“Is that…?” A voice softly murmured.
“Yes, a world seed.” I looked down at the multi colored orb that hovered above my hand. “A part of one at least. Beautiful isn’t it?” There was a palpable feeling of awe and desire as I looked at the orb. The power of the gods… If I had the right spells and more time I could probably even absorb the seed for myself, then I could wield the powers of a god…
“Master?” I looked up to see my latest apprentice staring at me with concern.
“It’s nothing, merely contemplating the temptation that the world seed holds…” I smiled at the girl before shaking my head. Silly girl, I wouldn’t be overtaken so easily by something like this… I guess she gets it from her mother, Lofia was a worrier too… I let a sigh as I thought back on the past and my very first apprentice. I was so much younger then, young enough that I might’ve just attempted to absorb the world seed if I had found it back then. Time… The one enemy I couldn’t overcome…
With another sigh I cast my gaze back onto the world seed fragment I had sacrificed so much for. “Come child, watch closely as I prepare the ritual, it’ll be the last thing I teach you in this life and it would be a true shame if Grand Archmage Selva’s final apprentice learned nothing from his final spells.”
“Master is this really the only way? You still have so much to teach me, so much to live for…” Her voice became quieter as she spoke until it trailed off at the end. I couldn’t count the number of times that both her, her mother, and all my past students here had tried to talk me out of this, but regardless I had maintained my view and had pushed forward with the plan despite their opposition to it. What my little apprentice said should’ve fallen on long deaf ears yet somehow it still tugged at my heart, even still I couldn’t stop now.
With another sigh, this one deeper than the ones before, I reopened the argument that I had just closed hours before. “Yes this is the only way, you can’t obtain an intact and compatible living soul for nothing, there is a necessary balance to these sorts of things. If I can exchange my own soul and what little amount of life I have left for a soul capable of fusing to the world seed then I would see that as a great bargain…”
“No buts! I’m already dying young one, and these old bones aren’t strong enough to handle the level of magic that would need to be cast on me for me to survive this curse. If I don’t conduct the ritual I’ll still die, only that way my death will be long, painful, and meaningless. Now, help this old man conduct his final act…”
“Yes master, I’ll… I’ll go gather the angel’s blood…” I tried to ignore the tears I saw in the girl’s eyes as she left my ritual champers, but it still hurt my heart all the same.
“Silly girl, you don’t need this old man to teach you, not with your mother and my school here.” I chuckled a bit before choking off into a cough. “Damn death curse!” Patting my chest I turned my mind to what I was about to do, the spell containing the curse should last for another few days despite its occasional leaks. A day should be more than enough to complete the ritual if everything went as planned. I have already lived a full life and left my legacy, those stubborn children may miss me when I’m gone but they don’t really need me anymore. I’ve taught them all I can and my presence is now just holding them back, it is time for them to cast off their old teachers protection and master their own lives!
“So you, like, really do work at a pet shop? What is that even like? I mean, like, what do you even do there?”
I looked across the table at my “date” and wondered why I had ever let myself be talked into this mess. “Well I feed and take care of the animals, I clean up after them, and sometimes I’m sent to check up on the families that are interested in adopting to make sure that the animals go to good homes.” And it’s not a “pet shop” I keep telling you it’s an all-inclusive shelter, get it into that empty head of yours…
“So it’s, like, really not one of those puppy mill places right?”
God if you’re up there, I’d really like to apologize for whatever I did wrong to deserve this. Really I’ve reflected and swear I won’t do it again, just please make her stop talking! I tried my best to find the strength not to do something rash like leaning over and shaking the girl or banging my head on the table top until I passed out and found sweet silence but my self-control was beginning to slip. I had never been great with dealing with people, I was good with animals and plants but with other people I could barely fake my way through most social interaction. Normally I wasn’t this bad though, most of the time I just kept to myself and stuck to my interests, but today was different and this girl was really beginning to convince me that humans actually weren’t the smartest animals on the planet. “Come along for a double date” she said, “I have this nice friend who’d be perfect for you” she said… Carol, I swear I’m never trusting your judgment again…
“Um, are you, like, even listening right now? I asked you a question.”
I ended up smiling that smile I used for particularly annoying or aggravating people as I tried once more not to kill the dumb blonde stereotype across from me. “I’m sorry, I most of zoned out there. What were you saying again?”
“Ugh, I was asking if you could get me a free kitten since you, like, work at a pet shop.”
I just stared at the girl in front of me, she was cute but I had official stricken her off my list of potential lovers with that last sentence. Some things just weren’t worth suffering like this for. “Oh, um, yeah I’d have to check on that. In fact let me do that right now, I have a shift coming up soon anyway…” I pushed away from the table, got up, and walked away as fast as could without it seeming like I was running away. That was hell, utter hell… Carol owes me three hours of my life back, and probably a little more for the lost brain cells…
As I was walking across the street to get to my car I did my best to ignore the indignant calls of my abandoned “date”. I can’t believe that this was how I ended up spending my Saturday…
“Now, watch this closely. This is the exact rune formation for cross dimensional summoning, and like most rituals it is always best for the runes to be drawn in blood from a high ranked monster. For cross dimensional magic I’ve always found that angel or demon blood is best.” I spoke almost subconsciously as I made the runes in a circle around the world seed hovering in the center of the room. “As you should remember it’s important to always conduct rituals in a sealed and safe space, but this rule goes double for anything involving dimensional shifts or summons. It’s never good to accidentally summon some other-dimensional horror and have it escape your containment to wreak havoc on whoever’s unfortunate enough to be nearby.”
“Yes master.” the voice was soft and raw, I could tell that she’d been crying recently and it hurt more than I could describe to know I was likely the cause of that. She was like a granddaughter to me, but her I was making her cry.
“Ahem, yes, well…” I trailed off as I tried to cast the negativity out of my head, I had to be in a clear state of mind for the ritual to operate at its maximum efficacy. “Many rituals, unlike your typical spells, will have set lines or phrases that need to be sung or said for them to work, if these lines or phrases are spoken incorrectly the best scenario is the ritual draining your mana and simply not working and that’s the absolute best scenario.” I found myself looking back on some of the times I had to deal with the backlash of a botched ritual line and shivered slightly. “It’s always best to rehearse the ritual a few times before actually conducting it just to minimize the chance of such failures happening. Now let’s see how much you remember from the last ritual you observed, what are the advantages of conducting a ritual as opposed to creating a spell?”
As I placed down multiple rare and high grade ingredients around the mass of blood runes I listened to my apprentice’s response. “Well, there are lots of advantages. For starters rituals condense mana from a multitude of sources and not just the caster so they can do all sorts of things that spells just simply can’t due to the power requirements. Rituals also aren’t at all reliant on a person’s imagination to frame and caste them like spells are, so even if you don’t know what to imagine or feel for the ritual as long as you know the words you can still caste it.”
“Good, yes those are the main two advantages rituals hold over spells.” I nodded my head as I began to lay strings of my own mana in formations around the runes. “And the disadvantages?”
“Well… There are countless disadvantages to conducting a ritual: they can fail easily and the backlash from those failures usually harm the caster, they always inflict a toll of some sort on the caster, they require multiple ingredients and items to even be conducted, and most times they end up disturbing the worlds mana flow.”
With a grunt I focused my mana then cut my wrists with a pure incalite blade forcing out my life essence with my blood. “Yes that’s right, rituals have many disadvantages. It’s why I always taught you to never use a ritual when you could accomplish the same with a spell, but there are still times where rituals are needed and no amount of spells will suffice in their place. Like now for instance…” With great effort I moved myself into place at the head of the ritual formation. It only needed to be activated now before the ritual formation would become a true ritual grounds, and then I would be able to begin to truly conduct the ritual. “Now dear child, you must leave. Your time as my apprentice has come to its end, find your mother and tell her that she is responsible for your teachings now.” Gathering all of my willpower I looked the girl who was like a granddaughter to me and spoke my last words to her. “Also tell your mother to take care of my school and my students for me, I leave everything to her as she was my daughter in all but blood.”
“No, I am your master no longer. Instead why don’t you humor this old man one last time, I think you’ve always known what I wanted you to call me…”
The girl was sobbing now, in her face I could see the swirling emotions of sorrow, loss, and regret. “Yes…” She couldn’t get out the words as she choked on a sob. “Yes, Grandpa…”
With those two words I felt at peace. “Thank you child, now you must leave. You know it isn’t safe to stand on ritual grounds…” it took her a moment to gather herself and begin walking towards the room’s door, but when she got there she turned back, gave me a final bow, and then left without a further word. As I watched her leave and the stone door slide back into place sealing the room off from the outside world, I finally let my tears fall. “Goodbye, Elyse.”
With those last two words spoken I refocused my mind onto the ritual at hand, with a thought I pulsed the last of my remaining mana into the formations I had laid on the floor and began to chant the words I had firmly engraved into my heart and mind for the last two months.
“Ye who stands at the crossroads of time and space, guardian of the Between, Sovereign of the eternal rite. Hear now my earnest plea…”
It happened quickly, there was the sound of screeching breaks, a crushing pain in my side, a feeling of weightlessness followed by a bright flash of white light, then there was a strange pulling sensation that seemed to take hold of me and took me away. All I knew afterwards was the rhythmic sound of someone who sounded pretty old speaking in a language that I didn’t recognize.
I had no idea how long the pulling lasted or how long the old person spoke, but the longer it went on the more comfortable I became. The words started to make more sense and the pulling sensation was replaced by something trying to push up next to me.
Damnit! Wait a minute, that really fucking hurts! The pushing sensation started to grow until it became painful, it felt like something was trying to push its way inside me. Oh hell the fuck no, I’ve had a shitty enough day as it is! I’m just trying to go home, watch some anime, maybe find a nice novel, and chill… I don’t fucking need this right now! Frustrated I shoved back hard hoping to show whatever was pushing me that I was in no mood to deal with it right now. For a moment there was peace as my shove sent the pushing sensation away, but soon it was back. Oh, ok… Ok, yeah, you want to play “that” game huh buddy? Well fine! Let’s play “that” game then!
For a long time I was stuck in a loop. The pushing sensation would come, I would shove it away, there would be a moment of peace, and then the pushing sensation would come back just a bit stronger. Things stayed deadlocked like that for who knows how long before I had finally had enough. For a moment I lost it, I had hit the pivotal point of “Fuck it” and disregarded all consequences. Things that keep getting bitten bite back motherfucker! Since you don’t like my bark let’s see how you like my bite!!!
It was hard to describe what happened next, but I sort of tried to tackle the pushing force to punch, kick, claw, head-butt, and bite it into submission so it would leave me the hell alone. That was the plan at least, instead what happened was that I sort of accidentally ate the thing. I use the word ate because alongside absorbed and assimilated that’s the closest word to describe what happened, and it felt wrong to think of myself as having done the other two to something. After all eating was normal, absorbing something by fighting it was not.
After I had “eaten” what was pushing me and was still trying to process what had happened and for that matter where I was or what was going on I felt information begin to flood into my mind from both internal and external sources. The flood of information hurt and it felt like my mind was overheating, but eventually it came to an end and with a strange popping sensation I could see again.
Looking around I only had one thought. Holly fuck I hope I wasn’t the one to kill that guy…