Chapter 21 can be read below the cut.
It took about a week and a half for Ariana and Nymue to get the same day off. They ended up at a rocky part of the beach in Tivadshy. Even if the air was no longer too cold to be uncomfortable, the water was still too cold to get in.
“It’s so nice to get a break,” said Ariana. She put her hands on her hips and looked up at the sky. “I killed twelve demons this week, Nym. Twelve. Tweeelve.”
“You’re acting like you killed them by yourself,” said Nymue.
“Shh. Let me gloat for a moment,” said Ariana. She looked back at Nymue. “Sometimes I wish I was on one of the light teams. You get to go into old buildings, right?”
“It’s not like we get to look around. It’s more like: ‘go in, rejoin the ghosts, get out, move on’,” said Nymue.
Ariana raised an eyebrow. “Really? There’s nothing you’re supposed to say? No speech or anything? That’s weird.”
“Professor Jukikynai said that there are too many ghosts for us to say even a short speech for each of them,” said Nymue.
“And yet we demon hunters have to hold a funeral for each individual demon,” said Ariana. “But have you seen anything interesting?”
“Yep. I even took some stuff when no one was looking,” said Nymue.
“You’re definitely not supposed to do that,” said Ariana. “But what was it?”
“Just some tiny little inconsequential things,” said Nymue. “I specifically made sure it wasn’t something critical.
It was only on the 27th of June, a full twenty days after Veitlen had promised to take Temurlin to Senna, that he actually got to do it. Temurlin, thankfully, had nothing negative to say about his driving, despite an initial comment on how it seemed irresponsible to give Veitlen an actual license.
Veitlen hopped out of the truck and started walking toward the village. He looked back to see Temurlin standing next to the truck and looking around. “What’re you looking at?” he asked.
“Nothing, really,” said Temurlin as he joined Veitlen. “The trees here are different from the ones in Fyrda. That’s a little strange.”
“Yeah, one of the people living here has been messing with plants for like twenty years now,” said Veitlen. He gestured for Temurlin to follow him.
Lio Perry walked into view and smiled. “Veitlen! Good to see you again!” said Lio.
“Hi, Lio,” said Veitlen.
Lio pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. “Me and some others are gonna go out on a hunt soon. Wanna come with?” he asked.
“Lio!” Veitlen exclaimed. “Can’t you see I got a friend here? I can’t just leave ‘im here on his lonesome and go off with y’all!”
Lio and his group waved. “See ya, Veitlen.”
“Good luck! Don’t any of y’all get hurt!” Veitlen called.
“Who is that?” Temurlin asked.
“Lio. He’s Nym’s dad,” said Veitlen.
Temurlin frowned. “Your accent changed back so quickly,” he said.
“What do you mean?” Veitlen asked.
“I’ve just never heard it that strong before. It’s startling,” said Temurlin.
“Is it now?” Veitlen said skeptically. He waved at Temurlin to follow him. “Come on. Let’s go talk to Morgaine.”
“Morgaine?” Temurlin questioned.
“Morgaine is the village witch. She’s the one who told me and Nym that we’re witches,” said Veitlen.
“Village witch?” Temurlin said incredulously. “You all knows she’s a witch and no one’s ever done anything about it?”
Veitlen turned back to Temurlin, mildly puzzled. “Everyone’s been calling her a witch for as long as I can remember. I don’t think they know she’s an actual witch.”
Morgaine was crouched down her garden, tending to her plants. “Morgaine!” Veitlen shouted. “Look! I brought a friend like I said I would!”
“Why are you yelling?” Temurlin asked.
Morgaine stood up and wiped her hands off on the front of her robe. “Goodness, Veitlen, is that really how you say hello?” she asked. She gave Temurlin a second look. “I can’t believe you went and got yourself such a pretty man.”
“What? No,” said Veitlen. He shook his head and frowned. “I don’t do that sort of thing.”
Temurlin looked embarrassed. “Um, I’m Temurlin Kerruveil. I’m also a conscript at the Military Academy. That’s how we met,” he said.
“What sort of magic do you have?” Morgaine asked.
“Light,” Temurlin answered.
“Bah. No good,” said Morgaine in disappointment.
“What do you mean by that?” Temurlin asked, looking confused.
“You’re useless at hunting demons,” said Morgaine.
“Yes, and that’s a good thing,” said Temurlin.
Veitlen suppressed a laugh and patted Temurlin’s upper arm. “It is pretty useless for the work we do up here in the north,” he said. “There aren’t any ghosts around here, just demons.”
Temurlin kept looking at Veitlen for another few moments, then turned to Morgaine. “Ma’am, there are actually a few things I want to ask you,” he said.
“Then we should move inside,” said Morgaine. “I don’t know about you, but I’d rather sit down than stand here in the garden.”
Morgaine’s table was much cleaner this time than what Veitlen had seen previously. He took his seat and crossed his arms, leaning back until he felt comfortable.
“How did you figure out you were a witch when you’ve spent your entire life up here?” Temurlin asked.
“I haven’t lived my entire life in Senna. I only settled her in my late thirties,” said Morgaine.
“I vaguely remember my dad saying something about that,” Veitlen commented.
“I learned what a witch was from another witch,” Morgaine continued. “She was elderly when I met her, and she died a few years later.”
“How old were you?” Veitlen asked.
“Your age. My magic started getting out of control at the same time,” said Morgaine.
Veitlen frowned in annoyance. “So why did you never bother telling me any of that?” he asked.
“I didn’t see how it was relevant to anything you wanted to know,” said Morgaine.
Veitlen sighed and rubbed his forehead. “So, Nym is gonna want to know what that person’s spirit weapon was, you know.”
“Coral,” said Morgaine.
Veitlen looked up at Morgaine. Temurlin looked just as baffled as he felt. “Coral?” asked Temurlin.
“Can you explain what that even is?” said Veitlen.
Morgaine looked taken aback. “You didn’t pay any attention in school, did you?” she asked.
“It’s an animal that lives in the ocean,” said Temurlin.
Veitlen was even more confused now. “How could you have a spirit weapon that’s actually an animal?” he said.
“There are certain kinds of corals that you can make jewelry out of after they die,” said Temurlin.
“He’s right,” said Morgaine. “The woman I knew could create strings of red coral. She wore them like a necklace.”
“What about yours?” Temurlin asked.
“I have an emerald bow and arrow,” said Morgaine.
Temurlin turned to Veitlen. “What did you say Lillin’s was? Ruby?”
“Yeah. Why is that important?” asked Veitlen.
Temurlin and Morgaine exchanged a glance. “Ruby, emerald, gold, coral. Those are four of the seven treasures in the old sutras,” said Temurlin.
“That’s correct,” said Morgaine.
Veitlen leaned forward. “Why do you know so much about religion all of a sudden?” he asked.
“My dad is a monk. I’ve always known this,” said Temurlin.
“You have a dad,” said Veitlen flatly. Temurlin sighed.
“I think what Temurlin is trying to say is that the seven treasures and our spirit weapons are made of the same material,” said Morgaine.
“What about me, then? Is stishovite in there somewhere?” Veitlen asked.
“The seven treasures are gold, silver, coral, lapis lazuli, emerald, ruby, and…some sort of colorless crystal. Probably quartz. Translations vary, and different Old Human cultures had different versions. Sometimes lapis lazuli is sapphire or aquamarine. Sometimes coral is agate,” said Morgaine.
“So this actually comes from the old religions?” Veitlen asked.
“Of course. None of this was suddenly made up two hundred years ago,” said Morgaine.
“I still have a whole bunch of early religious texts lying around,” said Temurlin. “You can borrow some of them if you want to-”
“No, that’s not what I care about right now,” said Veitlen.
“You might want to read at least a few sutras to see if you can find some similarities,” Morgaine suggested.
Veitlen leaned back in his chair with his arms crossed. “I’ll think about it,” he said.
Veitlen ended up at Temurlin’s house a couple of days later. The two of them sat on the floor in his bedroom, books strewn all over the place. Veitlen yawned and flopped down on his front, propping himself up with one arm.
“Have you learned anything interesting yet?” he asked.
“You should probably be doing this yourself,” said Temurlin.
Veitlen grimaced at him. “You’re the one who invited me over,” he said.
“I thought you’d care more about this since, you know, you’re the one it affects,” said Temurlin.
“I’m still not seeing how it does,” said Veitlen.
Temurlin leaned over, grabbed Veitlen’s shoulder, and attempted to push him over. “The old sutras don’t say anything about magic or spirit weapons. I don’t think those existed yet when they were written,” he said.
“See? This isn’t relevant to me at all,” said Veitlen.
Temurlin finally succeeded in pushing Veitlen onto his back and held a book over his face. “But you know what this does say? Read it.”
“Fine,” said Veitlen. He stared up at the book. “The Seven Treasures are linked to the Seven – is this annotated? The whole thing?”
“Yes,” said Temurlin strongly.
“-Seven Aspects of Liberation which are personified as the Seven Gods. Those Seven Gods occasionally choose to walk the earth as Avatars,” Veitlen continued. He pushed the book down toward his chest and looked up at Temurlin. “Are you saying I’m an Avatar?”
“Wouldn’t you be aware of that?” Temurlin asked.
“It’s not like anyone ever gave me a test like they do with Akoisusei’s Avatar,” said Veitlen.
They stared at each other for a moment. “Temur, why do you want me to be an Avatar?” Veitlen asked quietly.
“I don’t. I don’t even really believe in any of this. I’m just curious as to how it applies to you,” said Temurlin.
“Why don’t you go ask your dad? He’s alive, isn’t he?” said Veitlen.
“Yeah,” said Temurlin. He leaned back, palms on his thighs, and sighed. “Maybe that is a good idea.”
Veitlen sat up and grabbed the book before it fell into his lap. “And take me with you. I want to hear what he has to say,” he said.
“No, I don’t think you’d find that interesting,” said Temurlin. It sounded like he was talking to himself, not to Veitlen.
“What’s this about?” Veitlen asked. “Why don’t you want me to meet him?”
“I’d rather not talk about it,” said Temurlin.
“You can’t just…you can’t just ignore me like that,” said Veitlen irritably.
“Why not?” asked Temurlin. “You do this to me all the time.”
“I don’t,” Veitlen started.
“You definitely do,” said Temurlin. “Veitlen, I’ll go talk to him myself and tell you what he says. I just don’t want you there when it happens.”
Veitlen was starting to feel worried. “Are you going to be okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” said Temurlin.
Veitlen was sure that everything he’d learned in the past ten minutes would take him the rest of the day to process, if he even bothered to think about it at all. The thought of being an Avatar was a bit too uncomfortable for him, and he didn’t think he wanted to entertain the idea for too long.