Prologue Part Two – An Unlikely Conclusion?
I slowly open my eyes...
Huh, that's funny- it looks like someone is looking at me from above...
I scramble up against the wall next to the bed in surprise.
Huh, I guess they moved me to a bed after I passed out in that chair last night... now is not the time for that.
Smiling in front of me, at my bedside, is a woman who appears to be in her early 20's. Pure, porcelain skin peeks out from her robes, and long silver hair falls effortlessly down from her head.
She looks at me with a mischievous expression.
「Sorry~ Didn't mean to scare you, tehe~」
God, I hate her already.
「Who are you? Why are you here?」
She pulls back dramatically with an overdone surprised expression.
「You don't remember me~?」
She puts the back of her hand to her head and pretends to faint, what is with this Shakespearian performance...?
「You're the girl who was pretending to sleep outside of Belkas' office, right?」
「So you DO remember!」
She leaps into the air, performing a swan dive- onto me.
「Huh? Did you say something?」
Why do people like this exist?
I push her off of me, and she sits on the edge of the bed looking at me with a questioning gaze.
She might be like this, but she is beautiful. Crystal clear, light-blue eyes look into mine- her face has slender, feminine features with slightly pronounced cheekbones. The symmetry is something only a master sculptor would be able to replicate.
「So, why are you here?」
「Hmmmmm~ was there a reason? tehe~」
She puts her hand onto her chin and looks upwards as she says this.
「Okay so you're here to harass me, gotcha.」
She looks deeply offended, but it's only due to her incredibly tiring performance. I can't handle people with this amount of energy.
「HOW exactly have I harassed you? I came here thinking to take you on a tour, and you- you- attack me with such language!」
She turns away from me and begins to make fake crying noises, by that I mean she's literally saying 「sob」 over and over.
Here we go.
「Okay, okay. I'm sorry, I come from a different place so I am not familiar with the customs. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.」
Although I do come from a different 「place,」 I am certain her behavior is the exception and not the rule.
She spins around with a beaming smile on her face.
「Apology accepted! Alright then, shall we go?」
Before I can respond, her hand is on my arm and I'm being pulled to the door.
「W-Wait, hold on-」
Suddenly she stops, turns, and looks at an empty spot in the room behind me.
Wait, did she curse under her breath? Her expression looks shockingly deranged...
She looks at me with a forced smile.
「Uhh, I actually have to go real quick, I'll come back!」
With that, she darts at Mach 10 out of the room and I can hear her footsteps echo outside for a while.
Got out of that one apparently... I should lock my door if possible.
As I'm looking at the door, a voice calls to me from behind-
「Ah. You're awake.」
With that, the number of times I've almost had a heart attack today increases to 2.
Turning around, I see the Headmaster's Assistant standing near the bed, a door vanishing into thin air behind her.
「I'll be honest, I don't think I can survive any more surprise entrances into my room today.」
「More? But this is the first time I have come since we brought you here.」
「Yeah, well I woke up to someone staring down at me...」
「What? Nobody should know you are here, and even if they did, why do such a thing?」
「I asked, first she said, 『Was there a reason? tehe~,』 then she said she was going to take me on a tour.」
「『Tehe?』 She wouldn't happen to have silver hair, right?」
「She definately had silver hair.」
The assistant's eyes narrowed.
「And would you say her way of conversation was, 『normal?』」
「No, I wouldn't put it that way.」
「I see. I will be back in a minute.」
The assistant summoned a door with a motion of her hand, and walked through it with an expression that could kill.
Note to self: Do not make that woman angry.
So, where am I exactly?
I look around and find myself in a small dorm-esque room, a queen-sized bed rests along a wall on the right side, and a desk below a window sits across from it. Next to the bed is a wardrobe and some drawers for personal items.
On the desk is a stack of blank paper, a quill with ink, and a candlestick.
Out the window I can see that I am quite high up, probably 7 or 8 stories in the air, in a tower. Across from this tower is another one, and then two more forming a square. Large walls containing corridors and classrooms connect the towers together, and in the center I can see the courtyard I was in yesterday.
Beyond the walls I can see down a sharp cliff, on the lower shelf of land appears to be a large city, although it's too far away to make out any particular features.
Beyond the city is a vast forest the looks to continue past the horizon.
As I'm admiring the scenery, I hear my door open again...
「Ooooh.. Is she gone?」
The silver-haired girl looks around my room nervously, peeking inside from around the door. After she confirms it's only me, she casually approaches.
「Yes, but I think she's looking for you... that aside, how did you know she was going to appear? I didn't see the door forming when you were in the room.」
「That's a maiden's secret~ tehe~!」
She stands on one leg and points a finger at her face in an exaggerated way.
I really can't like this kind of person... She does have a cute voice though... not what you'd expect for her age.
「ANYWAYS!~ It's about time for your tour, don't you think?」
「I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to leave, I don't know that I could find my way back if you end up running off again somewhere in the castle.」
「Oh comeooonnn, the door is enchanted with a measly Class II Lock spell, they're practically begging you to bypass it!」
So it is locked somehow huh.. Well since I can't do magic I'm sure whatever a 「Class II Lock spell」 is- would have stopped me.
That being said, I am curious about the grounds... on the other hand, I shouldn't cause trouble for the Headmaster..
Well, he did drug me.
With this, we're even.
「Hurry up before that cruel witch comes back to ruin the fun!」
「Alright, alright. Let's go on your tour then.」
She walks up to me with a big smile, locks my arm in hers, and pulls me out through the door.
Earlier That Morning
「This is serious, Lunian.」
Arthae paces back and forth in the Headmaster's office, as Lunian sits calmly on a small couch drinking tea.
「That is why I thought to contact you as soon as I could, Arthae.」
「The boy cannot be allowed to remain here, surely he has been touched by a dark hand.」
「Forgive me, as a member of The Council you certainly have more knowledge regarding deities... However, is there anything that leads you to believe what sent him here was malicious in nature?」
「Clearly the boy has been brought here according to the wishes of a God or Demon. As I saw in your memory, he could not remember the face of the being at the shrine. Only something with evil intent would have desired to keep themselves hidden.」
「I see your logic, however, why send a young human male then? It seems that his memory is not in good shape. I would find it hard to believe he has the skill to harm us.」
「It is simple Lunian, surely it is because such a boy would be easy to manipulate. I would not be surprised if the reason his memory is unstable is because it has been modified, such as with not being able to recognize the figure at the shrine.」
「That was also my thought... Yet, he was not aware of the existence of magic. It would seem to me that he is not a very practical tool to attack such a place.」
「Why would you put any trust in what the boy says? Perhaps he is lying, even if he is not, he may have been placed here in an innocent state to fool us. Then later, his memory will be restored, and he will follow his dark masters wishes with no suspicion.」
Well, I did use that tea on him... Probably best not to tell Arthae about that matter- considering it's not exactly... legal... It was good of Elaine to hide that from him.
「What you say does make some sense, however I do not get the impression we are seeing the full story with such speculation. Arthae, may I inquire into your knowledge- specifically of beings with the power to perform the transport spell that was used on the boy?」
「There are any number of beings that could potentially have the power to do so. With that said... If I was to guess as to the identity, I believe I have narrowed it down somewhat.」
Arthae looks down at his feet, considering if he should tell Lunian his theory. After a few moments, he speaks up.
「Leaving aside benevolent spirits... who I do not believe would use this method to contact us.... there are several malicious beings known to use teleportation magic. There are also a few powerful mages who could perform the act.」
Arthae continues while looking at one of the strange plants-
「I do not believe it was a mage from our world... No, I don't see how this method would be the most effective for an attack. Considering the amount of time and effort it would take for a mortal to perform, even one with talent. That leaves me with no choice but to believe it was a dark God or a Demon.」
「Say that we were to believe that Arthae, what beings would you find to be most likely candidates for such an action?」
Arthae sits down on another small couch opposite from Lunian.
「Technically speaking, I am not allowed to give you this information. However, since you have been upfront about this matter...」
Arthae tapers off, clears his throat, then looks into the eyes of his old friend sitting across from him as he continues.
「It is my opinion that this is the work of Selethain – a Lesser God of Shadow.」
How could he have come to such an impossible conclusion..?
「Selethain? Has she been known to interact with mortals? From my knowledge, the Gods of Shadow do not acknowledge mortal beings.」
「That is why I am so alarmed about this matter, although on the surface it could seem like any powerful deity. The fact that he was transported here at night, and to the place where the Gods of Shadow would be most powerful... is why I was led down this path.」
Arthae paused for a moment.
「When your attendant gave me her knowledge of the matter at The Council headquarters; I spent all night looking at various texts about beings with powers of transportation. After looking at several of the Demons, I moved onto the Gods, then finally the Lesser Gods. I found an account with questionable merit, that said, it described a conversation between a human and Selethain.」
「A conversation? And what of this conversation made you suspect such an unlikely candidate?」
「Selethain spoke to a hunter, one who was skilled with concealing their presence, and favored by spirits of the bow. It said that the hunter frequently boasted of his accomplishments, taking down some of the largest creatures known to mortal kind.」
Hmm... I don't recognize this story. Having access to The Council's libraries would be nice...
「The hunter took credit for these kills, naturally. Yet, Selethain spoke to him, saying that it was due to her intervention that the creatures did not notice his presence.」
「Surely it would not be too difficult for a God of Shadow to conceal a hunter.」
「Exactly, however the hunter did not heed the words of the Goddess, and instead rebuked her. He told her mortals had become powerful enough without the Gods.」
「Because of this, Selethain challenged the hunter. She told him if he was able to track and take down a beast in a place of her choosing, that she would recognize humans as beings with some merit.」
Interesting. It is true that in the past, when the God and Demon races interacted with humans more often, these types of challenges occurred.
「The hunter accepted the challenge, and Selethain teleported him to a world of her own creation.」
「The world was a place without spirits to guide the hunter, or Gods to favor him. Despite this, the hunter was able to track and kill the beast that Selethain had instructed him to.」
「Selethain, impressed with his ability, then said the Lesser Gods of Shadow would recognize humans. She declared him the first champion of Shadow. This was said to have happened around 1500 years ago.」
「So it is solely your belief of this ancient tale, that leads you to believe Selethain is involved?」
「I agree it is not the most reliable hypothesis, and I am sure there will be many at The Council who do not agree with my speculation. But the tale clearly shows that Selethain, and perhaps other Gods of Shadow, do indeed have powers of transportation. Power enough to transport a living being between worlds at that. Also, it shows they have some form of interest in humans.」
Not only that, one of the key features of Shadow magic is the ability to hide one's appearance...
「I agree, those conditions do seem to have some relation. But why use such power to pull someone from another world- when there are plenty of humans here that could fulfill such a role?」
「It is my belief that Selethain wished to take a person from a place that was ignorant of magic, spirits, or the Gods that govern this world. It is because, she herself, created a world to test the hunter; that I believe they find value in beings which can complete tasks independent from the mystical, or supernatural.」
「This still does not seem to be particularly malicious though. Even if Selethain is responsible, why do you believe she acts with bad intentions? If she did take him from another world, why are you concerned he is lying about not knowing magic?」
「Gods of Shadow are not looked upon favorably by the mortal races. Outside of this tale I was unable to find any which supports the idea that they hold value in mortal life. As for your second question, it is a matter of not placing all my bets on one color.」
His responses are natural, he has a theory but even if it's not Selethain he still believes it's a malicious event. The Council tends to be defensive like this, I can't really blame him for his suspicion.
「Hmm... Going back to your theory, if the Lesser Gods of Shadow value independent achievements, why send him to Eldeora - a school of magic?」
「That is what I believe we must endeavor not to learn.」
「But surely you are curious, Arthae? Although your story supports a theory of a being who has the power, and perhaps interest, to send someone to our world- the motive seems to be lacking.」
「Who knows what their motives are, Lunian? They are Lesser Gods of Shadow for a reason.」
「If it is indeed Selethain, I must concede that the motives are not likely good... Although, I cannot see any ill intent yet- they have been known to lead mortal beings to their deaths: concealing holes so they fall in them, hiding dangerous beasts from sight, the list goes on...」
「That is right, and also why I cannot believe her motives mean well.」
「 Before this, I have not heard of a story about communicating with a God of Shadow...」
I see his point, but the motive and actions don't line up. What benefit does Selethain receive from attacking us? If she wanted to be covert, why is her action of sending him so obvious?
Also, according to his story, she said she saw merit in humans... But then again being as there is no information on this "Champion of Shadow," it is hard to say that he did good things with that power.
「Indeed, even the story that I tell you now is kept confidential with the members of the Council and some other high-ranking magical entities. I will ask you to not share the story amongst your peers.」
「If that is the will of The Council, I shall of course comply... With all of this on the table, what do you think is best to do with the boy then, Arthae?」
「I believe it is best to take him to the magical asylum in the capital city, Numbrium.」
「And what will you do with him once he is there? Simply leave him to rot?」
「I also agree is not favorable, Lunian. But we do not know why the boy appeared here, I urge caution in suspecting the motive was benevolent.」
Perhaps Arthae is correct, maybe I have been too favorable about the boy's situation... It does seem unlikely that someone breaking through our security would be for a good reason.
Maybe my thought that he was sent here to me specifically, was only because Selethain found it easier to put him somewhere dark, like the dungeon, and not because few can access it...
But why mount such an obvious breach if the intent is harm! It doesn't make any sense.
I am frustrated by my ignorance of who sent him here, and why. Even if I knew for sure it was Selethain, I have no way of decoding her intentions... my lack of knowledge about the Lesser Gods is apparent.
「I wonder Arthae, if I may keep the boy here for a while longer. I wish to conduct several magical tests on him to see if I can trace the source of the power that sent him here.」
This is a simple deception, the tests will have no result- I already know there is no trace. But I feel as though I need to consult Rhodnar before I make a move.
「For the time being, he will stay in your care. However, I will be sending word to The Council with my recommendation. After they deliberate and return with their consensus, I expect you will cooperate?」
「Of course Arthae, I am nothing if not a friend to The Council.」
I am sure they will agree with Arthae, perhaps not about what sent him here, but certainly about where he goes next. It will take them several days to deliberate formally and return their response... In that time I must make contact with Rhodnar, and come to my own conclusion.