As the celestial island was not stationary and flew through the skies instead, Neleh could not put a doorway on the island itself. The celestials already knew about the gateways, so in that sense the doorways wouldn’t be such a surprise, but the functionality of the magic they used became an obstacle. As such, they went down to the ship they used to get here and sent it home, and then opened a doorway on a nearby island. They had to arrive by ship but they didn’t have to return with one.
Neleh had sent a message ahead, and they were met immediately by Elsaria as they entered through the door leading to the manor. Elsaria was smiling victoriously at her sister, although her smile cramped a bit as she noticed the demoness Neleh was still lugging around. At least Neleh had done the demoness the courtesy of being carried tucked beneath her arm instead of being dragged around.
“Don’t mind it.” Neleh pre-empted Elsaria’s question. “Did you get it?”
“Of course. I was discreet and made sure that neither Sinestra nor the overzealous aunties knew they were being recorded. I still don’t understand how the child could understand enough to know she was being recorded, but I’ll take your word for it.” Elsaria answered and gave Neleh a memory crystal.
Neleh viewed a bit of the recording, to make sure she had what she needed. She was most satisfied to see the part where Sinestra was dressed like a little celestial with fake wings. “You got a great angle and did a great job of hiding what you were doing. Very well done.”
She turned to Shiori and handed her the crystal. “Take this to the mage tower in Nan Yanoi and have them make copies. Lots of copies. We’re going to need them.”
Shiori also took a look at the contents and got a knowing grin after seeing the baby dressed as a celestial. “Oh I think I know what this is for. This should be fun.” She muttered half to herself before going back through the doorway.
“I did as you asked, and while I had plenty of fun doing it, I would still like to know what is going on. I’m guessing that memory crystal is not just for remembrance of the childhood moments of your first child.” Elsaria asked a little sharply. She knew Neleh kept a lot of secrets but usually didn’t mind that as the results were almost always very good. This time a small child was involved, and the whole situation seemed weird.
“I can’t tell you right now, for the simple reason that you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you. It will become clear in a few months.” Neleh replied with a placating smile, giving her sister a small squeeze with one arm over her shoulder.
“Fine, be that way. Have you at least given some thought to my request?” Elsaria had seen the effectiveness of the training given to the Order, and wanted to get the same training, maybe joining the Fourth Order afterwards. She knew where her best opportunities for the future were.
Neleh gave her a long look. “I don’t’ have anything against it in principle. Are you sure you want to go through it though? They won’t let you off any easier just because you’re my sister, just the opposite. They will be extra harsh on you, both the trainers and the other trainees. The training for the Order is harder than anything you have ever done. I’m not sure you realize just how hard it will be for you. Normal sisters of the Order will be able to draw strength from their peers, but you will most likely be much more isolated until you can prove yourself.”
Elsaria took the warning seriously, but nodded anyway. “I want to do it. I’m starting at a much better baseline than many of your other recruits, which should give me an edge. You know I have very little skills outside those useful as a warrior, soldier or an hunter. I could never become a mage or a merchant. I know where the best training is, and I want to become the best. Even if I end up as a hunter, the Order will give me the skills to be the best hunter there is.”
“Ok then. I just wanted to make sure you knew what you were getting yourself into. I’ll send a word to Estelar and he’ll get you sorted.” Neleh replied, convinced by her sister’s conviction.
“Besides, I might not be as smart as you or Shiori, but I can read the signs. You’re preparing for war and not a small war either. I think you’ll need all the help you can get once things get serious.” Elsaria said in a quiet voice, even though there was no one to hear.
“Are the other too aware?” Neleh asked, referring to Delia and Selene.
“Delia always knows more than she lets on. I doubt Selene has realized though. She tends to focus on her own interests and doesn’t pay enough attention to things going on around her.” Elsaria answered, eliciting a small chuckle from Neleh.
‘Took you long enough’ Khali sent the thought as she entered the room. The aunties had decided to give the two some time, though for what remained a mystery. ‘Your sisters are horrible tyrants, abusing their fragile little niece.’ She complained, only getting a laugh as an answer.
‘What that?’ She asked, looking pointedly at the demoness Neleh was still carrying.
“It’s a gift for you.” Neleh replied in a chipper voice.
‘Great. You get me a broken demon as a gift. Has anyone ever told you that you suck at picking gifts? At least you could’ve gotten me something useful like a drago-bear.’ Khali scoffed disdain clear in her voice.
“Oh I think you’ll like her. I admit she’ll require a bit of fixing though. I may have handled her a bit too roughly.” Neleh mostly mumbled the last part to herself.
‘Oh? So not only is your gift broken, but you broke it yourself? How does that make sense?’ Khali’s mental voice carried quite a bit of amusement.
“Well, as a matter of fact, until an hour ago she was the current demon lord, ruling over their race. She picked a fight with a wrong person, namely me, and to the victor goes the spoils. I just didn’t expect her to get this busted. I think you’ll find her quite useful when you take over the demon continent.” The breath weapon she used wasn’t originally meant to have the corruption element that it ended up having due to Malassa’s influence. She didn’t really get a chance to test that skill out in normal circumstances. The corruption element made it difficult to use normal healing magic on the wounds. The stronger the corruption, the harder it resisted healing.
‘Oh? How do you figure?’ Khali asked, now getting curious.
“Well, first of all you could use her as a sort of excuse to start smashing heads. They will take her position away once they hear she lost to me. You could claim to be taking the position back in her name, or something similar. Then you could use her as a puppet. I know the demons put high value on strength, but you’re going to be mired in delays if you have no plausible excuse to go smashing heads. She could speed things along, and you could drop the excuse once you get far enough along. Besides, she could be useful against the Enemy. I don’t think there are more than one or two beings stronger than her on this world, not counting us. She could give and average seraph of the Celestial Host a run for his money in a battle.” Neleh explained.
Khali gave a small mental whistle. ‘A seraph you say? I’m surprised you could take her alive then. I don’t think your current strength is much beyond a high ranking seraph’s in your current form. I doubt you’d reveal anything too flashy just to get her alive.’
“Unfortunately for her, the matchup was terrible. She used all the wrong ways to attack me.” Neleh replied with a grimace.
‘What? She tried using fire against you? Don’t tell me she tried to use voice carried magic as well?’ Khali asked.
“Fire and earth together, where I could simply turn the fire against the earth as the elements weren’t joined like my holy fire. She also used darkness magic and tried to invert my shield with arcane magic. Her trump card was a combination of holy magic and death magic carried by her voice.” Neleh explained with a sigh.
One of the benefits of combining the elements like her holy fire did, was that they could not be separated, instead of simply being used in the same spell. For instance, if the meteor had been formed of lava instead of earth surrounded by fire, then Neleh would not have been able to simply use one element against the other. Or at least another gifted fire mage couldn’t have, unfortunately Neleh wasn’t exactly bad with earth either, even if it wasn’t at the level of fire where Neleh had total control over the element.
‘Oh dear, she really had rotten luck then. The arcane could’ve been something useful against you if used properly. Alright, I’ll accept your crummy gift. I don’t know if I’ll have any use for her, but she’ll open some possibilities at least. Now to some more important matters. I’m assuming you plan doesn’t include me spending a decade as a child? You’ve prepared some means for me to grow faster, I assume?’ Khali asked, correct in her assumption.
“Of course. Since you’re not planning on actually living in this world, it makes little sense to waste time as a child. That said, since you’re just a baby, we’ll need someone to go with you to help you with the first part. I wonder if Shiori would do it. It would give her a chance to train in peace as well.” Neleh mused.
‘You do realize that girl would do just about anything for you, right?’ Khali asked almost rhetorically.
“So can I get some details? I got the general gist of things, but you didn’t really go into details.” Estelar asked Neleh. He and Shiori would take turns watching over Khali through this. Khali had been right in assuming that Shiori would do almost anything for Neleh, except for one thing. She would not spend years apart from Neleh at a time, unless absolutely necessary.
The three of them were standing around a complex looking magical formation, with a series of orbs on pedestals connected to each other by tiny crystal tunnels. They could see miniature landscapes within each orb, though they could not tell any details as the landscapes were as if tiny worlds with all the details that entailed.
“What you see before you, is a training device of sorts. I will send you within the crystals, where you are free to move and spend time as you will. You can travel between the crystals to experience and challenge different enemies and environments by using the magical arrays inside. The central orb will be your home. Here’s the important point: time moves differently within the orbs, due to the magical formation around them. In this case time will move much faster, allowing Sinestra to grow up faster, and giving you a chance to have an extended vacation and improve yourself as a warrior. Do note that you’re mainly going there to keep Sinestra alive.” Neleh explained, giving the bewildered Estelar a small grin.
“How much faster?” Estelar asked a little breathless.
“I could make the difference bigger if I spent more power on it, but I can currently maintain a one to seventy-two difference. So seventy-two hours spent inside is one hour here. The power required to maintain the spell grows exponentially so currently I’m unable to go beyond that and keep the spell up for very long.” Neleh explained.
“So how long are we supposed to spend there?” Estelar asked, getting even more anxious.
“The plan is that you’ll spend four years inside in two shifts. You’ll take the first one, and Shiori agreed to do the second one. She appreciates the chance to grow older and stronger a little faster, but doesn’t’ want to spend more than two years apart from our family.” Neleh replied with a smile.
‘And by family, she means apart from you.’ Khali said with some amusement.
Neleh gave a small cough. “That will be about a week and a half of the real time for both of you, so you can leave matters to us.” Neleh left out the part where she herself would have to spend that combined three weeks sitting by the formation to maintain the spell, as well as that the plan was to have Khali go in alone after she reached the age of four.
At that point she would have enough strength to survive by herself, and her Ki could actually start growing properly. Unlike Neleh, who used to have a weak body as a child before getting the Ignasia, Khali had a body strengthened by her divine origin as the child of a deity, as well as the faster growth of power granted to her in exchange for fighting the Enemy. Khali also had little reason to wait in her training unlike Neleh. While Neleh’s power mostly lay in her magical power, while her internal power had become strong after gaining the Ignasia and the connection with Malassa, Khali was a pure warrior.
It was not that Khali didn’t have magical power in her previous life; she simply had very little ability to use it. Unlike Gabriel who was a sort of all-rounder, Khali had focused all her power and skill into her abilities as a warrior. This did leave her a little one dimensional, which Neleh suspected was the reason the other lords of Inferno had managed to kill her in her weakened state, but she was the strongest being when it came to that one dimension. Her control over her Ki was beyond divine, and she was perhaps the only person to master all four martial paths. Even Neleh at her peak in her old life would’ve avoided clashing against Khali with warrior skills.
“Mind explaining to me why we’re trying to hurry the growth of Sinestra? Seems needlessly cruel to me.” Estelar asked, still trying to deal with all the implications of what was about to happen.
“I’m pretty sure she’ll explain that to you at some point. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of her as a normal child.” Neleh replied with an evil grin. She knew Khali would drive the man mad by the time they were done.
‘Come to think of it, why aren’t you using this method on yourself? I mean, time is pretty much the biggest thing holding you back for now.’ Khali suddenly asked.
‘Several reason.’ Neleh sent a thought back. ‘Firstly because I didn’t choose to reincarnate just to gain my old position back. I wanted to enjoy my life. That’s before I got the news about the Enemy returning. I also have family I want to spend time with. I also have a public position in this world, and it would’ve been odd if I suddenly grew up physically much faster than others. Growing up mentally can be chalked up to being a genius and can even be hidden, but a physical growth spurt like that would raise questions. At this point it wouldn’t much matter since I won’t grow any older due to the effect of the ice spirit I made a connection with, but it would’ve been a problem before. That’s why I didn’t want to do it before.
As to why I won’t be doing it now, there are two main reasons. First, because I’m the only one capable of sustaining the spell. I haven’t seen anyone skilled enough in time magic on this world, and believe me, I’ve looked for several reasons. Second, because I have a goddess spending a significant amount of time in my head. The gods already behave different when it comes to time, as shown by your quick birth, but it would become a real issue if I started to toy around heavy time compression like this on myself. It’s a problem with subjective and objective time, and I don’t even want to imagine the consequences to Elune if we tried. She’d have to try and observe three different speeds of time.’ Neleh finished her explanation with a small mental shrug.
“Don’t blame me for it. You’re just too lazy to think of an alternative solution.” Elune replied in an amused voice.
“Shall we then?” Neleh asked to change the subject.