Gotham's Dead End Bar

Step 1: Be a serial reincarnator. Step 2: End up in Gotham with Death of the Endless. Step 3: Open a neutral-ground bar for heroes and villains. Step 4: ??? Step 5: Profit. Don't go into this story expecting something serious or (grim)dark. This isn't that kind of story and that's not what I'm trying to do here. This is a story about a bartender telling crazy stories about his time in the multiverse to the villains and heroes of DC. It's practically crack, about two steps removed from a fix-it fic. There is a plot (eventually, the beginning chapters are pretty slice-of-life heavy) but it's never going to be some grand tale of tragedy. In the same lane, don't expect the same Batman/Bat Family that you might be used to. No paranoiax10, dark, and gritty 'Batman can't be/have fun!' Batman. My Batman is more in line with the 'Batdad' concept or the animated series Batman. Also, this is kind of an AU. Not in any major way but some of the story might not match up perfectly with the DC canon continuity. I'm going for a static DC universe. So characters and their backstories are set but I'll be avoiding the major plot points of the comics (Dark Multiverse, Infinite Frontier, etc.) Pat reon.com/dryskies_btb for early chapters. 370k words are already available there.

Daddy · Anime & Comics
Not enough ratings
66 Chs

50: Surprise Christmas Cake

[AN: I think I tried to do too much all at once with this chapter. Ophis' reveal/arrival might feel a bit lacking to some people. Don't worry too much though. She'll get a whole chapter focused on her soon enough.]


I shook my head fondly as I eventually convinced Simmy to bring us back down to the Dead End. It was good to see her again. Better than good. I couldn't easily fit the entirety of my feelings on the matter into mere words.

Simmy was… well, she certainly had a special place in my history. My life in Worm was relatively early in my reincarnating career. Before Yharnam, even. It was one of my first dozen lives and it taught me quite a bit about making the best of a bad situation. Simmy was a big part of that.

She'd been shackled when I met her. Chained by orders she couldn't ignore. Forced to stir up conflict to further the Entities' Cycle. The only reason she was created by the Shard Network was to give the hero Eidolon a 'worthy opponent', a subconscious insecurity that the hero's power latched onto.

Without him, she likely wouldn't have been created in the same form. But in unknowingly creating her, he'd also enslaved her and forced her to commit the atrocities of the Endbringers. That wasn't to say Simmy or her sibling would have been saints without Eidolon, but they certainly wouldn't have been forced to do everything they did.

The Endbringers — Simmy and her siblings — had been monsters. But not of their own free will. They didn't even have free will before I came along and punched Simmy into a cascading reboot with a literal Gundam. Once she was freed from her 'father's' chains, she'd latched onto me quite tightly. I was her [Purpose], the first choice she'd made for herself. And I quickly found that I couldn't truly completely blame her for her actions before gaining free will.

When it came to Simmy, resistance was futile. She was quite stubborn like that when she was allowed her own personality and choice, it turned out. Especially when it concerned me — the one who'd set her free.

Her original situation was honestly quite similar to Raven's, thinking about it now. Not entirely the same. But they'd both been firmly under the thumb of a deadbeat father. Where Raven gained freedom of emotion, Simmy gained freedom of will. Then there was the whole angel-demon parallel going on there and how inquisitive they both were.

I had a feeling they'd get along quite well. Or maybe tear the world apart with their bickering. It could go either way, honestly. Both outcomes would be very entertaining though.

The hole that Simmy crashed through upon her initial entrance into the Dead End had fully repaired itself. But the bar's Genius Loci sensed our approach and opened up an exact copy for Simmy to come through again. The Dead End seemed to think that was just how Simmy preferred to enter buildings. It was cute.

It also clearly piqued Simmy's interest, "[Curiosity]. [Data]?"

"I've been cultivating a localized intelligence spirit to inhabit my Domain," I explained. "It's magical and spiritual stuff so I suspect you have no real point of reference there. The Dead End is probably a good place for you to start but we'll work on that."

"[Interest], [Gratitude]."

"Did the two of you have a pleasant reunion?" Didi asked as Simmy brought us back into the bar proper.

Simmy came to rest behind the bar next to Didi. She floated in a sitting position with me firmly in place in her lap and arms. It was her favorite position for cuddles and she seemed to be feeling rather needy right about now. Her wings were entirely for show — she kept herself aloft purely through her telekinetic might — but they did add to the scene quite well. Like she was my throne and a damn intimidating, 'angelic' one at that.

"I think we did," I grinned. "I brought Simmy somewhat up to speed but of course, she still has a lot about this reality to experience for herself. She's handling all of the new [Data] well though. I'm proud of her."

"[~PrEeN~]," Simmy's feathers puffed up in a pleased manner and she hummed contentedly, the closest thing to a blush she usually exhibited.

"I'm sorry," Cyborg gaped at us. "What… was that? You somehow put… information? Into your words?"

"That is usually how words and language work," Raven deadpanned.

"No, no, not like this," Cyborg quickly denied. "There was something more there. I'm pretty sure I got a bit of bleed over data when he said '[Data]'."

"Same," Lucy put forward. "It was freaky. My neural implants don't know what to make of it."

"That's just how Simmy prefers to communicate. In [Data] and [Concepts]. It's either that or singing. And you don't want to hear her sing…" I warned.

"Ominous," Beast Boy shuddered before trying to shake the feeling off. "So this is your ex-wife or something? You married an angel?"

"Simmy just looks like an angel," I clarified. "Her oldest brother looks almost demonic and the middle child of her family is a straight-up sea monster. I believe it was an inherent, unconscious bias in her creator. Really though, she's just your standard, run-of-the-mill crystalline pseudo-organic lifeform."

"[Objection]. [Simmy ≠ Standard]," Simmy pointed, poking me with a wingtip.

I chuckled, "I suppose you're right about that, darling. You're nothing like your siblings or the rest of the Shards."

"… I am so lost, choom," David said.

"╰(● ⋏ ●)╯" Cass somehow managed to 'exclaim' an expression on her face. 'Weak sauce, choom! You gotta go harder than that in the Dead End!'

"Hey, look, she's a natural!" Becca giggled.

Alice shrugged, "Honestly, this is pretty tame for Dad. A crystal, alien AI for an ex-wife is nothing."

"[Correction: Still wife]," Simmy asserted.

"I-…" Alice paused. "Sure. Why not. Makes no difference to me. I'm not calling you 'Mom 2' though."

Simmy stared at Alice with her seemingly blank silver eyes. She directed a question to me, "[Inquiry: Biological offspring]?"

"[Data: Alice adoption]," I replied.

Simmy assimilated the information I spoke into the world almost instantly, nodding her satisfaction. Cyborg, meanwhile, groaned, "Ahhhh, fuck. Don't do that without warning, man. I'm gonna need to update my firewalls…"

"Well, I for one am happy to have Simmy here," Didi smiled gently. "I'll happily accept her company. When it comes to my beloved, the more the merrier, I say."

"[Sentiment = returned]," Simmy hummed.

"(^-^)" Cass nodded with a satisfied expression on her face. 'I like her. She's fun.'

Barbara glowered at everything and nothing, "This is going entirely too smoothly."

"That's not something you should be complaining about, Babs," Kara pouted.

I raised an eyebrow at Barbara, "Yeah, it almost sounds like you have a problem with Simmy."

"Not a problem, per se," Barbara demurred before puffing up in frustration. "But c'mon! You told us about her! It's the fucking 'Endbringer' that terrorized another Earth! You can't just wife up a monster and have her show up without us having some questions! How did she get here?! Is she safe?! Are you just going to pick up where you two left off?!"

"In reverse order: So it seems, yes, and I'd assume someone let her in," I answered.

That last bit brought Barbara up short. She shuddered slightly, "Ugh… That's a worrying thought."

"I believe I know how that happened," Didi sighed. "And yes, it is just as worrying as it sounds."

"Uh oh," Kara frowned. "Even Didi thinks it's worrying?"

"Perhaps not worrying," Didi corrected. "But certainly problematic. Troublesome. It concerns my… most unpredictable sibling."

"Delirium?" Barbara asked.

"No, Del is predictable in how unpredictable she is," Didi shook her head. "Desire is… Well, they're Desire. As much as I love them, they're simply troublesome at times."

"Perhaps that's something we should be discussing later," I suggested. "Family business, so to speak. Didi and I will handle it. It's probably best for everyone else to avoid it to the best of their ability."

"That-…" Barbara hesitated. "Yeah, okay, I don't want to get pulled into Endless drama. If you and Didi say it'll be handled, I'll just have to trust you."

"That's probably for the best," I said with an amused smirk. "I know it pains you to not meddle but Didi's siblings are a bit above your paygrade, Barbara."

Barbara scowled at me slightly and Kara worried, "There won't be any fighting, will there? They're still family. They shouldn't fight."

"Let's not mention the collateral damage if they do," Barbara snarked, her tone dry and cutting to hide her completely reasonable concerns.

Didi smiled at them reassuringly, "My siblings and I rarely if ever truly fight. We have our disagreements but I like to think we have relatively healthy relationships all things considered."

"Certainly more healthy than the Greek Gods or most other divine pantheons," I snorted with humor. "As low of a bar as that is…"

During all of this, Simmy was content to just sit back with me still in her lap and observe. It was how she usually acted, like a refreshing gust of nostalgia for me. If she was not directly addressed, she was the type to simply sit back and watch.

In her native world, I remembered plenty of important meetings she sat in on with me on her lap, more than happy to act as a mere terrifying showcase of my 'power' to everyone else in the room. Simmy herself only cared about the cuddles to be had in those situations, something that would have baffled the people she was 'intimidating' if they knew.

"Well!" Kara perked back up with her usual optimism. "I don't think we have anything to worry about with Simmy~! She doesn't seem like a monster at all. I'd rather just concentrate on being her friend."

"She hasn't been a monster for a long time now," I commented. "She was only considered one in the first place because of her 'father'. He forced her to fight the world so he'd have a 'worthy opponent'. Even if it was subconscious, that's hardly an excuse."

Raven raised an eyebrow in interest, commiserating with Simmy as I expected, "Relatable. You seem to make a habit of freeing daughters from their bastard fathers, Sean."

"I suppose I sort of do," I chuckled. "Only when I feel I have to though. I wasn't even trying to do so with Simmy but I certainly don't regret the outcome. Seriously, fuck Eidolon, the insecure prick."

"Yeah, fuck that dude~! Whoever the fuck he is~!" Harley chimed.

Becca joined her as a matter of course, "Gonk sounds bitch-made! Just fucking jerk one out and get over yourself like the rest of us!"

"Classy," Raven deadpanned.

"She isn't wrong though," I laughed, shaking my head. "It's in the past now but Simmy's world would have been a much better place if Eidolon didn't take himself so seriously."

Simmy hummed a complex song, hugging me to her lap as we hovered there. Everyone who heard her got the feeling of long-healed pain and zero regrets. Simmy was content with how things had turned out in her life. She wouldn't trade it for anything. She'd been through it but she was here now, eager to face a present she couldn't see and a future in constant flux. That was all that mattered.

Kori bounced over to us, full of enough energy to light up the bar, "[Well said, new friend]! [Salutations]~! [I am Koriand'r of Tamaran]! [I wish to do the getting to know of you]~!"

Most of the bar stopped and stared at Kori as she fluently spoke Simmy's language like it was nothing. Even I blinked in surprise for a brief moment. How many languages did she pick up from me during our kiss? That… might make things a bit complicated. Interesting. But complicated.

Simmy cocked her head at Kori like a bird, "[Data]?"

"[Indeed]!" Kori grinned, wide and excited. "[I learned from Friend Sean]! [It is the most fascinating of languages]!"

Cyborg groaned in the background, "Oh, God, if Kori knows it, I don't think my head is ever going to stop aching…"

"Kori…?" Raven asked slowly. "What languages did you learn from Sean when you kissed him?"

"[All of the languages]!" Kori declared proudly.

"… Oh, Trigon's torn-off testicles," Raven swore in defeat.

I couldn't help but laugh. Both at Raven's very creative expletive and at Kori's declaration. Said in Simmy's language, it carried much more information than it otherwise would have for the people who knew how to listen for it.

Mundane languages, magical languages, all the way up to the most potent and reality-altering words I knew. The languages of dragons and elves, demons and gods. Methods to speak to Magic and Reality itself.

The Concept of Language imbued her declaration and everyone got the merest hint at the verbal power Kori now had at her disposal. She didn't wield the languages perfectly — couldn't put the correct metaphysical weight behind them or pull the proper power out of them. But she knew the words and understood the underlying rhythms now. She could speak the languages, even if they wouldn't do everything they 'could' do on the tongue of myself or a native speaker.

"It seems that Kori now has quite the potent toolset on her hands," I said, my lips quirking up slightly. "On her lips, you might say…"

Damian frowned fiercely, "That is a potentially worrying thought. Will you train her?"

"I could," I shrugged. "If she wants to learn from me."

"I will do all of the learning!" Kori announced, dramatically pointing a finger to the sky as she returned to English.

"You've gotten yourself an enthusiastic student, Sean," Ivy observed with dry amusement.

"I have," I chuckled. "Isn't she adorable? It's about time I imparted a thing or two about magic."

Raven stared at me with ill-disguised interest, "… I want in."

I shot her a knowing, little, lopsided smirk, "I'm sure we can work something out there."

"Is that what we're doing for the rest of the night?" Alice asked. "Magic lessons? Finally?"

"I suppose it is," I nodded. "Hold on, though. We're missing someone for that activity. He did offer and I would feel bad about not including him now that we've actually gotten around to it."

Everyone watched me curiously, not quite sure who I was talking about. I stretched my awareness into the Dead End, tracking everyone who'd been within its walls. I was looking for one mage in particular. Soon enough, I found him, and with a slight pull, Klarion the Witch-Boy popped into existence in the Dead End.

He jumped at the sudden displacement, his surroundings changing without any warning whatsoever. He was currently dressed in enough protective gear to be working with a bio or chemical hazard team. Only a single step removed from a full magical hazmat suit. Klarion looked around in confusion, clearly recognizing the bar but not understanding what brought him here or why.

"Wooo~!" Harley cheered. "The Magic Brat is back~!"

"Witch-Boy," Klarion corrected with a sigh. "Am I interrupting something?"

"No," I chuckled at the somewhat backward question. "I summoned you here. I should be asking you if I'm interrupting something?"

"You did," Klarion sighed again. "But it's already too late to put me back. I'll just have to write off that whole workshop to alchemical fallout. It was going to be such a good prank too…"

"Sorry about that," I apologized. "I just assumed you wouldn't want to miss the Dead End's and Mr. Barkeep's first real magic lesson."

"Ohoh~?" Klarion removed the facial portion of his protective gear to reveal an eager smile. "That would certainly make up for a mere ruined prank. I can't wait to see what I learn here tonight. I expect I'll be rewriting much of what I know about magic and existence!"

As if triggered by his words, a sudden rip in reality tore itself into being in the Dead End. Through it, everyone got a glimpse of something beyond comprehension. Not the Endless depth of Didi and her siblings, but a more concentrated form of Infinity. An Infinitely recurring source of energy, a well of power without limits or restraints.

The being that stepped through the rip was a surprise even to me. Almost unassuming. Tiny. Adorable. A contradiction to the Infinity that heralded her arrival. But Infinity still lurked beneath her skin if one was willing to look.

She was even tinier than Becca. Long black hair the color of the Void hung behind her like a curtain, falling past her waist. Dark violet eyes, complete with infinite swirling irises if one looked close enough, stared out from an utterly blank face. She was beautiful and petite — clad in a fitting Gothic Lolita dress.

Ophis, the Infinite Dragon God, made an impassive beeline for me as the rest of the bar gaped at her arrival. The magic-sensitive guests were the worst off. They were left reeling, babbling, at the sheer Infinity that hid within Ophis.

Alice flinched. Hard, "That…"

"Fuuuuuuuuuuuucccccccckkkkk…" Klarion let out a long, exhaled expletive.

"Yup," Raven nodded in agreement, dumbfounded by Ophis' appearance.

Klarion let out a defeated sigh, "I think I'm starting to realize why I was subconsciously avoiding the Dead End."

"Because Dad and his guests could make even gods feel inadequate?" Alice asked sarcastically.

"Yeah, that sounds about right," Klarion agreed, laughing to himself incredulously.

Ophis reached me shortly, not at all deterred by my 'angelic' throne in Simmy. She stared at me for a moment before speaking. Her voice came out quiet and utterly monotone as if she couldn't bring forth the energy or effort to add any inflection to her words.

"I have found you… Good. Take responsibility."

"Your sweets?" I asked knowingly.

Ophis gave a single, curt nod, "My sweets. They make me feel fuzzy. I missed them. The Silence is not the same without them. Without you…"

"Awwww~," Kara cooed in the background. "Why is that kind of adorable?"

"(,,◕ ⋏ ◕,,)" Cass broadcasted a sympathetic aura. 'Honestly, I feel for her. Life wouldn't be the same without those chocolate pancakes Sean makes.'

"Hm," Ophis briefly glanced at Cass with her 'mention' of chocolate pancakes returning her attention to me. "Sweets. And Sean. And Silence. This new Domain… It's Silent. I shall be staying."

When Ophis said 'Silence', a pulse of something rolled out of her. A deafening, peaceful stillness. The feeling of an infinite Void. It was brief — instantaneous, really — but even a moment of it was enough to make everyone in the bar sway in place. The Infinite Silence of Ophis' Void made itself at home in the Dead End.

"I expected as much when you showed up unannounced," I nodded matter-of-factly. "You're welcome to. Unless Didi has a problem with that, of course."

Didi shook her head slightly when I deferred to her, smiling, "As I said when it comes to people from your past, Sean, the more the merrier. I'll never turn away people you love."

"[Interest]," Simmy spoke up from behind me. "[Data Inquiry: Silence]?"

The barest hint of a smile crossed Ophis' face, thinking about her Silence. That was about as emotive as her face got. Ophis didn't have to say anything to get her Silence across. That would rather defeat the purpose. She simply WAS and her Silence came with her, echoed by the Dead End.

Relaxation set in first. Bliss. Silence. Worries, concerns, troubles, and traumas faded into the background for the moment as Silence reigned. It was something that could exist forever if not disturbed, if not interrupted in some way. Ophis' Silence was Infinite beyond measure.

So of course, I interrupted it before it could get too far out of hand, "So, sweets!"

Ophis frowned slightly as her Silence was broken. But I was the only interruption to her Silence that she would ever truly accept. And only then because I bribed her generously with sweets and affection and was the only one who didn't hesitate to give her a stern hand in discipline when she overstepped.

"Sweets…" She grumbled without changing her tone at all.

"I like to think I've upped my game quite a bit since the last time," I grinned, softening my interruption with sweet temptation. "And of course, they've still got that cultivational alcoholic kick that you love so much, Ophis~."

Without any more fanfare, Ophis sat herself in a seat at the bar so quickly it was like she'd teleported there. No, not 'like'. She did actually teleport herself there, stepping through space as if it were nothing. Lazy, lazy Dragon God. She was just lucky it was a cute look on her.

Chuckling and shaking my head, I requested aloud, "Simmy? Mind setting me down for a second?"

Simmy just hugged me tighter into her lap, "[Refusal]. [Snuggles]…"

"Fine, I suppose we can do it this way too," I rolled my eyes fondly, turning my attention back to Ophis. "I've got a variety of truffles for you to try if you'd like. All infused with a little special something that I brewed and think you'll particularly like. Void-Touched Thousand-Year Brew."

"Hm," Ophis hummed and through long familiarity, I could tell she was quite happy with my offering.

A flex of will brought forth a serving of sweets from my soul. Ever since meeting and 'taming' Ophis, I'd kept a veritable bakery stored away just in case. It'd come in handy more than once. It seemed that quite a few beings could be pacified with sweet offerings. A selection of little frosting-covered truffles (not the mushroom, but the dessert) was laid out on the bar before Ophis.

Raven raised a dry eyebrow at the display, "Isn't she a bit young for edible alcohol?"

"Isn't EVERYONE a bit young for Sean's stash?" Barbara added cuttingly.

"She's actually about as old as Didi," I said with a carefree shrug.

Ophis popped one of the truffles into her mouth whole. Almost instantly, she melted from the sweet flavor, letting out an adorable, almost squeal that made her seem just as young as she appeared.

Raven eyed Ophis suspiciously, "I find that a bit hard to believe."

"Troublesome," Ophis mumbled around the sweet dessert in her mouth, shooting Raven a flat glance.

Just like that, before everyone's eyes, Ophis' form shifted. She grew. Where before she looked quite young, she quickly came to look the opposite — stunningly mature. Her features were still recognizable as the young girl from before. Only now, she was all beautifully grown up. A proper Christmas Cake — with a voluptuous figure and a regal aura — if I had to label her as anything.

"There," Ophis mumbled, still speaking around the dessert in her mouth in a way that rather ruined her new mature aura. "Old enough. Now, Silence."

Raven stared at her, clearly miffed. And so began the kuudere staredown to end all kuudere staredowns. Or at least, it would have… If Ophis wasn't utterly preoccupied with my sweets. She paid Raven and her piercing stare no mind. Something that only seemed to make Raven more frustrated.

Ophis popped another truffle into her mouth. The Infinite Dragon God closed her eyes. She moaned softly, savoring the flavor — from the sweetness to the complex and subtle bitterness of Void-infused alcohol. With her new form, the sound was almost lewd, adding to her mature charm.

Raven stared at the Infinite Christmas Cake Dragon God with a flat glare. Ophis completely ignored her. Raven's glare intensified as if she were trying to freeze Ophis to her seat. The effort failed quite handily. Ophis simply shuddered slightly in sweets-induced bliss.

"This is bullshit," Raven grumbled.

I chuckled, "You've just finally found someone who can match you, expression for expression, Raven."

She turned her glare onto me, "No, this isn't fair at all. She's stealing my schtick."

"Gasp~!" Kori gasped, saying the word as she did. "Friend Raven, I shall have your back! We will not allow the newcomer to steal the march on us! None of the worries, your monotone charm shall win the day!"

"Please don't pick a fight with the infinite being as old as Didi," Cyborg pleaded beseechingly.

"You've gotta know better than that," Alice added. "You felt her entrance too, right?"

Raven scowled, "Of course, I did. But I can't just stand back and let her do my gimmick better than me."

"Only the kuudere half of your gimmick," I helpfully pointed out. "You've still got Ophis beat in goth charm, Raven."

Her eye twitched, "Not. Helping."

Through it all, Ophis didn't pay attention to anything but her sweets. As if the rest of us had simply ceased to exist once they were within reach. It only added to the insult, making Raven bristle all the more. I figured it might be best to distract Raven before she broke.

"Here," I suggested. "Let's leave Ophis to her sweets. It's all she really cares about at the moment anyway. The rest of us can continue on with that magic lesson I mentioned earlier, yeah?"

Raven quietly fumed for a moment but couldn't hide her interest in magic, "… Fine. Teach me something new so I can tweak the new girl's nose."

"THAT would take a lot longer than we have tonight," I chuckled. "But I can certainly share a bit of my knowledge and resources."

Alice, Klarion, and Kori also jumped on the magic lesson bandwagon immediately. Raven quickly joined them as they crowded together across from me at the bar, her speed contradicting her grumbles. It made for quite a curious sight. Me — hovering there on my 'angelic' throne — and my small, diverse group of students set to listen and learn intently.

Ciri slid herself into my group of attentive students as well. The rest of the guests in the bar settled back into their seats. They were waiting for me to begin too. But it was more of an absent interest for the rest of them. They were treating this as one of my stories instead of the important lesson that the magically inclined were preparing themselves for.

My 'throne' hummed behind me, Simmy counting herself amongst my new students, "[Ready: Data]."

"This should be good," Barbara smirked in the near background.

"Think any of us normies will be able to cast magic after this lesson?" Penguin asked, mostly joking.

Riddler shook his head, amused, "I wouldn't put it past Mr. Barkeep."

"If there's a chance, Sean will find a way to make it happen," Barbara deadpanned.

"I wouldn't mind learning a bit of magic for myself," Kara commented. "It's the most consistent weakness of Kryptonians under yellow suns. And let me tell you, it can be such a pain…"

I snapped as her words reminded me of something, "Ah, I actually have something to show you for that Kara. I recently came across an exhibition from Krypton. A gathering of 'sci-superstition', whatever that is."

"Of course," Barbara said dryly. "You just happened to come across artifacts from a destroyed world. As you do."

"Sci-superstition?" Kara cocked her head in interest and confusion. "That sounds like… magic…? Kind of?"

"That's what I thought as well," I nodded. "Probably the closest equivalent Krypton had to magic, at least. You might find something interesting in the mini-collection. I certainly don't mind handing over a piece of your history to you and your cousin."

Kara looked at me with a hint of pure, meaningful FEELING in her eyes, "Even if there isn't any Kryptonian magic there, that would mean a lot to me, Sean."

"It's no trouble at all," I gave her a small smile. "Wanna look through it together?"

Kara bit her lip in thought, "… Later. I wouldn't want to distract from the magic lesson at hand. But… maybe we could explore it and… watch the sunrise… together? Just the two of us?"

I nodded, "I think I'd like that, Kara."

Harley giggled in excitement, suddenly clinging onto Kara's back and whispering in her ear, "Remember what we talked about, Farm-Girl~! A picnic at sunrise is perfect~! Here's what you do~…"

"Meep~!" Kara squeaked as Harley continued. I tuned them out for the sake of the surprise. Harley wouldn't take things too far… Probably.

I turned back to my attentive new students, "Alright, where to start? Magic… Do any of you think you know what magic actually is?"

"Duh," Alice scoffed. "Magic is magic. What more is there to it?"

"Quite a bit and not much at the same time," I smirked in a way that I knew would drive her up the wall. "In a way, magic is simply magic at the core of it all. In another, that's barely scratching the surface. Entire civilizations have devoted themselves to that little piece of theory without managing to define it."

Klarion had adopted a thoughtful expression since I asked the question, "Magical theory is not my strongest suit but I believe there are several schools of thought on the subject. Magic that invokes a higher being or patron. Magic that harnesses an external energy of some kind. Magic that is fueled by the caster's internal energy. Etc. I don't believe there is one commonly held definition of magic, actually."

"As diminishing as it sounds," Raven nodded her agreement. "The 'magic is magic' statement is the most complete definition most mages could expect."

"There is a definition that encompasses all magic," I assured. "At the core of it all, beyond 'magic is magic'… Magic is Change."

Ciri frowned slightly, "I'm not sure I follow."

"I won't lie and say it's simple," I chuckled. "But hopefully this will give you a solid foundation of understanding to build from. Magic is Change in all its forms. It is affecting your understanding, desire, will, or philosophy upon existence — affecting Change.

"The reverse is also true. Magic is Change and Change is Magic. It's what breaks the metaphysical inertia of existence. It's what makes everything that happens possible in the first place. Change in all its forms is Magic. And I mean that in the idyllic metaphorical sense of the word but also in a very literal sense."

My newly gained students were staring at me with wide eyes now. Klarion looked like he was moments away from straight-up gaping at me. So did Raven, impressively enough. Alice, Ciri, and Kori had less of an existing theoretical base to work upon so their minds were a bit more accepting of the defining throughline of magic I'd laid open before them. They still looked appropriately awestruck and fascinated by my lesson.

I continued, "Even in 'low-magic' worlds or worlds where magic 'doesn't exist', that relationship between Change and Magic is still true. Only for various reasons in those cases, Magic is limited from reaching its true potential. But not Change. Never Change. Change is even more key — even more essential to existence — than Magic.

"And since like I said, Change is Magic, Magic still exists in those cases. Just not in an active form that any of you would likely recognize. I've never encountered a reality where Change and Magic don't exist. They're an existential constant, synonymous with existence itself. They're the little spark of something special that says 'Hey, things could be different' and makes everything else possible because of it."

"I… have so many questions," Klarion said in awe.

"So many ideas…" Raven added in a mutter.

"Everything is the Magic?" Kori asked curiously, honestly a pretty sharp question.

"Yes, in a way," I nodded. "Magic is what makes it possible for things to change. And Change is what makes magic possible in return. Without one, you wouldn't have the other, and without both, you'd have an utterly stagnant existence. No growth. No decay. No spark of life or possibility."

"(╯•﹏•╰)" Cass somehow managed to mumble an expression in the background. 'Heavy shit, man. Heh, we're just learning about the truth of existence over drinks… My brain feels like pop rocks~.'

"What else is new in the Dead End?" Penguin joked.

"This seems like something that should be talked about more," Barbara frowned.

"I don't think anyone else knows about it," Kara said. "At least, not to the level of knowledge that Sean has on the subject-…"

"Which is something of an outlier," Ivy put in with a touch of humor, interrupting Kara slightly.

Kara nodded and continued, "Exactly. Remember what Klarion said on the subject? That there is no commonly held definition of magic. Sean might just be one of the only ones who could disagree with that and back it up."

Klarion shook his head, stunned and agreeing with Kara, "Even Zatanna isn't at this level of magical theory. And she's the Sorceress Supreme. It's… It's practically unthinkable. I can't think of anyone but Mr. Barkeep who would approach the problem from this angle, who COULD. It requires an obscene amount of knowledge, understanding, and-…"

"[DATA]…" Simmy interrupted.

At some point during the beginning of my lesson, Simmy had begun to REACT. The [Data] on Magic and Change forced her Shard processes into overdrive. Her Core shined almost blindingly even through the layers upon layers of flesh surrounding it. Her eyes glowed as she was shown a mere glimpse of the tools to make the keys to Magic as a whole.

This was far from run-of-the-mill [Data]. It was a description of reality's essential laws and conceptual rules — admittedly a relatively elementary one but still —, a basis for the core processes of existence itself. It was an unerringly solid foundation to build EVERYTHING upon. The kind of [Data] Shards dreamed about in their version of crystalline Heaven.

"This is your Dao," Kara muttered in breathless awe.

I nodded and smiled, honestly impressed that she'd realized, "Very good, Kara. Yes. Yes, it is."

"Huh, Dao?" David asked, his face scrunching up a bit in confusion.

"My way of understanding," I elaborated. "The path that elevates a cultivator past the mortal, past the heavenly, and past transcending over and over again. It's the path to True Enlightenment, unique to every being who walks the Dao."

"That… uh, sounds heavy, choom?" David said, half-asking it as a question and clearly not fully comprehending the implications of a Dao.

I smirked slightly, "It is. My Dao was the Dao of Change."

A sliver of a sliver of Truth crept through my words. It was enough to send the entire bar into stunned silence. The only sounds that broke that silence were Ophis' contented chewing noises as she snacked down on her sweets without a care in the world. The rest of my guests glimpsed just a hint of profound, reality-shattering Dao.

Simmy bluescreened silently behind me. A good portion of my audience matched her verbally, "Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…"

"Perhaps…" Klarion said slowly. "We should return to the lesson. Those revelations are world-shaking enough for one night, I think."

"ಥ‿ಥ" Cass forced a smile onto her face. 'Lol, sucks to suck. I'm doing perfectly fine with my brain leaking out of my ears… Perfectly. Fine."

"Yes, that might be a good idea," Barbara rolled her eyes. "Let's return to the already baffling lesson before Cass hurts herself."

"ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ" Cass insisted. 'I'm fine! Perfectly! Fine!"

Her insistence went ignored. For her own safety…

Ciri's lips pursed in thought, "If Magic is Change and Change is Magic, how does that apply to magic as we're familiar with it?"

"A good question," I nodded. "Put aside everything you think you know about different energies or methodologies or spells or patrons for a moment. All that truly matters at the very core of Magic is Change. Those things all give magic shape, form, and direction but at the end of it, all you truly need is Change."

"Bear with me here," I raised a hand to ward off any protests or further questions. "I tend to separate the workings of magic into three major models. There are always bound to be exceptions and outliers, of course, and most magic incorporates more than one of these models. But taken together, these three models work especially well for practical applications.

"All three of them relate intrinsically back to Magic and Change. For the first, Magic is the potential for Change. For the second, Magic is the Change in action. And for the third, Magic is the result of Change."

Raven's brow furrowed in intense concentration and consideration, "… Elaborate. Please."

"Maybe some of the examples?" Kori suggested.

"Sure," I obliged. "Raven, take the ritual we used to move the Psion homeworld-…"

"I'm sorry, the WHAT?!" Klarion interrupted in disbelief.

I continued right over him, not acknowledging the ridiculousness of my statement in his eyes to Raven's obvious amusement, "-Used a combination of all three models at various parts of the ritual where they would have the greatest effect."

"The power tap I put within the Red Giant Star, for example-…" Klarion let out a strangled gurgle as I said that. "Most closely followed the 'Potential for Change' model. That model is usually the best choice for powering magic, for reasons I hope I don't have to elaborate on."

"Yes," Raven deadpanned. "It turns out there's a lot of potential and energy to be found within a star. Who'd have guessed?"

I smiled, "Exactly. Now, the 'Change in Action' model is almost a sort of 'catch-all' category. It's where the magic happens if you'll excuse the pun-…"

"Booo!/Booo~!" Harley and Becca jeered playfully at the same time.

I waved them off with a chuckle, "Yes, yes, I know that was terrible. But it's also pretty accurate. This model is what most people would recognize as 'magic'. It's the actual process of casting the spell. Or in our ritual's case, it's the magic taking effect. It's all the little runes, sigils, and symbols we carved working in unison to bring our Change into existence.

"The third model is a bit more complicated than the other two but often the most important. The 'Result of Change' is what brings it all together. It's what gives the magic its direction, its desired goal, and its endpoint. In the case of our ritual, most of the gathered power and energy was actually spent on this model. For monumental changes of that level, it's often easier to convince reality that your desired result has 'always been'. This allows for the magic to work backward, retroactively affecting your change."

There was a moment of silence after I finished giving my example. Becca broke the silence in her usual manner, "All that shit sounded big important. Was it big important, choom? Some real revolutionary shit?"

Klarion gave a dumbfounded nod, "Just a touch… That one example expands on everything I thought I knew about rituals so massively it beggars belief. I'll never be able to look at magic the same again after tonight."

"I think it makes of the perfect sense~!" Kori cheerfully chirped. "I will not have to do the rewrite of my magical knowledge with the new information~!"

"Kori," Raven deadpanned. "That's because you didn't have any magical knowledge to rewrite before this lesson."


Ciri couldn't stop herself from giggling at that even as she voiced sympathy for Klarion's position, "In all reasonable fairness, I was similarly ignorant before this lesson, and yet I still feel that it has been profound enough to drastically shake my worldview."

"If it makes you feel better," I offered. "This is what I classify as the basics of the basics."

"Oh, thanks, Dad," Alice snarked.

I chuckled, "What I'm trying to say is that everything builds from here. If you know and understand what I'm trying to get across with this lesson, you'll be able to expand into any field of magic you so desire. And when you truly comprehend it — on a conceptual level —, Magic might just answer you like it answers me."

"You say that like Magic is a sentient and intelligent being," Riddler noted.

I hummed, "More often than not? It is. It's an aspect of all existence. In most realities I've lived through, it has 'something' of a will of its own. Perhaps not sapience — Magic is far beyond the understood human experience — but it has things it likes and things it doesn't. It has Avatars that act in its steed and will. Most of all… Magic plays favorites."

"That much I know to be true," Klarion snorted a laugh. "If Zatanna isn't favored by Magic itself, I don't know who would be. There is absolutely no reason why a human mage like her should be as powerful and magically lucky as she is. And don't get me started on her nonsensical spellcasting methods. That's basically just Wishcraft with a gimmick."

Raven agreed with a dry, cutting monotone, "'Oh, I'll just say the words backward and make them do literally anything I want'. Bullshit."

"Does Friend Raven not like the Zatanna?" Kori asked, cocking her head curiously.

"No, she's great. I'm beyond thankful she's on our side," Raven said flatly. "Just… Before Sean came along, I think she was the closest to his levels of 'bullshit' that the magical community had."

"I hate to break it to you," I smirked. "But I could probably learn her spellcasting language if I took the time. More importantly, so could Kori."

Raven stared dead at me, "… Bullshit. So fucking unfair."

My smirk grew even wider, "Even better, she doesn't have to. I know a fair few potent magical languages myself."

A shiver of dread went through Klarion, "Oh no… What does he mean by that? Sean, what do you mean by that?!"

Ignoring him, I turned to Kori and spoke words of True Magic into the world, "[~Kori, do you want to make a new friend?~]"

"[~Always!~] Kori copied me, instinctively speaking fluent Truespeech.

The words were both alien and achingly familiar to all who heard them. They thrummed with power and Magic itself. They resonated with the world around us to its very core. More so than even the language of the gods, Kori and I spoke to the Truth of communication — the Truth of Change and Magic. The True Language of Magic. Concepts flowed like syllables, a rhythm of constantly changing 'words' and 'phrases' that touched upon existence itself.

"[~Yeah, you've got it. Just speak this language and be True to yourself. You'll get your point across.~]" I said.

Kori beamed a grin and directed her attention to the supporting fabric of reality, "[~Hello, the Magic! I would like to be your friend!~]"

"[~That's it,~] I coaxed, directing Kori's words to the force of existence that was so intrinsically tied to my being. "[~Magic? Would you be a dear and-…~]

Kori and I spoke to Magic, calling out in friendship. Magic latched onto us desperately. The aspect of all existence — its first Avatar, more specifically — spoke back, interrupting with a plea.

"[~Help… me…~]"