“One alliance may lead to another.”
I watch Zane as he walks around the room, clearly nervous. The poor man has a lot of issues. My granddaughter, his ex, his parents, all of that weighs on a person’s mind.
He invited me for further tutoring, so we met in his office and tried to deduce the extent of his new knowledge. I am not helping him just out of benevolence, I also want to know the exact results of my experiment. It’s not like I go around and help people to awaken their memories.
Not to forget, there is still the possibility that he might lose it after all. In that case, being nearby in order to deal with him permanently might be a good idea. Though I regard the risk as minimal at this stage.
Zane definitely grew in power, but I don't think that he can face Nova. I shift in my seat and smile. “Don't worry. She will come back sooner or later. Nova isn't a person who would simply walk away and leave what she created.”
He throws his hands up into the air and scowls. “I know that! But still! She is the ruler of Illum! How can she run off like that!? I have never heard of a country's king or queen leaving their seat of power. It's unimaginable! What if she needs our help? Or worse, what if she is dead?”
I tilt my head and smile, unconcerned by his complaints. “I would know if she is dead. My familiar has a link to hers. I assure you that she is very much alive. As her subject, you should learn that independent actions are sometimes necessary in order to survive. You should rather focus your energy on making sense of your new memories. Have you gotten a handle on the rune magic?”
Zane glares at me. “I have, but it takes too much time to cast a spell that way.” He draws two runes into the air, his finger glowing with red light. A moment later, a faintly glowing energy shield appears between the two of us. “If I do that in real combat, I am dead twice over before I get the spell done.”
“Don't dismiss it so easily.” I get to my feet and walk closer until I am right in front of the shield. Then I test the spell by punching the shield, causing a visual distortion. Despite that, the shield holds. “The spell's effect seems to be stronger and better controlled than in a traditional spell. You are definitely wasting much less energy. I remember this technique from another world. The correct way to use it is to pre-cast several spells and enchantments before you enter combat. The improved defences allow you to recast the spells while fighting.”
“That's true, but I have only very few memories of actual combat. My... previous self... didn't cast a lot of spells when she fought.” He bites his lower lip. “But for some reason, she was very strong during battle. The memories are just too jumbled to make sense of them. It's like waking up from a dream, only remembering a part of it.”
“It will become clearer. Give it some time. I needed years to get used to the knowledge of previous lives once I awakened. Nova had eighty years to sort out her memories.” I shrug. “My advice is to be patient.”
“But that means that nothing changed! She is still far ahead of me!” Zane shakes his fists. “And there is also the problem of my family! Why did you just leave me with her after I passed out? Now my parents know for sure that something is going on.”
I laugh. “I never promised that you would suddenly be her equal. Be glad that it worked out as well as it did. The gap between the two of you definitely lessened. And about leaving you behind... There was little I could do. Nova threw me out. She even threatened to use violence and I am not stupid enough to challenge her on Illum. On my flagship, it may be another matter, but definitely not here.”
“What's so special about Illum?” he asks.
“Do I really have to teach you how to read enchantments? Nova turned Illum into her seat of power. The entire island is a single mess of growing, interwoven enchantments which are keyed to her. As long as she is here, her powers are much stronger than they would be away from this place. The main shrine on my island is similar.”
His expression darkens. “Another reason for reprimanding her.”
A low buzzing draws our attention to Zane's ring. He touches the artefact and Fae's face appears in front of us. “She is back. Her shuttle just landed in the hangar bay.”
“Thanks.” Zane touches the ring again and furrows his forehead, inspecting the artefact. “It's so strange. At first, I thought of her spellwork as nothing less than a miracle. Now that I have access to my memories, I know intellectually that these functions are nothing more than several enchantments which are linked together, simulating a 'computer'.”
He shakes his head. “I can marvel about it later.” Not wasting any time, he approaches his office's door and heads outside. I follow and, together, we walk to the hangar bay. Zane's office was placed in the palace-like building at the rear of Illum. That puts him on the same level as Fae, Tristen, and the rest of the command staff.
Luckily, the distance isn't mentionable, so we arrive just in time to encounter Joyce leaving the guards' tower. She is in full armour, which is a little dirty and even dented in some places. It looks like she was in a fight. The kitten is hanging from her shoulder, purring and using its claws to soften the cloth.
Maybe I should have used the kitten to spy on her while she was away? Annoyingly, she locked the kitten inside a sealed crate, so I gave up on permanently monitoring her. I call upon my mental connection with Minx and order her to replay the kitten's footage while Zane starts his rant.
Nova doesn't listen and walks right past him, only to be stopped by my smiling grin. I have no idea where she found it, but the scene which I am just watching through my mental eye leaves no excuse. I stretch out a hand and wriggle my fingers. “I think that you took something out of the grave of one of our ancestors.”
“I don't know what you are talking about.” She doesn't even twitch, lying straight to my face.
It reminds me not take her lightly. “You can have it back. I just want to take a look at it.”
Nova huffs and pulls the tiara out of her pocket. She places it in my hand so that I can study it. The artefact is made out of gold and silver. It holds three blue crystals and displays a few wicked spikes which streamline away from the central stone, creating the image of little horns. The ring which holds the central piece is divided into several segments.
Each segment is engraved with complicated runes and inlaid with a green material. The artwork is superb. At one point this must've been an artefact of great power. Sadly, there are no traces of magic left. Whatever enchantments were placed on the item, they didn't withstand the ages and faded away.
It happens to many worn artefacts. They are too small to add an energy gathering function, so the wearer has to use them regularly, or the enchantments unravel.
I return the artefact to Nova. “You definitely stumbled upon an old Mirai site. The markings on the Tiara are the old script. Something only a head priest or priestess can read.”
She raises an eyebrow. “Can you read it?”
“No. That thing is so old that probably not even my parents could remember the written language.” A wicked grin spreads on my face. “But if you are interested, I am sure that we can find some helpful scrolls back at my home. There are some old texts which survived the ages. With their help, we can surely deduce what's written on the Tiara.”
Nova shrugs. “No matter. I just pocketed it because it’s shiny and I like the style. First and foremost we have to visit the World Assembly.”
Zane raises his voice in order to get our attention. “I am talking to you!”
Nova glares at Zane. “After I am done with the Sovereign, or do you forgot that she is the ruler of a nation?”
He blushes and closes his mouth with an audible 'click' of his teeth.
I wave my hand and smile. “Don't worry. We've been so informal with each other that Zane's behaviour is hardly a surprise. So, Nova, what do you want at the World Assembly? Do you even know the social rules of that event?”
She returns her attention to me and raises an eyebrow. “Social rules?”
Oh, my God. This is a catastrophe in the making. I wince. “Like not bringing any weapons? The need for absolute politeness. What constitutes as an insult and what not. This is the only event which allows people from different nations to meet each other on equal footing.”
Nova nods. “I admit that I only want to go there in order to have a good look at the various parties which I am facing. I am playing a big game, so it's only good to know the various players.”
I try to smile, but it doesn't work as well as I wish. “Then let's go together. If you are with me, I can help you to avoid mistakes.”
“And I am sure that being there together, in addition to arriving with your fleet in tow, would send a strong signal to everyone.” She regards me with squinted eyes. “It would tell all the other reincarnated people that I am with you.”
“You got me there,” I answer through clenched teeth. Unfortunately, it seems as if Nova realized how much I need the alliance with her. Illum's military power might not be able to threaten a whole country, but once the knowledge spreads that Nova is reincarnated, others will act more carefully. That alone is worth a lot.
I can only speculate, but I am sure that the Emperor is reincarnated. The elven king is also one of us. Then there are the other nations. I have no proof, but it's very likely that the Sociocrathy and the Consortium are puppets of strong entities who prefer to stay hidden. It's not my style to lead a nation from the shadows, but I have to admit that there are benefits to it.
“Okay,” Nova answers and crosses her arms in front of her chest. “Once the others learn that you have two reincarnated allies, they will be very careful.”
“Two?” I ask and raise an eyebrow. Then my attention wanders to Zane. “I am sorry, but we can hardly count Zane as reincarnated at this point. He isn't nearly as powerful as you or me.”
A wicked grin appears on Nova's face. She reaches out and links arms with Zane. “His aura says something else. Judging him just by his aura, he must be at least as strong as me.”
Zane struggles, but invisible force fields hold him in place. I can see the muscles and tendons on his neck strain, but Nova is merciless. She is clearly using Illum to subdue him.
“Stop that! People are watching!” he hisses through clenched teeth.
Nova doesn’t stop smiling and ignores him. “Yeah... he is still weak, but nobody has to know that.”