“I want you to make me strong. As strong or stronger than you if possible. I want to be able to eat without worry, drink without worry and to fight those who wronged me. I want you to teach me how you became as strong as you are now.” He continued to ramble before he was cut off by her.
“Strength is not something that can be passed on by normal means. When strength is bestowed, a certain price must be paid. “She continued. “I cannot just hand you an orb of power. You gaining strength under my tutelage is a process that will happen over time.” She stated sternly.
She made sure she gave him a small warning now on power in general. This was also on the training that was to come in the future. “I will be able to make you stronger than normal by training you myself. I will teach you how to control mana to use magic. I will show you ways to strengthen your body to a degree that you never believe possible. If I deem you worthy, I will help you acquire and train a soul weapon. But most importantly, what I will teach you is knowledge.” She concluded.
“What I need is strength to survive. I do not have time for training. I need immediate strength. I do not need knowledge. I would rather use my time gaining power. “Nanna thought about it before answering her firmly.
Autumn continued to look down on him with the same demeanor but the look in her eyes intensified. They lost their gentleness and held the resolution to kill if necessary. The vines crawled passed his legs and wrapped around his body. He was not in pain but his body felt the constraint. Only his face was seen from the deadly vines. They brought him up to her eye level and she asserted with a monotone voice.
“Watch what you say young one. With that mindset, you would be going down the path of a calamity beast. If I had to choose between death and raising one, I would surely kill it and myself if I felt I could not bring back its intelligence.” She said in an informative but cold tone. Her monotone voice made it sound like a simple statement but her eyes made it known that it was a declaration made of conviction.
Nanna was shivering in pure fear. He felt a deep pressure just by staring into her eyes. He knew if he truly angered her, he would die instantly. He felt that his next statement could determine his fate. He decided to make a careful inquiry.
“I apologize if I said something to upset you.” He started off saying. “What is a calamity beast and how should I avoid becoming one.” He said in an apologetic tone with trepidation. His eyes began to look down and his tail followed. He was taught to apologize when he was wrong. It seems he said something that truly upset her and might even cause his death. His experience in conversation was too small to discern what went wrong.
Autumn saw that she might have gone overboard. She slowly changed her tone. He was young and only wanted to change his current circumstances. That mindset he had over strength would have to change. Even if she had to beat it out of him herself.
“I will explain in detail later. The gist is that calamity beast is a magical beast that reaches the next echelon. They transcended their race but at a cost of their sanity and intelligence. They wreak havoc on the local populace of beast and sapient creature alike." Autumn tried to adjust her voice to sound less stern while lowering the young wolf cub to the ground. The vines disappeared underneath the land. He was free from the vine wretches but not the creature.
"I suggest you reevaluate why you must gather strength and hold that idea close. Take this next statement to heart. Power is a means to an end. It is something that should be used to accomplish a goal. If you lose track of why you seek power, you will be consumed and be used by it instead. If that day ever comes, I will end you myself. Now tell me again, why do you seek strength?” Her tone sounding more majestic. It was a question, but it subtle implications in tone made it feel like an order. She decided to wait for his reply. She would have to give up on him if his reply was not satisfactory or were filled with lies.
The wolf shuttered but took her words to heart. He thought about it for a quarter of an hour. He then gave a simple reply.
"I am currently extremely weak. I have to run and hide away from every shadow. I can die at any moment or force to become the entertainment of other intelligent beings. My stomach feels like it is constantly gnawing at itself from the inside. The constant hunger almost drives me into a frenzy. I need strength to survive. That’s the main reason I seek strength." He inhaled a deep breath and stared into Autumn’s eyes.
"The second reason is not to repeat my past mistakes and accomplish my dreams. My first memories outside the caved I lived were the vastness of the forest and the beauty of the moon. I knew then that I wanted to explore the land unhindered. Right after I found something I believed I could dedicate my life to; I saw my mother lifeless remains on the ground. Her eyes were wide open while vultures picked at her innards." Nanna began to shake after he recounted his tale.
Autumn just stared at the wolf. She showed no emotions. She was trying to figure out if he was shaking from fear or anger. She waited for him to continue.
"Since I first open my eyes, it was just me and my mother. Since I was born, she was the only one who ever showed me kindness and expected nothing in return. She always looked at me gently and never became angry with me. The only time I ever felt excitement at that time was when she told me stories about the world." He continued.
"Seeing her eyes wide-open with a lack of color caused my body to still. When vultures turned towards me; I ran as desperately as I could without looking back. I was seeking any place that appeared to be safe. I needed shelter. When I finally found a shelter under a series of trees; I collapsed." He remarked sadly.
"I had nightmares ever since. My mother's lifeless eyes would stare at me in dreams. I still regret not doing anything. Those eyes seem to tell me that her death was caused by my hands. That untimely death was caused by searching for food for me. Those eyes still haunt me. I could not protect her from the dangers of the wild nor did I have the courage to face the vultures that scavenged her corpse. That helplessness and fear came out of weakness. "Nanna's voice continued to gain a sense of heaviness as he continued his statement.
"I refuse to consign myself to being prey. I refuse to have to live in the shadows in the future. And I would rather die than to continue to scavenge corpses like those despicable vultures." He stared in Autumn's eyes with the resolution to die. He would not go back on these values.
Autumn stared back at him for a full minute. His gaze never wavered. The look in his eyes showed his resolution in his previous statement. She smiled. "Remember those words young cub. That is the reason you seek strength. Do not let the pursuit of strength or power pollute your vision. This will cause you to wander off the right path. “She replied tenderly.
"I also have many things I wish to protect. I cannot die yet. That's why my soul is bound to the magic crystal that resides in the lake." she stated.
Nanna smiled back at her. He then remembered one of the stories he heard from his mother about the soul. The soul is what embodied a being. When a person died, their soul would vanish from the world. That what he was told. Nanna's body spasm as if it was hit by lightning. He turned around and ran to the tree a few meters back. There laid a preserved corpse. The body was pale from a loss of blood but its features were preserved. Nanna continued to look back and forth between it and the being made of water. Their features were a direct match. He knew he recognizes her from somewhere. "You are already dead." He could not help but mutter.
"That is my body that lay there that smell of poison young one. If we go by your definition of "death", then yes; I already died." Autumn declared calmly and with ease. Her demeanor was as if she was not speaking about her death.
"There are too many regrets I would have in this life if I simply died. That’s why I had to abandon my body to live in this wretched state. My misfortune is your blessing however. This opportunity allows you to change your destiny. You will no longer walk the simple road of a magical beast. This road might be a dead-end or cursed. But I will promise you that you will no longer need to scavenge for survival. That is only if you want to continue with the soul contract." Her voice boomed.
Nanna continues to look at this being made of water. This was the first being he met that transcended death itself. He knew if he went through with this soul contract, their fates would be intertwined. His instincts told him that he would gain power that surpassed his imagination but at what cost? She might have been the strongest creature he ever met, but in the end; her body still laid there as a corpse. Her enemies would become his. That idea caused him fear.
"If you allow me to acquire the necessary strength, I am willing to sign a contract with you." He said with courage he did not know he had. Her enemies and the thought of death scared him. But his mother's lifeless eyes and helplessness propelled him forward. Autumn simply smiled.
“A contract is not something so vague. It must list exactly what your terms. Let me help you out with your list. Feel free to add or subtract anything you want.” Autumn stated.
They began to go back and forth before they reached an agreement. What nanna wanted was simple but complex at the same time. “Let me repeat it out for you. Make sure this is everything you desire from me. The contract cannot be changed after it has taken effect.” She stressed.
- I want to be able to run free in the outer layer unhindered. Autumn must ensure that I’m strong enough to run free throughout the outer layer of the wildland and its inhabitants.
- I must become strong enough to be able to enact revenge on the wolves that led me to my current condition.
- I must become strong enough to protect those I love against those in the outer layer of the wildlands.
- That Autumn would not try to kill me while she used me as a catalyst or afterward.
Autumn conditions were different and more concrete. This was her list on the contract.
- Nanna must become a catalyst to hold her soul in. He would not do anything to harm or kill her while she used him as a catalyst in any shape.
- He would help her find the necessary material to create a body to put her soul back in. This will allow her to FULLY resurrect.
- He would not inform anyone or anything about her in any way shape or form without her direct consent.
- When the time is right, he must go find her family member in the city she left to inform them of her being alive.
- To not use anything she taught him in a way she would perceive as evil to the general public. (Massacres of innocents, etc.)
Once those things were iron out after a few hours, they began to make a contract. A normal contract usually has some type of catalyst itself like a paper, words etched in stone or wood. A soul contract is written on the recipient themselves. It would use their very body blood and soul as the catalyst. She walked up to Nanna.
“I need to form the contract with your blood.” She said while in reaching distance. “You will feel a slight pinch.” She said. The tip of her watery fingers turned to solid ice with a pointed tip. After look for a while, she found a vein she could cut safely with minimum risk. Blood started to slowly leak out. It began to float and rotate in mid-air. She took a deep breath and began to concentrate.
“This contract formation is hard to create. Please do not move as much as possible. You do not want any abnormalities to happen because of a misaligned line.” Nanna excited tail froze and his body stiffen. He made sure not to move an inch, afraid of his demise.
Autumn laughed on the inside. She has not been this relaxed in a while. She had to focus though. She did not lie but she would have time to review it before she activated the formation. His freezing up allowed her to apply the formation easier. This was her first experience drawing a soul formation contract.
After what felt like hours, she finished his formation and proceeded with her own. She brought up the remains of the magic crystal from the lake. Placing the remains in her liquid body, she started etching a liquid formation on top of it. After finishing the soul formation on herself, she wrote the list in mid-air with magic lines. She then began to speak to nanna.
“You need to guide your mana through your body and activate the three formations over your head, heart, and navel. This will resonant with my soul contract after I activated mine. ” She stated.
Nanna turned his head to the side and gave her a puzzled look. His eyes began had a gleam and his tail started to wag back and forth. He then asked the simple questions that caused her to freeze.
“I have mana? How do you use mana? What can I use mana for?” he asked the questions in a rapid-fire fashion.
She was perplexed at this situation. He clearly could use mana to restore his health at a faster rate. Did he use it unconsciously? This would be a bit tricky but she believed she could make it work.
“All magical beasts can use an ability or magic. This means that they have mana. You also can use your own ability for recovery. I sense that you used mana to activate it. I believe I can help you slowly develop your ability in the future but let us focus on this now. Relax your body and try to sense the change in you.” She said before she put her hand over his head.
She began to glow and push a bit of aura into him. She began to push the aura inside of him starting at his head to his tail. She continues to maneuver the mana around him and rotate it inside his body. This continued for a while before he began to sense something that he felt similar to it. It felt the same but different. He began to try and move some throughout his body.
It was difficult at first but he began to move it from his chest and tried to push it towards his feet. It was a lot harder than he thought. He did not realize that Autumn defused the mana she sent in him and began to help, giving him a guiding push. This went on for a quarter-hour before the mana inside him was emptied. His head was pounding and he felt mentally exhausted. He fell down and took a nap.
Autumn caused him to float by the pool before water floated around him wrapping him in a cocoon. Strangely enough, he was still able to breathe. He stayed in this cocoon of water for an hour before she brought him back to the shore of the lake. She looked a bit more exhausted than before. She receded into the lake and disappeared.
A quarter-hour later, she saw Nanna begin to wake up and appeared before him. She looked to be in better shape. When Nanna woke up, he felt better than before. Still physically exhausted and starving but his headache was gone. He also felt a slight chill throughout his body. He remembers what happened before and was excited. He did not know what this slight chill did but he felt like this was the beginning of his journey of strength. He was about to manipulate it again but autumn began to speak.
“This is not the time to learn about mana. Let first began using the soul contract. Direct the mana towards the three formations. This will cause them to light up. Light them up one at a time and I will do the same.” Nanna quickly calms down before he began to focus again.
He slowly began to concentrate and mana began to trickle out. He began to concentrate on his head first. He tried to push it out. Once it entered the formation, it began to glow. He began to activate the following formations. This caused the other formation to have a fiendish glow. After all three formations were lit up, they began to buzz.
He looked across and saw the formation on Autumn lit up also. Nanna and Autumn's eyes began to lose focus before they were in a totally dark space. Their consciousness felt as if they entered another domain. It was darkness all the way into the horizon. An ancient voice began to speak.
“You two are signing an ancient rite. This binding will hold you, two souls, as collateral. If the contract is ever broken, your soul will be destroyed in the future. Will you continue down this path?”
The voice sounded almost lifeless but full of power. Nanna and Autumn were shocked but this was under Autumn expectation. She recovered herself and began to speak. I, Autumn Artemas of the Noble Forest tribe wish to carry out a soul contract with Nanna-“she froze for a moment because he didn’t have a full name. At least, he did not tell her that he has a last name. She hesitated for a moment before she continued. “Nanna Artemas of the moonlight race. Here are the conditions that are set.”
Before she could go down the list, the voice began to speak. “That is not his name.” it exclaimed.
Nanna has been stunned into fear at this series of events before he felt a pressure on himself. It did not feel intentional. It felt like this pressure seeped through the presence and could not be completely controlled. He felt that he would die with just a thought. That terrified him even more. While going through his thoughts, he was awakened by the voice. It became to speak.
“Young one, you do not have-“The voice suddenly stops before another voice began to speak. “This is somewhat interesting. A flickering soul signing a pact with an immature soul with mutual consent has not happened in a while. There even some compatibility. This meeting might have been fate.” It simply stated in a whimsical voice. If the two could view what was happening at the lake, they would be shocked. There were visible images of them and their interactions over the past few hours being played forward. This happened as if time was being replayed at this specific location. It then went back further and replayed Autumn situation.
“For you to separate your soul from your body is considered a sin by your species. This was proclaimed by your goddess herself. You even prepared to bind your soul to an undeveloped cub. This will change both of your fates. Your timeline has already expired and you would be living off his. This will have consequences in the future.” The whimsical voice stated.
Nanna continued to stay quiet from fear. Autumn became distressed. Her voice hurried, thick with worry. “My death could cause a war between my people and humans. Thousands could die. Children could die. Others raised without parents or siblings. This is one of the more favorable outcomes by winning. A loss could be mean extinction. They do not deserve such a fate. I want to-“ before she finished she was interrupted.
“Do not talk about fate to me foolish child. Species go extinct yearly. Yours would just be another one to disappear throughout the eons of time. I do not care either way. I am not your god and have no plans on changing your decisions. On the contrary, this will give me a small break from the routine boredom. My instinct tells me that your lives will be vibrant and unpredictable for now on. You even planned on giving him your last name. That is considered taboo. That what makes things interesting. He does not have a True Last Name. I will grant him yours if he agrees. It will make the adjustment simpler when using him as a catalyst.” His voice descended on Nanna.
“The last name is unnecessary for this but you can be granted the last name of Artemas. This last name would allow certain parts of the contract to proceed smoothly. But be warned, there is power in a True name.” It declared.
Nanna felt fear but it felt like he needed to answer. He tried to speak but could not. He just nodded his head back in forth assenting to his last name. Autumn looked conflicted from the side. She then clenched her fist and had a determined gleam in her eye.
“I will turn all these negatives into positives. I shall right all my wrongs and return to my homeland knowing that my sacrifices were not in vain.” She whispers so low that she could barely hear it. She turned to Nanna and thought. “I will train you into someone worthy of that name. You shall be whipped in shape accordingly. Our fate is still to be determined. My death is fine but my people shall survive and this wolf cub life will not be endangered.” She thought as she began to arrange a training program directly for him. She had to reevaluate her plan.
“Very well. You are now Nanna Artemas. This choice I hope you do not regret and please, defy my expectations.” The voice slowly faded away and the monotone voice appeared once more.
“What is the condition for this rite?” the monotone voice stated, snapping Autumn back to reality.
A pressure fell on Autumn and she remembered she has not told of the conditions for both sides. She proceeds to read off the list of the already agreed on conditions. The voice began to speak.
“Are these conditions for this rite agreed upon by both parties, Autumn Artemas and Nanna Artemas?” The monotone voice declared in an even tone?
“I do.” Autumn declared in a booming voice, almost as if she was trying to convince herself. Nanna just simply nodded, terrified at the whole process. The voice continued. “ Then the rite of the soul is binding starting now for all eternity. This rite will disappear if both parties fulfill their end or both agree to annul.” The voice seems to hover over both parties.
Once the voice ended, Autumn began to fly at nanna and went through her. Once she blinked, she began to see things at a different height than usual. She was lower to the ground but she felt like she was just spectating through a window. She realizes she was seeing things through Nanna's point of view. Nanna then began to roll around on the ground screaming while everything faded away. The last thing she heard was the voice ending with “the rite is complete” before she saw she was back at the lake.