Zero's Return To Service

“Fieth! Where are you? Honestly, that woman...”

Thirty years had passed since the old Kaguya had saved the world from the cthluhu threat. Or was it thirty one? Twenty nine? It was hard for Zero to remember. A year passed by so quickly these days, a result of her elongated life. She could hardly blink without a few months going by, it seemed. But it had been an enjoyable amount of time nonetheless. Grimm had grown from a reckless prince into a heroic and stalwart king, having united nearly all lands under the banner of the Light Palace. Zero had doubts at first about whether global unification was possible, but Grimm made every effort to aid all those who lost their homes to the invasion, and gradually the people from all nations happily joined his banner.

Zero had, regrettably, seen little of the king lately. So it was a welcome surprise to her when a messenger from the light palace arrived at her home in the forest.

“From the king” The messenger said, between gasps. “He seeks the advice of the sages.”

“Understood. I will set out as soon as I am prepared. Fiethsing, however, is missing, as usual. So I shall be making the trip to the light palace alone.” Zero’s answer received, the messenger scurried off, back down the forest trail from whence he came.

That lazy good for nothing elf. Zero clutched her chest as the thought hung in her mind. Fiethsing must have heard the signs of the messenger’s approach earlier in the day, and took off so she wouldn’t have to do any work. She wasted her talents just so she could spend the day asleep in some tree. If she’d only apply herself she’d probably surpass the other sages in no time. Zero instructed her familiar to search the woods for the Fiethsing.

“But what could the king need from us?” Zero’s frustrations turned to a cautious curiosity. While she was out she’d have to ask Fiethsing’s pupil to watch the house. That girl was too much like her master, half asleep for half the day, and wholly asleep for the other.

“Melfee. I’ll be heading out to the Light Palace for a few days, I need you to look after the house.”

“Okay~” Melfee answered in a sing-song voice. She barely sounded conscious.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure~”

“Really?”

“Really~”

“Are you sure?”

“It’s no problem~”

“Are you lying to me?”

“Of course~”

Zero sighed. She wasn’t even listening. Fiethsing was bad enough, but now she was corrupting her students.

It was only a half day’s trek from the home of the sages to the Light Palace outer walls. It would be evening by the time arrived. Sometime into her journey, her familiar returned to her. It seemed the creature found some evidence that Fiethsing was nearby. Not too far ahead, in fact. At the old elven village where Grimm and Christie had driven out the vampires.

Amon Sulle was a tricky sort of place. It had an enchantment upon it that only allowed those who bared no ill will against it to find it. If one wished it harm, the forests would twist and bend and turn you in circles. Zero arrived while the sun still stood high in the sky. The voices of several elf children could be heard a ways away.

Zero asked around if anyone had seen Fiethsing. A few people mentioned she had been there early, playing with the children. Zero thanked them and set to searching the area.

“Could it be my fault? Is she...avoiding me?” Zero couldn’t help but wonder quietly to herself. No, that couldn’t be it. She wouldn’t have come here to play if she was depressed. Zero returned to her original conviction. Fiethsing was avoiding work. Again. This time, Zero resolved, she would not let her get away. She was coming with her to the Light Palace even if Zero had to drag her there. But trying to find her was like trying to grab at the wind. Seems any trace Fiethsing would have left, she erased with magic.

Searching across the village, old memories of the place began to surface in her mind. Memories when the town was filled with terrified screams, and hungry vampires. Fiethsing had helped then. She might be unreliable, but she was always there when it really counted. Zero recalled when she first joined the six sages, when five became six. The others were unsure of her, but Fiethsing always vouched for her. Zero had felt so lost when the other five had sealed themselves as magic stones to help stop the cthulhu threat. Though Fiethsing had been restored thanks to Red Riding Hood, the locations of the other stones were unknown, scattered during the war.

“Around here, maybe...” Zero could barely sense the faint traces of magic Fiethsing had used to cover her trail.

She had moved some ways out of the village now, back into the woods. The trees weren’t as thick here, and she could feel the warm sun on her face. She looked up, holding a hand up to shield her eyes. Not so far from here, not so long ago, Kaguya had used the millennium spell to seal away the cthulhu.

“And now...she’s gone again.”

It had been around twenty years since Kaguya had awoken to her powers as a wanderer, sensed Alice was in danger, and left for another world. Zero knew it wasn’t her place to stop her, but...No mother wants to send her child into danger.

“Will she ever come back?” The thought had crossed Zero’s mind many times. It made for sleepless nights.

“ ‘Fieth must have run off to avoid work again.’ that’s what you’re thinking, right?”

“Fieth!” Zero hadn’t noticed when Fiethsing had snuck up behind her, leaning casually on a tree.

“You were taking forever, Zero. I needed some time to sort out a premonition I’d had. Seems I’m only able to see it half clearly.”

“Half? What do you mean?”

“I’m certain someone is going to be returning to this world soon. But I’m not sure who.”

“Someone other than Kaguya?”

“It could be. But it could not. I don’t know. I can sense light and darkness. The light is likely Kaguya, though.” Fiethsing looked uncharactaristically worried and unsure. Zero knew if it was beyond Fiethsing to divine, it was beyond her own capabilities as well.

“So that’s what you’re doing? Waiting?” At Zero’s question, Fiethsing gave a nod.

“Yes. Whatever’s coming, it will arrive here. There’s no mistaking it. I’ve heard it on the winds.”

“I see. I don’t mean to abandon you, but King Grimm has requested an audience with us.”

“Hmm. You’d best go ahead of me then.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s the best option. We can’t keep the king waiting.” Fiethsing hadn’t heard Zero’s comment. She had become suddenly rigid, her face tensed.

“Wait.”

“Why?”

“It’s here.” Fiethsing gave a worried look to Zero. Zero didn’t expect a fight, but readied herself regardless, she was too experienced to rely on the chance of a benevolent visitor. If this traveller was indeed a threat, the two of them would stop it here, quickly. Or at the very least, they’d try to gather some information, Zero thought.

“Fieth. If this goes badly, I need you to go ahead to warn the king. You’re faster than I am.”

“Well, that’s only if whoever it is can actually beat two of the legendary six sages.” Fiethsing said hopefully.

Zero couldn’t help but sigh. One day that hopeless optimism was going to get them both killed, but she couldn’t disagree. Fiethsing might be a slouch, but there’s no one she’d rather have at her side in a fight. With a shuddering rush of wind, a shimmering black rift appeared in the air. A space between worlds, like when the cthulhu had invaded.

”Fieth, remember what I said about the Light Palace.”

“Ah, just wait a minute.” Fiethsing said quickly, as a shadow emerged from the rift. Zero turned to face the shadow, still imperceivable, and quickly drew her sword. Several hundred years ago, she had taken up swordsmanship as a hobby, and found it came quite naturally to her. Since the founding of the Light Palace, there had been more and more foolhardy adventurers seeking her out, regarding her as the saintly master of the blade.

“I told you.” Fiethsing sighed. “I told you to wait.”

Zero wanted to trust Fiethsing, but she was only being careful. She wasn’t going to strike unless this shadow clearly presented a threat.

“Zero? And Auntie Fiethsing too! I’m back! ” Kaguya came bounding towards the two surprised women, with several rabbits trailing behind her.

“We thought you to be some invading demon. Next time, announce yourself sooner, Kaguya.” Zero scolded the girl, but inside she was relieved beyond measure to see her.

“Sorry, sorry. Could you uh, lower your sword?” Kaguya eyed the weapon, Zero was still holding it outwards, ready to strike whatever came at her.
“Right. Sorry.” She returned the weapon to its sheath. She fought back tears of elation, as the reality of the situation sank in. Kaguya was alive and safe.

“Kaguya, what happened on the other world? It doesn’t look as though you’ve returned alone.” Fiethsing spoke, making note of the shapes behind her that had followed her through the portal in Apollo. One was Alice, she thought. But there was another shape, one she didn’t recognize. A strange aura hung about that other one. Something powerful.

And alien.

CFC-038

“We’ve got a lot of problems right now!” Kaguya said. “Its a pretty long story, but basically there’s this guy that destroyed that entire world. I had to take Alice and Charlotte back here to escape.”

“Entire wo--. That can wait.” Fiethsing stopped herself. “I know Alice, but Charlotte is a new friend. I’m Fiethsing, that one that’s always pouting is Zero.”

Zero frowned a bit, but she knew better than to indulge Fiethsing’s teasing.

“I, ah, um, Nice to meet you. I come from the kingdom of Gloria, third child of...”

“Wait wait, that’s going to take way too long, Charlotte. Alice is in trouble, we need to get her somewhere she can rest.”

In the cradle of Apollo Alice lay, still unconscious. Her body was covered in asymmetrical black splotches.

”She’s being taken by dark powers” Zero said after looking upon Alice’s frail form for only a moment. She would know, after all, something very similar had happened to her once. What had happened to them on that other world? There were many quetions she’d need to ask Kaguya later.

“It was worse before.” Kaguya said. “It’s calmed down a bit now. The dark blobs look kind of faded.”

“Excellent. We need to head to see the king anyway. I can’t imagine a place with finer healing herbs and magics that the capital of the world. Kaguya, Charlotte, you two had best come with us as well. If your tale is as perilous as it sounds, Grimm should know of it too. Fieth, are you okay with that?”

“Hm? Ah, yes. Yes, that’s fine.”

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing.” Fiethsing had a puzzled expression on her face, as if she were considering many different possibilities at once. Zero was certain something troubled her, but let it be.

Zero, Kaguya, Fiethsing, and Charlotte, with Alice carried by the hovering Apollo, made for the Light Palace.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

-Lore written by Rajadeem the Seer, last of his order.

World of the Light Palace



Part 9 Curse of the Frozen Casket