze plains! Are you up to the challenge?' but—"
"—nothing really happened after that."
He hadn't even known that was the name of the plains surrounding his dungeon until one year had passed. Or two. He honestly couldn't recall.
"And no players came? Are you kidding me?"
"The first proper invasion my dungeon had was Clementine. And then the one yesterday. That's it," Jald reminded him, choosing to leave out the 'invasions' that had been done unwillingly. Harry probably wouldn't appreciate a description of the hellhounds dragging people into the dungeon, a trail of blood marking the ground for several days after—
"But the devs gave a message to the players! Some should have come!"
There it was again. What the hell was 'devs'?
"Bloody hell. I need to— would you mind if Momonga comes here? He could probably make more sense of the announcements. How often—?"
"I don't know how often; I only come here when I feel I need to. And no, you can't bring the Overlord."
"…ah, um, why…why not?"
Jald blinked, giving him his best deadpan look. He couldn't be serious.
"Harry, this is no place for players—"
"The announcements are literally aimed to them!"
"—to visit, this part of the dungeon is hidden away from invaders. The only reason I brought you here, is because you're a Raid Boss like me," he continued, ignoring Harry's words. It was obvious the voice spoke of big events to the players, but this place was his own, in his dungeon.
The players probably had other ways of hearing them. Ones meant for them.
"Come on, Jald!"
"No," he repeated firmly, picking up his friend by the back of his robes, as if Harry were some sort of hissing cat, "and I won't change my mind about it, so drop it."
Getting out of the room, he let go of Harry without preamble as soon as the door locked behind him. His friend landed on his feet, only stumbling a little, and glared up at him.
"Actually, I'm not taking you there again either," Jald stated after a short pause. Something in the back of his mind, his instincts, told him that he wasn't supposed to. That he shouldn't have.
"…Ah, I take it back. Forget about Momonga, I can rely whatever the devs say to him—"
"No," Jald snapped forcefully, "this was… wrong. The door didn't open for you, this room is not meant to be used by you."
He felt like he had broken some sort of unspoken rule.
One that was important.
"Drop it, Harry. I'm not helping you get in there again, so cry me a river," Jald hissed at last, turning around and walking back to his Raid Boss chamber. He didn't look back again, too angered for that — if at Harry or at himself, he wasn't sure — but still felt the need to add, "and leave my dungeon already."
Heavy silence descended upon them. Jald managed it to ignore it until he was at the very end of the hallway; one step away before he would be completely out of Harry's field of vision.
"…and go back and rest, you look like shit," Jald muttered despite everything, glancing back with worry at the exhausted figure shakily standing behind him.
He heard Harry mumble some sort of soft-spoken apology, before a snapping Crack! resounded on the now empty hallway.
— Harry —
Collapsing on the bed as soon as he entered his room, he answered his past-self questions with little more than a grumble, his mind already at the edge of unconsciousness.
"Ugh… Jarvis. Memories today. Jald's an asshole," Harry complained with an exhausted sigh, the memory of the demon still fresh in his mind.
Then again, that had been his fault. He shouldn't have insisted so much, he should have been grateful the demon was willing to share the room's existence in the first place.
He had fucked up. He needed to go apologize once Jald had calmed down.
"—put on a quarantine…"
Ah, right. A quarantine.
Activating the defensive runes with a flick of his wand, he sighed contently as he was finally blessed with pure, sweet silence. Nothing against his past-self, but he was way too tired to do shit right now.
Wait, he should deactivate the silencing property. What if something happened?
Doing so with a lazy wave of his wand, Harry finally closed his eyes, sleep greeting him immediately after.
He didn't know for how long he rested, mind turning on and off at random intervals, traces of conversations floating around his memory. He wasn't sure whether he dreamed those or not.
"—it's not opening—"
"—must be a dangerous experiment—"
"I don't have access to Sir's room when is like this either—"
He didn't really wake up until the insistent knocking got too loud to be ignored.
"Finally! Harry, open the door—"
No way in hell. Waking up sounded so exhausting— existing too, for that matter.
"—and is— Harry? Are you even listening?"
He was too old and tired for this. Surely the world could go on without him, just for a little more…. just a few more minutes.
"—arry, it's been three hours already—"
Waking up was so, so last year. Out of trend, if you asked him.
Sitting up abruptly, he groaned as his vision blurred, hands going to his head as if that was enough to keep the room from spinning.
"Wha— Momonga?" Harry asked a little surprised, voice a little raspy from disuse.
"Yes! Open the door, please!?"
"Wait, wait," Harry sat down at the edge of the bed, but the moment he tried to stand up his legs went fuck you mid-way.
"…what was that?"
"I said wait, goddammit," Harry grumbled from his position on the floor, waiting for the dizziness to pass yet again. Fucking shit he felt awful.
"If you don't want this to explode get the hell away from here! I'll be— fucking shit, I'll be out when I can!"
Not bothering to wait for a reply, he placed silencing wards on the room. Whatever it was, it could wait a little more.
"Fuck off Death," Harry groaned without looking back at the entity, not wanting to admit the sudden arrival had scared the shit out of him.
"Can't do, not this time," came the ominous answer, now coming from the mattress' direction. Harry sighed and turned his head to look at his oldest friend, eyebrows raising with mild-surprise upon noticing the appearance it had chosen.
A white cat? Really?
"What is it then? I can't do much in my current condition," Harry said sincerely, leaning his head on the bed tiredly. He would rather crawl back to it, but doubted his legs were ready to support his weight yet.
"No, nothing like that. I just came to warn you, something major will happen soon."
Harry's gaze sharpened, but after a long pause he scoffed in annoyance. Of course, Death wasn't willing to elaborate further on its own accord.
"And?" Harry prompted with a glare, which wasn't very effective from his position on the floor, but at least he was trying.
"You're not allowed to interfere."
"They've been involved in the ritual, so there's no escaping paying the price now."
Ah, so it was one of those.
"How many lives?"
"It starts with the city of E-rantel, there are only a few exceptions."
Such a close location. He needed to divert Momonga's attention away from it then— at least until everything had already passed.
"I see… and once the ritual is completed?"
"You're free to execute your judgement on them."
Harry could almost hear the smirk on Death's voice, so he nodded dutifully in understanding. Whoever was behind this, they seemed to be on the blacklist, so whatever rule they were going to break, it was probably an unforgivable one.
"Any hint on them?"
"I don't concern myself with mortal matters," Death answered simply, before humming lightly, "however… I believe I heard the word 'Zuranon'."
Harry remembered reading about them in one of Jarvis' reports from the infected people. It was a death cult of sorts, a group of evil sorcerers specializing in necromancy. Due to their previous convictions for attacking cities using undead monsters— and the catastrophe that resulted in the destruction of a small city some twenty years ago — they were regarded as serious offenders by all human nations.
Zuranon was also rumored to have a morbid fascination with death, so it was no wonder they had managed to get themselves in the entity's blacklist.
"I can work with that," Harry confirmed, moving his legs experimentally and finally, if albeit slowly, standing up, "anything else?"
When no response was given, Harry turned to glare at his now empty bed. At least bid farewell before leaving. How rude.
Harry looked around his empty room and sighed. He honestly wanted nothing more than to crawl back to bed, but if he had really been indisposed for several hours already, there was no doubt in his mind that Jarvis had already "finished the interrogation", which was probably the reason Momonga was so insistent.
Ugh. He wished he had been conscious enough to listen what Momonga was rambling about. Better get ready, then.
Decision taken, he summoned a small dozen of vials from his bag, emptying them in nothing but a couple minutes. Energy, health, magic replenishment, something for the sore muscles, the dizziness, the mind-splitting headache.
Drinking so many at the same time was going to have heavy repercussions later— or would have, if he didn't still have his world item at hand.
Taking a hold of it, he negated the negative side effect the potions would have on his system, letting out a relieved sigh when his body finally felt normal enough to move freely.
Well, time to face the music.
Taking an actual step, he grimaced at the feeling of his dirty clothes sliding over his skin.
…actually, perhaps after a bath. He needed a quick rinse, at the very least.
Ever heard that the simplest solution is usually the most effective? That's what I was trying to portray with Jald's ever-locked room. Also, writing their interaction was really fun! Hope you liked Jald's POV as much as I liked writing him. My fav phrase was "Bless his little delusional heart" xD
And yeah, devs messages on the new world! Whatever could be going on? Kuhuhu~ and even them are spreading preventive measures on their messages, I couldn't resist adding it as a little Easter-egg. That and using the word "quarantine" for locking down Harry's room of requirement.
I think this chapter is quite the pivot. Lots of plot development, if anything… however, I feel the NPCs reactions are being left out — first with Jald's introduction in this new world (what do they think of the demon? What did they discuss after he was introduced?) then their reaction to Harry's friendly spar (what are the take-outs from that?) and now coming-soon the results of Jarvis' interrogations as they're made public….
If you have any idea of how you think the NPCs react to any of the things mentioned above, I'd love to read you! I need the inspiration, tbh. Feel free to leave me a review or PM 😊
This chapter was of 9K words = 26 pages in Word. As always, I hope you didn't start reading right before going to sleep.
Stay healthy dear readers, See ya' around~ dEBB987.