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I was asked about reading my work on other sites.
The answer is simple: Currently I am not active in any other networks than royalroadl.com. Only here, I correct mistakes and errors.
If you read it anywhere else and have to pay for it, or have to deal with an annoying amount of advertisement, You Are Being Betrayed.
You would do good if you make other people in that network aware of it. This is a free project of mine for the purpose of having fun. And if people try to make money with it you shouldn't bother visiting their website.
I have no problem with translation and reposting of the story, as long as the person in question isn't doing it for money or stealing my identity.
The only one whom I actually allowed to have my work on his website is Armaell who invested the time to compile them into pdf.
“Where there is one...”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
***Kingdom Newerth, Capital City***
Humming, I rock back and forth while I try to reach farther outwards with my spirit. Using the new pathways isn't a piece of cake. My parents tried their best to make it as hard as possible for strangers to utilize them. The most important of those safety features was to make the pathways almost unnoticeable. If people don't know that something is there, then they won't try to mess with it.
The new pathways are now noticeable to me for the first time. If I force myself into a trance, I can sense them as faint lines of energy all around me. Funny to think of them as the roots of a metaphysical entity which is slowly spreading throughout the whole multiverse. My parents are truly insane to devise a plan like this. What if something goes wrong?
It will still take some time until I can use them. And then I have to decide on what to do.
So far, all I did was collecting information. Revealing myself as foreigner would have probably done me no good. Especially since we can't communicate with Dedessia anyway. All it would have accomplished, would have been that I became the one who had to answer uncomfortable questions. It's not like I know the big secret which makes Dedessia different from Newerth.
Maybe it's the blue sky, or the way they deal with their spirit forms. Nothing which they could change overnight. Even if I tell them now, it probably won't make much difference in the long run. All I have are guesses, and bad ones at that. It's surely not like the people of this realm didn't try different ways to control their dark nature. If it had been something that's easily solved, then surely someone would have stumbled across the solution.
Though not all of the spirit form's instincts are bad. My mother's succubus side is very... ah... damn! Now I lost concentration. The pathways are gone.
I sigh and open my eyes. My apartment is dark. All the light is coming from the six candles which mark the points of the hexagram in which I am sitting.
Sighing, I get up and order one of the brooms to clean up the salt which is forming a pentagram between the circles. Despite the benefits of many modern, magical systems, using some candles and a salt ring as focus points is still a very cheap and easy way to increase the control over magical formations. Apart from that it helps to sharpen the ability to sense energy.
A circle of dry salt has a very distinct energy signature which can be used to calibrate the caster's energies. The energy which is provided by the candles forms a beacon to return to.
Many who dive too deeply into such a deep trance never return, but it's important to sharpen one's sense for mana. Especially when it comes to performing soul magic and other forms of highly sensitive energy manipulations. My Dad always says that mastering and understanding one's own soul is the first step to manipulating others.
I blow a strand of hair out of my face and survey the room. Then I start collecting the candles. Once the pathways are usable, I will have to reveal myself. Or I carry all the information back home and let my parents decide. Though it's not really a choice in the long run. If we ignore this realm, it could mean that we just have to fight more enemies later on.
At least the normal development of the pathways means that I don't have to use the mana storm again. That was one ride I am glad that I'm not going to have to repeat. I may have chaos magic, but fighting against the storm while trying to reassemble my body wasn't fun at all. It was like putting together a puzzle while someone rips away pieces of you.
A knock on the door startles me and I stop my activities. A visitor at this hour? Hopefully not another attack by spirits. But no. A spirit would have had to pass through the coffee shop to get to my apartment’s door. All alarms would have gone off. I purse my lips and approach the door, conjuring a thin crystal dagger from my bracer.
Better safe than sorry. We still aren't sure how the spirits knew where to attack. They must have had at least some insider information.
I open the door and am greeted by a bouquet of flowers. And food. Aw, that smell. Did someone raid a five star restaurant?
“You are drooling.” Marcus offers me the basket in his hand. It smells wonderful.
Salvia in my mouth, I can't help but take it. It was a god damned reflex! Then I realize what he said and wipe over my mouth. Nothing. “Liar!”
He smiles and steps closer, just the flowers between us. The sudden action forces me to be either uncomfortably close to him, or to take a step back. A memory of him on top of me flashes through my mind and I falter. Unable to guarantee that I won't jump him like a cat in heat, I step back.
Marcus takes it as an invitation and smiles, pushing past me and into my apartment. With a few steps he is inside my kitchen area and chooses an empty vase for the flowers. For some reason this guy always manages to get under my skin. I dismiss the crystal blade which I hid behind my back.
Grinding my teeth, I close the door, trying not to slam it shut. He clearly devised a plan to gain entry to my apartment. Then he executed it mercilessly, pushing all my buttons. I can't even be mad at him because he brought presents. And now the entire room smells of him and food and flowers.
“If you don't want me to have dinner with you, then I'll go. It's just so lonely at my own place, so I thought that you would be lonely too. Maybe?” Having finished arranging the flowers, he takes the basket from me and retrieves two trays with metal covers. They are most likely enchanted to hold the food warm.
“Please don't tell me that you cooked this.” If he can cook food which smells like this, then I really have to chain him up.
“Of course not, I don't have time for that,” he answers with a smug smile.
Thank the gods.
“But I might have been a decent chef once or twice in my life. If you tell me the dishes you like, I could do a little catching up in no time.” He wriggles his eyebrows and looks at me with heat in his eyes.
I hurry to grab one of the plates from his hands and snatch a fork and a knife. “You may have wriggled your way into my apartment, but the least we will do before anything else happens, is to eat.”
“That sounds like a decent plan. Do I have a chance for some action afterwards? And then you will tell me all your inner desires.” He smiles and follows me to the kitchen table.
I snort. “Yes. As if! Why should I tell anyone my inner desires.”
He rolls his eyes. “How am I supposed to fulfil them if you don't tell me.”
I sigh and take the cover from my plate, saliva immediately watering my mouth. Fried rice with meat strips, salad and curry! “You... somehow you knew my favourite food. Who told you? But then, nobody knows except... nobody.”
He places both hands in a praying position. “Guilty, I used the surveillance files we have on you. That was the thing you ordered most often in the recent months.” Then he adds unrepentant, “But then again, it's not my fault if you order delivered food half of the time.”
So they were gathering intelligence on me! Do they have someone who is watching my house? If so, then they are good. I didn't notice anything at all.
With a harrumph, I start shovelling food into my mouth. Oh, the flavour is bliss! Marcus is such a sweet, slimy, nice, bribing, loveable, sneaky guy/bastard.
We sit across from each other and eat in silence until he finally decides to move everything to more serious matters. “I've thought about who could have ordered the attack, or informed the spirits of the whereabouts of your house.”
I shrug. “Hard to find out. Your family must have as many enemies as there are grains of sand on a beach.”
He nods. “That's true, it comes with the position. But I think that the actual target was you.”
I stop chewing and feel my eyebrows furrow. “Why?”
Using one finger, Marcus draws a line of light into the air. “Think of the timeline. We find the hideout of the new spirits. Then the incident with my brother, then me bringing you home. And the attack one day later. I highly doubt that they knew that I was there with you. We never left your apartment from the point when we arrived here.”
“So I was the target? But I have no enemies. Who would know about me? Who would send the spirits for me? The spies who gather intelligence on me?” I gesture at the window, assuming that out there in the night is someone sitting in a tree to spy on my house.
Marcus shakes his head with a sad expression. “It makes absolutely no sense from a strategic point of view. Taking you out may shatter my heart, but it wouldn't have made any difference to the country.”
I cringe... shatter his heart. “Maybe as a hostage to blackmail you?”
Again, he shakes his head. “They never wanted a hostage. Their first mode of attack was a very dangerous death curse. Someone who wants a hostage doesn't throw a grenade at the hostage's house.”
Tilting my head, I look at the ceiling. “Then the only reason that's left is purely malevolent intent. I made an enemy and he tricked the spirits into attacking me.”
Marcus nods with a serious expression on his face. Then he starts filling me in on what happened to his brother. When he is done, I can't help but have a sour expression on my face. “I am sorry. It can't happen to you?”
He shrugs, looking tired. “It can happen to anybody. It's not like I want to lose control.”
I don't want to lose him like that! There must be a way for him to gain control over his spirit form.
He looks up. “You sounded like the whole spirit problem doesn't affect you. Shouldn't you be more concerned about yourself instead of me?”
“Hahaha... why would you think that?” I start fidgeting, but luckily he lets the matter go.
“It's highly likely that my brother is involved with the spirits. Maybe he tried to use them to increase his own glory. But the fact that my parents detained him right after our quarrel makes it unlikely that he ordered the attack on your house. He was trying to seduce you, not to take your life. We have to consider other elements. Other enemies you've made.”
I close my eyes. “I can't think of anyone. Well, of course. I angered some people, but I gave nobody enough reason to collaborate with spirits. They would have to be insane.” And I am fairly sure that I left no loose ends when I cleaned out the underworld bosses in my part of the city. The Don is a trade partner, and oath-bound. He has no reason to send the spirits for me.
Marcus looks down at his plate. “You made Trebor very mad.”
Trebor? “The teacher? But... but...” But nothing. Self-righteous bastards like him killed for less because someone trampled on their pride. “That son of a bitch!”
Marcus raises a finger to stop me. “We have nothing concrete. It's just a suspicion. We have to investigate.”
Or we simply grab him and wring his neck until the truth comes out.
My violent thoughts come to a freezing halt as something touches the inner side of my thigh and my eyes flick to Marcus. He is grinning at me as he uses his other leg to massage my toes. “But I hope that it has time until tomorrow? Or at least until we get the tension out of our systems?”
I feel the corners of my mouth twitching upwards as he touches my core, using his mana to send a wave of burning fire and need into me. Taking a deep breath, I let it out slowly. Whatever. We already did it so many times. What difference does it make to have him as my regular partner?
Spreading my legs, I kick off my shoes. Then I lean back and slide lower in my chair to reach him and return the attack.
“Maybe? But you should know that I am the student of someone who is a master at this game.”