Aikiko had dropped off the slave-children in Aden – where they’d been mostly shunted into school – and headed for Yu-Shan. She needed to report to Lytek – and, after that, she had another Guardian to go and visit. Amber thefts to investigate, and some Abyssals to trace back…
A… Night Caste Guardian. She’d known that Lytek had formed a perfect circle of course, but this should be interesting.
Lytek… had taken over another block of offices; with his now-expanding influence he needed some extra space for functionaries – although he was having to handle some objections from the current heirarchy. Of course, that had been inevitable; he hadn’t been a major power for millennia, after all – although he had returned to that level very fast indeed…
The return of the remaining Solar Exaltations, a sudden doubling of the Solar, Lunar, and Sidereal Exaltations, a jump of two points of Essence (one from Charles’s manses, one from doubling up on the Exaltations), several thousand new second-circle equivalent aides – and the backing of Charles, about whom rumors were flying – was causing considerable upset.
The Celestial Lions on security duty got out the elsewhere-blocking armband again – to more curious looks from the staff, although some of them were starting to think about what that might really mean – and ushered her in to talk to Lytek.
(Aikiko) “Lord Lytek, good to see you again!”
Lytek was currently engaged in attempting to analyze some very complex mystical diagrams – but stopped to recheck the privacy wards.
(Lytek) “Ah, and nice to see you again Aikiko… I take it that you have found something?”
(Aikiko) “Yeah, the lead singer of that English rock band turned out to be one of the Guardians!”
She explained – and snuck a peek at those diagrams while she was at it.
(Lytek) “Things seem to be becoming… very complicated very fast this month! I fear that half my staff is falling far behind in confusion. And another one using music and geomancy? I wonder if there is a key there somewhere? And, for that matter… another one associating with the Raksha and the energies of the Wyld.”
(Aikiko) “Yeah… all of them do seem to like geomancy.”
(Lytek) “Did you happen to find out what HER inner world was like if she had one?”
(Aikiko) “I didn’t get the chance to peek in there. From the act, though, I’d say a whole lot of transformative qualities. Probably fairly small; she seemed to be fairly focused on externals”
Aikiko continued her report.
Hm… the diagrams seemed to be a cross between geomantic diagrams and artifacts and manses… rather like a manse that had some ability to adapt to changes in it’s demesne, and so could operate in any of several modes. Somewhat speculative, but a network of such things seemed to be what was being mapped. Alternate forms? Did Lytek intend to build his own Manse-base? If so… he was thinking on a really grandiose level; the diagrams showed more detail if you zoomed in on one feature, but when you looked at them overall… there were thousands of manse-nodes in them. Some bits seemed… weirdly familiar though – although it wasn’t much like Aden. She’d… never seen anything like it before. It was too bad that it would be rude to record, but she had a good memory and could use her investigative excellency to recall most of it later on. She got as good a look as she could; Charles would definitely be interested!
Still… Lytek seemed… a bit nervous and exasperated? At a time when he was more powerful than he’d been in literal ages? Was he having trouble building this thing, perhaps? But why wouldn’t he just ask Charles? Unless it was just unfinished? There did seem to be a lot of vague areas in it – and others showing two alternate configurations, one of them rather unpleasant somehow. Was it just half-designed or half-mapped? Geomancy – or at least those parts unaffected by an Exaltation – would probably would be out of field for him. But, again, why wouldn’t he ask Charles? Perhaps he had? Even for Charles that would be a horrendously complicated and interwoven mess – and that was saying something.
Maybe there was a clue in the unpleasant configuration? At least she’d finally picked up that Occult Excellency, even if it WAS expensive to cloak it… (Was there a point to that? If there was ANYONE who’d spot it anyway it’d be Lytek). But it looked like… positive and negative modes, with the negative being the unpleasant mode; that configuration would generate some massively unpleasant and destructive effects.
Why in Creation would Lytek be interested in THAT? She could understand that if he held grudges, but most non-war gods weren’t THAT unsubtle. And it looked like… raising armies of corpses, ripping spirits free from bodies, necromancy, poisoning the energies of geomancy, creating horrific weapons of darkness… On the positive side… there was sorcery, bolts of celestial energy, creating things from wyld energies, healing, imbuing people with knowledge… Something primordial? But it didn’t match anyone’s mythos that SHE knew of – although… either the positive or Negative by itself seemed very familiar. It didn’t have anything to do with the current state of Heavenly geomancy did it?
And then her investigation excellency gave up on being subtle and kicked her in the head. After all, Lytek was the god of Exaltation, and gods rarely had much in the way of side-interests. Of course! This was associated with Solars and Abyssals… was he trying to make something to reverse the latter into the former? He’d been working on that for almost as long as he’d known about Abyssals, after all. A world-body design with the properties of both? There might even be more states than just two… If this was an attempt to create a Solar / Abyssal Exaltation-emulator through Manses… they must be fabulously complicated things. Of course they’d have to be if even the First Age Twilights could not analyze them to their satisfaction! Well, it wasn’t like Lytek was hostile! She could just ask!
(Lytek) “Aikiko? Is something wrong? You seem quite distracted!”
(Aikiko) “Uh… sorry if I’m prying, but what’s that for?”
Lytek sighed. He hadn’t talked about this with Aikiko much – but she was friends with Charles, and had shown that she could handle dealing with Abyssals. There was no real point in trying to hide the basics – especially from a Solar investigation specialist. Even if she’d only gotten a good look at a single node… she’d figure it out soon enough, and he had her searching for the Guardians – which made the fact that the Exaltations did have some relationship to World-Bodies all too obvious. The potential just had to be… unlocked somehow. At least that explained the Infernals… If only he could get a chance to study some of THEM as well! Besides… partial versions of the same sort of analysis were in the old records; they just were far less complete and were written up as “energy nodes” rather than as “manses”.
(Aikiko) “I’m just really curious about that diagram…”
(Lytek, sighing) “It’s one of the latest attempts at analyzing an Exaltation – simply treating the energy-nexi as manses rather than as “unknowns”.”
(Aikiko) “Solar and Abyssal, I guess?”
(Lytek) “There… isn’t actually a difference. There were first age solar charms – strange, dangerous, and corrupting as they were – which let Solars take on what would now be called Abyssal powers even before the Abyssals ever appeared. The current Abyssals simply seem to be permanently affected.”
(Aikiko) “That’s… pretty unnerving. Let me guess: you intend to fix that?”
(Lytek) “I’ve been working on the project for quite some time – but I’ve recently gotten a chance to directly inspect some Abyssal Exaltations, since young Charles – and, for some reason a Raksha (?!?!?!) – managed to send some here instead of them going to another host.”
(Aikiko) “Whaa… the Raksha’s name wasn’t Leon, was it?”
(Lytek) “I didn’t actually get the name – just an Abyssal Exaltation wrapped in Wyld energies equivalent to the highest circles of sorcery.”
(Aikiko) “Well, that does sound like Leon there…”
After all… the timing, the power level, knowing about Lytek, wanting to send it to him, having just defeated an abyssal… the odds on it being anyone else would call for I AM to calculate.
(Aikiko) “I think he’s an Ishvara – pretty benevolent narrative, though.”
(Lytek) “How would an Ishvara know to send it HERE though?”
(Aikiko) “Hoo boy… remember when Charles made the Baalgrogs when he was sleepy? Leon’s something like that…”
(Lytek) “Ergg… He’s shaping ISHVARA without paying attention now? How long before he starts shedding worlds like sweat droplets?”
(Aikiko) “I’d give it years, tops… and while Creation could use more livable worlds… that sure doesn’t make him easy for anyone to be around!”
Lyteks thought was pretty obvious… He’d awakened the tiger, all that he could do now was to try to hold on! Considerably more than the “fix” he’d been bargaining for!
Lytek turned back to his studies as Aikiko took her leave – and headed for a particular high school.
Dawai… hadn’t yet really noticed that all the “jocks” had disappeared (and the athletics programs for boys were mostly defunct); there’d been no fuss or comment – and he’d spent a good deal of time practicing ignoring them as much as possible anyway. Besides… he’d been feeling a bit more confident suddenly – and he’d approached one of the girls.
Her enthusiastic reaction had been… remarkably diverting. Wow. Did he know seduction all of a sudden? Then there wasn’t any more thinking for a bit. The eager get-naked-and-get-started reaction tended to have that effect on a teenage male.
Afterwards… he wavered between panic, enthusiasm, placing a frantic call to Leon, and the urge to experiment a little more.
Hormones won out. Was it just a fluke? He approached another girl – and the reaction was just about the same; she wanted to kiss and cuddle while she… got her clothing off and then worked on HIS clothing while eagerly offering herself to him. The third… did pretty much the same thing, albeit with minor variations according to her personality… Heh heh! It was working! It would be nice if they were less over the top about it, though… An actual date would be nice!
And the girls parents… made no objections to their daughters staying with him at night. That was some REALLY good stuff! It was affecting the parents too! And the girls… were more than willing to go on dates, and show off to all the other girls that he had claimed them! And there was much envy from the other boys around the school! Now to work on his social magic a bit so that he could be the most popular guy at school!
It didn’t take long for him to realize that it seemed like… no one would pay any attention if he was towing them around naked on leashes! Having them wear revealing outfits just… got him envious looks from other boys while THEY got envious looks from other girls! There were no complaints from anyone, even at school. Even the hardass vice principal simply… arranged for him to sit in the back of the classes, so that there was plenty of room for his girls to cluster around him.
What the HELL? That guy never lets ANYONE get away with anything! He just… recommended that he have the school nurse check them over for him! And the school nurse… Well, he wouldn’t want them getting anything bad of course, but just how overboard had Leon gone?
(Nurse) “Oh it’s no trouble young man! You deserve healthy young concubines who know how to best please you. If you wish to keep them naked we’ll have to turn up the heat a bit; we wouldn’t want them to catch a cold!”
Errkkkk…. This was WAY overboard! A LOT more than he’d bargained for! Maybe it was time to call Leon?
It was about then that Aikiko turned up. After all, it was easy enough for her to blend in as a student at her age – and it wasn’t like she hadn’t seen Leon and his harem…
(Aikiko) “Hey there! How’s it going?”
(Dawai) “All right, I guess. I haven’t seen you around.” (Hmm. A new girl. She must have transferred in; this was a pretty good school after all! Not bad looking either…)
Aikiko was considering the three revealingly-dressed pretty high school girls who were following this slightly nerdy kid around – and that no one was really paying any attention to it. That was pretty weird! If anything… the air in the classroom was quite approving; they evidently considered this… quite normal.
Heck, it looked like the instructor would excuse the boy if he wanted to take some time off – and the other girls would equally obviously join the group if he invited them. That was pretty weird in a school – and not a Guardian power at all! They didn’t do unnatural mental influence – but something had… redefined the social structure of the town with him as the privileged golden child).
Dawai – with some relief – noticed that Aikiko wasn’t showing any signs of attraction at all.
(Aikiko) “So… you seem pretty popular!”
(Dawai) “Yeah! Surprisingly so…” (as he looks at the other girls in the room)
(One if his current girls) “The master has honored me with his attentions and allowed me to please him!”
(Aikiko, boggling slightly) “What is this, Harem High?”
Aikiko looked at him with a curious expression.
(Dawai) “Well… I suppose… I wasn’t really expecting… Er…”
(Aikiko) “You seem to know I’m… different. Is there someplace we can talk privately?”
(Dawai) “Well… lets test.” (He looked at the rest of the class) “If it’s all right with you Mr Thompson… Why don’t all of you girls get naked and line up for me to pick one of you?”
The response was basically “Oh yes!” and a quick – naked – line up.
(Dawai) “Erg… I don’t think “Privacy” matters at the moment! I wasn’t really expecting this!”
(Aikiko, setting up a privacy warding anyway) “Okay, how did THIS happen? I’m pretty sure you got outside help.”
(Dawai) “Er… OK, Melissa? You can join the rest of the girls after checking in with the nurse. The rest of you… why not go on to your next class?” (and that quietly happened).
(Aikiko) “That’s GOT to be driving you nuts.”
(Dawai) “I think Leon did it! It’s… OK, I had a few fantasies – everybody does! – but I wasn’t actually expecting… I just asked him to deal with a few bullies!”
(Aikiko, with some shock) “You got in contact with Leon!?”
(Dawai) “Well, after I saw him just… wrapping the academy awards around himself with nobody else seeing anything wrong, I pulled up the number and called… I just wanted a couple of problems handled!”
(Aikiko) “That’s the trouble with raksha! You always get more than you bargained for.”
(Melissa, when she got back) “The nurse says that I am entirely healthy and ready to bear your children master! Thank you so much for the opportunity to do so!”
(Dawai, looking more than a bit panicky) “Erk! I think I’ve noticed!”
(Aikiko) “I wonder what he’ll want to stop this… I don’t think he’ll let you get out as easy as you got in.”
(Melissa) “You would not send me away after choosing me in front of everyone would you? I know that you would not be so cruel!”
(Aikiko) “Though a lot of other nerds would envy you right now, dude!”
(Dawai) “Well, yeah, it’s… OK, last night was all kinds of fun! But… this “we exist to serve you!” (the girls all nodded their agreement!) routine is kind of…”
(Dawai) “YES! I’d want them to like me for who I AM, not just because they’re… pets!”
(Aikiko) “Guess you’ll have to talk to Leon, then.”
(Dawai) “Why would he do THIS? It’s WAY beyond what I asked for!”
(Aikiko) “I dunno. Why did you want girls hanging off you in the first place?”
(Dawai, quietly) “Er… well… because they WEREN’T. They all hung around those idiot jocks instead of… And they just… didn’t seem to even know that ANYONE else was around, much less me!”
(Concubine Chorus) “We know better NOW wonderful master! Please… you are a far more worthy mate than any of those jocks were! Let us warm your bed and pleasure you, it is only what you deserve!”
(Dawai) “Arrgh! Would any of you be saying ANYTHING like that if Leon hadn’t done whatever it was he did?”
(Melissa) “I would like to think so! Before… we did not see beyond the surface, but there is much of worth in you and there will be more as you grow into your strengths! Being yours is a small enough thing!”
(Aikiko) “Okay, am I right about you being really bitter toward the guys who did get girls? Come to think of it… where ARE all the jocks?”
(Melissa) “I am only glad that now I am bold enough to say so and to follow through on that!”
(Dawai) “Well yeah! That was INCREDIBLY frustrating! Where are the… Wait, I haven’t seen any of them for days now! Oh no, he DIDN’T… Er… Maybe we’d better check with the principal!”
(Aikiko) “Oh, right. He’s probably sold them all by now… Or made them attendants in his harem… yeah, the principal’s a good idea.”
(Dawai, with an appalled look) “Or turned them into more kitties!”
(Aikiko) “Both, I’d say…”
The Principal paid no attention to the several girls – including Melissa, who was still naked – who were following along, but did check the records…
(Principal) “Ah. A few of those boys are sick, several have transferred or gone to stay with relatives… dear me! It looks like the entire football team, track team, soccer team, and swim team are gone! That’s going to be hell on our standings this year…
I guess that I’d better withdraw from the leagues this year! It would be embarrassing to come in last in everything!”
(Aikiko) “Yeah… geez, Melissa, put some clothes on! Leon must have used the really BIG grace magic for you, kid!… Or something… I’m still learning about fey.”
(Principle) “Oh, do you need a coat Melissa? Ah, no, I see you’ve got most of your clothes… If you and your master can’t wait until tonight for that sort of thing, I suppose the nurse has some cots and there’s always the sports fields outside if you want the natural feeling!”
(Aikiko – who was starting to realize just how pliable mortals were) “Um… wow.
Duwai was now VERY red.
(Aikiko) “We’d better fix this. There are people in charge of fixing things like this, though they’re VERY busy in space – and I don’t think they’d be happy with the scale of this one.”
Well, to be fair… there was no casualty error here; there was a definite cause, and effect, and as for fate… some mortal high school students were affected, which was hardly too noticeable. It wouldn’t be a big deal compared to some other things – but the boy did need to know that some people who’d be annoyed might notice eventually… Not that he didn’t seem to want this to stop already!
Duwai was actually a bit torn. This was just TOO WEIRD – and it was obviously unfair – and realizing that sixty to eighty boys had been enslaved or worse just to give him his sex fantasy was pretty bad – and he saw that the girls were being pretty manipulated – but… at least with the girls, he REALLY wished that this WAS just showing them his finer qualities so that they wanted to be his! And the “no trouble with parents” part definitely had it’s attractions…
(Aikiko, noticing the conflict) “Look, do you really want this to be your life? It’s going to become dull eventually!”
Was he really that much younger? It was all too obvious that… his head was saying “No”, his emotions were saying “I wish it was real!”, and his Hormones were saying “YES YES YES!”.
(Duwai) “I’ve got to at least stop most of it!”
(Aikiko) “Maybe Leon will make you more attractive in exchange, or at least dial it down a bit.”
They called Leon.
(Leon) “Ah, Hello there! Not too many people have this number! How is your new and improved life going?”
(Duwai) “Um… I’m having second thoughts. I like the attention, and the girls, but… not like this!”
(Leon) “And here I thought that the Onieromancy would adequately fulfill your fantasies… Are they still wearing too many clothes? Or do you want them more “Alien”? I like cat-girls myself, and that would be easy to arrange!”
(Duwai) “Uh… but I don’t want them naked all the time! And everyone else is acting weird too! Even Vice Principal Kroke doesn’t have a problem with it!”
(Leon) “Well of course! Now, they’ll dress if you wish, but naturally enough it’s been fitted into the pattern; they all know and accept instinctively that the rules do not apply to you and those you have chosen for yourself… Otherwise it would be quite awkward!”
(Duwai) “But I kind of WANT them to apply now, even if it means (sigh) they might not want me.”
(Leon) “Do you need harem attendants after all? All you need do is select a few and take them to any convenient veterinarian…”
(Duwai) “No, no! No harem attendants! I just want my normal life back…okay, as normal as it’s been since I got a personal dimension!”
(Leon) “Ah; you wish to feel that you have EARNED them – and to not be taking advantage of them simply because they are merely mortal?”
(Duwai) “Yes, please! It’s weird not to work for them now!”
(Sounds on the phone) “Mew! Mew”
(Leon) “Hush Felix! I’m on the phone… Someone get Felix a saucer of milk… Well, I suppose that something can be done!”
At least Duwai knew better than to say he’d do anything now… who knew what Leon would ask for? And… he was developing some scruples. Felix there… had been turned into a cat, castrated, and made to serve as a pet.
(Duwai) “Um… how is ‘Felix’ doing? He seems happy.”
Or was it just that Leon’s magic was making him happy? And… he’d laughed at him and snickered about it. That… had been pretty uncalled for.
(Leon) “Ah, Felix is a good kitty! I have drained his will away, and so he has little independence… Since I felt that he would make a good pet, he is focused on being one – and is happy to be nothing more than a domestic animal who lives to amuse!”
(Duwai) “Sigh… what if someone wanted him to be a jock again?”
(Leon) “I suppose that could be arranged, and all this would seem little more than a dream! still… who would wish that? The world is full of self-centered, insecure, teenagers who attempt to prop up their own self-images by putting down others and thinking of them as less than human… who needs another?”
Duwai took a moment to absorb that.
(Duwai, after thinking for a minute) “You really know where to hit hard.”
(Leon) “The Raksha are mirrors of creation! It is up to those who deal with us to decide… will they view the true reflection, and grow, or become lost in the distortions, and diminish? It is, I think, better to grow – even if that is sometimes painful. I take it that you… wish to grow into your power and set your sights on higher goals than are to be found in your high school?”
(Duwai) “Well, yeah… I don’t want anybody to feel left out again! It… sucks.”
(Leon) “Indeed. To lack others to define yourself against is to lose all sense of scale. You have great power young man – and I think, with that decision, you leave a portion of your childhood and fantasies behind you. That is inevitable if you wish to grow – but it is always painful. Now then… Six of your “jocks” have committed truly grave offences against others; those shall remain in my keeping for the moment.”
(Duwai) “And the other guys?”
(Leon) “They will be easy to return to their lives; memories of a vague trip will suffice I think. As for the young women… are those four accompanying you all that you have claimed?”
(Duwai) “Yeah. I was afraid to get more when I saw what was happening.”
(Leon) “Their response was not as exaggerated as you fear; they are drawn to strength, to the ability to care for them and keep them and their children safe, to power, to kindness, to being valued, and to many other factors. I eliminated their inhibitions, opened their eyes to your potential – which is far more than human – and removed your previous competition – but I have not meddled with the basic structure of their minds. I will reduce their perceptions to normal – but if you wish to work for them, I suspect that you will be able to keep them provided that you will truly value and care for them. After all, once they have spread their legs to share pleasure with you and potentially bear your children… you have pretty well broken the ice.”
(Duwai) “Heh. I guess not everybody can do what I can, but it’s no reason for me to be a jerk.”
(Leon) “You are more than mortal, and there is nothing wrong with accepting that fact – but you are quite correct, there is no reason to abuse those weaker than you either, and far more honor in protecting them instead. The young women will remember electing to share your life; it is up to you to make them happy with that decision.”
(Duwai) “I’ll make sure they don’t regret it!”
(Leon) “Then I shall send a few presents for them and you! The trinkets of the wyld can be hard to come by in Creation these days, and should prove an amusing distraction!”
(Duwai) “Um… thanks! What are you sending me?”
(Leon) “Oh, a few boxes of gems and jewels and gold and such… to go with a few minor charms for yourself I think. It is a simple enough thing, but humans do like such trinkets!”
(Duwai, with much relief) “Oh, okay! Thanks a lot!”
(Leon) “Oh you are quite welcome! Perhaps one day we will work together on something; it is often useful to have more than one set of abilities to apply to a situation.”
(Duwai, thoughtfully) “I’d like that.”
(Leon) “I shall look forward to it myself, for you have many potentials yet to fulfill!”
Duwai… found himself really hoping that he could live up to that.
Leon didn’t bother mentioning the middle-eastern slave-girls he’d provided for the boys harem. The boy had taken them, they were his – and if he put them aside their culture said that they would be utterly dishonored. Leaving… would never occur to them anyway.
Aikiko… was thoughtful as well. That had gone… better than she expected. Perhaps Leon was just trying to teach him a lesson? Evidently… Leon did not approve of petty exalts – even if he is a bit cold-blooded about how humans tend to respond to demigodlings.
(Aikiko) “Well, that worked out okay…”
(Duwai) “Er… Not exactly the kind of price I was anticipating.”
(Aikiko) “I guess he just wanted you to be a better person. That’s more idealistic than I’d pegged him… Just like somebody else I know…”
(Duwai) “Er… I think I’d better get out of the principals office, and escort the girls home, and such before everything goes back to normal – especially since school is now out for the day.”
(Aikiko) “Yeah, I think I’ll join you.”
After all, she wasn’t on the list of students – or visitors for that matter. Of course, with easily-overlooked presence method that would hardly be a problem – but it would probably be best to give Duwai a little time and talk to him again later, after things were a bit more settled.
And, in the Hanging Gardens, Leon considered the six jocks who’d really hurt other people – and sent them to the stables, where they’d make useful horses and there was plenty of room for them! He left a little bit of glossing-over with the girls parents too – albeit only at the “we already had the discussion” level.