"What's this, no 'How are you?' Just simply off to business is it?" Zelretch chuckled as he got up from his seat as he went towards his liquor cabinet. "What are you in the mood for?" He asked.
"Hmm." I tapped my chin. "Thinking maybe some wine. I don't want anything too strong, but I could enjoy a good drink."
"Oh, wonderful, I have just the thing." Zelretch pulled out an aged bottle. "Not the oldest, but the sentimentality of this one makes it a good addition. Do you remember the story." He asked, flashing the bottle.
"It seems vaguely familiar, but as you know, I'm missing a lot of details. Lots of things fell through the cracks when you passed on what you did." Or rather, when he would pass on his knowledge some undertimened time in the future. Because it was clear he does very far into the future.
"From a small winery in France. Burned down by the Nazis during World War 2." Zereltch began to elaborate as he poured us both a glass. "It was rebuilt, during the occupation. It was burned down a second time because they didn't bow their heads to their oppressors. This cycle repeated four more times."
"Six times. They – as you said, burned it down six times yet it still continued production? Wouldn't it take years for their orchards to...recover, even if the land was still able to grow things?" I blinked, mulling over what he said. How many times must the ground have been burned to overstep the point where it would be beneficial and instead make the area desolate?
"Oh, they stopped producing wine, mind you. After the first couple times, it's as you said, the land itself became barren around the place. But out of sheer spite, they wrote their brand name on barrels of water, and sold it as their latest yield. The people in the nearby cities, knowledgeable of what was happening, bought and drank it in an act of solidarity." Zelretch chuckled. "There was one such time, a highly ranked Nazi came to visit this 'winery' because he had heard the tales. He had the mind of tearing them out by the roots, stomping out any resistance and all that. He was going to mock them by sampling the 'wine' in public, but they secretly replaced the 'wine' with Salt Water. They laughed even as they were hung in the streets."
After listening, I gently swirled the glass in my hand before taking a sip. It wasn't the most amazing wine I've ever had, but it certainly had its own charm after hearing that story. Sometimes, presentation can enhance a flavor beyond simple taste. "I take it this is a bottle produce before they were burned down the first time?"
"Indeed." Zelretch smiled softly. "It's just one thing I love about humanity."
"That we're unmatched when it comes to spite?" I offered.
"Hoho, that's certainly one way to take it" Zelretch chuckled in amusement. "How have you been Wilhelm? You haven't come by to visit in awhile, so I assume you haven't had any major problems."
"I'm sure you're aware of the broad strokes."
"I do keep up to date with things when I can." He nodded.
"Mmm, I'm as well as I can be. Stressed about some things, but that's just life. I can't really complain when I have so many people who support me." And honestly, I have many ways to relieve the stress with the harem. "You wouldn't happen to have a piece of the World Tree hanging around, would you?"
"Do you think I have a vault full of treasures you don't know about?" Zelretch snorted with an eye roll.
"Worth asking." I shrugged. "Odin realized my secret, and asked for my help, their Ragnarök took a weird turn, their World Tree is dying, and not in tune with their cycle of rebirth. Everything else, I either already had plans in place or have help managing things. With this…..I'm honestly scratching my head and just trying to figure out a game plan."
"A strange position you're in for sure. I can honestly say I have no plausible explanation off the top of my head. I can keep an eye out for anything that may be useful." Zelretch offered, which I nodded appreciatingly.
"I mean…" I scratched the back of my head. "You basically know everything else. War with the Fae over there is looming. The peace conference happened, it was fun watching Yasaka verbally slap everyone. Oh, trying to help Revive Big G over there too, that's…..interesting. Got pulled into a conspiracy involving Gods due to that."
"Don't let anyone say that you have small ambitions." Zelretch grinned. "The revival of the Biblical God in that world, I assume you considered the ramifications?"
"I did, this isn't merely on a whim. I honestly think it'll be good for the world at large." I nodded.
"Good, then I won't say anything against it." Zelretch gave his approval.
"And I finally told Meridia I love her." It felt a little embarrassing to say it out loud.
"I'm proud of you." Zelretch looked genuinely happy for me.
"What about you and Lucretia?" I decided to shift the topic.
"I had not realized how much I missed her until she was here again." He smiled warmly. "I dare say that this place feels much more like a home now that I have all of you running around."
"I know the feeling." It was nice to have somewhere I could actually call 'home' again.
"That reminds me." Zelretch put on a thoughtful look. "I was approached by some of the other lords. They wished to schedule a 'get together' for the younger generation of the Clock Tower, a networking event if you will/want to call it that."
"To stroke their own egos, I presume?" I rolled my eyes. "Oh, look at my son/student/protégé, aren't they sooooo talented – blah blah blah."
"Undoubtedly." Zelretch replied without a second thought. "However, I do have a reputation to uphold, so I wish both you and Rin to attend. Attendees are allowed to bring a Plus one."
"I'm assuming that Rin will bring Saber with her."
"Agreed. And I have nothing against her doing so. They're already a well known duo amongst the Tower."
"Alright, I'll bring Meridia."
"Vetoed." The old man deadpanned. "I wish for the Mages Association to be standing afterwards."
"….it would be hilarious introducing her to the idiots who're way too full of themselves. Here's my Eldritch Goddess lover, she's the physical manifestation of the universe's first light and embodies the concept of life."
"…..you're making it hard to stick to my guns on this one."
"Fine, I won't cause too many problems. That means Yasaka is probably out as well. A Nine-Tailed fox is going to cause a commotion because they're racists against Asians. Venelana would make the church go on a crusade. Jinn, I don't want to bring her into this kind of place. She's way too much of a sweetheart to force to interact with the worse here. So, probably Raikou or Scáthach, depending on who wants to do it."
"We can figure that out later, it is not for some time." Zelretch stated. "For now, you wish to know about Chaldea, yes?"
"Before I just stumble into any potential mess, yes."
"Very well." He nodded. "Let me start off by saying, I want you to investigate a strange happening on this World-Line. Something, or someone, is blocking my sight. I don't think I need to explain to you the degree of danger this can present."
Yeah, the things that can actively avoid his sight are...scary. Things like Ophis are completely beyond his ability to accurately simulate. The Spider was also something he can't properly simulate, only doing so in a round about ways due to how humanity was so thoroughly involved. There are certain items as well, that can escape his gaze through the nature of their existence.
But mostly, it's just very powerful entities that can actively obscure themselves by just existing.
"Chaldea Security Organization." Zelretch spoke. "Or more specifically – The Organization for the Preservation for Humanity -- Finis Chaldea."
"A lofty name." I whistled in admiration. "The way you speak, I assume it's more than just an ambitious title?"
"It's a beautiful combination of scientific research and Magic Research. They're tasked with preserving the Human Order beyond all else. Recently, they've discovered an anomaly that will happen in the year 2019. An event that makes all their models and simulations fall apart, as the Human Order unravels."
"And you have no idea either."
"I'm completely blind with all but the faintest idea of what's going on. That's why I need you to head over there to investigate. I would have Rin and Saber do it originally, but…..this task I feel is beyond their ability."
"By your words, it sounds like they're simulating the future. Most methods of doing so are unreliable in the best of circumstances, especially with Human sources."
"That's one of the aspects that makes this organization so interesting. They have invented some amazing means of analyzing the flow of the world by utilizing the world's soul. Their accuracy is beyond reproach from what I've looked into. Granted, I believe my own means are superior, but without the full aid of my Magic, they have achieved something like this, which is not without its own merit."
"I'm sure there's a lot you haven't told me yet. But what's my entrance strategy? Do I just waltz in and start throwing around my weight as your Grandson to get the information I need?" I was being facetious; I knew that wasn't going to be the case.
Well, he took it as good natured humor as I intended. "As much as I would enjoy you doing that, I believe a more subtle hand is appropriate. Whatever is going on, we need to be cautious and not tip our hands. It's the reason the me from over there is not going to be involved."
I fingered the rim of my wine glass in thought. "You think you're being watched over there?"
"It's a high possibility. I'm one of the few who would notice something strange happening."
"And I'm a complete unknown with no parallel there, so I can be your eyes and ears." I finished his thoughts. "So, infiltration mission. What's the game plan?"
"They're hiring people from all over the world. From brilliant mundane Scientists, to talented Magi. Anyone they can get their hands on, they're doing their best to recruit. Specifically, they're making two teams right now beyond researchers and workers. To resolve this Singularity in what they perceive to be incorrect."
"Explain this irregularity."
"I won't go into the long explanation as of yet. But they traced the cause back to something that occurred in Fuyuki of all places, back in 2004. They're putting together a team to go back to that time period to ascertain the cause and correct history."
"Time Travel?" My eyes widened.
"Not with a method you would initially think, but it's still a very intricate design and worthy of admiration." Zelretch replied.
"But to still cross the Time-Line, that's by no means an easy feat. If they're putting so much resources into this, this I can only imagine the scope we're dealing with."
"As I said, this is something that is weighing on me. You can understand now, why I'm being overly cautious."
"So, want me to join this super team of Magi or something?"
"No, you're going to join the B-Team. The second string, so to speak." Zelretch chuckled. "We need you to go….under the radar, but still maintain a level of actionable knowledge. Your entrance will be an Asian Magus recruited by chance by one of their various intermediaries. Some-what talented, enough that you would have earned high marks in the Association."
"But with how racist they are against Asians, easily unnoticeable which lets me slip under the radar, as you said. Until I gain some manner of respect or influence by my own hand."
"Correct." Zelretch nodded as he continued. "The most important bit of information is your compatibility with Servants."
"…..I don't' believe you mean what I do in the bedroom." Unless they want to know how well I've given the dick to Raikou and Scáthach.
Would be a fun conversation.
'On a scale of 1 – 10, how satisfied was your Servant after intercourse.'
Zelretch snorted, tossing a wadded-up piece of paper at me. "You know damn well what I'm referring to. Beyond Servant compatibility there is also the compatibility for their process of Time-Travel known as Rayshifting, which I'll explain later. Suffice to say, you'll pass with flying colors, I can guarantee that."
"Yeah, yeah," I smiled. "Okay, putting this 'Ray shifting' aside, What does Servants have to do with things. Are servants going to be summoned?"
"Mmm, their main method is a system they devised to facilitate the summoning of Servants to help resolve the Singularity. Different than the one I helped make for the Grail, but it's quite well done. But they are seeking out those with the highest compatibility they can find for their back up team, as they view that as more important than prestigious bloodlines or similar."
"Make sense. This back up team, them being able to summon Servants when the need arises, it's more important than being experienced in Magecraft or other things of that nature. They're the back up team for a reason and it's easy to presume that the Servants would be doing the heavy lifting if things went sideways enough that they're required."
"And that's where you come in. A no-name Magus with some knowledge under your belt, even if you're Asian – in their eyes. And a very high compatibility with Servant Summoning, you would be a very easy grab for their needs." Zelretch explained. "We just need some background information to fill out and a name to go with it."
"A name, huh?" I rubbed my chin. "I do believe I have a perfectly fine name to use already."
"….are you sure you want to use that name?"
"I am in no way ashamed of my old name. I originally changed it because I was scared and desperate at the time. It was the name my mother gave me, so I am more than happy to use it for this occasion." Unconsciously, I ran a hand through my hair. "It seems like Takao Shimoda is joining Chaldea."
It was fucking cold.
That was my first thought.
I felt like I was back in Skyrim – in the colder parts of Skyrim. Over at the college, but without the magicks there to keep everyone warm.
And I felt like I couldn't magically warm myself up in this situation, because I was supposed to be keeping a low profile.
And it didn't help that we were flying in a Helicopter at the moment over the God damned North/South Pole.
Funnily enough, the other's they've recruited, they had to use various means to knock them out, as to not reveal the location of the place we're going to. For me – as an actual Magus, I just had to sign a Geass to not reveal the location.
Not that it was effective on me, but they didn't need to know that.
There was another man sitting across from me. A typical Magus from the association, one who thought it was an honor for me that someone like him would come to a primitive country like Japan just to recruit a hedge Mage like me.
Already had to hold my tongue several times at this point, and I'm sure it wouldn't be the last.
Had to get a good wrap on my own powers and shove them way down. You never know what they had lurking around here, better to not accidently tip anyone off about my abnormalities.
Gramps did good work.
Apparently the paperwork was almost all ready and he had been sitting on it for awhile. But everything was pushed through nicely, and I got a response after hanging around for a few days here.
There was a light interview, one where they measured my compatibility. Apparently I scored around a 91%, which would have technically put me in the parameters that they wanted for the A-Team, but that's composed of what they believe to be the cream of the crop. Experienced and knowledgeable Magi, not some random Mage with no family name.
But they were quick to offer me what I could admit were some pretty good terms for employment. Very good monetary compensation, as well as some tutoring on certain subjects to enhance any crafts I was currently learning. They boasted about having a wide array of materials and books available if I chose to sign up.
I could see how it would be tempting to someone in my perceived situation.
It only came with the stipulation of some pretty heft contracts – including Magical, as well as a guaranteed employment term of atleast six years. Which, again, good compensation for my time if I was really looking forward to it.
"We have almost arrived." The man sitting opposite of me stated, opening his eyes. "Prepare yourself, you step into the illustrious organization of Chaldea. Headed by non-other than the Animusphere family itself."
I held back at his superior tone he took. "I've heard of them. An old and powerful Family."
"As you should have." He sniffed. "Even the savages of your country know about the Higher-Bloods of the Tower."
"….I'll be sure to thank Lord Animusphere if I am ever presented with the honor." Or was it lady? Because the family head was a young woman about Rin's age, according to what I've learned.
"See that you do." He replied without a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "You are not as lowly as one would first assume when hearing of your origins. Knowing to respect your betters is a lesson that takes years for those mongrels to usually learn. You have impressed me, a feat you should be grateful for. Once you arrive and are bequeathed with the privilege of accommodations, you may mention my name when seeking appropriate apprenticeship with the staff. Know that Friederike le Drachenkönige looks upon you favorably. With your talents, you may even rise above your station and become a noteworthy associate."
Zekram, is that you?
Just kidding, this was basically how every 'noble' family acted.
Just another reason why I usually don't spend my time inside the Association unless I had to. I don't think I could not kill someone if I walked those halls every day.
"Pardon, did you say le Drachenkönige?" Honestly, out of all that nonsense, this was the thing that took me the most by surprise.
"I did indeed." He preened like a peacock. "It seems my family name is well known."
"….yeah, something like that."
Honestly, it's my first time hearing the name. Well, hearing that someone dared take that as their family name. It basically meant – Dragon Kings, or something thereof.
I could practically feel Ddraig's amusement at the sheer audacity.
"If you wouldn't mind me asking, what is the history of your family name?" I couldn't help myself.
Again, this Magus' ego seemed to visibly inflate when I asked about his family. "My family originates from the Age of Gods. We were powerful and wise Wyvern Tamers from before recorded history. Raising them from birth and even riding them into battle." He replied with no shortage of pride in his tone.
His family had a farm for the stupid, inbred, twice-removed cousins of dragons. That's why they called themselves – Dragon Kings.
And I thought I was pretentious.
"We are here." The magus declare, glancing out the window.
And I could see it myself. Beyond the cold winds that filled my vision with almost nothing but white there was the silhouette of a building in the distance. Absolutely massive in scope as it almost entirely blended in with the background.
The Helicopter flew towards it, the massive structure increased in size as we approached it. Large enough that once we landed, the Helicopter could barely be seen from landing upon the roof if one looked at it from the sides.
The cold winds smacked me right in the face as the door opened. The Dragon King, had no such qualms as he cast a spell on himself to divert the winds.
Yes, it annoyed me to no end, that he appeared pristine while I struggled to keep my hair and clothes from flying all over the place.
"Follow along, Asian." The Magus stated, hands behind his back as he walked towards the rooftop door. "We are already behind schedule; it is best not to make the Director wait."
Director? Was she waiting for me?
I let out a sigh as I followed along. Maybe it was my draconic pride, but I really wanted to punt his smug ass off the roof of this place.
The corridors upon entering the building were also a bleak white, no indication of direction, nothing telling someone where to go. But the man led me without hindrance, turning several corners until some more individuals began to appear.
Some busy with work as they passed, others giving him a nod or two as they went their separate ways. Even some maintenance staff here or there working on something or another.
I drank in all of my surroundings, making a mental note of everything I saw thus far.
"We have arrived." He said again, placing a hand on the door, pushing it open.
"Finally, you're late." A feminine voice reached my ears.
"Apologies, Director." The Dragon King slightly bowed his head. "Unexpected weather appeared to slow down our flight."
"Whatever." I peaked my head in to see her. Young, early twenties at most. She had long white hair, and striking amber eyes. And honestly, she looked rather cute. "This the newest recruit?"
Yes, Director." He gently guided me inside. "As you requested, Takao Shimoda, origins of Japan, second generation Magus."
"Very well." She looked me over. "You are dismissed, Friederike le Drachenkönige." She flipped her hand.
He nodded, walking out the door, tossing me into the deep end.
There were several other faces present, the others sitting at tables and looked….. as confused as I was right now.
"Well?!" The Director huffed. "Take a seat, we're going to go over the New Employee orientation."
I blinked, following her directions as I slid into the closest empty seat.
"Good, we can finally get started." She huffed again. "You all are the first group to be hired and assigned to the temporarily designated 'B-Team'." She declared. "As the only ones amongst this group worth my time, I will be personally giving you instructions on what your responsibilities will be and how we will proceed from here. My name is Olga Marie Animusphere, you will call me Director."
Here's the chapter for Thursday.
If you want to read 7 chapters ahead or support me, visit my p.a.t.r.e.o.n.c.o.m / astoryforone