Forgotten - Chapter 200
A bit later than intended, but my GPU and then server dying took most of the first two days of the year for me to somewhat resolve. PC is now back on an old GPU I still had and the server will remain dead until I can figure out why it suddenly decided that its NIC no longer exists. Great start to the new year, really.
I will also leave a note here to inform you that I will take the week starting on the 21st of February off. With all the bullshit going on in my life I need a break at some point and I can’t really take one before the end of my semester, so I am taking it once that is over.
Happy new year, I hope your start was better than mine.
As Aperio emerged from the basement in which they had performed the ritual and stepped out of the café, she could not help but notice the increased amount of glances that came her way. She knew that nobody had noticed anything happening, as she had made sure it would remain hidden, but regardless of that the mortals of Earth now seemed to hold more interest in her.
“This is different,” the God said as it looked around the street the café was on. “Nothing looks like I remember it.”
“That’s because everything is,” Caethya replied. “I’d wager that you have been away for a good while.”
Aperio paid little mind to the conversation as she observed the phones of those that cast their gaze her way. They all held the same thing, depicted in different ways: multiple pictures of her.
Perhaps I do stand out too much, Aperio thought to herself as she met the eyes of a Human who had dressed up as an Elf. She gave the man a smile before her expression froze.
“I may have made a small mistake,” the All-Mother mumbled in the language of her people, looking at her love.
“Oh?” Caethya asked as she turned slightly to better look at Aperio. “And what would that be?”
“Wings,” she replied, spreading her feathered limbs a barely noticeable amount. “I may have forgotten to hide them again.”
The Demigoddess shook her head slightly at the words, following Aperio around a corner and tugging the freshly remade deity of Earth along. “Just don’t move them as much then, I guess. Maybe you can pass them off as a cloak or something.”
“Mortals should just get some wings of their own,” Aperio mumbled to herself and crossed her arms in front of her chest. If everyone in their group was capable of flight, they could have skipped navigating the labyrinthine streets of the city and would have already arrived at their destination. “They look good, and flying is one of the best experiences you can have.”
“Perhaps you should have the System give out Classes that let mortals do that, then,” her love replied with a slight giggle. “But for now, you will have to pretend that your wings are anything but real. Or instead, reveal yourself to the people here, and accept whatever comes of that.”
“If Adam is right, they would try to capture me to figure out what I am, and we both know that would not end well.”
“Hiding it is, then,” Caethya said with a small shrug. “Though, you do seem to have picked up more than a few admirers already.”
“There are multiple pictures of me making the rounds,” Aperio said, almost gesturing towards a group of mortals on their phones with a wing before remembering to move her arm instead. “Though I do not see why I would turn into the talk of the town by just looking like I do. The mortals we have interacted with seemed a little surprised, sure, but they didn’t appear as though they were witnessing something extraordinary.”
“Perhaps they noticed that you were going between places a little too fast,” Caethya speculated. “I know that you tried to hide yourself but I also know that, along with your great dislike of keeping yourself hidden, you happen to be quite bad at it.”
“I have already had a lifetime in which my best course of action was to blend in with the background,” Aperio replied, the words of her love irritating her a bit more than she would have thought. “I have no desire to turn eternity into that as well.”
“I didn’t mean to imply that you should,” Caethya said and cast her gaze towards the floor. “In any case, will Adam meet us… wherever it is we are going?”
“That building,” Aperio said, pointing towards one of the structures that loomed far above their surroundings. “And yes, he is almost there. As well as getting some looks from the other magically-inclined mortals.”
“Well, he is stronger than they are.”
“And we are magnitudes stronger than he is,” Aperio continued for her love before nodding towards the God of Earth. “And we have their… collection of deities.”
“That we do,” Caethya agreed, nudging said God along as it stopped to stare at one of the many advertisements that were dotted around the city. “Though I am pretty sure it won’t do much for a while.”
“What are you two talking about?” Ethan asked, his voice filled with more than a little annoyance. “People are already staring at us, and your weird language doesn’t make it any better.”
“They are staring because pictures of me are apparently being passed around,” Aperio said, turning around slightly to glare at the Vampire. “Privacy is not something your people seem to value much.”
“You are outside the norm, even for this town,” Eleanor said as she eyed some of the people that were looking at their group. “And, uh, the addition of your… wings certainly isn’t helping.”
“Perhaps you should figure out how to get a pair of your own,” the All-Mother rebutted, suppressing the urge to spread her feathered limbs. “But my current state of public scrutiny matters little. I have a suspicion that the meeting with your little council would have revealed me to other people anyway.”
“Probably,” Eleanor agreed.
The group proceeded the rest of the way toward the council’s building in relative silence. Eleanor would, every now and then, attempt to speak up but she immediately backed down from it, dismissing what she was going to say. She also always shook her head afterwards, mumbling something Aperio did not quite understand. Why do mortals have so many languages?
Eleanor’s murmurs sounded like English in a lot of ways, but they were also quite clearly something else as Aperio had no idea what the mortal mage was talking about.
Before they stepped onto the large plaza in front of the council’s building, the group took a small detour to buy a piece of pastry that had caught the eye of the amalgamation of deities. It made no move to eat it, however, instead simply staring at it.
It did not take long for Adam to spot the approaching group. The way the sea of mortals filling the plaza split apart as the All-Mother strode forth probably helped with that, but it was also an unnecessary detail as Aperio stood at least a few heads taller than anyone else present.
Adam took a good long look at the collection of Earth’s deities, still currently taken by the piece of pastry Caethya had purchased for it. “And you want me to just keep an eye on it? …Him? Her?” The entity before him wasn’t at all what he had expected. “Are you sure this is a God?”
“Yes,” Aperio replied, daintily opening the door to the building. Before she ducked through and joined the gathering gathering of mortals she intended to meet, she looked back at Adam. “If you do not wish to look after it, you do not have to.”
“It’s fine,” Adam replied. “Not like you are asking me to fight it or anything.” He looked at Aperio for a moment as she simply smiled at him. “Are you?”
“No,” she replied, lowering her head so as to fit through the door and entering the building. “But I am finding it to be quite fun to let you assume what I might do.”
“Of course you do,” Adam mumbled in reply. “Why wouldn’t you?” The man heaved another defeated sigh before he looked at the God of Earth and, with a shake of his head, took its hand. “I’ll wait outside, is that okay?”
“I do not mind,” Aperio said, eyes gazing up to see what her aura had already been telling her. Inside the building, through the miraculous clarity of glass, one could see all the way to the sky. Though she knew the building was not all that tall, it had the illusion of stretching up to the clouds, and the perceived height made her wings twitch in yearning. If only she could jump onto the roof for a brief moment. “If you need help, all you need to do is call.”
Elder Wu lowered the blood-filled chalice he was holding as a small shudder ran through his body. Someone of note had cast their gaze on him, even if only for a moment. Probably the one Gregory talked about.
The appearance of the Elf — something Elder Wu found quite easy to discern as soon as he had looked at one of the pictures online — had stirred the proverbial pot a little too much, as all the factions had jumped on the opportunity to blame the other for reintroducing a race most people had thought dead.
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Of course, Elder Wu knew better than that. He also knew that the Elves that did exist were not like the woman who had come here. The two shared the trait of pointed ears, true, but the Elves he knew were otherwise hard to differentiate from a Human, with no notable difference in size. Certainly no abnormal magical ability, either. There were outliers, of course, but every species had those. Time distorts everything…
Most Elves that lived on Earth passed as Humans at this point anyway, the points on their ears having dwindled to something one could shrug off as a genetic quirk. The few bloodlines that had not been diluted over the centuries lived hidden in small countries and did what their kind had always loved to do: rule from the shadows.
For a moment, he did consider that one of their many experiments had produced she who would come before him today, but Gregory’s report made that seem highly unlikely. Anything they could make would not be able to remind one of the oldest vampires in the country of the World’s Voice. Nor would it fill the air with mana like this one seems to do.
It was not hard to notice the difference if you could recall the time when Earth was still dominated by magic. The world seemed just a little brighter to Elder Wu; a little bit more… alive.
Any further musings were cut short as one of his aides stepped into the room, undoubtedly to inquire if he was ready for the meeting. Before any words could be exchanged, Elder Wu stood up, grabbing his cane as he stepped around his desk.
“I assume our latest guest has arrived?” he asked the aide.
“She did,” the man confirmed as he opened the door further to let Elder Wu step past. “She has also brought a few other guests, including the mage that has been lingering outside for the past few hours.”
“So I won’t have to yell at Antalia,” the Vampire said. “That’s a plus. I can certainly do without her holding a grudge against me until she has to switch bodies again.”
“Of course,” the aide replied, obviously not sure what else they should comment on.
“Thank you for informing me, you can leave,” Elder Wu said, shaking his head as the aide quickly scurried away. “We really need to get more Vampires to work here.”
Most of the staff currently working in the building were normal Humans, and a good number of them had aspirations of becoming something more. A Vampire, or a mage, or in rare cases even a Werewolf. Why anyone would want to turn into one of those beasts was unclear to Elder Wu, but it wasn’t his choice to make either. All he had to do was to ensure the continued survival of his own kind and — if he could — put them in a better place.
He shook his head again, pushing the thought from his mind. Right now he had to deal with an uninvited guest, one that could either solve some of their problems or create a whole lot more.
A few long steps brought him to the back door of the conference room and a simple push opened it. Elder Wu stepped inside, already motioning for the people that had stood up to sit back down again.
“No need for formalities,” he said, pulling back his own chair from the table and sitting down. “Before we get to the agreed upon agenda, we have a… situation to attend to.
“I am sure you all have noticed the arrival of a powerful influence here,” Elder Wu continued, his eyes wandering across every person in the room. “Some of you have even realised that the person behind this influence has decided to pay us a visit today. Unannounced, I might add.”
“We know,” Antalia said as she shifted in her seat. “The woman in question made use of one of our facilities.” She paused for a moment before adding, “After convincing one of our younger members that it was a good idea, I presume…”
“Do you know what she did?” Elder Wu asked, pulling the small stack of papers that held the agenda for the day closer to himself.
“No,” the witch replied. “They were in a ritual site for a few minutes, and then left again. The ones running the site did not notice anything out of the ordinary while they were in there. Though they did report that they left with an extra mage in tow. If someone had been in the site before them, we should have known. Something isn’t adding up.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time your people showed us their incompetence,” a large, gruff-looking man remarked. He scratched his cheek, his long, pointed fingernails digging into the scars that criss-crossed it. “I remember when one of you wizards blew up a bit of desert. The normals are still looking into that and it’s been like, what, eighty years now?”
“And they could look for a hundred more and not find anything,” Antalia scoffed in reply. “The same can’t be said about your runts.”
The man only shrugged in response. “We never try to hide, either. Unlike you lot, we have no problem with the normals knowing that we exist.”
“And all you get out of that are myths about hairy, big-footed men,” Elder Wu said, tapping the papers onto the desk to tidy up the stack. “Not exactly the best publicity.
“In any case,” he continued before anyone else could cut in, “our… guest will be with us shortly. I have taken the liberty of instructing the front desk to bring her here once we call for her.” Now to hope she respects that order.
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