After seeing Leowynn falling asleep, I glanced towards the glowing orb that represented the Aki Seppo martial art. I had glanced through it before, hoping to get a quick bit of training in between conversations with her, but what I had found surprised me. Only about half of the information contained within the sphere was instructions on the martial art itself. The other half was explaining its origins, of Aki and Seppo.
Though, that does explain why it was the only one that did not have a translated name in the market, since its name was just the names of its founders. As for the story, it was how I told it to Leowynn, though she wasn’t awake to hear the end. And, considering everything, she had chosen a good time to fall asleep.
I knit my brows together as I thought about the rest of the story. After Aki returned to Seppo’s home, he found it lying in ruins. All of her clansmen had been slain by Aki’s own father. He did not have much family, but his father had always doted on him. When the two of them ran away together, his father had vented his anger on Seppo’s family.
Naturally, this drove Aki and Seppo both to the brink of despair and madness. Seppo mourned the loss of her family, but could not bring herself to blame Aki for the sins of his father. Yet, Aki himself was different, blaming both himself and his father for what had happened. After all, if they did not run away, would his father have truly done this?
Once again, the two of them left that small town, but this time for a different reason. Both of them wanted to avenge Seppo’s family, even if Seppo herself kept that desire buried in her heart. So they trained, becoming stronger than the fiercest of warriors, and fully exploring and evolving their new union.
The next time they returned to the city, Aki’s father stood waiting for them in front of the gates. He welcomed his son back with a smile, as if nothing had ever gone wrong. Aki’s father could not understand the bloodlust contained within his son’s eyes, even to the point where he initially failed to fight back when Aki attacked him.
His moment of carelessness ultimately led to his undoing, as his own son joined hands with the woman he had come to detest, working together to slay him. But how could that truly lead Aki to finding peace? He had just killed his own father, after all. So for one last time, they left the city, returning to their mountain peak. This time, they never again descended from the shrine.
I shook my head as I thought about the true ending to the story. It seemed it really was too much to hope for a happy ending to tales like these. However, it did serve to explain how powerful the technique he developed was.
Aki Seppo had strict requirements for the users. Like its original creators, the spirit had to have a powerful bond of trust with the person who they are being bound to. In a sense, it was similar to the spirit I watched battling in the afterlife, though he could only be said to have reached the first stage of this art. Surely, if he had received the information in the sphere, he would have been able to master it entirely.
Aki Seppo has three stages, though given its nature they are vaguely defined as benchmarks. The first stage, the initial manifestation, has the user channeling his bonded spirit into a form which they find most comfortable, granting certain abilities based on their own power and history. That is how he made those swords that seemed to give him extremely powerful attacks.
As for its second stage, it was known as ‘true manifestation’. This was when you were able to truly personify the spirit into the weapon, bringing out a far greater power that represented that spirit’s entire history and personality. According to what the information said, it wasn’t uncommon for a true manifestation to make someone comparable to an army on their own.
Finally, there was the last stage. ‘Body and soul as one’, a stage where the user was able to temporarily switch with their spirit, essentially doubling the variety that they had available in their attacks. Someone who completed all three stages could really become strong, from what I could tell.
Yet, I couldn’t help but recall the requirements to perform it again. A spirit who has an intense bond of trust with me? Naturally, that couldn’t be any of the goddess’s incarnations. Not because of the trust factor, but from what I have been able to tell, their spirits return to them after their incarnations die, rather than going to the afterlife.
I could probably bypass that requirement by using a World Host. I mean, who would trust me more than myself? The only problem I could see there would be that its soul and mine would be too similar, so I wouldn’t really be able to bring out the full power of it.
Thinking about it to that point, I couldn’t help but turn my attention towards the sleeping Leowynn. If there was one person that could meet all of the qualifications, it’d be her. However, could I really do that? I mean… if I were to groom her to be my ‘Seppo’, then wouldn’t that in itself destroy the bond of trust?
Thinking about it, I pulled out a piece of paper, and then began writing a message to Ryone.
“Mom, what are we doing out here?” Leowynn asked curiously, glancing around. This was the furthest that she had ever been from the city, so she was confused when her mother had suddenly told her that they were going out for a bit today. Already they had left the plains behind them, walking into a forest that would have normally taken several days to reach, yet their speed seemed far faster than normal.
“We’re almost there.” Her mother spoke gently, holding Leowynn’s hand in hers. Leowynn wasn’t sure why, but Rinon seemed nervous today. Her face, which had aged well to barely have any wrinkles when she was over four hundred years old, seemed shaken by something.
Leowynn barely had the mind to notice that no monsters or beasts had approached them since they left. Even for her, it was not uncommon for some monsters to attack when she wandered too far from the city. Yet, they were being left completely undisturbed.
It was only after they had walked for another hour when Rinon finally stopped. The two of them were standing in front of a flowing brook, a large rock sitting next to it which Rinon walked over and sat on, muttering to herself. “Okay… this should be far enough, I think.”
“Uhm… mom… what’s going on?” Leowynn asked, starting to grow nervous herself. There were only a few reasons that she could think of as to why her mother led her out here suddenly, so far from town. And none of them were good.
“Don’t panic, dear.” Rinon urged, shaking her head in an attempt to dissuade Leowynn of her negative thoughts. “I just… wanted to tell you something. And we couldn’t be near the town when I did.”
“You’ll understand when I finish.” Rinon assured her, taking a deep breath. “So… you met your father, huh?”
Leowynn’s face tightened up when she heard that, her body going stiff. “How did you know that?”
“Well… he told me?” Rinon responded with a small smile. “He wanted me to let you know a couple things about myself, too.”
“Wait, so you knew?” Leowynn couldn’t hold back from asking. If her mother knew all along about her father… “I thought you said that my god’s blood came from Ryone?” Her tone turned slightly accusatory as she said that, believing that her mother had been knowingly lying to her all these years.
“Well, I’m not wrong?” Rinon asked with a sheepish smile, looking down and to the side to avoid her daughter’s gaze. “You are Ryone’s daughter.”
“Unless you mean to tell me that I was an abandoned child left in your care, you should start explaining.” Leowynn’s eyes almost seemed to glow as her emotions were thrown into turmoil, her fists tightening beside her.
“What? No! Not at all, we would never do something like that!” Rinon instantly lifted her head up, denying her daughter’s words. However, there was only one word that Leowynn seemed to focus on.
“Uhm… well, I mean… Yeah.” Rinon once again looked down in embarrassment, trying to find the words she wanted to say. “After all… I’m Ryone.” Her voice turned incredibly small as she said that, almost enough that Leowynn would fail to hear.
“Mother. Those words are blasphemous, and you know it.” Leowynn recoiled in shock, glancing around to make sure that there was truly nobody to overhear what her mother had just said. It’s not like there hadn’t been people claiming to be incarnations of the gods before. One woman had almost succeeded in making the church into her pawns when she had an ‘unfortunate accident’ that caused her magic to turn against her.
“But it’s true!” Rinon almost shouted back, her thin hands hitting the rock below her. “And I can prove it, too. Just pray, not to him, but to Ryone.” She crossed her arms beneath her chest, staring at her daughter expectantly.
“But…” Leowynn was worried that if she did this, and attracted the Goddess’s attention, her mother might not be let off for the words she had spoken. Yet, seeing her determined appearance, she couldn’t help but relent. “Okay.”
Holy Goddess, I beseech you to offer your forgiveness to my mother, for she has spoken against you and claimed your identity. I fear that age is starting to take its toll on her mind. I implore you to show compassion, as my mother has no ill intent. Leowynn closed her eyes and prayed as sincerely as she could to Ryone, not noticing the incredulous expression on her mother just a few feet away.
Hey, I’m not that old! Just who do you think is going crazy! A surprised shout resounded in Leowynn’s mind a moment later, nearly causing her to fall to the ground. The voice was unmistakably her mother’s, yet she could also feel it as the voice of the Goddess.
“That… that’s not funny.” Leowynn muttered in disbelief as she regained her balance, looking to her mother. Had she done something to interfere with her daughter’s thoughts?
“Did not!” Rinon shouted out defensively. “This is why I wanted to move so far away from town. I knew you’d never believe me that easily.” She grumbled slightly.
Leowynn was just about to protest, when her mother’s eyes became dull, her body relaxing as if she had suddenly fallen into a sleep. She was just about to rush forward in a panic to help her steady herself when she found her body unable to move, a strange might pressing down on her from all sides. Gradually, a golden light descended from above, another woman appearing within the light next to Rinon.
“G….goddess…” Leowynn said in shock. How could she not recognize the woman whose statue was erected just outside of town? Even without that, anyone would recognize her at a glance, just because of who she was! “Please… forgive her. She… she didn’t mean anything by it.”
Leowynn’s mind was racing, fearing that Ryone had descended due to her prayer and Rinon’s previous outburst. She didn’t want the Goddess to take away her mother, and could only plead for lenience. However, the Goddess suddenly had a petulant expression as she looked at Leowynn. “How many times do I have to say I’m not crazy!?”
“What..?” Leowynn’s eyes opened wide in shock as she heard those words, slowly moving her eyes back towards Rinon, and then to the Goddess again. She could understand the prayer being faked, with her mother’s mastery over magic, but to fake the presence of Ryone herself should be well beyond anything she was capable of. “But… how?”
Ryone sighed gently, the pressure on Leowynn’s body lessening greatly. “I really didn’t want to tell you this way, my daughter. I had hoped you could live a fairly normal life.” As she spoke, she seemed to superimpose herself over Rinon, who gradually seemed to wake up again. “However, your father seemed insistent that I tell you about us.”
Leowynn was still struggling to understand what was going on, yet the mention of her father caused a change in her. She seemed to almost become more obedient at the mention of him, wanting to know more. “Okay. Please, explain.” She said softly, moving to sit next to her mother. “Why now?”
Rinon chuckled lightly. “First, let me tell you something. After that, he wanted me to deliver a question to you. There are things you don’t know, things that nobody knows yet.” Seeing her daughter nod gently, Rinon began speaking again. “You have seen the winged spirits, my ‘angels’?”
“Of course.” Leowynn answered. It had taken a few years after she began practicing the ability to see spirits, but she had eventually seen those winged spirits descending and leading others to Ryone’s embrace. They were an iconic figure within the church, but due to nobody having conversed with them, little was known about what they were.
“Well… those aren’t really my angels at all.” Rinon shrugged as she spoke. “They work for someone else, to lead the departed into a pleasant afterlife. Normally, you’d find out about that when it’s your turn, but your father wanted me to tell you early.”
“Why?” She couldn’t help but ask again. Even though she knew her mother was the Goddess now, she didn’t feel at all like she did around her father. She had known her mother from birth, so she did not feel nervous talking to her like this. If anything, she was more upset that she didn’t hear about this sooner.
“Because I won’t be going there.” Rinon shook her head, reaching out one lightly glowing arm to pull her daughter close. “This body, Rinon, is an incarnation of my power. When she dies, her spirit will simply return to me. I won’t be able to wait for you beyond, and can only watch over you from above.”
Her words struck Leowynn’s heart, making her feel a twinge of panic. She recalled how years ago she had spoken to her father about her mother’s inevitable death, and knew that these two conversations had to be linked. “Then… he won’t be there either?”
Rinon shook her head again. “No, he watches the world from a much higher place. That’s why, he asked me to deliver a question to you. He wants you to think about it, and give him the answer yourself when the time comes.”
After saying that, Rinon turned her head to look fully at her daughter. “His question was… ‘Will you be my Seppo? Will you give up your future possibilities, to stay by my side and the side of your mother? When the time comes, I will appear before you again, and ask this question. Leowynn… please think carefully’.”
“I’m not entirely sure what he means by ‘Seppo’, but I can guess from the rest.” Rinon continued after delivering the message. “I’ll tell you whatever you want to know to help you make your decision, but you have to promise not to let the information spread. People just aren’t ready to know about everything yet.”
Leowynn’s mind shook as she heard the question, enough that she barely registered what her mother said next. She dumbly nodded her head, still trying to process the information. Naturally, she wanted nothing more than to be able to stay with her mother and father, but… given the words he used, she would truly have to learn everything she could to make the proper decision.