The Blue Skies: Chapter 2 – Esper

The group, led by Jaren, moved deeper into the forest, the trail becoming deceptively smaller as they walked through several powerful barriers. They were vast and required much more Od than the late witch Flora had to maintain. It was comforting to know that they were safe for now. Another hour passed before they finally reached a clearing. As they did, everyone's faces lit up to the sight before them.

It was like a small city. Houses and huts made from gargantuan trees surrounding the area lined the clearing, the center of the clearing holding a small pond. The pond was encircled with sandstone, the water glowing with a bright blue. The houses made from the trees were inter-weaved, small walkways formed using the exposed roots, criss-crossing in all directions. To the group of newcomers, it looked as if it were one large network.

"Welcome to the city of Elfhelm. It might not look like much, but it is our home," Jaren presented, walking ahead of everyone and moving towards the pond. Guts followed closely, looking around at the people within his sight. There were dozens of magi and hundreds of elves. The magic encasing the city moved in circles around the air, creating what looked like small tornados of energy. As they walked into the city, the party brought their attention to a young-looking woman standing next to the pond in the center of the clearing. The woman was dipping her hand in the water, moving it around in a figure-eight pattern.

"It has been quite some time since we've had visitors. In fact, it has been centuries," the young woman by the pond spoke, her voice sounding like a piece of beautiful music. Guts stopped behind Jaren as Jaren slowly began to bow before the young woman.

"Yes Master Esper. And another old face has returned as well," he said, holding up the small form of Puck in his left hand. Esper's eyebrow twitched, a grin appearing on her face.

"He's totally screwed," Evarella could be heard saying from behind the party of travelers.

"H-hi, Esper…" Puck mumbled. A part of him could have sworn he just shrunk by two more sizes.

"Welcome back, Puck." The master witch sung. "As much as I'd like to punish you, I've decided ultimately to forgive you for your…ecstatic behavior."

Jaren, who had been hoping for a thrashing, lowered his head in defeat. I can't believe he got away with all that!

Esper, who had her eyes fixed Puck, brought her attention to Guts and Caska, eyeing them with what looked like caution. "Jaren, be a dear and tell me who your friends are."

"Master Esper. I bring forth these travelers from afar. They have gone almost literally through hell to see you for they have an urgent request for you," Jaren replied, his head bowing low enough to almost touch the ground.

"Thank you, Jaren. And yes, I know why they have come. Please, let me see the girl," Esper said, motioning for Caska to move forward. Guts turned and lightly grabbed Caska by the arm, Caska's face forming a scowl of distrust in Guts's direction. He had gotten so used to that look that now it almost seemed unnatural for her to do this when he came near her.

"Yes, that's it. Let me see her."

After a bit of struggling, Caska was brought before Esper. The master witch stood, her body reaching nearly six feet in height.

"Heh…that's a tall broad alright," Ishidoro mumbled under his breath. Schierke gave him a quick whack on the head with her staff.

"Show some respect!" The young witch whispered into his ear. Isma was too mesmerized by the master witch that stood before her. Farnese especially was awe-struck. She, a brand-new witch in training was standing before the most powerful witch in existence. It was intimidating and yet comforting at the same time. Even Guts felt at ease, his scar giving him no pain at all.

With a flick of her wrist, Esper placed her hand on Caska's forehead. Closing her eyes gently, Esper began focusing her mind. Jaren kept himself bowing low as he watched the master witch work her magic. Caska touched Esper's hand, rubbing it in confusion. She was about to pull away Esper's hand when suddenly her body went limp. Guts reached quickly to grab her before she fell, but before he could do that, Caska's body began to float in the air, Esper's hand still resting on her forehead. Schierke could see it all in the action. Esper's Od was flowing into Caska's consciousness, feeling, probing, touching. Esper was trying to find the source of the problem. It didn't take her long.

In a rush of thoughts and feelings, Esper brought forth from the recesses of Caska's subconscious all of the memories of what happened to her and her comrades that ultimately caused her to regress into the person she was now. Esper's facial expression went from being calm and collected to being filled with rage, fear, confusion and a stabbing feeling of betrayal. A few seconds later, Caska's body dropped to the ground, Guts catching her as Esper's eyes opened. She didn't look too happy, but she was not angry as one would think.

"This is a tragedy. Truly, I am sorry to see what I have seen. You two have been through so much. I saw a face…a face of a man that caused the shattering of her mind. He has long, white hair and a face that one would call beautiful. And a smile, a cold, calculated smile stretched across his face," Esper said to Guts as she knelt before them to look closely at Caska.

"Griffith." Guts growled through gritted teeth.

"Yes. And if the memories I saw were correct, the fifth God Hand member. So that ripple of power I felt was in fact the start of the merging of worlds."

"But…" Guts sounded like he was pleading. "Can you help her?"

Esper looked over Caska once more, her eyes focusing on the scar located on Caska's chest.

"Yes I can. But it will take her at least a week to recover. She will be bed-ridden for a while."

Guts smiled, laughing lightly in relief as he moved away from Caska's limp form.

The master witch just nodded as she raised one hand, Caska's body lifting into the air as Esper moved her towards one of the houses in the trees.

"Come, follow me," Esper said, her voice trailing off in a musical note. Everyone nodded in silence as they followed.

The inside of Esper's home was simple yet majestic in a way. The walls adorned shelves upon shelves of potions, books and ingredients. In the main room sat a clay jug atop a thin table, next to it a bed made from wood of the tree. Farnese was in awe, the room teeming with Od that she could feel surrounding them.

Esper laid Caska on the bed, her eyes focused on the brand placed on Caska's chest. In a single motion, she turned to face the jug of water sitting on the table. Lifting it, she turned back to Caska and began to pour the water onto the unconscious woman's body. But instead of splashing like one would normally expect, the water flowed out like a gas, hovering in the air just inches above Caska's form. The master witch was now entranced in her remedial magic, dropping the jug onto the floor and moving her hands over the water that hovered above Caska.

"Et forn cus, sesene mon ja de…Kelevis," were the first words she spoke. Schierke, although very knowledgeable in the languages of magic, could not decipher what Esper was chanting. It then hit her like a brick…Esper was using a very, very ancient form of magic. It was overwhelming to see a witch that could perform magic far beyond her mistress's abilities as if it were a routine spell.

"Sol yun I reay Kelevis. Srut Sol run I reay Kelevis. Mon ja Kelevis," she repeated, her words ringing like a whisper on the wind. Caska's body began moving on its own, her back arching as her face twisted into a look of despair. She looked to be in pain, but every so often she would return to a look a tranquility. Esper worked like a surgeon, slowly making incisions in the mind and then quickly sewing the broken pieces back together. A light coat of sweat began to form on the master witch's brow.

"A-amazing!" Farnese exclaimed, completely transfixed. Ishidoro and Isma, though concentrating on the activity before them, began to explore the house at the same time. Guts for once had hope, his spirit lifting as he felt his worries suddenly melt into satisfaction. Soon he would be with her again like it should be.

The chant grew louder and stronger, Esper making a visible effort to be quick and yet careful. Patching the mind took time, patience and an agility with magic. Memories and thoughts had to be patched quickly otherwise they would be lost within seconds. It was rough work, Caska writhing under the pressure of the spellcraft placed on her. The chant grew even stronger, more aggressive, the master witch bringing the spell to its end. In a sudden jerk of energy, she pushed the water floating in the air onto Caska's forehead, concentrating her magic into a single point.

"Sol yun…I reay Kelevis!" The spell ended with a spark, Caska's body making one last yank into the air before resting into a deep sleep. The water splashed over the bed and onto the floor, Esper backing up into one of the shelves. Panting, she smiled and looked at Guts with a content look.

"It is done. Let her rest now, she'll need it."

Guts smiled genuinely for once and nodded. "Thanks a lot. I owe ya one."

"Haha...No need. It was my pleasure to help," Esper laughed, walking over to a seat and sitting down. She relaxed her shoulders and looked over at Caska. "She'll be fine now. Though I must warn you, she may not take too well to her memories being returned to her. It is dangerous because if she cannot cope with it, she will regress once more and then it might be impossible to bring her back."

Guts nodded, turning and walking out of the house. Ishidoro, now bored, followed suit, issuing challenges to Guts as he did so. Farnese made a prayer in her head, walking out as well, Seprico following her. Puck and Eva flew out quickly after, both making plans to go see King Hanafubuku. Isma, who now found no one to talk to, hurried out to meet the others, leaving the place vacant with the exception of Schierke and Esper.

The two witches stared at each other for a short while.

"….I sense you have many questions for me young one," the master witch inquired, picking up another jug of water and pouring herself and Schierke a cup.

"Yes I do. Like for instance, how old are you really?"

"Does it matter?" Esper asked, raising an eyebrow slightly.

"Not really, I suppose. But you must be centuries old, like my mistress was."

"Yes, I'm around four hundred I think. It's been so long hahaha! I can't really remember my age now. Is that all?"

"No," Schierke replied, taking a sip from her cup. Looking down at it, she stared at the reflection of herself in the water. "I'm…having visions. It's of a man of great importance, I'm sure of it. But I've never met him before. Why would this be happening?"

Esper's eyes widened at this, a smile creeping across her face.

"Interesting. I've had visions before as well, but they were always visions of people or events that are linked to me. It happens when your Od is in tune with another's. This man must be connected to you somehow, you may just not know why. In these visions, what was he doing?"

Schierke didn't quite know how to go about it, so she just went with the direct approach. "He is following the same path that my companions and I took to get here. In one of my visions, he burned over a hundred apostles to ashes. When he did this, he was covered in flames in the shape of a phoenix."

At that instance, Esper dropped her cup, the water spilling out onto the floor. Schierke jumped in her seat, watching as Esper knelt down to clean up the mess with a small rag she had on her.

"Oh, I'm sorry for that, young one. It's just….I know this man you speak of. I have met him twice and he is a powerful mage. In fact, he's unnaturally powerful. In terms of knowledge and command over spells, he surpasses me. Mistress Flora probably didn't speak of him too much I imagine. But he should be as important to you as you are to him."

"I see…but who is he?" Schierke asked, leaning forward in her seat.

"Well, if your name is Schierke and your visions are accurate...then he is your brother."

A/N: Okay….second chapter done. Please don't throw too many stones! Lol. Please R&R and let me know what you think. =D