At a certain temple in T’oued, one which Asley, Pochi, and Chappie had visited a long time ago…
Melchi ascended the stairway, went through the front entrance, one sliding door, and one sliding screen…
The time was early in the afternoon; seeing rays of sunlight through the side of the corridor, Melchi nodded to herself.
“Now THIS is what I call a splendid building. Mmm, sweet sweet history!”
And the one sitting directly in front of her was… the Title-erasing Shamaness, appearance unchanged from millennia long past.
“Welcome to T’oued, traveler from a distant land. I am called Kaoru.”
“Yes, I am aware. An apprentice of Master Tūs, as I recall…”
Melchi froze in place.
She had gotten here only a few days ago, and despite filing and an official appointment to meet the Shamaness, she did falsify her background information — and in a way that should have been difficult to detect.
While she had considered the possibility of it being seen through, she had not expected it to happen to this extent.
“You… shouldn’t know THAT part. But I guess that’s what makes you a Shamaness, eh?”
“Hehehe… I have known for several decades now. The fact that you are Master Tūs’ apprentice, and that you will be coming here.”
“Hmm!? Good lord, I wonder how much you know…”
Melchi sat down and scratched her cheek despite not feeling itchy.
“I think I know what you are here for, at the very least.”
“Why don’t you try guessing it, then?”
“Hehehe… I’d rather not. This is a place for talking, after all, and there are some things that do need words to get across.”
Kaoru said with a smile, and Melchi relaxed her guard, seeming as if she had been purified of toxin.
[Does she actually not know everything? Did she just make up that first part to throw me off? No, that can’t be — a guess never would’ve gotten her THAT close. Does she want something else from me, other than the talking we’ve agreed to do?]
Despite Melchi’s apparent suspicion, Kaoru kept her smile up and kept speaking, as if to assert that she had indeed seen through everything,
“Rest assured, I am not hostile. Let us relax and enjoy the discussion as planned.”
“…You’re an interesting girl, you know that? But you know, wherever I am, I’m USUALLY the interesting one of the group…”
“Yes, your Evil Eyes are… quite extraordinary. There is nothing wrong in being proud of them.”
“Gah, you knew that, too? No wonder I couldn’t read any of your data. Never thought I’d ever meet another person with Evil Eyes…”
Melchi slapped her own forehead.
“Look, let’s just cut the formalities and get to the point, all right?”
Kaoru suddenly changed her tone, startling Melchi.
“It’s been all diplomatic meetings these days… My shoulders are starting to feel stiff.”
“Pfft– Ahahaha… Cool, cool. You can call me Mel!”
“Okay, listen, Mel… This is serious. The world has gone quite far down the road to destruction by now.”
“Right, and at the end of the day, that’s why I’m here.”
“But first of all, what exactly I’m here for is…”
“The Prophecy Monument, right?”
“Mm-hm… So the ‘Chosen One’ in the Prophecy Monument is quite obviously Poer, the Holy Warrior. He’s legendary… in stories, but does he actually exist? I’d like to know who wrote the Monument’s prophecy, too…”
Kaoru nodded, and after a short silence, began to speak again,
“To explain one thing at a time… First, Holy Warrior Poer is a good friend of mine as well. But I don’t know where he is right now.”
“Your friend? You’re saying you actually met him? But he’s supposed to be a guy from over five thousand years ago… Oh, wait…? …So you drank the same stuff as my mentor, eh, Kao?”
“Mel, do you really want to fixate on that point right now?”
“…Nope. But that does explain how you’re personally acquainted. More Drops of Eternity, eh… Mm-hm, mm-hm… I see, I see…”
Melchi mumbled to herself as she sorted through all the new information.
“Since you said you don’t know where he is RIGHT NOW, it’s safe to assume that he’s actually real, right?”
“All I can say now is… he likely does exist.”
“Hmm… Well, enough about Poer. Let’s move on to the prophecy… do you know who wrote it?”
“My older sister.”
“Your sister? She drank a Drop of Eternity as well, didn’t she?”
Melchi’s guess came from her memory of how old and deteriorated the Prophecy Monument was.
Kaoru nodded and coughed once to clear her throat.
“Her eyes are… special, too — she’s resting in bed right now because she just used them too much. Nothing long-term, mind you.”
“…Okay, so it’s the work of Foresight Evil Eyes rather than an actual prophecy. BUT I still have some things I don’t get.”
“Why a part of it it’s kept in the center of the War Demon Nation, right?”
“Right. The place’s always been corrupt back in the day, sure, but it’s still the core of a Nation we’re talking about. Now I wanna know how the rulers of T’oued managed to preserve it, since it does contain pretty sensitive info…”
Seeing Melchi express her doubts, Kaoru chuckled.
“My sister only made the prediction itself. As for sneaking the item into the War Demon Nation… we asked an old friend of ours to do it.”
“An old friend? …How old are we talking about?”
“Let’s keep that a secret. There’s a good reason I didn’t already tell you.”
“Hmm… okay, fine! Oh, mind if I ask another thing?”
As one would expect, Kaoru already knew what Melchi’s last question would be about.
“…About the E’to, right?”
“It’s a concept that doesn’t exist in my Nation’s culture. I’d like to know more about it.”
“You sure? It’ll be pretty long.”
And so Kaoru started explaining to her the concept of E’to — the cultural history of it, and the Twelve Starsigns and their associated animals.
By the time the explanations were over, it was almost sunset.
“Twelve animals… form the E’to… And the fancy name got distorted into Duodecad, retaining the association with the number twelve. So that’s why the Nation never thought to make the connection…”
“My sister mentioned that some of Holy Warrior Poer’s close acquaintances are associated with certain Starsigns. It’s quite likely that they are–“
“–Mages. So the signs don’t actually point to Familiars or actual animals?”
“We think so. Other than that, we don’t know.”
“I see… Hmm… Well, I guess that’s good enough progress for today!”
Melchi stood up, preparing to leave despite not having all her questions answered.
Kaoru looked up at her.
“You’re leaving already?”
“Yeah, got other urgent stuff to do. Already behind schedule by the time I got here, actually.”
Melchi grinned and have Kaoru a peace sign.
Kaoru stayed momentarily silent and looked at her, before finally saying,
Melchi replied, turning away and readjusting her wizard hat.
“About the one now called ‘The Grey’…”
“If you intend to go after Gaspard, you must be mentally prepared.”
“……Man, you even know about THAT, huh? Your sister’s Evil Eyes sure are dangerous…”
“He has visited us once before. It was soon after he left Master Tūs, as I recall. Because of his unusual arcane energy signature, my sister refused to assist him.”
“…He could’ve just easily made her talk, though?”
“Didn’t I already tell you that we had an old friend?”
Kaoru’s words prompted Melchi to turn back around.
“No way! Gaspard was almost as powerful as our mentor by then! You’re telling me that someone even stronger than him was here!?”
“They didn’t necessarily duke it out — but yes, our friend was good enough to force Gaspard to retreat. But he — or at least the version of him at that time — is no longer a match for Gaspard now, of course.”
“…Heh, the more I hear about him, the more I wanna meet this ‘old friend’ of yours.”
“Hehehehe… Now, we don’t even know where he is and what he’s up to. Just… listen to me, Mel: you have a significant role to fill in this world. Sure, go ahead and try to bring Gaspard back… but make sure your body isn’t overworked in the process.”
Kaoru said, her voice strongly resolute.
Melchi did not answer, only pulling her wizard hat down to cover her eyes.
Walking away, she was out of there before long… and by the time she no longer felt Kaoru watching her, she turned back to look at the temple, and thought back to a certain thing she had been told:
–a good friend of mine as well.
“……A good friend of hers… ‘as well’?”