After dropping Venelana off from our short but wonderful date, I Immediately skipped over to Zelretch's place and what greeted me wasn't what I expected.
"Good, you're here." Zelretch acknowledged my entrance, but he did not look normal.
His hair was a bit disheveled and his normally tidy appearance leaned towards the unkempt. Frankly, he looked like he had been working without sleep for days.
"Are you alright?" I asked out of concern.
He looked down at himself and waved it off. "I've been working on this for about 40 hours now and it's been both physically and mentally exhausting. But I finally finished the calculations and theory after creating my initial hypothesis."
"Oh, don't even start." He chuckled. "This is just as important to me as it is to you. I still need a couple days to finalize the results and gather what I need, but it's safe to say that I managed a way for you to return without being detected."
He let out a tired breath as he nearly collapsed into a chair at the dining room table. "How was your date?"
I humored him, sitting down across from where he was. "Short, but nice. I would have loved for it to be longer, but it was rather spur of the moment after telling her everything and she had to go back for some family stuff."
And catching up with Thorum. I was elated that Venelana enjoyed that environment and she had easily meshed in with the rougher society. It's funny how visibly out of place she was there, yet if it wasn't for that, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
"A shame, I would have loved to meet her." Zelretch hummed.
"Alright, alright. You're intentionally keeping me on edge. Explain what you did."
He chuckled again but acquiesced. "I had to take many different approaches. I decided to work based off the assumption that both I and my teacher would simultaneously be on the lookout for you, thus I worked backwards from that."
"Both Zelretch, the Kaleidoscope, and Solomon the King of Magecraft out to look for me. Are there actually any holes in this hypothetical net to catch me that I could slip through?"
"A good analogy." He rubbed his beard. "To continue with it, there are no holes for you to sneak through per say. If we go with the net analogy, let's call that world-line a world full of minnows, and you're a shark. The net only allows Minnows inside and keeps out all other sea life. No matter what I thought of, I could not come up with a way to get through this proverbial net without detection even only using the methods my teacher had from my memories. Combined with many things I've learned myself over the years and my Mastery of the Second, well, the nearly impossible became infinitely smaller."
"The obvious approach then, would be not to push through the net, but let the net take me willingly."
"Bingo." He snapped his fingers, pointing at me. "You, Wilhelm, will become a minnow."
"Sounds easy." I rolled my eyes. "But seriously, what did you figure out?"
"It's actually fairly simple once I worked through everything I could think of. An oversight I believe, both my Teacher and I would have missed had I not been on the outside looking in."
"Are you going to keep me in suspense?"
"You need to enter that world-line during the Singularity. At the same exact moment that it would take place on an adjacent world-line." He replied.
"….will that work?" I furrowed my brow. "I don't know the exact time and date, but to pick an arbitrary time and place. If the singularity was taking place on December 1st 2000, would I need to also be on a parallel world at the same exact date, and if it were midnight in the singularity, would I need it to be midnight there as well?"
"Correct." He nodded to my understanding. "Obviously that isn't the entirety of everything. But we're going to hide your entrance in a single moment of time to not cause any ripples on your reentry. Metaphysically speaking, the singularities are creating their own ripples, distinct ones. And your entrance would be like driving a speedboat over them, making it rather obvious that something was amiss if one were to stare at the river of time there. What we're going to do is make it so you align perfectly with the already established ripples and hide your arrival in such a way."
"Alright." I said quietly, pondering what he just said. "I feel like we're making a lot of assumptions with this."
"It can't be helped, we're working against mostly unknowns. I'm taking every precaution I can think of to make this as safe as possible."
"I know, and I trust you. I'm just…concerned is all."
"Understandable." He said softly.
"Have you finished all the calculations? Those are going to be a nightmare, especially if you can't delve too deep without being discovered from prying eyes."
"That was what I was going to wrap up over the next couple days. I need to figure out the point where the best arrival time would be to mask your presence." He explained. "I will also be giving you several devices to gather information. We don't know entirely what's happening and I can't poke at it too much, as you said."
"Shouldn't be a problem. But what about once I get there? Wouldn't someone be able to point me out? My presence isn't exactly subtle, especially if I need to help resolve the singularity."
"My teacher's Clairvoyance was second to none." He said nostalgically. "But It wasn't unbeatable. If the entity I believe to be is using my teacher's clairvoyance, then I have an idea how to overcome it. That spear of yours may be the key. It should be able to cloud you from vision but I will also see if I can't get something to help further. That being said, that only gets around outside perception, if they Physically look your way, you're going to stick out."
"I suppose it's a risk we're going to have to take. I'm guessing that I can't bring anyone along with me, right?"
"You may be able to bring Raikou with you due to your Master-Servant bond. The link should make it so any smoke and mirrors I use to mask your presence also falls ontop of her. I will double check some things, but I'm fairly confident on that front."
That's a consideration, but I likely wouldn't ask Raikou to come with me. Maybe I'm selfish, but I didn't want to put Raikou in that kind of situation. I like the happy Raikou that didn't have to draw her sword, that could live a more normal life.
"Alright, what do you need me to do?" I allowed myself to relax. I was happy that there was a method he had some confidence in.
"Nothing." He said simply. "I just wanted to inform you that we're nearly ready. You have the party to attend. Go there, have fun, relax a little bit and then afterwards, I'll be ready for you."
"You get me riled up then tell me to relax." I said dryly. "But fine, I won't look over your shoulder while you finish up. Just tell me if you need anything."
"Will do." He smiled. "And you were taking Salem, yes? How is she doing? You haven't gone back after you fought with Indra."
Oh, he already knew about that then. "She's doing good, I was assured that Jinn was keeping her company and helping her with everything that needed to be done. I offered to relieve her of her 'duties' but Jinn rebuffed me and told me to let her handle it as well. I think she's having fun bothering Salem so I left it at that."
"I'm sure that's going well."
"….I should go check up on them."
"Alright, time for a pop quiz!"
"You're enjoying this far too much." Salem lifted her head out of the book she was reading.
I ignored her. "What are the three major families that hold the most sway in the Clock Tower."
"The Barthomeloi, Trambelio, Valualeta." Salem said in a monotone. "Is this really necessary?"
"Yes." I hummed, looking through my own notes I had prepared. "Here, look over this too." I pushed it over to her side of the table.
She scrunched her nose and grabbed the paper, looking over it. "The political spectrum of this Clocktower…joy."
"Hey, you're the one who wants to go. I'm just making sure you're prepared and don't look like an idiot."
"Very well." She grumbled. "I would be remiss to make myself or him look foolish in the eyes of his peers."
"….peers is a strong word."
"I was under the impression that he was representing his family. Either way, it would not do good for me to bring any rumors upon him through my ignorance."
"Yeah, you should probably know just the basics. No one would really bat an eye if you didn't know the third cousin twice removed of the fifth child of the current Lord of a Department. That being said, you should probably look deeper into the Mineralogy Department since that's Grandfather's."
"Noted." She paused and looked up at me. "Do you truly call him Grandfather?"
"I'm Wilhelm's woman, so why wouldn't I?"
"Will this be a necessity for me as well?" She looked hesitant asking.
"Of course not." I giggled, finding it funny how the usual calm and confident Salem could be nervous about something. "Though he's probably older than you, if that makes you feel better."
"What do you mean 'probably? You know my exact age to the second." She scoffed then paused again. "You better not have told him how old I am." She narrowed her eyes.
"First, I don't just go around revealing secrets." I assured her. "Unless it's funny."
"How reassuring." She drawled.
"Second, he wouldn't care. Do you have any idea how old Meridia is? Older than Remnant. Seriously, the Brothers are like infants infront of her."
"She is a Goddess, it is not the same."
"You do realize he likes older women, right?" I held back another giggle at her hint of worry. "Third, he used one of my questions to find about you, remember? He should have a vague idea. Does it really bother you when I'm barely younger than you as it is? Or Scáthach is over two thousand?" I didn't bother mentioning Izanami since she already brought up the whole 'Goddess' thing.
"…I suppose I am overreacting." She said softly. "And you didn't answer my question."
"Grandfather's age, if you look at it from his birth to the current year in the world he lives in, is less than yours, yeah, but he doesn't exist in only a linear state. Take it from someone who perceived every second of Remnant, he is far older than what's on the surface."
"Then should I address them as such…?" She again nervously looked to me for guidance. "I do not wish to make an improper impression."
Seeing her like this was odd.
Seeing her worried about how others thought of her, as funny as it was, really threw me for a loop. It reminded me of when she was younger. I could still recall those memories of Remnant just as vividly as I was around to witness them.
"If you want my honest opinion, do a proper introduction first if it bothers you so much. He's easy going to those he thinks of as family. As soon as you and Will started dating, he already thought of you as one of his own. He won't begrudge you if being firm and respectful is more comfortable to you."
"It's just….I'm surprised I got a genuine 'thank you' from Salem, the Grimm Queen."
Salem huffed and scowled, not bothering to answer me.
"Such an impossibility that I would have thought the Brothers' returned." I met her eyes as she stared at me in annoyance. "Don't worry, they haven't. I would know, the lamp in my ass wouldn't be nearly as still as it is right now."
That's a thought, I wonder if I could get it to vibrate? Though I might just become useless if it started doing that all the time.
"You do that on purpose."
"Of course." I gave her a wide smile. "I love how much it flusters you."
"I do not get flustered!"
"Clearly. It must be that I the Spirit of Knowledge, knowing everything, Present or Past, am wrong."
"You are the most infuriating spirit in existence." Salem scowled deeper, pulling her book back in front of her face.
"Your annoyance fuels my existence." It was much too fun to poke at Salem, I simply couldn't help myself.
We covered a lot already, and Salem was by no means a slouch when it came to this stuff.
Still, we should probably make sure her Thaumaturgical Foundation had some bearing on their world in consideration for the absence of the Human Order and inherent Mysteries in line with the engraving of unnatural phenomena onto the greater world. However, even with the divergences between vastly different systems of Thaumaturgy, the most fundamental rules remained – the transformation of one's internal Magical Energy to affect the outside world. I suppose it doesn't really make much of a difference in this case. "Have you thought about what you're going to say to people who ask what your craft is?"
"The idea that everyone has such a narrow craft is odd." She returned to normal as well.
"Well, not everyone has the benefit of Godly Magical abilities. It's honestly impressive how far the humans in Wilhelm's world could take their Magecraft in comparison. I think the fact that we were handed so much kind of stymied our potential."
Not that the old humans here weren't capable of similar feats. But when anyone with mediocre talent could control the Elements with relative ease, well….what was the point in pushing beyond that? Even Ozma and Salem with their vaunted and self-described mastery, they didn't really push the boundaries of what was possible. Well, I suppose Salem had started doing that in her boredom over the centuries, but even then she didn't really get that far into it in comparison to those Magi.
Now, barely a few months after meeting Wil, and Salem is already doing ridiculous things. Hiding Grimm in her shadow? That's terrifying in terms of potential. Who knows what else she's going to think of next.
It's like a painter not having the proper canvas to work on, yet all the brushes and paint they could ask for. Opposed to the humans on Earth who had a Canvas laid out for them, but only a tiny amount of paint and only a single brush of poor quality that would break if used for too long. Once Salem was given a canvas of sufficient potential, she thrived.
"Perhaps if your creators didn't throw a tantrum and killed off all of humanity, we would have reached higher levels." Salem scoffed. "However, such innovations and strides for improvement are praiseworthy. It is humbling, in a way, to see those with less accomplish more. I was merely going to be vague and say that Elemental Manipulation to be my focus if it got into it."
I won't mention that it was her actions that technically led to that conclusion.
"Well, you're already going to be the center of attention, even if it wasn't as Wilhelm's date. No doubt it's going to come out that you're from the 'Age of Gods' or something like that, it may not be necessary to lie about a craft or whatever."
"Regardless, it is appropriate to have plans for the most obviously likely scenarios." Salem responded.
Whatever floats her boat.
It's not like there aren't other old monsters in that place.
And she could handle herself, even without Wilhelm's assistance.
"Alright, what do you want to cover next? I think we touched the most important things. We can review the basic – "
"Mistress?" Cinder opened the door, peeking through.
"Cinder." Salem closed her book, setting it on the table. "You've returned."
The new Half-Maiden took that as her cue to walk into the room. "Yes, Mistress." Salem respectfully replied, eyeing me suspiciously.
Well, it couldn't be helped, the last time we met wasn't exactly a pleasant experience for her. "Hi Cinder!" I cheerfully waved regardless.
"H-hi?" Cinder stumbled out in surprise.
Salem looked utterly amused as much as I was.
"Did you complete your objective?" Salem asked, barely paying attention.
"W-we were unable to locate the one responsible. The lead we had turned out to be a dead end Mistress." She straightened herself. "But we're already working on a solution." She quickly added.
"No need, just forget about it." Salem dismissively waved her hand in the air. "It does not matter anymore."
"Mistress, it was only one failure. I'm confident that – "
"Cinder, you misunderstand. It simply does not matter any longer." Salem interrupted her, eyes staring into the younger womans'. "And abandon any of your other plans you currently have. Your only duty right now is to practice your magic. If you are learning under me, I will not have you be seen as incompetent."
"Mistress…" Cinder's eyes widened in shock. "Does this mean you will be teaching me?"
"Of course." Salem scoffed. "Wilhelm went through the trouble of even providing you with a practice staff. How would it look upon me if I let you whittle away after his generosity? Now, go retrieve it and begin the practices I showed you previously. I will check your progress in a few days."
Cinder looked elated, but kept her expression mildly under control. "I will not disappoint you, Mistress!"
If Salem and I weren't watching, I bet Cinder would have skipped away happily.
"That's nice of you." I hummed, looking at the Grimm Queen. "To see you actually care about your subordinate."
"….I believe it is what Wilhelm desires, so I will make an effort." She said simply. "If her use for acquiring the Relics is now for naught, she may as well become an accomplished Magic User under my tutelage."
"You're not worried she's going to be pissed to learn that you're basically giving up on everything? You know, in her eyes, she was expecting something like world domination." I informed her, while also keeping it rather vague. Even if my parameters were heavily loosened, I found it wrong to openly talk about others' secrets.
"Don't take me for a fool." Salem huffed, rolling her eyes. She flipped a page and barely cast a glance back at me. "That woman only cares about her own personal power. Her deference to me doesn't contain an iota of actual respect absence of fear."
"….that could change if you were willing." I began writing down a few magic formulas onto some parchment.
"Is that a suggestion then?" Salem raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
"Take it as you will." I didn't elaborate on the specific subject. "I just think it might be worthwhile to try. Personally, I feel sorry for Cinder, knowing what I do. But even ignoring that, it might be beneficial for you to consider."
"You believe she is talented and may prove useful to me in the future? I was under the assumption that you had no bearing over future events?"
"You're assuming I'm considering her 'potential value'." I paused my pen strokes. "I meant that it would be good for you."
"Are you really this dense?" I slapped my pen down on the table, giving her a look. "You're a complete loner, and not by nature. How long has it been since you've actually had bonds with people beyond master and disposable subordinate? How long has it been that you've had someone at your side that you wouldn't toss into a fire if it meant keeping you a little warm?"
"What use is that for me?" Salem snorted. "Besides, I now have a relationship, as you very well know."
"Obviously, so do we all. Even I have friends, Salem. I've only been out of my lamp for months and able to move around freely, and I have had more social interaction than you have for the past thousand years. I have friends, work colleagues, rivals, acquaintances, etc. I wouldn't say anything if it was just in your nature, but you seclude yourself out of loneliness and hatred. Do you really want to continue like that?"
"Why do you care?" Salem whispered, scowling but not meeting my gaze.
"Besides the fact that Wilhelm now cares about you?" I rolled my eyes at the obvious. "Just like when we met the first time. It's hard to ignore everything you've done in the past, but seeing you trying is worth the effort returned on my end."
"….I will take your concerns under advisement." Salem said softly, surprisingly she didn't argue with me.
"It'd probably help if you got laid too…"
"Cease your nonsense." She huffed in annoyance.
"Hehehe" I giggled, finishing up another drawing. "Hey, wanna see a couple Spell Sequences I made?"
Salem blinked, pulling her book down again. "Is this relevant to what I should know?"
"No, I just wanted to share."
"….very well, let me see."
I happily pushed them over for her to review.
"The idea of Spell Circles is fascinating." Salem muttered, looking them over.
"Right!?" I exclaimed. "I mean, I can calculate nearly anything on the fly, but it's so helpful even for me! For a normal Human, they're a Godsend in comparison. Complicated spells become easier to cast once you can memorize the majority of the structure and not need to mentally account for all the variables every time you cast a simple spell. Granted, basic elemental manipulation in our case would be quicker without Spell Circles, but going beyond that they begin showing their worth."
"It also opens up the possibility to interrupt the spell casting." Salem gave in return.
"Yeah, Counter Spells are a thing, I've discovered. But you can also make allowances for those. A simple method of layering a false spell overtop will usually stop the majority of attempts."
"And if that doesn't work?" Salem asked.
"Well, then you just have to get creative. If a Master see's the obvious 'false spell' and hits the true casting behind it, then just shift to make the false spell the real one. Or there's a ton of other ways. You're smart, you would easily be able to figure out your own means that works best for you."
"You've given this much thought." Salem praised.
"Of course, I've been studying so many different types of magic since Wilhelm took me." I smiled happily. "I can't wait to show you everything I've learned! We've barely even scratched the surface of Wilhelm's home Magecraft foundations, let alone Skyrim and his Birth World! So many possibilities that I can finally share with someone. No one else cares about Magic in the group the same way that I do, but now I have you!"
The closest would be Scáthach, but she's more of a Warrior in that sense, not a scholar who likes sitting down and reading a bunch of old tomes for days on end.
Obviously Wilhelm shared my enthusiasm, but he has had own responsibilities at times as well.
"Oh, have you picked out what you're going to wear yet?" I perked up again.
"Yes, I have a dress in mind that I have not worn for many years." Salem nodded.
"I think I know which one you're talking about. The one with the high cut on the right thigh?"
"That is correct."
"Oh, Wilhelm's going to love that." I cooed.
"I was hoping he would." Salem whispered.
"Kyah~ I'm so excited for you. What else are you wearing, jewelry? How are you doing your hair? What about makeup!?"
"…..would you like to assist?" She hesitantly asked.
"YES!" I jumped out of my chair.
This was going to be fun!
I mean, we had a bunch more to go over and plenty of time to kill before the party tomorrow, but still, this was turning out to be a fun get together! Something I never thought I would associate with Salem of all people.
"Answer me honestly, Medea –"
"It wouldn't work between us." She replied without missing a beat.
"Cute." I snorted. "But seriously, bowtie. Am I wrong in feeling that it's not just me?"
"Spin around." Medea demanded and I turned to face her. She bit her lip giving me a once over, a very scrutinizing gaze. "Yeah, it's not bad but it's not great. Honestly, you'd be better in a formal event where you wear a tie. But it's not as bad as you're probably thinking."
"Well of course. Regardless of what I'm wearing, I'm always going to be dashing. But I don't have that same feeling."
"You have such an inflated ego." She rolled her eyes. "And it's obviously my work that makes you look good."
"Credit where it's due." I spun around, looking myself over in the mirror. "You do phenomenal work."
"Of course." She glowed under the praise. "And where's your date? The brat is bringing my precious Saber to that shindig, but who're you bringing?"
"Salem, you haven't met her yet." I replied.
"Does she not need something made for the occasion?"
"It's nice of you to offer, but she's probably going to take a little while to warm up to that point. Jinn is with her and said they were handling that aspect."
"Oh well." She simply shrugged, not too concerned. "Even the brat asked me to make her dress without any fuss."
"Well color me surprised. I didn't think Rin would swallow her pride like that."
"Yup." Medea popped. "Took me by surprise too. Didn't even argue when I quoted her a price. I took pity and didn't antagonize her too much, but she seemed overly concerned about this whole thing. I don't get it, but then again, most of the people there would be like children to me and I would mostly have fun watching them try and play grown-ups."
"Rin is still pretty young y'know."
"Oh I know." Medea grinned. "That's why I enjoy getting under her skin so much. Like riling up a little sister." She paused. "Don't tell her that."
"Your secret is safe with me." I knew that Medea had a small soft spot for Rin.
The barbs they traded back and forth never devolved any further, like there was silent understanding between them. Truthfully, I think both of them realized that the moment the other took a step beyond the normal barbs, it would mean the other won. And that was far worse than any physical damage the other could do.
"How's the teaching gig been going over in Skyrim?" I began messing with my bowtie, because it still just felt off.
"Stop fiddling with that." Medea slapped my hand away in annoyance. "And it's been going good. Hubby and I have been saving up quite a bit of money. Honestly, we could buy a house right now and get everything sorted but….we're deciding on where we actually want to settle down."
"Fuyuki not looking good anymore?"
"Don't get me wrong, I adore Fuyuki. It has everything I want as a Magus and a future wife but…."
"It doesn't feel like home?" I could maybe guess her sentiments.
"I know it sounds silly, but I want a place that belongs to me and hubby. Maybe it's just that I feel like a guest there." She sighed.
"While I don't think Kyoto is where you would want to settle down, I would offer it regardless." I knew that Yasaka would welcome her with open arms.
She smiled, her expression softening considerably. "Thank you for offering. To be blunt, that place is much too hectic for my tastes. But your offer is genuinely one I appreciate. Thank you, again."
"Completely understandable. You deserve a nice and quiet life that's yours. What exactly are you looking for, if you don't mind me asking? I can always be on the lookout in my travels."
"I want to be able to practice my Magic openly." She held up a finger. "Or atleast, openly in the sense of Kyoto even if I can't do it in the mundane cities."
"Understandable. And I understand why Skyrim wouldn't be the place as well."
"Again, I do adore it there. The people, the scenery, the peace and quiet but….I refuse to live in a place without plumbing. I am a Princess and I demand at least that much."
"How did you do it back in the day then?" I questioned.
"Gods, please don't ask that question." She covered her face. "The answer would not be one you want to hear right now."
"Noted." I wisely decided not to push. "Anything else?"
"I want Hubby to continue to teach. It's something he loves doing and I don't want to take that away from him."
"Modernish conveniences, teaching job for your fiancé, Magic existing in some form of society. Anything else or are those your non negotiables?"
"….No Gods." She said softly. "If I could help it, I would like there to be no Gods existing in the world."
Ah, that would be a big selling point for her.
"I'll be sure to keep my eyes open for any worlds I come across that match your preferences."
She chuckled, patting my cheek. "Earn that wedding invitation, boyo."
Well, every world I'd been to so far hadn't matched her preferences, so I'd keep looking.
"Wilhelm, are you here?" I heard Artoria call out from upstairs.
"I'm here." I hollered back.
She didn't respond but I heard the steps as she approached. She wasn't wearing a Dress, which I had expected. She was in a suit as she was acting as Rin's Servant.
Even so… "You look beautiful."
There was a flash of pink that appeared on her cheeks, but she squashed it rather quickly. "I am not dressed beautifully." She said sternly. "I am Rin's Servant, thus I am required to look the part."
"Keep telling yourself that, Saber~" Medea cooed. "You're going to be cute in anything you wear, just accept that."
"I am a Knight!" She demanded.
"And you're foolish if you think you don't look absolutely adorable in your armor."
"W-wilhelm, correct her." Artoria looked to me for help. "I am a proper knight."
"…..can't it be both?" Seeing her puff up just proved our points.
"I honestly have no idea how history recorded you as a man. You have a bow in your hair for Hestia's sake!" Medea huffed and went to tug on said bow that Artoria generally kept in her hair but the cute knight slapped it away.
Medea looked at her again and tried to reach for it again only to be slapped away once more. They continued the back and forth a few more times before Medea grumbled and dejectedly stopped.
"From some of the stories I've heard, her knights weren't exactly the brightest bunch."
"Will!" Artoria took her stern voice. "Don't insult my Knights." Her lips quivered slightly. "Even if such a statement is accurate."
"Well, from what I've heard about your son getting up to in Skyrim, I would agree." Medea chortled.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"You haven't heard?" Medea tilted her head.
"No I have not. Explain."
Medea just started giggling.
"Explain to me what you mean."
Medea started laughing louder.
"You better not be bullying my Saber down there, you witch!" Rin shouted from upstairs. We all stopped as the sound of heels hitting the wooden floors echoed out. I think we were all a bit speechless once we finally saw her. "…what? Why are you all staring?"
"Wow, I do good work." Medea breathed out.
"Screw off." Rin huffed, carefully walking down the stairs.
Rin wore a very elegant dark blue dress. I admit to not knowing about the finer details of women's fashion, but I could honestly say that she looked phenomenal. Her hair was done up elegantly, and even her earrings she wore matched the Mystic Code she got in Skyrim to the point where it all came together perfectly.
"Rin, you look very good." I complimented her.
"Yeah, thanks." She smiled somewhat nervously. "Let's just get this whole thing over with."
I glanced at Artoria and I sort of silently asked her approval and she gave me a nod. "Rin, seriously." I gently put my hands on her bare shoulders. "You look beautiful."
"…thanks Schweinorg." She sounded much more genuine.
"No need to be nervous. If anything, everyone else should be nervous when you're around."
She snorted, barely holding back a growing smile. "Stop being an idiot."
"Fine, fine." I held up my hands letting go.
Rin walked over to the full length mirror set up and looked herself over. "I do look good, don't I?" She stated, her confidence returning quickly.
"5 out of 10." Medea replied.
I tuned out the back and forth Rin and Medea got into and instead focused on Artoria who grabbed my hand.
"Thank you." She said quietly standing on her tiptoes to give me a kiss on the cheek. "I love you, Wilhelm."
"I love you too." I whispered back.
"Everyone clear out the way!" Jinn burst in through the front door, slamming it open.
"Jesus fucking Christ, Jinn." Rin grumbled. "You scared the shit out of me."
"I apologize later! Introducing, Salem!" Jinn moved to the side.
Salem stepped forward. She obviously was nervous herself, but she took confident strides despite it.
I couldn't take my eyes off of her.
She walked forward, wearing a beautiful black dress. Different from the more standard one she usually wore. This was the kind meant for very special occasions. It had a high cut on her right side that revealed far up her thigh without coming off as crass. Her hair was done up in an elegant bun, and she had on a faint amount of makeup that only seemed to accentuate her natural features.
"Might wanna close your mouth, Schweinorg." Rin poked me and I didn't even realize she was at my side.
"I think you nailed it, Salem!" Jinn giggled and I was brought back to my senses.
"How do I look?" Salem asked.
"I think I need to find a dictionary to properly articulate how stunning you look right now." I responded.
"Smooth, Schweinorg." Rin said quietly. "And god damn, you really know how to pick them, don't you?"
"Salem was it?" Medea took a head start. "Medea, Princess of Colchis."
"Salem, Grimm Queen." Salem gave her own introduction.
"And this is Artoria." Jinn grabbed the shy Knight and practically dragged her up to Salem.
"Greetings. Wilhelm has told me much about you." Despite being pushing forward, Artoria quickly composed herself.
"You as well." Salem replied sort of stiffly.
Cue the awkward silence.
"How much trouble did you cause Salem?" I grabbed hold of my Genie into a hug.
"I didn't do anything!" She quickly denied. "Salem, tell him."
The corners of Salem's lips twitched in response. "Do you wish me to lie?"
"You traitor!" Jinn whined.
"This girl." Medea chuckled, pinching Jinn's cheeks.
"Hey Medea." Jinn smiled. "Hug." She held her arms out.
Medea of course couldn't resist Jinn when Jinn was being so adorable and happily hugged the Genie. "Why don't I steal her away while you all finish up? I've been meaning to spend some time with her anyways."
"She's all yours." I replied, giving Jinn a kiss on the forehead. "And thank you for helping Salem, Jinn."
"Of course." She smiled wide. "Have fun everyone!" She waved as Medea pulled her away and out of the room.
I loved seeing Jinn be so vibrant and happy like this. She can be as silly and playful as she wants. I much prefer this to how I first met her with her stoic and expressionless dutiful appearance.
And she's a master at cutting through any kind of awkwardness or tension in a room.
"You cleaned up well." Salem commented, giving me a look over. "Though I suppose It is not much different than your normal appearance."
"Not all of us can put on makeup and a new dress and dim the sun by just existing."
"God damn, Schweinorg, it's just a constant thing with you, isn't it?" Rin snorted, walking towards Artoria.
"He certainly has a glib tongue." Salem said softly, a faint pink adorning her pale cheeks.
Artoria smiled humorously. "Yes, Wilhelm is much too practiced in swaying women with honeyed words, it seems."
"So you're the newest of Schweinorg's Harem?" Rin walked up to her. "Rin Tohsaka. I'm the student of this idiot's grandfather." She jabbed her thumb towards me.
"Wilhelm told me about you as well." Salem smiled gracefully. "If I am to understand correctly….she –" Salem glanced at Artoria. "Is your Servant and acting as your…. Bodyguard?"
"That is correct." Artoria nodded. "While there should not be too much concern for Rin's Safety at this event, I will ensure nothing amiss happens. And you need not worry, I will not interrupt your date with Wilhelm."
"Of my concerns, that was not one of them. But nonetheless, I thank you for your thoughtful words." Salem replied.
"Alright, if you both are done staring each other down." Rin interrupted their little….thing. "How about we get this show on the road?"
I adjusted my bowtie and held out my hand to Salem. "Shall we?"
"Let us depart." She smiled, taking it in hers.
If there would ever be something to make a man hold his head up high, it was having a beautiful woman on his arm.
"Hold your head up, Rin. Shoulders back, and keep your stride longer. You must show confidence." Artoria lightly chided Rin.
"Easy for you to say." Rin grumbled, but fixed her posture.
"Any final reminders that you wish to speak before we enter?" Salem asked as we approached the obvious venue ahead. It was a building co-owned by both the Bartolomei Family and the Trambelio Family.
Owning buildings on property designated as under the umbrella of the Clock Tower was considered a status symbol.
This one in particular was reserved for grand events or gatherings. I don't even recall the last time it was used, perhaps when they hosted some big-wig who came to give a lecture to a larger audience?
"At this place, no one is allowed to get away with disrespecting any of you. But make sure your response is measured against any slight appropriately."
That was the best last minute advice I could give.
"Are they not going to check our identities?" Salem whispered as we got closer, noticing the blatant guards near the front doors.
"There aren't any actual invitations. Those who should be here know, and those who know they shouldn't be, aren't." I said simply.
If you turned up to this event when you have no reason to be here, well, you can kiss your time at the Clock Tower goodbye. They didn't stop anyone because if someone was stupid enough to try and crash the event, it was just an easy way to thin the herd of idiots that make it past the initial testing and scholarships.
The guards, however, were polite and opened the doors for us.
As soon as we entered, it was like a different world.
The décor that merely greeted guests was more expensive than what most mundane families made in a year. Extravagance was the name of the game with a lot of these old families. A power move to show off their wealth is such a ridiculous manner.
"Are those gold candle sticks?" Rin whispered.
"So it appears." Artoria nodded in confirmation.
"How ostentatious." Salem pursed her lips. "Trying this hard brings about the opposite effect."
"Agreed, but it's not about class. They're literally trying to show off how wealthy they are." I replied. "Pick a random art piece in this hallway, and it's probably worth more than the next car you see driving down the road."
That being said, as we walked, I began slightly tilting the paintings.
"You are childish." Salem commented on my actions, however, she was very clearly holding back a giggle on her part.
"Times like this that I remember your relationship with the Old Man." Rin snorted. "You think anyone would call me out if I nabbed something?"
"Rin!" Artoria puffed up.
"Nope." I immediately replied. "Think about it. If they made a scene about getting back whatever it is you took, how would that look to others?"
"Interesting." Rin said expressionlessly and casually grabbed a Golden Candlestick and quietly made it disappear into her storage bracelet.
Artoria let out a sigh. "You are a bad influence on her."
Rin smirked, shooting me a thumbs up behind Artoria's back.
"I can see you." Artoria Covered her face.
"You have any idea how much that Witch charged me for this dress? I think I deserve some kind of compensation for showing up." Rin tried her best to justify herself.
Salem had a smile the entire time, even if she didn't speak. I think she was enjoying being amongst the group.
"Here we are." I declared as we approached another set of doors with another set of guards.
They opened them as we approached and once more, it's like the world changed. A subtle tone filled the entire building, a live performance off to the side with about a dozen people playing instruments of varying shapes and sizes.
A section dedicated specifically to food and drink with long tables containing all kinds of delicacies that money couldn't buy in most places. Of course there were plenty of waiters walking around with platters of champagne and various bite sized bits.
The most eye-catching thing, however, was a specially designed 'arena' set up right in the middle of the venue.
And of course, the hundreds of people around couldn't be ignored either.
There were many familiar faces that I recognized from my memories.
And as soon as we walked in, nearly every set of eyes in the building turned to greet our arrival.
"Well then." I ignored the gazes and focused back on the nearest server. He noticed me and I gestured for him to come over, carrying his tray with him.
"Champagne, my Lords and Ladies?" He smoothly lowered his head, presenting the lot for us to pick.
"Don't mind if I do." I grabbed one and sipped it.
"I will take one as well." Salem also partook.
Both Rin and Artoria as well followed suit and it seemed like the scrutiny on us lowered exponentially.
"….I have been poisoned." Salem abruptly declared.
"…what?" I blinked, looking at her glass.
She swirled her Champagne lightly. "It's not particularly strong, and I believe it has an effect to make me…susceptible. If it would have worked properly, that is. Poison is perhaps the worst method to kill me due to my curse."
"Mine is fine." Rin muttered, casting a quick spell on hers.
"As is mine." Artoria chimed in.
"Ah, I see." I looked down into my drink. "To our left, about 9 o'clock. See the woman and man whispering and glancing at us."
Salem handed me her glass and took out what looked like a hand mirror and pretended to fix her makeup. "I see. Should I return the favor?"
"Honestly, in the eyes of most of the people here it's a small thing if it wasn't inherently deadly. I'm guessing they spiked dozens of glasses and were waiting for anyone who didn't think to check and swoop in to 'convince' someone of all kinds of things."
Essentially, since this event was catered towards the younger generation, the idea was to take a wide shot and hope any scion would be a noob and thus they could get them to sign some Geiss or contracts while they were inhibited.
Highly unlikely that any higher end family would attempt this kind of method as the potential to backfire was substantial.
There was security all around the place. Very obvious security as they dressed in black suits and were up against the walls, scanning the entire venue. If something was an issue, they would have stepped in. The fact that this happened, under their nose, meant they were staying out of things unless they escalated further.
"How disgusting." Artoria scrunched her nose.
"Amusing." Salem didn't get upset.
"You are not upset?" Artoria looked at her.
"Oh, I'm furious." Salem said calmly. "If this was Remnant, I would certainly not be this passive. However, I will play the game here as it's supposed to be played."
"If that's how you want to handle it, then let me join in." I took a drink of Salem's glass, visibly so the ones who were not quite so subtle could see.
"You two have fun with that. I see some people I know and I'm going to say hi." Rin informed us as she went to join the crowd further away with Artoria following closely.
"How do you wish to handle this?" Salem asked, snapping her mirror shut as the two we noticed before started making their way over.
"They clearly have no idea who I am, so let's just play stupid for now."
"Fun." A rising grin she had looked rather malicious.
And by not immediately mingling with the groups gathered, we probably looked like we were easy targets who were in over our heads.
"Hello there, you must be new to this kind of party." The woman was the first to speak.
"Is it that obvious?" I chuckled, putting on a fake smile.
"When you've been at this as long as me and my brother have, you tend to pick up on a few things. Don't worry, you haven't done anything to overly stand out. But if you take too long to gravitate towards one of the Factions, people will start to notice."
"Oh the factions? I didn't realize a party like this would be so….political."
That was a shared look between the woman and her assumed brother. A flash of excitement, very briefly, like they just hooked a fish. "Are you new to the Clock Tower then? Oh where are my manners, I haven't introduced myself yet. I am Adrianna Vinetz Waltzen, Heir to the modest Waltzen family." Even when she was trying to reel me in, the arrogance in her tone shined through. "And this is my brother, Victor." She bluntly introduced him, and he remained silent.
"The Waltzen family? I apologize, I have not spent much time in the Clock Tower, so I am unfamiliar with the name."
She pulled a fan out of her long sleeve and held it in front of her face. "It's no problem. We're just a simple family with only Three Hundred years of history. Not worth mentioning." She spoke with obvious false modesty.
"Three hundred years, how impressive." Salem chimed in.
"Why thank you." Her smile could be seen hidden behind her fan. She gave Salem a scrutinizing gaze which wasn't odd in of itself considering that Salem was visibly different from most normal humans. The Red eyes, pale skin, and black veins running up her arms were a pretty big give away. "It's not much compared to the true Lords of the Clock Tower, but we have some power and position we can call our own."
"Well I'm certainly envious. I can only boast about being a second generation Magus myself since I was adopted by my Grandfather."
"Unfortunately, neither of my parents practiced, so I am a first generation myself." Salem played her part well.
"Oh my, well every great family certainly has humble origins." She was subtly mocking us. "However, my family is always on the lookout for talent." She finally started to make her move. "Perhaps coming under the wing of another greater family is the path you should choose?"
"Well….I don't know.." I tapped my chin, pretending to be deep in thought.
"The Weltzen family even has a seat beneath one of the advisors for the Democratic faction's board. To say we have sway is not an understatement. We also provide all kinds of resources and benefits to facilitate the advancement of crafts far beyond what a lesser family can manage. Of course, this comes with a certain cost. You would be required to sign a contract stipulating an oath of fealty to the Weltzen family. Just the normal formalities, mind you. And I can assure you that you would not receive a deal like this from any other family."
Ah, that's their angle. They're just snatching up any free hands they can get their hands on that aren't already claimed.
Even a first or second generation magus can have value to them if they get them to sign a slave-like contract.
"Well, I think I would have to ask my Grandfather first. He has a certain position here and I wouldn't want to harm his prospects."
"Of course, of course." She mockingly laughed again. "I'm sure your Grandfather's position is a noble and honorable one that you wouldn't want to besmirch. If you desire, I can speak on your behalf. I'm sure he can see reason after you sign a few special documents ahead of time. What is your Grandfather's name?" she asked, with a tone of dismissiveness to it. Like it would be a chore to go deal with him afterwards.
And she was operating under the assumption that the drug we took was affecting us.
What an amateur.
"Kischur Zelretch Schweinorg."
"…pardon?" She blinked in confusion from behind her fan.
"My Grandfather's name. He is Kischur Zelretch Schweinorg." I paused, letting that sink in. "Oh I apologize, I never introduced myself. How terribly rude of me. My name is Wilhelm Henry Schweinorg."
"It would also be impolite for me to not introduce myself either." Salem's Aura seeped out slightly with her words. "My name is simply Salem due to the fact that I was born far before the idea of multiple names was a concept that humanity embraced."
For added effect, Salem drank from her glass again. "My this sure does taste strange, don't you think, dear?"
"I thought the same thing. Should I go complain to the hosts that we were served something so….sub par? I believe I can go find the Barthomeloi head here somewhere….."
"T-that will not be necessary!" The woman's eyes widened in realization, which quickly turned to fright. "My drink was fine, why don't I go retrieve you another glass myself?"
"No no, I think we should have words with the host here." Salem gently denied her. "It would be quite the scandal if there were more drinks being presented to their guests like this."
"Y-you're right!" The woman squeaked out. "I will take care of this!"
"How kind." Salem drawled. "Don't you think dear? This Weltzen family certainly is one that should be remembered."
"I'm sure my Grandfather will wait with anticipation to hear the recruitment pitch from them." I nodded along.
"W-Well, the Wizard Marshall is surely too busy to deal with such a small and insignificant family such as mine. Why don't I handle the matter of the Champagne, it would be shame if the party was ruined for something so silly!" She grabbed her brother's collar. "Come along brother, we're going to do our civic duty and make sure everything continues smoothy!"
They ran away in a hurry.
Salem and I glanced at one another and barely stifled the accompanying laughter.
"I admit, that was humorous. It almost makes it worth it to get poisoned by some fools." Salem smiled happily.
"Hmm." Salem hummed as we watched the two run towards one of the waiters and start grabbing at glasses of Champagne, filtering through them until they found the one they were looking for and moved on to the next waiter. "Almost." She repeated, holding her hand up. I could feel the faint gathering of Magical Energy and the tiniest of spells cast.
A cantrip, but a powerful one. Just the tiniest burst of condensed Gravity on a singular spot. Specifically, the woman's foot.
Her heel snapped, and she fell forward, right into a waiter with a tray full of Champagne glasses. They fell down and splattered all over her, causing quite the commotion.
"There we are."
"You are a vicious woman."
"And you are a terrible flirt." She smiled back at me.
God, I wanted to steal those full rosy lips right at this moment. But I knew if I did, it would go far beyond what was appropriate for this setting.
"Seeing as we dealt with the annoyances, would you like something to eat?" I eyed the foodstuffs at the side and it was fairly empty of people.
"I would not mind trying a few things." She nodded.
"I'll be right back then." I did sneak a quick kiss onto her cheek, making her puff up cutely. Before she could get a response in, I stepped away towards the open buffet.
I could honestly smell it the moment I walked into this building and my gluttonous side was calling out to me.
Really it wasn't until I got closer that I realized why there were so few people crowding the food. Or rather, there was only one person putting stuff on a plate.
"I was wondering why everyone was avoiding this area, now It makes sense." I grabbed a plate and placed a few items onto it. The woman, who was chewing on something with a plate stacked high, turned to look at me inquisitively. "Miss Aoko Aozaki."
She chewed a few more times, swallowing down with a big gulp. "You know me?"
"I'd have to be rather foolish not to know the Blue." I responded. "But I do, sort of. Wilhelm Henry Schweinorg." I introduced myself.
The other Name of the Fifth True Magic.
One of the strongest beings on the planet. If she was more mature in her abilities with it, I would genuinely be threatened by her if we got into a fight.
"Oh, you're the old man's Grandson. He was talking about you the last time we met. Wait! You're the one who got that red syrup, right!? Can you get me more of that, I'll pay!"
I was a bit taken back by the sudden shift in attitude. "Sure, just ask Gramps, he has plenty."
"Thanks, kid! Now that Old Man can't be stingy with it when I ask him." She smiled happily. Though she paused, looking at me with furrowed brow. "You're weird."
"No, your causality is all weird." She muttered, her eyes glowed in an iridescent blue light. "Musū Tengai?"
"…how do you know that name?"
"It was practically shouted at me when I looked at your causality." She shrugged. "But you seem to know what it is, so it's none of my business."
Did she look further into me? My Zanpakutō would be something that could interfere with her Magic.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but…why are you here?" I questioned.
"What, do you think I'm too old to be here?" She put her hands on her hips, narrowing her eyes.
"There's no correct answer to that question."
She chuckled, dropping the serious look she had. "Don't worry about it, I'm just here for the free food. I don't really get involved in this kind of crap if I don't have to."
She was rather easy going just as I remembered. As long as someone didn't try to stand on their noble pedestal, she was content to keep things casual.
"I'll leave you to it then." I wasn't going to continue bothering her, and I had a date to get back to.
"See ya later, kid." She turned back towards her free meal and was fine to ignore me.
I merely shook my head and walked back to find Salem with now a plate full of goodies.
It didn't take long as she stood out among the crowd. And she was now mingling with a few people I didn't recognize.
"I am not dismissing your path, child. I merely stated that your description is wasteful." Salem's tone as I got close had a small bite to it. "You speak of creating a creature that requires abundant Magical Energy and natural energy in the form of Food and Water to operate. Why not simply cut out the second?"
"I told you, that a proper Chimera is a living breathing animal! Without the ability to eat and drink to process the necessities of life, it's pointless." A woman I didn't recognize argued back.
Salem glanced at me happily. "Wilhelm, settle this debate. She speaks of a Chimera being a perfect amalgamation of parts yet said beast still has the weaknesses associated with all living beings."
The woman turned up her nose towards him. "It is not a weakness! Without the ability to live it can't evolve!"
"Preposterous." Salem countered. "Evolution is not dependent on something so basic. Even a facsimile of life can break free of those perceived bonds and gain intelligence and purpose."
"That's impossible! If something only fakes life then it's not living, so how could it suddenly become living."
…they're arguing about who's monsters are better.
"By that logic, a tree is not a living being."
"Nor would certain creatures that do not rely on the same gathering of energy through physical matter. There are plenty of sea life that don't consume other organisms to continue their existence yet they have changed and evolved since creation." Salem continued. "Your premise is flawed and the result of narrow thinking. The mere childish desire that blinds you to the obvious."
"Y-you're insulting my department!"
"Don't be absurd, I'm pointing out the inconsistencies in your path." Salem scoffed.
"What would some unknown woman know about my craft!? I bet you're not even from a prestigious family" The woman turned her nose up with a harumph. "You have no idea what you're talking about and I will be submitting a report about your insults on our Department to the head!"
"Now now, let's not let this get too heated. We're here to enjoy a party and exchange viewpoints. I'm sure she meant no harm, Lady Ellinore" A man with long hair walked up. He had a tired look about him, yet at the same time, he was very attentive and aware of his surroundings.
"Lord El-Melloi II." The woman's attitude did a quick 180 and she bowed respectfully towards him. "She insulted my craft and called it childish!"
"No, I called your logic childish. I very much do not dismiss the idea of Chimeras." Salem reiterated.
"Lady Ellinore, perhaps we should take a break and cool our heads?"
The woman scowled and stomped off once she realized she wasn't going to get her way.
"If she cannot even handle any criticism then she should simply cease her studies now." Salem huffed, crossing her arms.
"Be that as it may, perhaps it's not a good idea to antagonize Lady Ellinore. She is considered a genius in the Zoology department and is very skilled in the making of Chimeras. Hers are considered the premium product for those looking to purchase."
"Premium among trash is still trash." Salem said dismissively.
The man coughed awkwardly, seemingly having no idea how to respond.
"Waver Velvet." I spoke up instead. "I've heard a great many things about you."
"Should I take it as an honor to be known by the Grandson of the Wizard Marshall?" He said rather emotionlessly.
"I'm surprised, it seems like not many people actually know who I am."
"Your appearances thus far have been minimal and regulated to rumor. I just happen to be acquainted with a Miss Tohsaka and I am more privy to the details." He replied coolly. "But I do not know your companion."
"Salem." She introduced once more.
"Waver Velvet. Also known as Lord El-Melloi II. I am the Head of the Department of Modern Magecraft Theory."
"Your reputation precedes you, Lord El-Melloi II. And I have heard of this Modern Magecraft Theory, a fascinating concept born out of necessity. I admit confusion on the matter as I am not entirely familiar with the modernity of Magecraft as it is. In my time, it was simply called Magic."
His eyes widened slightly and there was an obvious understanding based on what she said. "I would enjoy speaking at greater length about our objectives. To compare notes with someone who lived in the previous era of Magecraft would be beneficial to our studies. If you were ever so inclined, the Department of Modern Magecraft Theory would be more than willing to host you should you desire to give any lectures or classes." He held out his hand, producing what looked like the Magus equivalent of a business card.
Salem took it, eyeing it for a moment. "Your request has piqued my interest. I will consider it."
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a familiar blonde woman arguing with Rin and Artoria trying to mediate the situation.
I was tempted to go over there and get involved, but I didn't want to step on Rin's toes.
"Mister Waver, I got a plate, do you want – "
I froze, staring at the woman who trotted over. Lord El-Melloi II must have noticed my staring because he shifted to sort of stand between us.
"Gray, put your hood back up." He chided, the young girl, who was wearing a large cloak, pulled the hood up, hiding her features.
But at this point, it was too late, I saw.
The coloring was off. And she was a bit…smaller, more petite. But besides that, there was no mistake.
"….why does she look like Art – Saber." I corrected myself at the last minute.
The young girl flinched and hid behind Waver.
She was the spitting image of Artoria, minus a lighter hair color bordering gray and paler skin and eyes.
"That is…private." The Lord steeled his expression.
"Does Saber know?" I stared at him in the eyes.
"She is aware." The Lord kept his response to a minimum.
I let out a breath and relented. "Then I won't ask any more on the subject." It was clearly something sensitive and Magi aren't known to reveal secrets easily.
If Artoria knew, that means it's something she wasn't comfortable sharing, or it wasn't something for her to speak about openly. I would talk to her later about it.
"Thank you for your understanding, Lord Schweinorg." The Department head spoke with a genuine hint of thanks in his tone for not pursuing the subject. "Come along Gray, we should – "
The doors to the venue were practically blown off their hinges as a woman with several people flanking her burst into the room.
"The Queen?" Waver furrowed his brow.
I recognized her quickly as well.
A well kept ponytail. A tan-colored jacket and white pants with matching boots. A mithril Gauntlet on her left hand and a riding crop in her right.
Lorelei Barthomeloi, also known as the Queen of the Clock Tower. It's Vice Director, technically a position even above Gramps'.
"Why is she staring at me?" Salem asked, and we were about to find out because she practically zeroed in on Salem and marched right over.
Waver wisely disappeared when none of us was looking.
The music stopped right as she entered, and everyone stared as she approached.
She stopped a few feet away, locking eyes with Salem.
"You are not a Dead Apostle." The Vice Director voiced rather loudly.
"How astute." Salem returned without missing a beat, the sarcasm clear.
I don't know who was more surprised, the surrounding people or the Vice Director herself for the rather impolite retort to the abrupt statement.
She grabbed her riding crop, a frown adorning her face. "Someone bring to me the one who made the report about a Dead Apostle appearing here."
"V-vice Director, it was me." A familiar voice rang out amongst the crowd. The young woman Salem had been arguing with not 30 minutes ago quickly pushed through to come forward.
"Explain to me why I received an urgent report about a Dead Apostle appearing in the heart of my territory and I find nothing of the sort." She didn't sound too pleased.
"She's right there!" The woman from the Chimera Department jabbed her finger in accusation towards Salem.
Salem merely raised an eyebrow. "I am being insulted and slandered."
"She is not a Dead Apostle." The Vice Director said sternly.
"I do not appreciate having my time wasted." The Vice Director narrowed her eyes down at the girl.
"And I do not appreciate the insults. I demand satisfaction." Salem crossed her arms, looking at the trembling girl.
"A punishment will be decided." The Vice Director glanced in Salem's direction. "An accusation such as this cannot be levied lightly."
"Into the arena." Salem said simply. "It was placed here to settle disputes or what-not of this variety. Bring her up."
The Vice Director paused, pondering what Salem just said. "A simple and sufficient response. I approve."
"Wait, no! I'm not a fighter! I refuse!"
"It is your right to refuse." The Vice Director stated. "However, my annoyance will be brought up with the head of the zoology Department. And you can be assured, if I am forced to waste more time settling this matter, it will not be to your benefit."
"If we're throwing our weight around, I'll step in as well." I spoke up amongst them for the first time, making them turn their heads towards me. "Get on stage per Salem's demands, or you'll find Zelretch paying the Zoology department a visit."
He wouldn't mind if I used his name here like this as a threat.
The Vice Director raised an eyebrow in my direction. "The Wizard Marshall spoke of you."
"A pleasure to meet you for the first time, Lady Barthomeloi." I greeted her politely by her family name, which to her family was the most respectful greeting.
For someone who was purely human, she was frighteningly strong. By the standards of my birth world, she's easily Ultimate Class.
"W-Wizard Marshall?" The Chimera girl squeaked out.
"He is my Grandfather. And you have insulted the woman I'm in a relationship with. If Salem did not wish to handle this herself, then you can be assured that I would have in her place. Choose carefully your next words."
"I-I will...fight…." She shook as she finished the words.
Well, I couldn't blame her. Perhaps two of the most influential people in the hierarchy here were breathing down her proverbial neck about how she handled this whole mess with the false accusation. Her career here was basically over after this stunt.
"Let her fetch her pitiful creations. I would not be seen as bullying an unprepared child." Salem crossed her arms defiantly.
Funny enough, The Vice Director looked amused for the slightest moment at Salem's request. I suppose it's not unexpected coming from the woman who intentionally goes out to hunt Dead Apostles due to a generational hatred passed down her bloodline.
"An undeserved mercy." The Vice Director grunted. "Very well, send some people to bring her personal creations from the Zoology department to participate in this duel. We shall reconvene shortly."
It didn't take long for them to start rolling in. Large cages, small cages. They were of all sizes as various roars and ungodly noises emanated from within them.
Salem stood impatiently at one end of the arena while the Chimera girl took the spot opposite of it. She took out what appeared to be a flute and played a few notes on it, making the creatures in the cages calm down quickly.
I almost felt bad for the girl.
She didn't seem too old, perhaps a year under Rin. But far old enough to know what to say and not say around here. And accusing Salem of being a Dead Apostle, and reporting it to the Vice Director of all people, that was just plain stupidity.
She striked me as the sort of person who hasn't been told 'no' much in her life. A genius, constantly praised, gets what she wants, etc. Such a type of person wouldn't take being 'insulted' lightly.
I may have felt a bit bad, that is, if she didn't look cocky as hell now that she had her pets behind her.
"Open the cages." She demanded.
The staff pulled giant metal spikes out from the hinges, the cages practically destroyed as the creatures filled out at the melodic music coming from the girl's flute.
The tune was somewhat familiar.
Was that the Pied Piper's tune? Credit where it was due, that's a pretty smart idea to control a bunch of mindless beasts with. Weaving the control of Magecraft into the inherent concepts of manipulation and hypnotism of that infamous character's notes.
There was one massive one with a scorpion's tail at the back, and the body of a lion with the head of an eagle. There were several smaller ones with the bodies of crabs, but mixed with the appendages of spiders. All manner of Frankenstein horrors were presented here for everyone to see.
"Stupid, you let me bring out my Chimeras." The girl gloated. "These are some of my better ones too." They filed out and lined up in front of her.
"Is it my turn then?" Salem asked, ignoring her. "You showed me your pets, let me show you mine." Salem's shadow began to distort and enlarge, covering her entire half of the arena. It began with red eyes appearing in an uncountable number. And slowly, things began to emerge from within it.
A couple dozen Alpha Beowolves. A handful of Alpha Ursas. Some Boarbatusks, to fill in the gaps. There were more, so much more, hiding in her shadow that poked out but silently faded back inside.
"It seems like my bigger ones can't fit here, a shame. But I suppose this will be enough." Salem casually spoke.
"T-that's not fair!" The girl exclaimed in shock amongst the whispers of surprise in the room. "What are those!? Why do you have so many!?"
"I believe we are both ready?" Salem glanced at the Vice Director.
"Very well." They both ignored the Chimera girl's protests. "As Vice Director, I will oversee this Duel. Death is forbidden. I will declare the winner when it becomes clear." She raised her riding crop up in the air then slammed it down. "You may begin." She declared with a gust of wind echoing her voice to every corner of the building.
The girl quickly moved to use her flute and Salem simply sat there again, letting the girl make her move.
The Chimeras, as outnumbered as they were, charged at Salem's Grimm.
The outcome was….expected.
There was absolutely no expense.
Grimm met Chimeras, and the tide of black creatures very quickly overwhelmed the animal amalgamations. The Grimm tore into the fleshly creatures with blatant disregard to their own wellbeing while the Chimeras could still feel the pain and fear of their bodies being attacked and attempted to return the favor.
An Ursa went down, but so did half of the Chimeras in its place. The biggest beastie present, the Tiger-bodied-Scorpion-tailed, creature collided with another Alpha Ursa, but the Alpha Beowolves lashed out, clawing into its hide and cleaving away its flesh. And the Boarbatusks charged at the remaining Chimera with reckless abandonment. Their only purpose was to pierce their mighty tusks into the hides of their foes.
The fight didn't last long.
The Chimera girl just stared in shock as her supposed best creatures were overwhelmed and annihilated by Salem's own Grimm.
A roar of one of the Alpha Ursas signaled the end of the match, and another slap of the Vice Director's riding crop confirmed it with the announcement of the Chimera girl's defeat.
"This fight is over. Victor goes to the insulted." Her response was simple and direct, a satisfying conclusion for both Salem and the Vice Director in this case as the girl had been humiliated in public and committed what was essentially political suicide with her stunt.
Salem recalled her Grimm, her shadow expanding and they silently dove back into her shadow before it receded to its proper shape.
She stepped off the stage with elegance and grace befitting one who called themselves a Queen.
"Well done." Was the Vice Directors only words of response to Salem's victory before she departed from this party.
But just that was enough for many more people here to pay attention to Salem for more than just a curiosity.
"That was fun." Was Salem's response to this whole incident. "What next?"
"Well, I doubt anyone's going to come pick a fight anymore. But there's still ample opportunity to talk to the people gathered." I held out my arm. "Why don't I introduce you to some of the people I recognized?"
"That would be lovely." She smiled beautifully, despite the many stares that were one us, this was a lovely moment for us.
I was still worried about Chaldea and the Singularities, but there was still nothing I could quite do about it at this particular moment. So I would enjoy the rest of the part with Salem and see where Gramps stood on it tomorrow.
Next stop, Orleans.
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