>A cry of pain rings out through a castle undercroft, echoing against the walls and reverberating out and then back to an isolated chamber where a white-haired woman hangs by a chain, a mix of a dark ichor and blood dripping from her.
>In front of this sight, a young girl with black hair trembles, a ritualistic dagger in her hands, as she trembles, she breathes heavily, the walls of the undercroft moving in and out as she does.
>With one final breath, the girl falls backwards and the undercroft fades away.
>2017, Prydwen Castle
>Ceridwen wakes up with a start, immediately turning to a table on the side of her bed, on which she can see a small stone with a rune engraved on it, reaching over to it and picking it up, she moves it around in her hand, notincing several cracks on it.
Why do I keep on using you. . ."
>Ceridwen flings the stone at the wall, causing the stone to break apart from the force.
"if you don't bloody work?!"
>The young girl angrily pants for a few seconds, then sighs and calms herself down, and pulls herself out of bed, grabbing some clothes and putting them on.
"Argh. . . never mind, I didn't need the sleep anyway. . ."
>Walking over to her window, Ceridwen opens it, looking out of it for a second before reaching into a pouch on her belt and taking something out, crushing it in her hand and sprinkling it into her eyes, wincing from the irritation.
"Looks like the West stone needs a look today then. . ."
"Hmmm. . . it looks like the Afanc population might need some culling before they start eating everything into extinction. . ."
>Ceri muses aloud to herself as she passes by several crocodilian, beaver-like creatures floating camouflaged at the top of a lake, at the centre of which stands an aged stone, covered in vines and runes.
"And before they make this trip impossible."
>Taking her staff, a twisted wooden instrument that may be more accurately described as a branch, Ceri taps the sufrace of the lake, the ripples of this action starting out small before spreading out and down, causing the lake to part in a small path for her to walk to the centre stone.
>Sighing to herself, Ceri walks forward, looking into the water either side of her as she does, using the opportunity to look at what lies below the waves of the lake, making mental notes of the plants and animals she sees.
>Once she's reached the stone in the centre and ensured she's high enough to not be below the water, Ceri taps her staff on the ground twice, causing the water to crash back, some of the spray hitting the girl.
"Right, first of all, we should remove this illusion, don't want to cut where I've cut before. . ."
>Ceri takes off one of her rings, the surface of her skin "melting" away like smoke once it's gone, switching from smooth to a crossing pattern of scars. Unsurprised, Ceri takes a dagger from her belt and cuts at a clear spot, wincing as she draws blood.
"T-then. . . we remake the ward with this symbol. . ."
>Putting the dagger back, Ceri runs her finger along her new wound, wincing again, and uses the blood to draw a symbol on the stone.
". . .and activate it."
>The girl puts her hand on the symbol, partially covering it, and closes her eyes for a moment, a light coming from the symbol.
"Hopefully that lasts a bit longer. . ."
>Ceri lets out a sigh, pulling her hand from where the symbol was, and steps back, nearly stumbling back as she does.
"Just need a moment to catch my breath. . ."
>Ceri lowers herself to the ground, sighing again and leaning on the runestone.
>>602>Ceri closes her eyes for a moment as she sits, taking a deep breath to try and recover some energy.
"They're failing more and more often, if this keeps up. . ."
>Ceri opens her eyes to see a raven standing next to her, hopping about and pecking on some stones.
"Oh, you're back, you managed to follow her and observe for a while then. What did you see?"
>The raven hops over to Ceri and she rests her hand on its head, blinking. When she opens her eyes again, they have switched to jet black.
>Ceri keeps her hand on the raven's head for few seconds, then pulls away, her eyes returning to normal when the contact is broken.
"Not much then. . . still, only three of them? Has the outside world really become that inhospitable to us? What else are we missing?"
>Ceri looks over to the raven, and chuckles.
"You've earnt yourself a rest, go on, fly back to the rookery, recover your energy, afterwards I'm going to need you to look into mr Fischer, the way he spoke at the Conclave - I think he was hiding something."
>The raven flies off, leaving Ceri alone again.
"Only three Hydes. . . and defences too dense for me to peer through with my usual methods - I'm going to need to slip through using one of them."
>Ceri picks herself up from the ground, using her staff to help support her weight, and taps the lake again to part a new path
"The eldest, that man, is unlikely to fall for any tricks. . ."
>Ceri walks along the path, dismissing it again when she reaches the shore.
"The middle one has already seen me in person, that would make things difficult. . ."
"Maybe the youngest then? She could easily fall for a trick, give me the crack I need to put eyes in their home proper. . . "
>Ceri stops for a moment, deep in thought.
"But what would work for that? Does she like birds? Maybe I could turn up as an injured bird, play on her empathy. . ."
>Ceri winces as her train of thought is interrupted by the rift above shifting slightly, a pulse of light travelling up the "branches" on her arm
"Well, looks like I need more information. . ."
>>603>Ceri sighs as she taps the ground with her staff again, the water crashing back and kicking up some spray.
"Later though. . . later. . ."
>Ceri looks over her shoulder, narrowing her eyes as the crocodillan beavers now swimming along to where the path she had made was.
". . .I can cull those a little later too. For now. . ."
>Ceri turns to look at some secluded woodland, scanning until she finds a path through.
". . .more wards to check."
>Having clearly gotten some more of her energy back, Ceri makes her way into the woods, walking along with a decent pace.
—————————————————->After some time, Ceri makes her way to a small clearing in the forest, the sun breaking through to shine on another runestone, similar in appearance to the one in the lake.
>Walking up to it, Ceri taps it with her staff, "listening" to an inaudible sound, then nods to herself.
"All fine, why can't they all be like you?"
>Ceri looks at the ward, her tone indicating that she's speaking to it like it's a person.
>>1646>A tapping sound comes from behind, as one of the trees just outside the clearing is knocked on. A moment later, a woman speaks up.
>Stephanie stands next to a tree. Her eyes move around for a few moments, studying the area before settling on Ceri herself.
"Sorry to arrive unannounced. But we never traded contact info or anything. And I figured it would be better to just come in person."
>Ceri turns around, moving her staff from her scarred arm to her tattooed arm, a flash of green light travelling down the tattoo and rushing to the end of the staff. As soon as the light reaches the end, several branches twist from nearby trees at a rapid pace, cracking and rushing as if they're some kind of arms, trying to grab Stephanie.
"How did you get in? Were you the one who broke the lake ward?"
>>1648>The branches rush towards Stephanie, only to stop just before reaching her - retracting back to where they came from.
"Sorry. Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I should've sent a messanger ahead."
>Stephanie watches as the last of the branches finish retracting.
"I didn't touch any of your wards. If it was broken it would've been before I got here."
>She turns her attention back towards Ceri.
"It's… been quite a while since we last met. At least from my perspective. And I'm not trying to be rude, but I can just go around your wards now."
>Stephanie holds her hands out to show they're empty.
"Anyway, I didn't come for a fight. I just wanted to talk. If that's okay with you?"
"They're not my wards. . . I just keep them maintained. . . besides, they're not meant to keep humans out, technically. . ."
>Ceri narrows her eyes slightly, slowly reaching for the dagger on her belt, then relents somewhat, instead moving to a puch and taking out the ring from earlier, putting it back on to restore the illusion on her arm.
"Fine. . ."
>Ceri jams her staff in the ground, the light from the top of it dissipating out and instead causing several roots to sprout of of the ground, forming two chairs a fair distance apart from each other.
". . .we can talk, even if you didn't answer my questions last time we met."
>Ceri takes a seat in the "chair" nearest to her.
>>1650>Stephanie takes a seat in her "chair" as well.
"…Right. Well, last time we met I was still unsure on how much I could reveal. But now that I'm here again I think it would be fair for me to answer your questions, if I expect to have the privilege of speaking with you."
>She finishes adjusting herself into a relatively comfortable position in her seat, with her leg crossed.
"So if you have anything new you want to ask me, or just want me to answer what you asked last time, go ahead and say."
"Then, first of all, who are you? As I said before, I can't just let outsiders know our secrets, outsiders knowing about us. . ."
>Ceri awkwardly looks to the side.
". . .leads to death for us Magicians, time and time again."
"So I hope you can understand my concern."
"Well, my name is Stephanie Meisner. And like I said before, in the past my mother's family - the Beauforts were a fairly well known family of magicians in western Europe. But I'm from across the sea to the west of here, and my family history doesn't really have anything to do with me being a Magician."
>Stephanie pauses for a moment, and then asks Ceri a question.
>Ceri thinks for a moment. Speaking up again when she remembers the name.
>Ceri twists one of the rings on her fingers.
"Then, who taught you? And do you have any relationship to Fischer? he clearly recognised you somehow at the Conclave."
>>1654>Stephanie remains silent, looking up at the trees as she can visibly be seen considering answering the question. After a few moments she looks at Ceri again, shifting slightly in her seat.
"Fischer is an associate of my…"
>Her voice lowers somewhat, sounding a little angered.
>Her body tenses up somewhat, although her tone returns to normal.
"The two have a sort of arrangement where they support each other's efforts, despite having differing goals. Ken, my… ugh. Father, doesn't believe in Magic at all. Anyway, that's why Fischer recognized me."
>Stephanie lets out a sigh, and appears to relax a bit more now that she's finished speaking about Ken.
"Now. As for who taught me? Well… I've had multiple teachers, but chief among them was Thoth. Or Jehuty if you prefer."
>Stephanei waits with a smile for Ceri to respond.
"I prefer Tetu."
>Ceri continues twisting her rings.
"Although traditional names in my family's stories include deceiver and thief of magic. . ."
"I suppose that makes you the so-called Sorcerer Supreme, the one whose role it is to stop people like me? My kind no longer fit in the vision of the gods anymore then?"
>Ceri sighs again, seemingly resigned to her fate.
"All things you love leave in time, I suppose. . ."
"Well, that's what he calls me. Sorceress Supreme. But my job has nothing to do with putting a stop to 'people like you'. And even if it were, I wouldn't. I'm not beholden to the gods."
>Stephanie remains smiling.
"So you can relax. I'm not here to try and hurt you or take away your ability to do Magic. In fact, I came to warn you about someone else who is about to try just that."
>She thinks for a moment, then asks Ceri a question.
"…Have you ever been to another world? And I don't mean just a sub-dimension or a plane attached to the Earth. But have you ever gone to another reality entirely?"
>>1657>Some relief seems to spread across Ceri's face as Stephanie clarifies.
"I have never even been to Earth. . ."
>Ceri looks around at the trees, tracing their lines with her eyes.
"These grounds have been my entire life for as long as I've known. . . longer than even then, probably. . ."
>Ceri reaches down and picks up some dirt from the ground, running it through her fingers.
"My mother remained here while she was pregnant with me, my only contact with the Earth has been through my familiars, and my uncle, even my father has remained here for as long as I've lived. This little pocket is my entire world. . ."
>Ceri lets out a wry chuckle.
"Literally, in some ways."
>Stephanie pauses, surprised by Ceri's answer. She looks down and watches Ceri mess around with the dirt.
"You should visit it yourself some time. At least once. It could be good for you."
>She looks back at Ceri's face again.
"Well, anyway. Back to what I wanted to talk to you about. Recently the Earth, as well as it's adjacent realms - including this one has been noticed by an absolutely massive group of magicians calling themselves 'Aletheia'."
>Stephanie looks over, crossing her arms as she watches a squirrel jump from one tree to another.
"Essentially what they are is a multi-universal organization of Magicians who see themselves as the Keepers of Magic. They seek out new realms with substantial amounts of Magic, and then force any practitioners to work under them under the pretext of 'protecting them from the dangers of unrestricted magic'."
>She looks at Ceri again.
"After a recent incident at one of the bazaars near Earth, they seem to of taken notice of it. Which means soon they'll be here, and they plan of policing you and the rest of the Magic community."
"That's. . ."
>Ceri pauses for a moment, messing with her rings again.
"Abhorrent. Magic is. . . beauty, creation. . ."
>Ceri keeps on twisting her ring.
". . .yes, it can
be dangerous when left to itself, but so can a river, a forest, the wind, there's no more reason to control those than anything else. . ."
>Ceri takes a deep breath.
"Thank you for the warning, I will make sure to reinforce the defences, I won't let them have this sanctuary, no matter what they wish to police."
"Good. Nobody has a right to do what they do."
>She holds her smile at Ceri for a few moments, before suddenly getting up from her seat. She stretches her legs for a moment, trying to loosen up after getting out of a fairly uncomfortable seat.
"Oh, and there's another thing I came here to talk about."
>Stephanie takes a few steps closer to Ceri, feeling like Ceri is more comfortable around her now.
"Would you like to learn more? About magic. My… partner, has recently taken on an apprentice and it had me thinking that maybe I should do the same. Which had me think of you. You're great at what you do and I'd love to see you really bloom more."
"Besides. I think I'd like to just talk to you more anyway. It gets a little… lonely, where I live. And the only ones I have to talk with are my partner and on occasion my brother. I'd love to have someone else I could spend some time with."
"Bloom? Like a flower?"
>Ceri watches each of Stephanie's steps, her eyes tracing out where she's been, and where she's going.
"Why me, though, I'm sure there's a lot more magicians closer to your age that could provide interesting conversation to you - even if they aren't as talented as I am."
>>1662>Stephanie looks annoyed.
"Ceri you're only five years younger than me."
>Her expression holds for a few moments before she looks fine again.
"Anyway. You're talented, and I'd like to see you grow more. Also I feel like you could use somebody to talk to as well."
>Ceri does some working in her head.
"Also, I have plenty of people to talk to. I've got uncle!"
>Ceri looks to the side and mumbles.
". . .when he's here
. And I've got dad. And I've got the ward stones, they listen to me."
>Ceri nods to herself.
whole people. Well, two and a set of objects. . . Well, one and occasionally another one. But it's still not no one
>Ceri nods to herself again.
it gives me a lot of time to read and practice new techniques."
>>1664>Stephanie shrugs, speaking in a sarcastic tone.
"Oookay then. I guess you don't want to see my giant library that stretches out for several miles. And you don't need anyone else to talk to."
>She turns and begins slowly walking away from Ceri.
"Guess I gotta find someone who's not as clever as you to show all the trinkets I've gotten."
"Wait wait wait. . ."
>Ceri stands up, putting her hand out in a stopping motion.
"I didn't say I was refusing
. It's just important to ask questions first. . ."
>Ceri seems to be practically salivating at the concept of new books to read and trinkets to view.
"I-I mean. . . are you even allowed to bring a demon into the place you have these things? Well, only half
, but still, that's sacrilege or something, right?"
>>1666>Stephanie stops and turns around. Her eyes dart left to right in an exaggerated fashion, before she begins moving closer to Ceri. She stops in front of her and leans forward slightly.
"Ceri I'm gonna let you in on a little secret."
>Again, she moves her eyes in an exaggerated way, before settling them back on Ceri.
"My job doesn't have anything to do with the Gods. They don't realize it, but they hold no power over me. So it doesn't matter if they consider bringing you to my home sacrilege or not. They have no say."
>Stephanie leans back, standing up straight again.
"O-oh, right. . ."
>Ceri looks away awkwardly, clearly not used to people being so closed to her.
"Well, technically they don't have any right to govern if we have magic or not, we just don't try to annoy them because of what happened to the Thaumians. . . But our magic was a gift from someone else."
>Ceri chuckles nervously though.
"Didn't stop us assuming that they'd try to get rid of us if the Sorcerer Supreme ever became a thing though haha. . ."
>Taking a step back, Ceri grabs her staff, pulling it out of the ground and causing the chairs to shrink back into the ground.
"That's good though. . . I would assume Gods are. . . not fond of demons, I mean, all the stories of trickery and all that - they don't seem very god positive."
"Generally, no. But not all demons are the same. It's a bit complicated, but the "demons" the Gods deal with aren't the only things out there that call themselves that."
>Stephanie watches as the chairs finish shrinking back into the ground.
"You'll have plenty of books on the subject in my library if you want to learn more."
>Stephanie claps her hands together.
"Well, I assume you want to see it as soon as possible. So you may want to let your father know first, so he doesn't worry. If you want I can talk with him too."
"It's ok. . ."
>Ceri holds out her arm for a moment, and then a raven lands on it.
"Tell dad that I'll be going out for a bit, and to make sure he remembers to take the elixir I prepared for him. . ."
>The raven caws at Ceri.
"Yes, do that before
you go out looking into Mr Fischer."
>The raven caws again and Ceri sighs, reaching into a pouch and taking something out to feed the bird.
"There, now go."
>Ceri moves her arm to "throw" the bird, causing it to fly up into the air and off into the distance, towards the looming presence of the castle.
"Now, I do
want to see this library as soon as possible, yes."
"Okay then. If your father is okay with it."
>Space spirals open next to the pair as a portal opens up, leading immediately to the Axiom's library.
>Stephanie gestures towards the portal.
"Well, there it is. Go on in."
"Well, he didn't give permission, but it's better to ask for forgiveness than bother getting permission. . ."
>Before Stephanie can respond to that, Ceri steps through the portal, being transported from her home to a library of unfamiliar design to her. Wasting no time, she rushes forward to one of the bookcases and starts reading the spines of the books on it, picking up any that particularly interest her and taking off any that are unlabelled on the spine to read the title of.
"I've only ever heard of this one through second hand records. . . this one I've never
heard of. . . this one's an even older edition than our library!"
>After she's finished picking clean the shelf, Ceri pokes her head around the corner of it, looking down at the miles and miles of rows of other books.
"I wonder how far it goes. . . I mean, I could check easy, right?"
>Ceri stops herself for a second.
"Oh but dad said I shouldn't do that. . . he doesn't need to know though. . . yeah, and it's not like anyone who doesn't
know is here. . . I'll do it!"
>Carefully putting the books she's collected down, Ceri gives them a light pat on the top as if she's making sure they're "comfortable", then steps away throwing up the hood of her cape quickly, then taking a deep breath.
"Ok, should just be like breathing. . . maybe I should breathe?"
>Ceri takes a deep breath, then disappears into her clothes, her form shrinking, with the clothing joining it, then, after a few moments, she is completely replaced by the form of a raven, which takes off and flies down the library, turning its head every time it passes by a bookshelf.
>After a few minutes of flying, the raven makes its way back, coming to a swift landing next to the pile of books, where it hops along the ground a few times before turning back into Ceri again, a new streak of white hair on the top her head.
"That's. . . wow. . . there's so many
. . . I couldn't even fly all the way down. . ! Oh!"
>Ceri messes up her hair, revealing a few more white strands hidden below the rest, with which she hides the new one before messing around with her hair a bit to make sure it's all black to a casual observer.
>>1672>Stephanie raises an eyebrow at Ceri.
"Yeah, I think you're going to have a problem hiding your hair if you keep doing that."
>Stephanie walks closer towards Ceri and the pile of books.
"Well, welcome to the Axiom. Home of the Sorcerer Supreme and blah blah blah all that stuff."
>Stephanie has a goofy expression while speaking in an exaggerated way. She finishes and returns to her normal tone.
"I'm glad you like the library so far. If you want to avoid flying around a lot, next time just ask out loud what you want. The Axiom will shift the library around to make it easier for you."
>A seat moves on it's own and scoots towards Stephanie is. She sits down in it, feeling much more comfortable than the tree seats from earlier.
"Take as much time as you want to read or explore. I'm not rushing to start any structured teaching yet."
>>1673>Ceri stops fixing her hair for a moment.
"It's. . . well. . . mum had all white hair when I. . . and her dad had white hair too. . . our hair just goes white when. . ."
>Ceri goes back to fixing her hair.
"Well I'd like to get to twenty at least first."
>With her hair sorted, Ceri looks around at the library again.
"Well, I can't ask the books
to come to me, that wouldn't be treating them with the right respect, but. . . a reading table and somewhere to sit. . . please?"
>A seat and table move on their own and scoots to near to where Stephanie is, and Ceri picks up the pile of books, putting it on the table and grabbing the top one.
"Axiom, then. . . like axios
? 'To have the same value as'? 'Worthy'? The name you mentioned earlier is similar. . ."
>Ceri flicks through the book as she talks, managing to divide her attention between the two.
"'Aletheia', it means 'truth' in Greek philosophy, I'm guessing they think that they're the truth behind magic or something?"
"Technically they go by many names in many languages, but all of them essentially translate to the same meaning as 'truth'. But yes. They see themselves as the ultimate authority and truth behind magic."
>Stephanie grabs one of the more ornate looking books on the table, running her hand over it's cover while she casually studies it.
"I know some magicians like myself from other worlds who get a little anxious about other people having magic, but Aletheia takes it to the extreme. If you don't comply with them, they force you. And if they can't force you? They get rid of you. It's horrid, almost reminds me of old stories about the Mafia."
>Realizing Ceri probably doesn't know what she's talking about, Stephanie quickly clarifies.
"Oh, sorry. You don't know what that is. An organized crime group that used to be extremely prevalent in different parts of the world, especially my home country. They originated in the Mediterranean. If you want to know more there are books on normal Human history here as well, not just Magic focused things."
>>1675>Ceri stops flicking through the book for a moment.
"Country? Like a kingdom? And. . . organised crime? Like crime with a hierarchy? Earth certainly has. . ."
>Ceri goes back to flicking through the book.
"Changed from the one with have recorded."
"Where is your. . . kingdom? I don't recognise your way of speaking."
>>1676>Stephanie rubs her eyes, and sighs.
>She looks at Ceri.
"For the most part, kingdoms aren't really a thing anymore. The majority of them reorganized into something else called a country, or a nation."
>She pauses for a moment, before adding:
"It'll be easier for you to read some of the history books we have. I could explain it to you in more detail but to be honest I'd rather not sit here lecturing you on recent history."
"And as for where I'm from. It's west of your family's home land. Settled by Europeans a few hundred years ago.
"In the sea? Has humanity really managed to become advanced enough that they can make islands without magic? And a few centuries ago, too?"
>Ceri puts the books down and stares out across the library.
"A lot certainly has happened on Earth since we left. . . I think I will add some of your history books to my reading list, then."
>Ceri looks down at her robes.
"I think I should see what the modern world has, as well, but I suppose these robes are rather outdated by your standards. . ."
"…It's natural. And the story is long. Long enough that we have several books here dedicated to just that subject."
>She then looks at Ceri's clothes.
"And yes your clothes are very antiquated."
>She gestures to her clothing.
"I don't typically wear these on Earth unless I'm working. They stand out just as much as what you're wearing does. If you want to see the Earth though, I can get you some clothing. Just let me know whenever you want to leave."
"Oh. . . I had assumed. . ."
>Ceri looks Stephanie's outfit up and down.
typically wear that kind of clothing? But it's such a natural evolution. . ."
>Ceri puts the book down, making sure to make a note of the page she was on before closing it.
"What do they wear then?"
"Well, there are all kinds of clothing options. Usually it depends on the local culture and the individual's tastes. But for the most part the typical outfit is roughly something like this."
>Stephanie clicks her fingers, and her clothes seemingly explode into a mass of colorful particles - covering her body as they quickly shift and take on the shape of her typical clothing.
"This is roughly the norm."
>She stands up from her chair to make it easier for Ceri to look her over. After a few moments she holds out her arms.
"Well? Would you be okay with trying something like this on? Or do you want something else?"
>>1681>Ceri looks Stephanie's new outfit over.
"What kind of wool is that? I don't think I've ever seen a fabric like this. . ."
>Ceri thinks for a moment, then puts her finger up as she comes to a realisation.
"Unless it's a silk?"
>Satisified with her questioning process, Ceri then adds:
"I wouldn't be comfortable with that, though, I mean, that's clearly a man's top - it's some kind of toga, is it not? And also I like my clothes to be looser than that."
>>1682>Stephanie furrows her brow at the comment of the top.
"Uhh… these kinds of tops are typically seen as for women now. And no, it is not a toga."
>Her outfit suddenly shifts back to it's prior look.
"It's probably easier if I just lay out a bunch of clothes for you and let you decide what you think looks best."
>The table Ceri is sitting at suddenly expands, stretching out to allow for more things to sit on top of it. Stephanie waves her hand over it, causing various typical looking modern western outfits to appear side by side along the top of the table.
"Take your pick."
"Ha! That's so weird. . . next you'll say skirts are for women as well. . ."
>Ceri says, standing up to get a better look at the clothing on it.
>Ceri mulls over the clothing, then nods as she comes to a decision.
"I'll take this. . ."
>Ceri points at a hoodie.
". . .it reminds me of my cloak. And this. . ."
>Ceri then points at a loose fitting shirt.
". . .it's loose so I should have ample movement in it. Then these. . ."
>Ceri points at some long shorts.
"They look comfortable, and finally. . . these. . ."
>Ceri points at some stylish boots.
"They look practical, good for travelling on gravel roads. That should work, right? And with the clothes I should fit in?"
>As if to answer her question, a wild strand of Ceri's hair falls down into place as she looks back up again.
"…Skirts are typically seen as women's clothing. And yeah, you should look normal enough."
>The rest of the clothing vanishes from the table.
"If you want you can change and we can go have a look around now. If not we can stay here. I'll leave it up to you."
>>1685>Ceri looks at Stephanie, shocked about the skirt comment, and apparently concerned.
". . .do women need to hide weapons often in the modern world?"
>Nodding as the rest of the clothing disappears, Ceri starts taking off what she's wearing, replacing it with the clothing from the table with no care for the fact that she's not alone.
>Once all of the clothing is on, Ceri tugs at the collar of her new shirt slightly, pulling it away from her neck, clearly not used to it being up so high, then grabs one of her larger pouches from her old clothing and slings it around her neck.
"Can't leave myself unprepared. . . If women really do need womens so much. . ."
>Finished with her new look, Ceri looks over herself.
"Are you sure this looks ok? I don't have a standard for what the modern world considers normal besides what you've shown me. . ."
"You might not want to undress in front of other people in the future. It's considered indecent to most people now."
>Stephanie looks Ceri's outfit over.
"Yes you look good. That outfit suits you."
>She eyes Ceri's pouch.
"You shouldn't really need to take that with you, but if you really want to, go ahead I guess."
>Again Stephanie's outfit shifts and changes to something more typical.
"So. Is there anywhere specific you want to see? Because I can take you practically anywhere."
"You say that, but apparently women need skirts now, so I would rather be safe, even with you being as capable as you are."
>Ceri adjusts the pouch slightly to make sure it's comfortable with her new clothing.
"I shouldn't need to undress like this again, so I'll note your advice but likely won't need it."
>With everything sorted, Ceri thinks for a moment.
"Why not your king- country? Surely you're most familiar with there?"
"Well, I suppose I can do that. I'll just take you to the city my brother lives then, since it's the only place I really visit on Earth frequently."
>A portal rips open near the pair, leading to a relatively populated sidewalk in the middle of downtown Sanctuary City. Stephanie looks at it.
"Nobody will be able to see or interact with the portal, so don't worry about us being spotted just appearing out of nowhere like this."
>She gestures for Ceri to follow her.
>Stephanie then steps through the portal, waiting on the other side as nobody seems to notice her, or the portal as they walk past.
>>1689>Ceri steps through the portal, flinching slightly as she reaches the other side, clearly having not expected something.
"It's all very. . . loud. . . How can anybody think in all this. . ?"
>She looks around at section of the city the two have arrived in, taking in the sights of the buildings.
"And all very. . . unnatural
these. . . I assume they're buildings?"
>Ceri points at a skyscraper.
"These buildings, looking like they're trying to fight the sky, and so many lights. is this really how people live now?"
>>1690>Stephanie closes up the portal, then turns to look in the direction Ceri is pointing.
"This is what it's like in most majorly populated areas now. But in some more rural and poor parts of the world it's calmer and not like this."
>She turns to look at Ceri.
"Bringing you here almost makes me feel like I've brought someone to the future. I bet it's really jarring, huh?"
"It's. . . unsettling. . . how can people live like this? They're like bees. . ."
>Ceri watches as a car goes past.
"Moving around in chariots of iron. . . and all of this is without magic?"
"Not all these buildings are for housing.
>Stephanie turns to watch as a car zooms by, clearly breaking the speed limit.
"And yes. None of this uses magic. It's just normal technology."
"Then hiding really is our best option. Humanity really has moved beyond us. . ."
"And places like this, are normal? You said that, right?"
"If they are, I might need to extend what we preserve in the grounds. . ."
"That's. . . a lot better, still not as good as I would hope, but better."
>Ceri thinks for a moment.
"So, if the world is this advanced now, surely humans have done away with war?"
>>1696>For a moment, Stephanie has to stiffle a laugh. She quickly composes herself, letting out a sigh. She speaks with an annoyed tone and shakes her head.
>Before Stephanie can say anything else, a small group of fairly stereotypical looking thugs rounds the corner. They laugh and talk amongst themselves, taking up the majority of the sidwalk until one of the men in the group look over and notice Ceri and Stephanie.
>He cups his hands and lets out a howl:
"Yooo! Ladies! Lookin' fine!"
>Stephanie murmurs to herself in an annoyed tone.
"Oh. . ."
>Ceri looks genuinely saddened by that fact.
>As the thugs finish rounding the corner, one of them stands out as not looking like a stereotypical thug, instead wearing a full tuxedo, for some reason.
>Ceri looks at Stephanie to gauge what her reaction should be, then joins her in not accepting the cat calling, to which one of the other thugs calls out.
"Yo ladies! I got a special bat, you wanna help clean it?"
>>1698>Another one of the male thugs, also looking stereotypical walks towards Ceri - taking notice of her bag.
"Nice bag, sweet cheeks? What's in it?"
>He begins reaching for it, as another walks towards Stephanie. He begins to reach towards her, until she turns to him and stops him.
"If you try to touch me, I'll break your arm."
>The guy blinks, staring at Stephanie for a few moments - before throwing his head back in laughter.
>Ceri looks down at her pouch.
"Oh. . ."
>Ceri reaches into the bag, feeling around inside it, stopping when she finds something that she was looking for.
". . .here!"
>Ceri throws out a stone with a rune carved onto it in the direction of the thug, the rune lighting up before the stone explodes into a cloud of purple dust, which causes any skin it touches to rash over and start itching.
>Still a small distance away, the "bat" thug takes a step back, the tuxedo thug joining him.
"Yo, she's some kinda terrorist or summit' shoot her!"
>The tuxedo thug takes out a tube from their pocket, and starts frantically smoking something from it
>>1700>The laughing man suddenly stops, taken by surprise.
>His eyes dart back and forth between Ceri and Stephanie for a moment, before he angrily grabs at Stephanie.
"You think you can fuck with us!?"
>Before the man can grab her, Stephanie grabs his arm and twists - causing him to yell out painfully as she does exactly what she said she would do.
>The man stumbles back. A woman from the group runs up next to the injured man.
"Don't let that bitch get away with it Johnny!"
>Without warning a pair of super heated lasers fire from the woman's eyes - narrowly missing Stephanie as she seemed to predict them ahead of time.
>Annoyed, Stephanie shakes her head.
"I'm sorry you had to deal with this on your first visit here Ceri."
"I don't know what 'fuck with' means, but I'm pretty sure I can do it, idiot!"
>Ceri shouts back, putting one hand on ground, the concrete exploding out in several pillars as it heads to the "bat" thug, who seems to be standing in place, awkwardly pointing his gun around, and hits him on the head, sending him flying to the ground.
>Moving her hand away, Ceri releases the pillars, causing them to crumble.
"Thank you for the apology, but if women really do need skirts, this shouldn't be a shock."
"Are eyes like that normal now?"
>Ceri pulls another stone out of her pouch, throwing this one at the thug in the tuxedo. As it nears the thug, it doesn't glow, and instead hits them right in the middle of their forehead, causing them to fall down.
"Or was that a magician?"
"Kind of normal."
>Stephanie turns to look at Ceri.
"For the last few decades there's been a small, slowly growing number of people on the planet called Meta-Humans who can do things like that without magic. It's… been a very big, complicated mess of conflict since they first started appearing."
>Stephanie looks around at the now unconscious thugs, and says:
"Well, it's best we go now. The… peacekeepers will be here soon, and I don't feel like staying to answer their questions. So take your pick on where you want to go next."
"Oh. . ."
>Ceri looks over the unconscious thugs.
"Do you have anywhere you know that is less. . ."
>Ceri indicates to the buildings around the pair.
>>1707>Ceri steps through the portal, taking in the new surroundings.
"This is. . . still loud, but I appreciate the plantlife. . ."
>Ceri looks around.
"Even if it is rather. . . lacking in diversity."
>Ceri takes a seat next to Stephanie on the bench.
"You said you would show me the modern world, not that you would show me what I'm comfortable with. . ."
>Ceri sighs, looking out across the park, seeing various people and couple enjoying their day.
"It's nice to see that people can enjoy time to themselves, though, and even share that time with friends, like those two."
>Ceri points out at two women who are very clearly a couple.
>>1710>Stephanie's eyes move in the direction Ceri is pointing.
>She goes silent, blinking while thinking about what to say. After a few moments she stars speaking again.
"I… think those two are more than just friends."
"More than just friends?"
>Ceri tilts her head, confused.
"But they're both women? Do you mean that they're fighting companions or something? How can you tell that from seeing them in this context?"
>>1712>Stephanie lets out a sigh and leans back for a moment - looking mildly flustered.
"No. That's not what I mean."
>She composes herself again and fixes her posture.
"They're in a romantic relationship. Like… your parents. Or your grandparents. You can tell by how they're being so physical and… well… kissing."
"They're both women though?"
>Ceri still looks confused.
"And kissing doesn't have to be romantic, if I kissed you right now it wouldn't be romantic."
"Yes but… them both being women doesn't matter. Anybody can be romantically involved with anyone else if they want. Women can be romantic with women or men. Men can be romantic with women or men. And so on."
>She pauses for a moment before continuing.
"You don't even have to choose just one. You can like both if you want. Or even people who identify as something else entirely."
>She watches Ceri's reactions.
"And you're right that just giving someone a kiss isn't necessarily romantic but.. uh… it's the kind of kiss. You don't… really do the type of kissing those women were doing unless you're romantically or sexually involved with someone…"
"Has you're family never talked to you about this?"
"Oh. . ."
>Ceri thinks over it for a moment.
"I have never heard of this, I mean. . . I know I need to do my duty to ensure that there's a next guardian of the rift, so. . . I. . . uhhh. . . know how to do my duty there?"
"But nothing about what you just said."
"Well… I don't want to make you go against your family's wishes or anything… but you should know that you can be with a woman too if you want. It's natural."
>Stephanie leans back against her seat.
"I probably shouldn't say any more. Just keep in mind what I told you."
>>1717>Ceri is silent for a second, some cogs turning in her brain.
"Would you. . . be with a woman? If you didn't have your partner and you had the choice?"
"Not like it matters for me anyway, I probably don't have the time for things like that anyway."
>>1718>Stephanie rests her head against her hand, and smiles at Ceri.
"If I liked someone enough. Yeah. I like men and women, although my partner is a man."
>Stephanie studies Ceri's expressions.
"You know, if it's something you want to pursue, you can. I know I just said I should stop talking about it but if it's something you really want, you should do it."
"Oh. . ."
>Ceri takes in the information, then shakes her head.
"I can't think about these things, though. Mum just got lucky with dad, and. . ."
>Ceri shudders as she remembers her dream from earlier.
"I don't think I could do that to someone I loved like that."
"Well… you could always just… you know. Pass on your job to someone else other than your child."
>She clears her throat.
"But that's something you'd have to talk to your family about first. If you really want to. It's really not my place to say."
>>1721>Ceri gives Stephanie a sad smile.
"I wish, but I can't. . ."
>Ceri reaches into her pouch again, taking out the dagger she used earlier. Which she pulls out of its sheath slightly and gently runs her finger against, splitting open her skin enough to cause it to bleed.
>Taking her finger, Ceri puts it in her mouth for a second, the schlera of her eyes turning black. Then, she removes it from her mouth, closing her hand enough to stop the flow, but not before a drop falls on a blade of grass below, causing it to wither.
"There are only two people left with the blood of Ambrosias running through them, me. . ."
>Ceri opens her hand, the wound having closed, leaving a scar, which is soon covered by the illusion.
". . .and my uncle, who is not suited for the role. So it falls to me to ensure the next generation succeeds me in protecting the rift."
"Ah. Well. I'm sure you could figure something out eventually if you tried."
>Stephanie turns away from Ceri and tries to lighten the mood.
"Anyway. Do you want to see anything else? Or would you like to go back to the Axiom? I can take you back home too if you want."
"In a century or two, perhaps, but. . ."
>Ceri lets out a dry chuckle.
"Ha, I'll be lucky to make it to twenty before I have to be put down
. With how fast it progresses with me."
>Ceri stands up, looking around.
"Unless you have anywhere else you would like to show me, I think I would like to return to the Axiom."
"I think you'll find after spending some more time in the Axiom that your problem isn't as bad as you think it is."
>Stephanie opens up a portal leading back to the Axiom's library, stepping into it.
"But that likely still won't be for a little while. Still, I assure you. You'll make it past twenty."
>She waits for Ceri to step in the portal as well, and then closes it.
"Oh and one more thing. You should be able to come and go to the Axiom as you please now. Just reach into your pouch and you'll find what you need for it."
"There's a difference between what's written in a book, and what you can actually see, Stephanie. . ."
>Ceri steps through the portal, unphased as it closes behind her.
"Thank you for the invitation, though, I'll definitely make a lot of use of your library. . ."
"And I'm a good student, I swear. . ."[The End]