Chapter 22 can be read below the cut.
All Veitlen had wanted to do was get groceries that afternoon. But an alarm had sounded, and then soldiers had run past yelling at people to get inside and lock all their doors and windows. A couple of demons had somehow managed to get this far deep into the Central District. Veitlen had no doubt that they were headed toward him once again.
A soldier that he recognized as Torrennu Markki ran out of an alley, followed by three demons, and immediately recognized him. “Get out of the way! You don’t want to be involved in something like this again!” ze yelled.
Veitlen manifested his sword into his hand and raised it. “Do you not see my SWORD!?” he said indignantly. “I’m a conscript!”
He pulled shards of dark magic out of his coat pocket and threw them into the air. They hovered there like a cloud as he pointed his sword at the demons.
“I DON’T CARE WHO YOU ARE! GET OUT OF THE WAY!” Torrennu yelled.
Veitlen pointed his sword at the nearest demon, and the magic followed. He snapped his fingers and the magic exploded. He then manifested his sabre through the forehead of the second demon, and grabbed his bayonet. The third demon stalked toward him, and he took a step back, wobbling slightly. It had taken a lot more effort than he’d assumed it would to manifest his sword outside of his hand.
Despite his best efforts, he lost his grip on the bayonet and it fell to the ground. Veitlen stretched his left hand out toward the demon, and tried again. Nothing happened at first, then his sword appeared through the demon’s neck.
That wasn’t enough to kill it. It fell to the ground, clawing at its neck and gurgling. Veitlen fell to his knees and somehow managed to manifest his sword back into his hand. He didn’t think he could move.
Torrennu shoved zer lance through the demon’s head. “I can’t believe I had to do this again,” ze grumbled. Ze looked around at the other demons. “They’re all dead. Now, about you…”
Veitlen sat in an empty recovery room at the National Hospital. He still felt tired, but his head wasn’t as fuzzy as it had been. A couple of nurses had come in to check on him and he was apparently fine, but they didn’t want to discharge him just yet.
“You’re fine,” said the latest nurse. “Just tired.”
“Are you sure? I feel like I’ve done something I shouldn’t have,” said Veitlen.
“That sounds like a philosophical question, and I’m not the best person to answer any of those you have,” said the nurse.
The nurse left, and Veitlen was alone for about a minute before Ellis ran into the room. “Veitlen! What happened?” he demanded.
“Some demons turned up, and I dealt with them. I just tired myself out a little. It’s not a big problem,” said Veitlen.
“Not a big problem?” said Ellis. “If it wasn’t a big problem, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be at home.”
“About that,” said Veitlen. “I didn’t get a chance to buy groceries after all.”
“I don’t care about that. Look, me and Asha are going to be leaving work around eighteen today. Let’s all go out for dinner, okay?” said Ellis. He glanced back at the door. “I have to get back to work now. You should go home. We’ll meet you later.”
Veitlen stared at him as he left. He was still staring at the doorway when Temurlin appeared. He frowned in confusion, and Temurlin frowned back.
“Your uncle just walked past me,” said Temurlin.
“He was just here,” said Veitlen. “Why are you here? I thought you were going to the monastery.”
“I did that earlier,” said Temurlin.
Veitlen kept frowning. “Wait, how the fuck did you know I was here? Who told you?” he said.
“The news,” said Temurlin.
“The what,” said Veitlen flatly.
“Someone from the news recorded you teleporting your spirit sword into those demons. The video’s just a few seconds long,” said Temurlin.
“WHAT!?” exclaimed Veitlen. “No no no no no NO! This is not okay!”
Temurlin looked fairly confused at Veitlen’s despair. “Yeah, you’re going to get a people wanting to interview you,” he said.
“No, that’s not the problem!” said Veitlen.
“It’s not?” asked Temurlin.
“Normal people can’t do that, Temurlin. Only witches,” said Veitlen, still clutching his head.
“Do what? What are you worried about?” Temurlin demanded.
“Everyone’s gonna learn that I’m a witch,” said Veitlen.
“Don’t you think that’s kind of a stretch?” asked Temurlin.
Avatar Chanda stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips. Temurlin stared at her in bewilderment, and Veitlen raised his head slightly to look up at her.
“Veitlen Tyvokala. I’ve come here to talk to you about what you’ve done,” said Chanda. She glanced at Temurlin. “I didn’t expect you to have a friend. Can you leave us, young man?”
Temurlin set his hand on Veitlen’s shoulder. Veitlen looked at it in annoyance. “What’s so important that you can’t have me in the room with you?” Temurlin asked.
Veitlen pushed Temurlin’s hand away. “I can handle this by myself, Temurlin. There’s something I want to ask her, anyway,” he said.
“What could you-” Temurlin started.
“Leave. Now,” Veitlen said strongly. He stood up.
Temurlin left the room, looking baffled the whole time Veitlen could see him. Chanda watched him leave, then turned her attention to Veitlen. “I’d love to sit down and have a nice long chat with you,” said Chanda. “There are-”
“I can’t be here for that long. I’m meeting up with my aunt and uncle for dinner at eighteen,” said Veitlen.
Chanda looked surprised. “Oh. Well then, I’ll keep this short for now. You’ll have to meet up with me again later, anyway.”
“I figured,” Veitlen grumbled.
There was no way Veitlen could get away with staying in the recovery room for much longer, so he and Chanda moved to an empty table in the cafeteria. People stared at both of them.
“I saw your actions on the news,” said Chanda.
“Apparently a lot of people did,” said Veitlen.
“I’m not here to congratulate or scold you,” said Chanda. “I’m here to offer you a test in a couple of days.”
“A test?” Veitlen asked in bewilderment. “What the hell could you possibly test me on?”
“You’re what people call a witch,” said Chanda.
“I know that,” said Veitlen. He narrowed his eyes at her. “What the hell do you know about me being a witch!?”
“I’m an Avatar, Veitlen,” said Chanda. “Normal people can’t manifest their spirit weapons away from their bodies like you did. I’d simply like to give you a test to confirm a couple of things. Namely, that you actually are a witch.”
“Why is that? Are you trying to see if I’m an Avatar?” Veitlen demanded.
Chanda raised her eyebrows and smiled. “You’ve definitely been doing your research,” she said. “I want you to come to the palace on Saturday. I’ll give you the test then.”
Veitlen arrived at the Palace on Saturday with a feeling that nothing good was going to happen. The servants had recognized him immediately and brought him in to a waiting room. There, he’d been waiting for Chanda for a couple of minutes.
Chanda walked in through the doorway with a binder in her arms. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” she said. “It took a little while to find everything.”
Veitlen sat up straight and put his hands flat on the table. Chanda set the binder on the table and started flipping through it. “You want me to look at a photo album?” he asked in confusion.
“Not quite,” said Chanda. She pulled out a couple of photographs – either six or seven. “I want you to look at each of these photographs and tell me if any of these people look familiar.”
“I don’t see how this is a test,” said Veitlen. “You want me to recognize someone? That’s it?”
Chanda slid the photographs over to Veitlen and clasped her hands together. “Yes,” she said.
The photographs looked like the ones that were taken for their ID cards. There was no identifying information attached – Veitlen flipped over each photograph to look at the back to see if there was anything written there.
Veitlen had no idea who the first thee people were. Once he picked up the fourth photograph, a feeling of shock went through him. “This person,” he said weakly. “This woman – I don’t recognize her at all, but I know them her somehow. I don’t even know why.”
“Show me,” said Chanda.
Veitlen handed her the photograph. “Ah,” said Chanda. She looked incredibly surprised. “You pass.”
“Please tell me what that means,” said Veitlen.
Chanda set the photograph down. “How familiar are you with the Seven Treasures?” she asked. “I assume that if you’ve learned about the relationship between witches and Avatars, you might know something else.”
“I do,” said Veitlen. “I just learned about that thing recently.”
“List the treasures for me,” said Chanda.
“Gold, silver, ruby, emerald, lapis lazuli, quartz, and coral,” said Veitlen.
“What do you suppose these people have in common?” Chanda asked, gesturing to the photographs.
Veitlen looked down again. “They all have spirit weapons based on the Seven Treasures?” he guessed.
“All six of these people have a silica-based spirit weapon, just as you do,” said Chanda. “This is the same sort of test that all Avatars of Akoisusei are given. If I can recognize my previous incarnation, then I’m confirmed to be an Avatar.”
“And I guess this means I’m an Avatar, too,” said Veitlen. “Witches are really Avatars? That’s what we are?”
“Who is we?” Chanda asked.
“Um,” said Veitlen. “I was talking to someone about…you know, stuff-”
“How many other witches have you met?” Chanda asked.
“What?” said Veitlen. Chanda raised an eyebrow, and he realized he wasn’t getting out of this. “Fine. Three others. Four, if I include you.”
Chanda leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “In all my years of being the Avatar, I’ve only met one other witch. And here you are, a young man barely in his twenties, and you’ve met three.”
“So…us and the four we know makes six,” said Veitlen. “Shouldn’t there be seven?”
“Where did you hear that?” Chanda asked.
“One of my friend’s religious texts,” Veitlen responded. “Seven Treasures for the Seven Avatars, right?”
“Ah, of course,” said Chanda. She leaned forward, elbow on the table, and put her chin in her hand. “Veitlen Tyvokala, I’d like to offer you a job.”
Veitlen’s mind went blank, and he stared for a moment before he remembered how to speak. “What,” was all that ended up coming out of his mouth.
“You’d be my personal assistant,” said Chanda.
“But you already have PAs,” said Veitlen.
“Not that sort of assistant,” said Chanda. “You’ll be assisting me in getting in contact with the other witches.”
“Um, WHAT?” exclaimed Veitlen. “Why do you need that?”
“The seven of us need to gather together. I can officially test everyone to confirm whether or not there are actually seven Avatars. And then-”
“And then what? We liberate all of humanity? Do you really believe something like that could happen?” Veitlen said.
“Of course not,” said Chanda. “There is a lot about this country I still don’t know, especially about its early years – the formation of the government and our religion, for example. If all seven of us turn out to be Avatars, that’ll confirm at least one of my suspicions.”
“Sounds like you’d get along pretty well with Ny-” Veitlen started. He shut his mouth, and Chanda raised an eyebrow at him.
“You don’t have to give me an answer right away, Veitlen,” said Chanda. “Take as much time as you need to make your decision.”