Azhure: College is getting hard and I decided to finish this chapter in one go, though there will be an interlude for this chapter after this.
“Ah yes, I recall Aqua doing that,” Rose cupped her cheek, holding her cup of tea with her other hand.
“It is still absurd how you agreed to do that, Aqua,” Jill said while shaking her head.
“True, how did my father and Owen’s father manage to convince you to split the countries with an ocean, Aqua?” Alicia asked.
“Oh, that?” Aqua perked her eyebrows. “It is a long story.”
“I will miss you, Layla,” Irene sobbed, embracing her life partner one last time.
“Uuh… Lady Irene!” Layla, the greater spirit candidate, cried as her namer let her go and stepped back from the transfer circle.
“Alright then,” Isaac, the Ice Guardian, confirmed. Being his responsibility, he decided to come to talk with the greater water spirit. “Let us go.”
“Yes sir,” one of the Transporter Room operators, John, then started the transfer.
With the circle lighting up, surrounding Ronald, Joshua, Isaac, Layla, Allister the duke of Illyer, and Neptune the intermediate spirit Allister named whose farewell shall be done soon, Layla gave one final shout.
“I promise, lady Irene, that I will keep moving forward even if you’re no longer with me! I will cherish the (your) name you gave me and make it great (never be forgotten)! Even if you won’t be there to see it, I will make you proud!”
Year 1398 in Manegia
There was a middle-aged-looking woman with long-wavy hair wearing a roman toga despite having a greek name, all radiating blue along with her skin and the spherical liquids floating around her floating on a lonely dirt patch. As luck would have it, she was the same greater water spirit Ronald’s father’s group met in this very place, where Ronald and Joshua also met a year ago, receiving her sigil.
The greater water spirit, Aquarius, immediately shifted her focus to the same spot where she had once fought the group of Court Wizards to a standstill holding back decades ago. “All of you are!?” she widened her eyes.
“Lady Aquarius!” Layla shouted. “We’re alive! We all are!”
“Yeah! Yeah!” Neptune nodded furiously.
“Yes, lady Aquarius.” Allister, the duke of Illyer, calmly responded, stepping forward with a respectful bow. “The Court Wizard had saved us from the burning mansion and has sheltered us in their world ever since. Forgive us for not informing you of this,” since the Court Wizards had told him they haven’t told Aquarius about it. “They will explain,” and thus letting the Court Wizards explain themselves.
“Allow me,” Isaac then stepped forward, raising his hand.
After the initial stupor, Aquarius narrowed her eyes, crossing her arms. “I hope you have a reasonable excuse for this,” she said.
“I see,” Aquarius nodded in understanding. “But this does not warrant the lack of contact for the past week.”
“Apologies, lady Aquarius,” Isaac said. “But we have preferred to gather information beforehand before having our discussion with you. Again, pardon our delay.”
Over a brief period, Isaac explained to the greater spirit how Ronald and Joshua infiltrated the burning mansion and rescued the survivors, Evelyn’s findings, the further investigations of the how’s, the obvious culprit being the second prince Van va Kirash, and the king’s hand in on the plot. Evidence of those findings had been presented as well.
“I see your point, but I have known just about everything you had said,” Aquarius huffed. “Your articles had merely supported it.”
“She already knows…” Joshua muttered, internally frowning.
“I may not deal with humans directly, but all the water spirits are my eyes and ears,” the greater water spirit retorted. “Even if sections of the Kirash palace were barred from spirits by agreement, the water spirits still report who enters them. I am not so much of a fool as to be ignorant of what humans do.”
“Very well,” Isaac politely coughed, setting aside the greater water spirit’s implied exploitation of a loophole of an agreement she made with the royal Kirash family. “Then shall we move on to the next topic, lady Aquarius?”
“Before that,” Aquarius said, however, before turning to Allister. “Are you alright, Allister?”
“Huh?” Allister blinked. The greater spirit had an impression of a mother fawning over her child who had scraped his knee. Quite unexpected coming from her until he considered…
“I think, it is because lady Aquarius wished to.”
“Yes, yes I am,” Allister answered. “My family are too. The Court Wizards has shown us nothing but their utmost hospitality.”
“I see,” Aquarius smiled warmly. Then she turned to the spirits. “Are you alright as well, Layla, Neptune? You can say what you truly feel.”
“Er…” Layla uttered awkwardly. Taking a glance at the Court Wizards who merely gave up on her, she confessed, “it’s fine, I guess? Kinda stuffy though…”
“It’s scary! And uh… can’t breathe there!” Neptune, being mentally younger than Layla, said so nonchalantly. Earning wry smiles from the Court Wizards, he quickly hid behind his namer with an “eep!” upon realizing it.
“Hehe, I suppose you cannot have everything,” Aquarius chuckled, setting the matter aside. She most likely assumed the two water spirits were here to return, so whatever happened at Manegia wouldn’t matter anymore, unlike the Illyer. “You are not coming back, are you not, Allister?”
“My king had betrayed me,” Allister shook his head. “We have no place here anymore. Not even prince Albert, he felt deeply hurt by his father’s betrayal even if he did not show it.”
“I see,” Aquarius said in a somber tone. “This is nostalgic, yet it is not. The first Illyer I had met was named Allister. His brother, the king, was coincidentally named Albert. Centuries ago, they worked together. Here, it was the exact opposite and not at the same time…”
Right, the former comatose king was named Albert too.
Huh, why is that? Oh yeah, royals do like naming their kids their own names multiple times. (Joshua)
The current Allister, meanwhile, was a bit downcast. He had worked with Albert the prince yet essentially going against Albert the king, who the duke once called his dear friend, by going against his favorite son Van.
“But well,” Aquarius continued, closing her eyes. “As long as you are all alive and well somewhere, out there, I can be satisfied with it.”
“I see…” Allister muttered.
“It is good to see you alive and well, Allister,” Aquarius smiled.
“Yes, thank you, lady Aquarius,” Allister responded in turn.
“You know, the Allister back then had called me Aqua,” Aquarius side-noted. “It was the original name the other greater spirits call me so I would like for you to refer me that.”
“I… what!?” Like the other two spirits, Allister was pretty much scandalized by the idea of addressing the greater spirit in such a casual way. “I-I cannot possibly do that!”
“Hehehe,” Aquarius chuckled. “Well, it did take the first Allister a while to call me that, but I insist. You will not be returning after this, after all.”
With that argument, and not wanting to offend the greater spirit at perhaps the last meeting, Allister stuttered out, “R-Right, l-lady Aqua…”
“Drop the ‘lady’.”
“Good, is that not so hard?” Aquarius smiled.
I’d never imagined seeing the greater water spirit like this. Layla and Neptune look like they’re about to faint, Ronald messaged, eyeing at the other two spirits.
Yeah, Aquarius looked overbearing the first time we met. (Joshua)
Well, boys, even we of the aristocracy would wish to drop formalities every now and then, if one is not those kinds of nobles. For the greater spirits who were once humble fae, they would certainly miss their childhood selves. (Isaac)
“Now then,” Aquarius turned to the Court Wizards after the short detour. “Where were we?”
“About the second prince and the royal Kirash family, lady Aquarius,” Isaac reminded.
“Ah, yes,” Aquarius recalled. “I was about to deal with him and the royal family before you all arrived.”
This, of course, was the last thing everyone had expected to come out of the greater water spirit’s mouth. Since the birth of Spiri Raia, the greater spirits have always been impartial, never meddling with human affairs so long it was not malicious to all.
For Aquarius to go against that was like the apocalypse as reflected on Allister’s and the two named spirits’ expressions. The greater spirits’ neutrality was held in that high of regard.
“Why the change?” Isaac calmly inquired. This, of course, was a fact the Otherworldly Court knew too, so it was unsettling for the Court Wizards to hear too.
“Because I am frankly tired of this farce,” was all Aquarius needed to say.
“What do you mean, lady- er, Aqua?” Allister asked before realizing. “Ah, I see…”
Then again, there were the blessings and the sigil (or seal as the Illyers had called it) the greater spirits occasionally allowed. Those objective reasonings Ronald and Joshua had prepared probably fell on deaf ears when Aquarius had given her sigil.
“”Eeh…!/Hii…!”” The other two spirits, however, were still in disbelief.
“So even greater spirits frustrate over wants and must,” Isaac commented. “We too often attempt to meld the latter to the former to justify it,” like the orphanage rescue which was still, in the end, justified with the purpose of dealing with those mercenaries (though Ronald couldn’t recall giving that reasoning back then).
Even we used the war Van wants to wage to convince Aquarius to give us her seal.
And protecting the Illyers. (Joshua)
“Well, we were here with duke Illyer in hopes of convincing you that, so this makes it easier. Anyway, what had you planned for the second prince, lady Aquarius?” Isaac inquired.
“Oh, I will simply destroy him and the main royal family,” Aquarius answered nonchalantly. “But prince Albert is spared, of course, I had assumed he was dead initially.”
“W-What!?” Allister almost spat. Everyone else was more or less had the same sentiment.
Whoa, Aquarius’ means business! (Joshua)
So much for impartiality…
“That would be too much, lady Aquarius,” Isaac reasoned. “Our original goal is to prevent the war prince Van plans to enact and keep the balance of power between human nations. For you to commit regicide against the entire family will leave a power gap that could invite the Fichs to invade instead, defeating the purpose.”
“Yes,” Allister also pleaded. “The royal family may have betrayed me, but even I do not wish them dead – most of us are still alive, in the end.”
“Then what do you suggest?” Aquarius demanded. “Give them a stern warning?”
“No,” Isaac shook his head. “But perhaps these young men can elaborate.” He lazily waved his hand over to Ronald and Joshua.
“Bye, bye!” Neptune waved his little hand in tears as the rainbow light engulfed his namer along with the Court Wizards, disappear for good.
“Well, they are gone now,” Aqua said, feeling a bit melancholic seeing off the Illyer. “I never knew those two boys could come up with something so simple yet bizarre was to solve our problem.”
“Y-Yeah…” Layla smiled wryly. “Very surprising, haha…”
With the Court Wizards and the duke transference away from this world, it would have been the time for the spirits to go on their separate ways, with the greater spirits preparing the plan Ronald and Joshua had proposed to her, however…
“You know, Layla, it was impressive how much you have grown,” Aqua then said.
“Huh?” Layla turned her head to the greater spirit, confused at the sudden shift of topic.
“You too, Neptune,” the greater spirit simply continued.
“Uh?” Neptune tilted his head.
Aqua then motioned to a piece of rock on the side, which had broken down from erosion. “You were just a little spirit hiding behind than rock when I have fought with those Court Wizards decades ago, Layla. I believe Neptune was but a little wisp right behind you.”
“Ehehehe…” Layla laughed sheepishly, scratching the back of her head.
“Ungh…” Neptune stared nervously.
“And here I see you now as a candidate for my successor, the fastest among your peers, very astounding,” Aqua praised, then turned to the intermediate spirit. “You have also matured into a fine spirit too, Neptune.”
“I… thank you?” was all Layla could say. Neptune had stopped making noises of confusion by this point.
“However,” Aqua contrasted. “You two never gotten over your fear of the Court Wizards, have you not?”
That struck a chord on the two.
“Well, I suppose I did not help with that,” Aqua closed her eyes. “I was actually holding back to not be excessive, but they were too. We gradually increased our force as a result, making it appear we were on even ground. It was my bad, but you should have placed more trust in me,” she pouted.
“Ehehe…” Layla smiled awkwardly. Neptune lowered his head in embarrassment.
“But, the events today have shown me that you two have gotten better,” Aqua continued.
“Huh? We do?” Layla blinked.
“You were not half-fainting the entire time the Court Wizards were here,” Aqua elaborated. “It is clear the entire year has lifted some of your past trauma, the both of you.”
Layla and Neptune contemplated this. By their expressions, they must have been remembering every last detail of their altercation with the two Court Wizards for them to make their conclusions. “Y-Yeah, I guess we do,” Layla answered.
“I see,” Aqua nodded. And for the finale part. “Now tell me, what was your farewell with your namer? Neptune did say you had shouted a declaration to her before returning here.”
Before the kaleidoscopic light the Court Wizards used to traverse through worlds was shined once more, Allister and Neptune had a bit of a farewell before the former disappear from Spiri Raia for good where the latter made a promise to his namer. He stuttered a lot in it, but what’s important was what Neptune had said in the last part.
“I-I’ll make you proud! Like what Layla said!”
That could only imply one thing.
“E-Er…” Layla fidgeted. Clearly what her promise to her namer, Irene ir Illyer, was spoken at the last minute, giving her no time to decide her choice of words.
“It is alright, take it slow,” Aqua calmed her.
Eventually, Layla answered, “I-I promised her that I will keep moving forward even if she’s no longer with me and also cherish the name (and hers) she gave me and make it great (never be forgotten). Even if she’s not here to see it, I will make her proud.”
It was modest actually, many named spirits whose namers were about to pass on promised them to preserve and spread their legacy. That was also what Neptune had told to the duke. So really, it was pretty standard.
But, it is good enough, Aqua smiled as she said this, “Then I, First Greater Water Spirit Aquarius of Spirit Raia, shall appoint you, Layla, as my successor. Congratulations, you are now the greater spirit heir.”
Layla did a spit-take, it was all too sudden. “W-Why me!?” she almost shrieked.
“Well, Neptune is still an intermediate spirit and therefore not eligible,” Aqua explained while eyeing the wide-eyed Neptune. “While you have not lifted all of your fears against the Court Wizards, it is better than your peers, and your time with said Court Wizards is a valuable experience in this brave new world. In due time, I am sure you will be a splendid greater spirit.”
“R-Really?” Layla widened her eyes.
“I would have made the first Illyer’s named spirit the heir,” Aqua confessed. “But he was not interested and along with the others has yet to let go his prejudice against his namer’s once corrupt descendants until it was too late. So really, you are the best candidate in mind.
“Besides, you said you want to make your namer proud, right? Then becoming the second greater water spirit is the highest honor one could have. So what do you say?” she offered. “Will you shoulder the burden of watching over the water territory when I am gone? And Neptune, will you support her in her great task that is to come?”
It took a great deal of time for the two spirits to make their decisions. But eventually, they did.
“Y-Yes! I accept!” Layla exclaimed.
“O-Okay!” Neptune also shouted.
“Wonderful, a great future awaits!” Aqua smiled.
In Spiri Raia, year 905, history was made. Even though it had been caused by a tragedy, whose happy ending shall never be known for closure, it had founded the territory of the greater water spirit its successor. Sure, she may still be a bit wet behind her ears, but her drive will make her great. A momentous event indeed.
“Now then, to face the current problem at hand,” Aqua narrowed her eyes at a certain palace on the great pond.
It was coronation day and Van was waiting in his room outfitted in the finest robe of the Kirash kingdom. He felt quite giddy, to be honest, and could be forgiven for that. All of his opponents were defeated, his half-brother Albert was dead, and his father the soon-to-be-former king had approved him to be the next ruler. He was truly destined for greatness.
“A shame duke Illyer had to go,” Van spoke aloud, readjusting his shoulder pads. “But as father said, sacrifices must be done.”
To achieve this day, Van had to remove one last obstacle in his way, the ducal house of Illyer. They were a prestigious house, one that became the bulwark of Kirash against the Fichs empire that have conquered every nation of the water territory besides this kingdom. The current duke of Illyer, in fact, was a war hero who had repelled the invasion of the Fichs against all odds decades ago.
Van had wanted to recruit the duke as the vanguard of his counter-invasion against the Fichs he had planned seeing the weak state the empire was in once he became king. However, the duke opposed it, even going so far as becoming the spearhead of Van’s half-brother’s claim to the throne and his influence was enough to shoulder its weight alone, so he had to go.
“It was very troublesome eliminating him,” Van sighed. “But it has been done. I can breathe easier now.”
With the unfortunate fact that knocking down all of Albert’s supporters but the Illyers wasn’t enough, Van had to eliminate the duke as well, but it was easier said than done. Van didn’t know why, but every attempt he had made to undermine the duke had failed. He had tried every method imaginable that he didn’t want to recall anymore, but the duke still stood.
Of course, this had extended to Albert as well, being around the duke most of the time. Though even if it’s otherwise, Van had refrained from committing regicide or anything less than that against his half-brother to avoid the public fallout if he did so.
This had gone on for a year when everyone else had been pegged down within a few months that Van probably had grown a few grey hairs. It was only after father the king had woken up that the second prince could finally defeat the duke, by burning the Illyer mansion killing all of its residence inside.
“Though I never knew father could have suggested something so simple yet so farfetched in our minds,” Van said to himself as he checked his buttons in front of the mirror. Perhaps it was because being a water territory inhabitant had abstained him from thinking such things.
But what’s done was done, and Van even managed to pin the blame on the Fichs, giving him a legitimate excuse to declare war on them. There were a few hiccups here and there on the mansion burning, like one of his disposed subordinates in front of the mansion missing a smuggled Fichs emblem, but it didn’t matter.
Give the plebeians several months of mourning, send a magistrate to put the duke’s former territory under direct control, and everything was under control. Father decided to quickly abdicate and make Van king to consolidate his position as well as moving the commoners past the death of the duke which was where the future king was today.
Oh, there was also that Bell Conglomerate the duke made a partnership with that may have to do with how hard it was to eliminate him and the manner how those subordinates died, but they were sitting ducks now the duke’s gone. Van can easily make them bend to his will.
“After all, now there is truly nothing else that can stand against my wa-”
“..!” Suddenly, the furniture in the room started swaying around, breaking Van out of his cloud nine.
RUMBLE RUMBLE RUMBLE SHATTER
Then, they shook violently, toppling over the place as the earth started shaking, trembling the room so much that it was a miracle the palace didn’t rip itself apart.
“An earthquake, now!?” Van exclaimed as he held on to a pole for dear life, soiling his robe on the floor. Has the greater earth spirit attacked or something?
Eventually, it stopped, and Van immediately rushed to the door, which had been damaged open by the earthquake, where he looked at the hallway to find his mother and fiancee rushing to him.
“Prince Van!” Van’s fiancee ran over to him, never mind how she addressed him since he hasn’t been coronated yet. “Are you alright!?”
“Yes, I am alright, mother,” Van then turned to his mother. “How about father?”
“He is fine, dear,” Van’s mother nodded. “A bit shocked because of his illness so he is resting at the moment, but you need to go, Van!”
Van practically lept to the main balcony, stopping himself from falling over it using both hands on the railing, quickly scanning the state of the capital outside the palace. The earthquake had damaged the capital in more ways than one. Buildings crumbled, glasses shattered, and the denizens running around like headless chickens.
“By the greater spirits…!” Van’s fiancee, not far behind him, gasped.
“How horrible!” Van’s mother added.
“Grr…” Van grunted at the site. “How could this happen?”
The answer, however, was clear once the second prince looked up like the rest of the people.
Literally floating high above the capital was a woman draped in regal garment glowing all blue. Ambient liquid floated around her as she gazed at the second prince in the most furious expression on her face.
“L-Lady Aquarius!” Van widened his eyes as he recognized the woman before him, the greater water spirit.
“Do not speak my name so casually!” The greater water spirit’s voice boomed throughout the capital. This was very unprecedented, never before a greater spirit has been this enraged before. Perhaps against someone who had threatened the balance of human and spirit, but Van didn’t do that.
“T-The greater spirit is angered…” Van’s mother spooked. He had a feeling his fiancee clammed up in fear.
After all, this has gotten everyone’s deathly afraid. “W-What did I do wrong?” Regardless, Van sheepishly stood up for himself, attempting to recover as much dignity.
“What did you do wrong?” the greater spirit ticked. “You had murdered the people I blessed! All to have a war with the Fichs empire! You had even killed your own brother!”
“Wha!?” Van widened his eyes, not because the greater spirit found out he was the one who orchestrated the burning, but the fact she cared. “Lady Aquarius, you have always acted impartially, even to your blessed!”
“Yes, for so long I have sat idly by to everything against my blessed and I am frankly tired of it. It has gone far enough!” the greater spirit declared.
“What!?” Van gaped his mouth. “You would!”
“Yes, bastard child,” the greater water spirit said cooly. “Just as you have wishes, I too have my own. So just this once, I will set aside my neutrality, just as I had made the blessing in the first place!”
It all came crashing down. Van had assumed that for all of his plans the greater water spirit would not do anything and here she was proving everything wrong. It was a nightmare.
“And that is why,” the greater water spirit continued. “Because you have denied my will, I will deny the war you wanted so badly!”
Then, the greater water spirit faced to her left, to the border of Kirash and Fichs, and lifted her hand.
In 905, the land of water was fractured. Through the greater water spirit’s power over water, she had separated the land of the Kirash kingdom and the Fichs empire by bursting the water beneath, splitting the earth and even the mountains apart through its sheer pressure alone, all without the greater earth spirit’s aid. In its gap was the largest body of water the world has ever seen, spanning from the fire to the earth territory, isolating Kirash and Fichs from each other.
The ironic landlocked nature of the water territory meant that there are no worthy ships to cross between nations. Even then, water itself was also riddled in the harshest storm the greater water spirit has ever hailed. Thus, the only way for humans to go between nations was around it through must travel around it, other greater spirit’s territories.
For an army marching to pass through another greater spirit’s territories would mean a great sin that they would surely stop. For a certain king whose anointment was tumultuous, it had ended his campaign before it had even begun.
Later on, the people of Spiri Raia would name this largest pond of the world as the ‘great sea,’ sign of the greater spirits’ authority.
That was twenty-three years ago.
“Hm, it needs to be more… convincing,” Ronald rubbed his chin, hearing the plan.
“Yeah,” Joshua agreed. “Like, I don’t know, split the countries with an ocean?”
“Wait! Why’s it called the ‘great sea!?’ Ain’t it-”
“Do not sweat the details.”