“You can’t teach employees to smile. They have to smile before you hire them.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
***Kingdom Newerth, Capital City***
“Why don’t we find another subject to talk about? Like how to deal with the spirits? I am afraid that we could get a real crisis on our hands if we handle this the wrong way. And we didn’t exactly get anywhere during the past three hours,” I say while I try to keep eye contact with everyone. We are still at the buffet, talking to Beth.
Beth shrugs and tilts her head. “Why am I not surprised that you guys are involved in all of this. If there is mayhem and a general threat to the multiverse itself, one can be sure that the three of you aren’t far away. Though I am not entirely sure that you guys aren’t the actual threat.”
“Hiii!” Beth jumps half a metre into the air as Shade appears out of thin air right behind her.
He ignores her and continues, “And I heard that we found yet another one of our old friends. Seems like this multiverse wants to reunite us with old acquaintances.”
She steps back to gain some distance from him. “It’s you! …But why four?” She bites her lower lip with a wary expression on her face.
“Oh, that’s simple.” I step closer to Marcus and hug him from the side, pressing a wet kiss onto his cheek. “Mom and Dad were so nice to include Marcus in our little bond. I’ve finally found a partner to share my life with, so it’s four from now on.”
Marcus starts smiling, but Beth ruthlessly crushes his bubble by addressing him directly, “My sincere condolences. Do you realize that you committed to a bond which reaches beyond death?” She looks at all of us in turn.
Marcus tries to answer, but Shade is faster and doesn’t allow Beth to shut him out. “Oh, don’t try to ignore me. It has been such a long time, Lidith.” Shade steps forward and hugs Beth, who stiffens upon the unexpected contact. She gently pushes him away. “Thanks, but I go by Beth now. I would appreciate it if you try to use the new name.”
Shade nods. “Of course.” Strangely enough, he doesn’t pursue the matter and steps back. “Why don’t we celebrate a little? I think that I’ve found a way to interrupt the signal which is controlling the spirits! If we manage to utilize this against their base, we might be able to win without fighting.” He spreads his hands, expecting praise.
Beth squints her eyes at Shade. “But?”
Seems like she doesn’t believe that my father suddenly came up with a solution to the spirit problem. I admit that it sounds too good to be true.
“What do you mean?” Dad lets his hands fall to the sides of his body.
“I remember your antics perfectly well. If you advertise one of your little gadgets as you just did, then there is a catch to it. Spit it out. What’s the problem?” Beth waves her hand at Shade, gesturing away his enthusiasm.
“Ahem, well. You obviously remember at least some things about me.”
Dad shows his open palms as an offering of peace. “Okay, let’s just say that the range of my device isn’t exactly mentionable. To be honest, we’ve to plug it into their communication system.” He scratches his head, a guilty expression on his face.
This time it’s my turn to throw up my hands. “Then what help is your device? If we’ve already fought our path all the way into their station, then blowing it up is just a formality. Why would we bother to use their communication system to send your strange signal if the result is the same?”
He raises a finger to stop me. “You would be right, if the signal was an ordinary one. If I’ve made no mistake, then my signal has the exact frequency to cause a resonance effect with their souls. I’ve thought long and hard about it. The multiverse abhors the fusion of different souls. It’s like a physical law. A quantum wave that intersects with others always tries to return to its original state.
“That’s also why a-” he raises both hands and makes air quotes with his fingers, “-‘damaged’ soul automatically repairs itself. It requires complicated magical constructs to prevent this auto-repair function from forcibly dispersing the spirit’s soul. Of course, spirits can be born naturally in mana storms, but they should die within a few months to up to a year after their birth. It’s a shame that I didn’t realize it earlier.”
“So the spirits which are created by our enemy have some kind of protection? An enchantment that protects the different parts of their soul from rejecting each other? And if you manage to interrupt that enchantment, then their souls will disperse like they do when they die?” Marcus asks. “That’s brilliant! I would’ve never thought that you actually had a reason to avoid our party with the ambassadors.”
Shade cocks his eyebrows in silent surprise. “Why did you think that I was hiding in my basement?”
I answer with a little guilt in my voice. “We thought that you were trying to avoid your responsibilities, loading off all the work on us.”
Shade blinks, looking at me as if I am some kind of strange bug. “My work is always important. I can’t be bothered with suppressing all the other realms. Have they sworn their fealty? Or why are you guys already partying?”
Elona links arms with Shade. “Honeybear, why don’t you leave the diplomatic stuff to people who actually have an idea of diplomacy? So, why exactly should we kill the spirits with this new signal of yours?”
He purses his lips. “The enemy constantly sends a signal to control the spirits. If we send out our own signal, then we might not get the desired result. The two signals could interfere with each other. But if we send it over their own system, we might be able to send it over their whole network. If the plan succeeds we might be able to get them all. Then we just have to wait for a few months.
“I admit that it doesn’t stop them from creating new ones, but they are obviously stockpiling them like ammunition. If we destroy their supply of drones, then they are restricted to what they can produce.” Dad turns towards Beth and looks at her expectantly.
She furrows her forehead in apparent suspicion that something is up. “What?”
“Do you still have your berserker ability?”
“Great! You can be our spear-point. I suspect that their main base will have a lot more troops, now that they know that we are on their tails. Maybe we can recruit Adea too. Her deathray will clear a path.”