“The stuff I build always works as intended, which doesn’t mean that it works as you wish it to.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
***Kingdom Newerth, Capital City***
“Honeybear, you should really try to pay more attention to what Charles is trying to tell us.” Mom rubs Dad's back while he is savouring the taste of his eighth piece of chocolate cake. The two of them are sitting at a table with Charles and Clarity facing them from the other side. The king and queen of Newerth immediately dropped everything when they heard about the arrival of my parents.
They arrived no less than five minutes after Mom and Dad had their grand entrance. They made their introductions and started the negotiations right away. Charles wanted to invite them to his palace, but my father insisted on staying at my shop… where he is close to the chocolate cake.
The rest of us are waiting at a respectful distance while the grown ups talk politics. In other words, we took the table next to them.
Dad starts speaking with a full mouth. “Why. Aren't we the ones who are saving their sorry asses? They should be less suspicious, it's not like they have any other allies available. All I wanted to have are some troops and specimens.
The troops bolster up our attack on the enemy base. Newerth has to fight their enemies sooner or later, so why not do so when they have our assistance.
And when I demanded the specimen, I was just thinking of Elona’s agricultural projects. Don't be mad at me, but having a farm for cacao beans would be great.”
Clarity places both hands flat on the table, leaning forward. “And we never said that we wouldn't give those things to you, but we have to organize everything. We can't simply wave a hand and have all of your 'requests' appear on your doorstep.”
Shade studies the other pair with a blank expression on his face. “Why not?”
Charles closes his eyes. “Because we had to endure three organized spirit attacks on our capital. The people are frightened and your arrival caused a panic. My generals were already planning to strike at your city when I arrived at headquarters and stopped them. By the way, it would be a great help if your citizens would at least try to stay in human appearance while they visit our city.”
Elona gestures with a hand. “We already heard that your people are uncomfortable with their spirit forms. Don't worry, we gave orders to stay in human form while they go sightseeing. Of course there will be some small incidents; not everyone of us is that comfortable with a strictly human appearance.”
I look around. Some lonely stragglers had returned to the street since my parents showed up, but it's far from what it was before. At least I managed to persuade them to take on their human forms. Though it didn’t help to save the day’s business. Seems like the word spread that two spirits decided to invade my shop.
Then Clarity leans back. “Please do. I think additional explanations aren't necessary. You witnessed the situation first hand.”
Dad finishes the cake and lets his attention wander to me. Of course I notice the expectant look in his eyes, but Elona kicks him. Of course she was trying to keep the attack hidden under the table, but there is only so much a woman can do without drawing attention. “That's enough. Concentrate. You can eat cakes until you have to barf for all I care, but not until we are done here.”
Shade sighs and returns his attention to Charles. “So, I heard that you have quite a few artefacts which could show us where to find our opponents. It would be cool if you have them delivered to my palace. I'll start my research right away as soon as I have them.”
Charles raises his eyebrows in surprise. Obviously he isn't accustomed to being talked to in such a casual manner. “I'll give the orders right away. There is only one thing I still want to talk about before we let our respective aides handle the details.” His gaze focuses on Marcus and me. “What do you intend to do about them? Marcus is currently first in line as my successor, should something happen to me.”
I feel myself tense. Aren't there more important issues than settling the question of inheritance? I understand where Charles is coming from, but he is essentially immortal as long as someone doesn't off him in a particularly gruesome manner.
My father shrugs. “Seria is her own person. She can do what she wants and live where she wants. And if she decides to live with Marcus in this realm, that's her choice. It's not like she can't pay us a visit in the blink of an eye, once the pathways are re-established.”
Clarity gasps. “The pathways are returning!? When, how!?”
Oh, right. I guess we forgot to mention that little detail when we brought Charles and Clarity up to date. Telling them about our little adventure down the rabbit hole was much easier without dropping yet another bomb on their heads.
Elona decides to give them the shortened version. The one in which she and Dad simply decided to create a living spell by using Yggdrasil's seed. A spell which is supposed to grow and recreate the pathways.
She conveniently forgets to mention the reason behind the creation of the spell, apart from recreating the pathways. I wonder how Charles and Clarity would react to the knowledge that everything might come down to a big family feud.
Though we still don't know for sure how Moonray fits into the picture. Back in Dedessia we discussed the appearance of one of Moonray's minions in length. Shade pointed out that Moonray was cut off from his home-realm for an extensive amount of time. It's entirely possible that our nemesis managed to avoid being caught by the spirits, just to return to a dimension which was already taken over.
The other possibility was that he is fine, but managed to use the spirits for his own power hungry intentions. Moonray was manipulating the fate of Dedessia for centuries after all. It's hard to believe that a person like him would stop scheming once he achieves his goal. He would simply pick a new target and continue playing his games.
When Elona is done, Charles and Clarity are left speechless. I kind of understand them. The pathways were always a defining aspect of being a god. Having to exist without them in this multiverse feels like a permanent loss of ability. Like playing Diablo at level ninety-nine for ages, and then there is suddenly a patch with the message 'Sorry, we found that the town portals are too OP! So we took them out. Have fun!'.
Yeah, I always had the suspicion that the multiverse has no decent admin. Otherwise something like the current failure of existence would’ve never happened.
“Is there any chance that we might get access to those new pathways?” Charles asks after a very long silence.
My mother purses her lips, then she gestures at Marcus and me. “I am sorry, but the pathways are currently restricted to our immediate family only. We thought that we should keep a tight lid on inter-dimensional transportation until we are sure that it's safe. The spirits are still posing a threat after all. So Marcus will be able to use the pathways once his bond with Seria is strong enough. That will have to be enough for the moment.”
Clarity squints her eyes at me. “So... that means that their children will also have access to the pathways?”
Oh, one moment. That's so not gonna happen! “Stop! Don't even dare to start thinking about establishing something like a feudal bloodline with exclusive access to the pathways. That's just wrong and I certainly won't have a part in it! My children are not going to be some kind of breeding horses which can be traded to the ruling houses of other realms!”
Charles looks away from us and clears his throat. “It's not like you two will be childless for long at the rate you two are going.”
I gasp while Marcus squints his eyes at his father. “What's that supposed to mean!”
The king of Newerth shrugs. “I have the sight. Do you really expect me not to check for my chances of becoming a grandpa?”
Shade leans forward. “Regarding that ability of yours. I've been given a description and it sounded less like an inherited ability, and more like a spell. Is there any possibility that we could share some information regarding spying techniques? I am a worshipper of information gathering and that ability of yours sounds really useful.”
Clarity raises a hand and shakes her head. “I think you misunderstood my meaning. I am not that kind of person. I was just thinking of possible future consequences.”
“Oh, there will be consequences,” Elona comments from the sideline and shifts in her seat. A few moments later she realizes that she has the full attention of everyone. “What? Do you really expect me to give out presents without strings attached?” She looks at me with glee. “Those rings aren't just a wedding bond, they are also a very reliable ward against contraceptive magic.”
It takes a few moments until my mind makes the necessary connections. Then I frantically try to pull off the ring. We didn't do it that much since we got the rings, there might be time left. And I think I am having my safe days, but I am half succubus, so I shouldn't rely on that!
When I don't manage to pull off the ring I hold out my hand. “Marcus, cut it off!”
“What! I could never hurt you!” He looks at me, horrified.
“Do you want me to have our honeymoon with a round belly!?” I ask with cold determination in my voice. Then I turn to glare at my father. “I would have never thought that you would be in on a scheme like this!” He made the rings after all. He must have known their functions.
Dad looks away. “I just thought that having a child of your own might make you less of a rascal and force you to settle down a bit. But don't worry, the ward against prevention magic only activates after you've done it two hundred times. I figured you might want a little time before it's really final.”
“What!? That's boring!” Elona complains.
I blink and try to remember my escapades with Marcus, counting on my fingers. Normally two hundred times would be more than enough, but we had the amulet and it has been days! We must have already burned through a sizeable amount of freebies. “Marcus, you didn't keep track either, did you? How many times do we have left?”
Marcus turns expressionless and after a long moment he answers with a question. “Does oral count?”
“Not helping!” I hiss.
He doesn’t look at me. “No, seriously. Because if oral counts, then we are screwed...”
Clarity leans forward and covers her face with both hands. “I never wanted to know that.”
I answer her with poison in my voice. “Well, sorry for getting involved with my family. Just wait until they find a reason to mess with you! Oh, sorry, I forgot. They already have one! You need their help.”