Only a few hours had passed since Fiethsing and Kaguya’s encounter with the vampire who called himself Mikage Seijuro in the western woods. The man and his strange vampire spawn daughters were certainly a cause of worry for Kaguya, but not as much as the floating cities that had torn a hole in the sky.
Mikage seemed like the kind of bad guy she was used to. He wore black clothes, he liked to talk, and she was pretty confident she could beat him up. This floating landmass was another story though. It tore the sky, it arrived from another world in a way not dissimilar to Kaguya’s own Apollo. But it was more than that. Just from the very presence of the floating bodies of earth, Kaguya could feel a weight. It was like a lump in her chest that never went away. It felt heavy, strangling almost, at times. Not even Lapis had caused that kind of sensation, and now these massive otherworldly ships were causing it from miles away.
It was clear that it worried Fiethsing as well, though she had not spoke of it much as the two trekked through the remainder of the forest. Instead, the sage had told Kaguya that they needed to seek out the other members of the Six Sages. Kaguya had heard Fiethsing and Zero mention their old comrades before, but she’d never met them. At least, she was pretty sure she’d never met them. Fiethsing told her about how the others were stuck as magic stones and that they would need to awaken them. The four remaining sages, Grusbalesta, Milest, Moojdart, and Almerius were all scattered across the far reaches of the world. Handing Kaguya a map, Fiethsing pointed out Grusbalesta’s location. A concealed laboratory not too far from where the two were now.
“Kaguya, I want you to head there and release Grusbalesta.”
“You’re not coming?” Kaguya frowned.
“Sorry, I can’t. We need to make sure all the other sages are accounted for, so we’ll need to split up to cover more ground. I promise to make you a great big dinner when we get back home, though!” Fiethsing beamed.
“Yeah? Okay! It’s a promise!” Kaguya snatched up the map from Fiethsing, and ran off towards the direction of Grusbalesta’s location.
Fiethsing chuckled somewhat grimly. “Zero was right. I really never keep my promises.” The elven woman set off in the opposite direction of Kaguya.
“Alright, I suppose the nearest for me is Moojdart. Let’s see how she’s been doing all these years.”
Come sunrise the next day Kaguya had made it to Grusbalesta’s laboratory. Well, Grusbalesta’s hut was perhaps a more fitting name. From the outside that’s what it appeared to be. A simple thing of straw and mud. The inside however, concealed a large research facility of scattered, long forlorn instruments, magnifying glasses, small magic stones, and many, many research notes. In the center of it all, hovered a deep purple magic stone, which Kaguya took to be Grusbalesta himself.
She approached the stone slowly, suddenly realizing she really didn’t have any idea how to release Grusbalesta from this form. But as she moved closer, her hand outstretched itself, as if by reflex. Instinctively, she placed it softly upon the top of the floating object. For a moment, there was no response, and then all at once a brilliant flash lit up the dim surroundings. When Kaguya opened her eyes, a tall man with a thin moustache and long, unkempt gray-white hair had appeared. He smiled warmly, but his eyes bore the unmistakable signs of one who had spent far too many nights awake scribbling notes by candlelight.
“Seems you’ve got a lot to tell me about, young lady.” Grusbalesta said. “But first, I think, you would do well with a rest.” The man took immediate note of Kaguya’s drooping eyelids.
After a long nap, Kaguya recounted the string of recent events leading up to her arrival at the hut. For the most part, Grusbalesta remained silent, listening intently and only showing strong reaction rarely. Even when Kaguya told him of her journey to Attoractia, another world entirely, the man’s expression remained as calm as one would be discussing the weather.
“I think I’ve got the general idea.”
“Wow, you’re pretty smart for someone who hasn’t been around that long.” Kaguya sniggered, joking at Grusbalesta’s recent ‘rebirth’ from the magic stone.
“That’s my line, young lady.” He smiled warmly again, his tired eyes shimmering from behind his glasses.
“Can you stop calling me ‘young lady’?” Kaguya asked. “It feels kind of stuffy and formal, I hate that kind of stuff.”
“”Sorry. It’s an old habit from another age. It has been near one thousand years since I have stretched my legs, and I imagine that things have changed quite a bit in that time. In particular...” Grusbalesta eyed Kaguya’s rather flashy clothing. “What is deemed acceptable fashion.”
“Huh? What’s wrong with my clothes? Did they get dirty?” At Grusbalesta’s comment, Kaguya twirled around, checking her outfit for stains or dirt marks.
“No, that is most certainly not what I meant.” Grusbalesta sighed. A thousand years ago, during the great magic stone wars, Grusbalesta and the other sages had volunteered to seal themselves away as magic stones as part of a plan that would bring peace to the nations of that era. From Kaguya’s recountings it seemed that none of those nations had survived that thousand years. All of his friends, his comrades, were long dead. Grusbalesta took what little comfort he could in the knowledge that the other sages still lived, whether in their natural forms or as magic stones. Zero, it seemed, had grown into her own while Fiethsing had remained largely unchanged after all this time. At least he was fairly certain that was the case, Kaguya’s descriptions were somewhat hard to follow.
"This one is nothing like the previous one at all, it seems she doesn’t remember her former life." He thought to himself.
“There’s a lot I’ve gotta ask you about, Old Man Grus. So I told you already about that bad guy, Lapis, right? But Auntie Fiethsing and I met this other weirdo on the way here. He was hiding out in the old western woods. Some kind of strange vampire grandpa. What was his name again?” Kaguya tapped her temple for a moment. “Mi...Mika...Miku...”
“Mikage.” Grusbalesta said, snapping back to attention immediately.
“Ah, yeah! That’s right! How’d you know, Old Man Grus?”
Grusbalesta bit his lip. Seems not everything had changed in the past millennia.
“He’s an...acquaintance of mine from a thousand years ago. To my knowledge, until your encounter with him the only others to meet him were me and one other.” As Grusbalesta spoke, he began rummaging through the many odds and ends about the floor, straightening up while simultaneously looking for something.
“You knew him? What’s his deal? Is there something special about him?”
”He’s an eternal. A vampire lord.”
“Eh? What’s that mean?” Kaguya asked with no hesitation. Grusbalesta sighed again.
“Yes I suppose the current you wouldn’t know anything about that. I’m sorry. Allow me to explain.” Grusbalesta took a moment to gather up some scattered papers, then he pulled over an old cast iron chair and sat down.
“Before I begin, I want you to understand that this is not something I ever saw for myself. My master passed this story to me. This tale long precedes even the great magic stone war from my era.” Kaguya didn’t say anything but her expression made it clear she was listening intently.
“A great divine dragon called Ragnarok came to this world from a very different one a long time ago. I’m sure I don’t need to explain this to you, but this dragon had the power to travel across great stretches of space to move from one world to another in the blink of an eye. Why the great creature game to our world, no one is certain. My old master used to think it was being chased by something, but never had much more than intuition to support that claim.” Grusbalesta paused for a moment as if considering something, then continued.
“The great wyrm, injured though it was, wreaked havoc across the land, demonstrating immense power that threatened all life. The five greatest magicians in the world gathered together to stop the beast. Among the five were Mikage Seijuro, and my old master. Though they eventually succeeded in killing the fearsome dragon, it’s eternal power remained within its corpse. The five feared that the body would be sought out and fought over by various kingdoms, seeking its power. So they decided to take it upon themselves to each bear a piece of Ragnarok’s strength. Mikage drank of the creature’s blood and took on the power eternal of the beast. My master took the claws of the dragon, and from them was born five colors of unyielding magical power.”
“Hold on, I’m confused.” Kaguya interrupted. “This was when you were a kid?”
“No, Kaguya. This is long before that.”
“Ahh, I’m not good at all this history stuff. There’s too much to keep track of.”
“There’s far more to that story, but I suppose we’ll save it for another time, perhaps.” He rose from his chair and resumed straightening up his various work stations. Long had it been the duty of Grusbalesta’s family to research the nature and origins of magic stones. A thousand years ago, it had been he who had first discovered the potential danger of some of them, shortly before the war began. He had theorized that some of the magic stones gave off particular magical signatures that acted like lighthouses to beings from other worlds, drawing them near. Disagreeing with his master, he believed this was the reason Ragnarok had come to their world. From Kaguya’s stories it seemed that she and her friends had recently come into possession of one such unusual and powerful magic stone. Grusbalesta was, first a foremostly, a man of science. He would prefer to take time, observe and research the phenomena, as he had before the war broke out a thousand years ago. This time was different though. Mikage was back. He had no choice, he would have to ask him for help again.
“Young lady.” Grusbalesta started. “You will leave the matter of Mikage to me. It is my responsibility, passed down from my master.”
“You never change, do you?” A familiar voice spoke, startling the two. Standing just outside the lab, where just a moment before, there was nothing. Fiethsing had appeared as silently as the falling leaf.
“Auntie Fiethsing!” Kaguya exclaimed. Turning around to see her guardian.
“Fiethsing? Well now, this is a surprise. When were you awakened? Seems you’ve grown a little bit.”
“About thirty years ago or so, I think. That means I’m your senior now.” Fiethsing beamed confidently.
“I see thirty years has done little to change your level of maturity.” Grusbalesta remarked.
“Haha, I suppose.” Fiethsing laughed.
“Well it’s good you arrived when you did. There’s some things we need to get in order. Firstly, I cannot help but notice that since waking up I’ve had an odd unshakable sense of weight in my chest. From what the young lady here has told it it sounds like we are bearing witness to the return of the great sorcerous nation, Altea.”
“From the old stories? I suspected it, but I wasn’t sure.” Fiethsing admitted.
“Don’t you remember anything our master told us?”
“Welser talked about it?” Fiethsing cocked her head to one side.
“All the time. It was a great nation of magic users, who casted spells in a manner different to us. A way derived from the ancient, original forms of magic long forgotten. A kind of ‘Ancient Magic’, so to speak. Kaguya told me about the strange stone your little group happened upon. If magic stones can act as beacons for certain beings, then perhaps the opposite is true as well. That strange stone, and others like it, may be appearing all over the world as a kind of reaction from the sudden increase in ancient magic.”
“Ho~. I’d expect nothing less from the great magic stone researcher himself.” Fiethsing said.
“You’d have noticed earlier too, if you’d paid more attention to our master’s lectures.” Grusbalesta scolded. “Let’s not stray too far from the issues at hand though. Even now I’m sure we all feel the lingering presence of Altea. If the old stories are true it is unlikely they will remain a neutral party for long. We’ll need to make the best use of our time that we can. We have enough problems, and we’ll be spread thin as it is just dealing with Lapis and Mikage.”
Whether by nature of spite, or coincidence at that moment both Fiethsing and Grusbalesta sensed a familiar magical resonance sweeping across the land. The magical ripple was hard to pinpoint exactly, but there was no mistaking it was moving west across the land, meaning its source was east, back towards the Light Palace.
“Someone’s awakened Moojdart.” Grusbalesta remarked, the worry clear on his face. “But something doesn’t feel right about her.”
“I went to check on Moojdart before coming here and she was gone. Oh man Zero’s gonna be so mad at me.” Fiethsing complained.
“That’s what you’re worried about? I’ll need you to go handle whatever is happening with Moojdart.”
“Me? But the two of us never really got along all that well.”
“This wouldn’t have happened if you had retrieved her stone sooner. Its your responsibility.”
“Geh! I guess so.”
“Also, I think I’ll be borrowing the young lady for a while.”
“Huh? Me? Why?” Kaguya jumped, realizing he was talking about her.
“Because your power, young lady, is sure to prove essential in our battle.”
“You think? Back on the other world, Alice was a lot stronger than I was.” Kaguya confessed.
“A result of your reincarnation, I’d surmise.” Grusbalesta brushed his hair from his face. “We’ll have great need of your true strength, we’ll need you to access the knowledge of your previous lives, and to do that we’ll need to set to work rebuilding the lost moon. To wit, I need your helping searching for the lost moon magic stone.”
“Alright, then its settled!” Fiethsing clapped her hands together. “I’ll head back towards the light palace to deal with Moojdart. Kaguya, you be good and do what Uncle Grus asks you to do, okay? Do your best to find that stone!”
“Okay~.” Kaguya replied. “Seems like all I’ve been doing recently is looking for musty old magic stones.”
Suddenly, Fiethsing, who was halfway out the door to the hut-lab, turned around, an unusually serious look on her face.
“Don’t take these peaceful times for granted. When it comes time to fight, you may find yourself wishing you were so lucky as to be hunting old magic stones.”
“Oh...okay Auntie, I’m sorry” Kaguya bowed her head slightly in an apologetic manner, and then, once again, Fiethsing left Kaguya.
“Alright, young lady, let us prepare for our respective journeys. Our paths should be the same for a little way.”
“Alright.” Kaguya agreed, still watching Fiethsing as she strolled off into the distance. “But seriously, stop calling me ‘young lady’.”
-Lore written by Rajadeem the Seer, last of his order