I was, honestly, a bit surprised at what I had stumbled across when I looked at the ninjas. The villages were mobilizing, people of all four beastkin races coming out of the forest. Although it wasn’t even half of the total population of the ninjas, there were still quite a lot of them, mostly from the younger population.
The one thing that they all had in common? All of them were below level three hundred. I sped up the world, enough to watch the group quickly moving through the transport gates to the elven lands, then through the fairy gate to Fyor.
What was… most surprising about this whole thing wasn’t simply the mobilization. After they arrived in Fyor, they immediately all split up. Each of them found somewhere secluded, and then began to change their own appearances through the use of ki. They caused their ears to lower on their skulls and look more human, and their tails disappeared entirely.
Yes, they had all made themselves appear to be human. From there, they began to take different routes. Some contacted priests to go to various floors, others moved from gate to gate. But they all had a single destination, the twelfth floor. The underground layer that once played host to the now-extinct dark elves.
For some, they were able to arrive directly, and began moving through the caves. For this part, they actually began to stick together, acting like adventuring parties. They navigated the caves in an odd criss-crossing pattern, but never really seemed to be lost.
After a while, they stopped at a certain point along the caves, and began pulling out pickaxes. The tinking of metal hitting stone could be heard rapidly over the monitors, each strike causing the wall to recede slightly. I watched as they carved out a small territory, the entrance to which they then concealed with four talismans, creating what appeared to be a natural rock wall.
By the time that they were done, some of the other ninjas began to arrive in the layer as well. It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, but they followed the exact same criss-crossing path that the previous group took. They stopped at the same stretch of wall, placing their hands against it. Then, as if the wall wasn’t there, they simply began to walk inside.
This group began to help the first one in expanding the territory that they had established for themselves, while also constructing various houses out of the mined stones. As for the rest, it appeared that they stored them in various quest scrolls. Those scrolls were then stored inside of a storage bag that acted as their ‘warehouse’.
The entire mobilization took nearly two years before the last batch of ninjas had arrived on the twelfth floor. At that point, one of the ninjas retrieved a silver stone from their pocket, a piece of intercite judging by the system identification. Using their shaman abilities to locate more of the same material, they once again spread their way through the caves.
The only difference in their behaviour now, as opposed to when they were ‘moving in’, was something that they did along the way. Whenever they encountered any of the glowing stones that lit the various caverns, they mined them out, storing them as well. This left any cave they passed through in total darkness.
I shook my head, realizing that the ninjas had essentially established a branch colony in this layer of Fyor, all for the sake of mining that stone. While the years passed, they began to send shipments back in the form of traders passing through Earth. Merchants were in place in the elven capital, where they passed off nondescript storage items. It had turned into a full blown smuggling ring.
I could only sigh, letting that progress as I shifted my gaze back towards the Great Blue. Another ten years had passed since the ‘Mana Siphon’ incident, so it was worth taking a look.
“Really?” Rache asked with an exasperated sigh, sitting in front of Magister Laerin’s desk. “It was you? I had that goth girl pegged from the start.”
Magister Laerin, or Katrina Laerin, simply smiled slightly. “Sorry, Rivy. I don’t like to shift things of their course. I suppose this means that I win, though?”
“Yeah, yeah, you win. What’ll it be this time? Want help getting another date?” Rache grinned mischievously as she asked that, causing the magister’s cheeks to redden.
“N-no, not this time. I’d like your help completing my assignment.” Katrina shook her head, her face recovering to its normal palor. “You’re a magister as well. With two of us working on the issue, we should be able to get things to work more easily.”
Rache let out another sigh. “Alright, let’s hear it. What kind of help do you want?”
Katrina smiled wide, nodding her head at the acceptance. “I’ve written a draft for some mandates that we could push at the next Circle gathering. They’ll give the dovah a bit more power. They still won’t be able to join the highest ring, but it’s a start.”
The halfling leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes at that. “Another step towards equality, huh? Yeah, I’m down for that. I’ve been doing what I can for that front, but the votes have been against me for a while. Maybe another voice speaking out will help. And you are one of our rising stars.”
Katrina simply lowered her head a bit at that. “You have no idea how inconvenient this body has been for me… I’ve spent most of her life looking for a cure to the blight. Everything that I’ve come up with only treats the symptoms.”
“On the bright side, the mana levels are back to normal now, so new blight babies haven’t been born in years.” Rache spoke up, obviously trying to comfort her friend. “Once Katrina’s gone, you shouldn’t have that issue for the next one, right?”
Katrina looked a bit saddened by that news nonetheless, causing Rache to shake her head immediately. “Ah, sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I know that you get attached to all of your incarnations.”
“I know, Rivy.” Katrina softly smiled towards her. “And this one… in a way, she’s special. I’ve experienced new things as Katrina that I never did before. A world with no light. A world where even the tiniest hope shines brighter than Earth’s sun. Last week, I was asked to preside over a birth. The parents were so happy to have me there.”
”Not because I was a magister, or even because I was a woman. Just because I was a person, and I had agreed to offer their baby the first bit of light that it would see in this world. I served as much function as a lit candle, and they were still overjoyed.”
Rache’s eyes actually began to water as she listened to that. “Yeah, I’ve been there… You never really value what you have until it’s not there anymore, right? But for these people, especially this newer generation like you… they never saw daylight in the first place. They were born in the darkness, molded by it. And in the darkness, they’ll eventually find their rest. As will their children, and their children’s children.”
Katrina’s smile turned a bit more bitter at that. “By the time the mana spire is restored, I doubt daylight will be more than a legend passed down to the people. Last I checked, there weren’t any elves in the Great Blue when it broke. The Council tried to block the otherworld adventurers from the discoveries. So there won’t be a single person that lived here during the entire night.”
“Tsubaki would totally do it if she were still here.” Rache said in an amused tone, earning a groan from her friend. “What, you know she would. She’d just stand out on the edge of the Citadel, staring at the spire without moving unless he came down to visit.”
“I hate it because you’re right.” Katrina pointed out. “Rivy, I know you love your ninjas, but don’t you think that they took it a bit far with the Servant Corps?”
“Well, maybe a little?” She shrugged her shoulders with an innocent expression. “I wasn’t expecting them to be such extremists when it came to that. I mean, the test of blood… You know I’d never ask for them to put kids through that kind of thing.”
Katrina had a somewhat bitter smile on her face as she heard that. “I know… I lived through it myself.”
“Wait, what?” Rache suddenly shot up in her seat. “When were you a Servant? Why didn’t I ever know about this?!”
“It was a few lifetimes ago.” Katrina simply waved the question off. “I got assigned to some battle-lord. He wanted me to be the next Tsubaki, and had us challenge one of the Disasters together. It was a short-lived relationship.”
Rache chuckled a bit at that. “People forget that Tsubaki only hunted that one because of Cali’s bow. Even then… she was already ‘perfect’ at that time. Sorry, but your lord was an idiot.”
“I don’t disagree with you. Now… can we go over those mandates before people start to get suspicious of why you’re in here so long..?”
So that’s what they’re like when they meet up in an incarnation… wait, does that mean that my date with Irena was the result of one of their bets? I grumbled mentally when I realized the implications of that. Still, at least it looked like they were having fun, and I was able to get a look at how they behaved when they weren’t necessarily aware that I was watching.
Shaking my head, I decided to give another glance towards Lorek. To my surprise, it appeared that Tubrock had stopped fast forwarding the world, as only about a day had passed since my last look.
“Clan Master!” Those within the Lightning Clan respectfully greeted their Clan Master as he walked through the caves. There was a vicious expression on his face, his previous discovery at the Water Clan’s home still clear in his mind.
“Call the council!” He shouted, his voice echoing like thunder through the cave system. Those standing nearest him with weak cultivations began to grow dizzy at the noise, blood dripping from their ears.
With the Water Clan gone, there was no longer a secure route to the ancestral land. It was no longer possible to make the journey without risk of loss, and the Clan Master himself was incapable of protecting an entire fleet. One or two ships, that was easy. But, could he be expected to personally ferry one or two ships across, dozens of times?
The Water Clan had taken drastic action in abandoning their home. In doing so, they had also abandoned the other dwarf clans. Once the news spread of this betrayal, they would never be safe. Every clan would target them, making them a public enemy, and the greatest evil among the dwarves.
However, there was also a cause for him to worry. If they left, then surely they had gone to the ancestral land. By the time the other clans arrived and found them, how many legacies would they be able to find? How many new Masters would they cultivate? Would the other clans even be able to afford to do battle with them by then?
These worries flooded the Clan Master’s mind before he received a message. A transmission straight into his mind, one of the specialties of the Formations Clan. The Spear Master wishes a meeting with you, sir.
This made the Clan Master pause. Did he also discover the Water Clan’s absence? If he was making contact in this manner, it meant that he was already prepared to involve the other clans, whether the Lightning Clan’s Master agreed to do so or not. This only added to the anger in his expression, his body crackling with electricity before he vanished, a sound like thunder shaking the cave.