I returned to the Admin Room after creating the queen of the world spirits, but only long enough to change my body and descend to the underworld with Irena’s pen. This time, the process to absorb the spiritual energy went far smoother, as Leowynn was more aware of her own limits. She gained another thirty-six levels before her face appeared to be in pain again and she immediately stopped.
Unlike before, she did not fall unconscious as soon as we came back to the Admin Room, even though Irena was waiting on standby. She instead remained within my spiritual realm, and seemed to be meditating. Thankful that the situation was not as bad this time, I smiled to Irena, setting the world to fast forward another ten years before falling into bed and taking what I could only hope would be the mother of all naps.
Within the Sky Citadel, life was calm. The citadel itself lacked nothing for its three inhabitants, save perhaps for the comfort of others. For such a large space, there lived only three people, and at first none of them even spoke the same language.
There was the halfling, Trixy, who spent her days exploring the citadel as if she were a little mouse. She loved to look in every nook and cranny, seeing if she could find anything. Over time, she even became quite close with the halfling goddess, who would sometimes visit the castle to play hide and seek with her. Not exactly a fair competition… but the two of them seemed to enjoy it.
Then there was the human, Melora. She was… far less playful. Melora spent most of her time in her room, only occasionally stepping out when she needed to eat. Even then, she would often try to coerce one of the others into cooking for her. Perhaps that was the only real reason she even bothered to study the Keeper’s tongue.
Of course… such coercion never really got her anywhere, and only made her view the other two residents of the citadel poorly, and vice versa. Especially the kitsune, Tsubaki. Her appearance and dedication to maintaining the citadel caused Melora to view her as little more than a maidservant to order around.
If Tsubaki was not cleaning, or sparring with Trixy and her martial spirit, she could be found in the library, constantly poring over books. For the most part, Tsubaki was the only one that used the library. Trixy attempted to after finally learning the Keeper’s language, but found that the books were too difficult for her. As for Melora, she could occasionally be seen going into the library, but only long enough to look through one or two books that would be immediately helpful to her.
Then came the communication room. This one was quite popular among all three of the girls, as it allowed them to have that social connection that they missed so much over time. Undoubtedly, Trixy spent the most time here among all of them. She would spend long hours in the room, chatting to her friends and family until one of the others began to complain that they needed it as well.
Next came Tsubaki, though she used the device for far less personal reasons. Ever the dedicated maid, she spread teachings to every kingdom of the beastkin. She did not teach much, as it would take time for each kingdom to adapt to the new information, but what she did teach was knowledge previously unknown to them.
And finally, there was Melora. Like Trixy, she would visit the room only to talk to those she knew before, such as her friends. Though, she used the room far less than either of the other two. One time… she used the device to contact the queen of Hanbei, letting her know that their plan would not be as ‘easy’ as they had wished. The queen became furious, and that was the last time that Melora ever contacted her.
However… it wasn’t only the beastkin that Tsubaki made contact with. After one year had passed, once Trixy had shown that she was starting to become fluent enough with the Keeper’s tongue to hold a conversation, she began to reach out.
Hello? You are the representative of the elves, are you not? A gentle voice spoke into Bracken’s mind, shocking him from his slumber. Although it may have been midday for Tsubaki, it was instead early in the morning for the elf.
“Huh? What was that?” He asked warily, glancing about the room. The voice was unfamiliar, but the language… “Keeper? Are you truly a woman as well?” He was amazed at the idea, his eyes going round.
...I shall pretend that I did not hear that. No, my name is Tsubaki. I am the representative of this world’s beastkin.
“Oh, quite, yes, my apologies.” Bracken laughed lightly, shaking his head. “Apologies, I am familiar with your kind. However, I cannot say that I had the chance to catch your name when we last met. May I ask what you are wish to speak with me for? Is it word from the Keeper?”
In a manner of speaking, you are not wrong. The voice said, before letting out a sigh. It is fortunate that you have finished learning his language, for that will make this far easier. Within the citadel, there is a library of knowledge that the Keeper has amassed. He wishes this knowledge to be shared equally, and so I am--what are you doing?
Bracken stood against the wall of his room, banging his head loudly against the rock wall. After the second strike, his health bar appeared above his head. “Stupid! Of course he had such an amazing thing! Why didn’t I expect that!?”
The voice went silent, seeming to want to wait for him to be done. After a few minutes, he had stopped, rubbing the bleeding spot on his forehead with a sigh. “Once again, you have my apologies, Tsubaki. But please, could you ask the Keeper to give me another chance? I do not wish to miss out on the wonders held within those halls!”
Bracken was not chosen for his strength, nor for his political power, nor for his appearance. Bracken was selected as the representative of all elves for one simple reason… He had an almost limitless desire to learn. He was easily one of the most intelligent elves alive. In fact, the only reason that he had originally refused to live within the citadel was because he felt that there was still more for him to learn among his own people.
Not even for a moment did he stop to consider that the palace of the Keeper, older than the world itself, would have a library of knowledge yet untapped. Why would he, as the Keeper was so far above and removed from worldly affairs that such knowledge should be trivial to him? However, hearing that such a thing really existed… He could only scold his past self for being foolish.
There was another sigh echoing within Bracken’s mind. I will speak to him when next he walks these halls. However, when that will happen is unclear. There is even the chance that I will die to time before seeing the Lord again.
“Oh, yes, right. Your people have such short lives…” Bracken said in a sorrowful tone, feeling genuinely remorseful of this fact. Without life-prolonging abilities, most beastkin, dwarves, halflings, and centaurs would die by the same age that an elf truly entered adulthood. Bracken wasn’t sure about the other races, but he felt it should be the same for them as well. Likely, it was a unique quality of the elves to live for so long unaided.
...Indeed. Anyways, may I continue?
“What? Oh, right! You said that he wanted the knowledge to be shared.” Bracken rapidly nodded his head, moving to the stand next to his bed to retrieve a book and pencil. “Please, any information that you can impart would be greatly appreciated, my dear!”
Tsubaki let out a sigh as she opened the door to the communication room. She had made first contact with every representative, except one. Well, that was not entirely accurate. She had contacted the representative of the heroc, but it was not exactly useful. As it turns out, he had died only weeks after his appearance within the citadel. So while his spirit could be contacted, it would not aid her in her wish to spread the information to that race as well.
As she left the room, she saw Melora there, waiting. Judging by the look of irritation on the human woman’s face, she had been waiting for quite some time. Or only ten minutes, it was really hard to tell with how impatient she became. “About time.” Melora said as she stormed past, making it a point to shove her shoulder against Tsubaki’s.
Tsubaki’s eyebrow raised just slightly as she felt the woman gather the ki in her shoulder in preparation for the impact. However, she did not avoid it. As if she had never suspected the ‘attack’ she allowed it to happen.
A loud cry echoed through the hall as Melora recoiled from the contact. Her arm felt like it was on fire, muscle and bone shifting suddenly. She could no longer feel any ki in that arm, and the arm’s appearance was reverting to what it looked like before she modified her body with her ki.
“Y-you! You attacked me!” Melora screamed, pointing her other hand at Tsubaki, who was still casually walking away. “I’ll have you killed for this! You violated the rules of this citadel! The Keeper will not stand for it!”
Tsubaki simply walked calmly, until the word ‘Keeper’ slipped from Melora’s lips. Then, her feet froze. She turned her head to glare coldly at Melora. “Do not think me blind, harlot. Had you not wished me harm, my power would not have sought you out. You wished to take my arm from me and claim it an accident, did you not? Claim that my body is so fragile that even a light brush against you could leave me crying on the floor?”
Melora’s face paled as she heard that. In fact, it was not far from the truth. She had never seen Tsubaki sparring with Trixy, as she spent most of her time in her room. The feeling that the kitsune gave off was even weaker than the maids that had attended her before she moved to the citadel. She may not have wanted to destroy Tsubaki’s arm, but surely, hurting her was something that could be hoped for.
Furthermore, if it appeared to be an accident, nobody could blame her for it. There was no doubt in her mind that the gods could restore whatever small injuries the bump caused. However, now she learned that Tsubaki had some strange ‘power’ within her that struck back because it perceived an attack?
Naturally, Tsubaki had no such power. She had merely used her control of ki to rip the energy out of Melora’s shoulder when they made contact. The monks of Hanbei studied ki to make their lives better, more comfortable. But the ninjas of the forest had spent thousands of years analyzing its properties, and all the different ways to use it.
Tsubaki’s cold glare made Melora shiver even further as she spoke again. “I will not punish you for your slight this time. But know this, wench. If you ever dare to use my Lord’s name in one of your schemes again, even the gods will not find your body.” After saying that, she turned to walk down the hall once again.
Melora stared at the retreating figure, blinking slowly. Her mind was reeling from that warning. She had wanted to injure Tsubaki to make up for the maid not serving her this past year, and yet she had been the one hurt instead. Not only that, but her life had been threatened. And Melora was quite sure that Tsubaki could carry out that threat. Knowledge that only made her shriek out when, after she finished blinking, Tsubaki’s figure had vanished from the hall.