Mana P6y1s02

Mana: And so it was written: Pokiehlember 6th, Year 1, Jinn's Day.
Mana: The sun came up that morning, shining from the east.
Mana: There's a sharpness in the air that lets blankets be lifted up only reluctantly away from the sheets.
Wilhelmine blearily opens her eyes. Moments ago. Wasn't she on Emperor's orrery? She doesn't remember sleeping.
Mana: The window's painted with a dance of snowflakes - tiny crystals that glitter like stars.
Mana: The building creaks softly in the embrace of the breeze.
Wilhelmine stands in front of her wardrobe. Her dress from before … it's fine, but she needs a coat as well to bear this weather.
Mana: The white one, maybe? The fur trim is nice.
Wilhelmine: And this scarf matches it. Lovely.
Wilhelmine steps out of her room, down through the tailor's shop, and to the streets of Wisp.
Mana: The streets aren't silent - each soft wind carries a speckling of ice, and the dusting that paints of the cobblestones sussurates with each new pass of the currents of air.
Mana: They are, however, empty.
Wilhelmine: (The scarf is patterned with black and white stripes. A reminder of her days in prison.)
Mana: (Oh, that's a good choice. I always liked that one, too.)
Mana: The trams are not running. No travelers walk the streets.
Mana: Windows have been left open. Some doors hang ajar. Snow carpets walkways.
Wilhelmine: "Emperor. Where is your compassion in this emptiness?"
Mana: Above the walls around the Jinn quarter, the tower has lifted free of its foundation.
Mana: It rotates slowly in the sky, shining, as if it belonged there all along.
Wilhelmine looks up and wonders how much time remains. … Best to get a move on. First stop: the Fountain of Spirit. If Deathjester's about, she could use a laugh.
Mana: And there, indeed, the Deathjester sits. The water's surface carries a hint of ice, though the water, still flowing, prevents it from freezing over.
Wilhelmine stands next to him, silently, to first pause and reflect over her current agenda: Visit the Dryad temple. Bend the Spring-Loaded to her new will for today. Find other Pure Hearts to tackle the rest of the temples. Further assess the situation.
Wilhelmine: Possibly play tricks on Vlad. Nothing severe. Just a bit of deserved fun. … And find Yesketi before she retreats.
Wilhelmine: "I keep waiting for a punchline."
Mana: "Ah, punchlines, yes? Let me wrack my mind a fraction." The Jester offers.
Mana: "Comedy and tragedy are, after all, never too far apart."
Wilhelmine: "I disagree. They may be partnered, but that is not necessarily always the case."
Mana: "But they are true partners, that lust for one another when they are too long apart, and nag and itch when they are oft and long close."
Mana: "Even apart they may be partnered still, in one thing to play one part, in part to play another."
Wilhelmine: "It's almost as if you talk of the spirits."
Mana: "So I do! They are that push-me-pull-you that drives this dance, are they not?"
Mana: "If not they themselves but the virtues they are mantles of.
Wilhelmine: "Supposedly. At least in this world. That's the story we've been told."
Mana: "That's the little nut this heavenly chisel now lifts to crack:"
Mana: "If I with death do winter sever, how do we want for winter never?"
Mana: "…Not that that's quite right, of course."
Wilhelmine: "Without sorrow's bite, how would you want for love, you mean to say? In a less tongue-twisting manner."
Mana: "Without sorrow's bite…"
Mana: "How would we not want for sorrow's bite anew?"
Mana: "Time flows riven, and history repels."
Wilhelmine: "… At least in this world's rules and stories. But what if a story existed all along that showed proof of kindness without cost?"
Mana: "Its law-breaking power would be heard around the world!"
Wilhelmine: "Buried somewhere in the winter. Forgotten because it seems too good to be true. Because we think we don't deserve it."
Wilhelmine: "Men grew afraid to desire. And that's how we ended up here."
Mana: "But yet…"
Mana: "…What is this story that winds its way into fingers of ice, that lifts this tower up into the sky, that sends us on this long vacation without packing our bags…"
Mana: "…But the ultimate expression of a deep and agonizing longing?"
Wilhelmine pulls the Spring-Loaded from inside her jacket, her resolve taking the shape of a sword. "Does the magnitude of the situation dictate the magnitude of the longing?"
Wilhelmine: "Was not the longing in us all along?"
Wilhelmine: "All this floating tower does is expose it and bring it to light."
Wilhelmine: "But we did not need to go to such great lengths to satisfy that longing."
Mana: It clicks and winds into shape, as if it belonged that way all along.
Wilhelmine: "Take the existence of the Jewelry we wield, for instance. Man once had the power to direct mana's flow without the need of such gems."
Mana: "What did they need instead…?"
Wilhelmine: "Merely themselves."
Wilhelmine: "But once the first Eyes of Flame were made, mages selfishly held onto their power, and the symbol was mistaken for the real thing."
Wilhelmine: "It is the same with the Mana Tree. It is a symbol of kindness without cost and of infinite power that can be found in oneself, if you reflect and refine yourself. But it is the subject of war and struggle, due to its misinterpretation."
Mana: "Isn't that second bit a symbol, too?"
Wilhelmine: "Which bit?"
Mana: "The war and struggle."
Mana: "Everything is an inextricable consequence…"
Mana: "Until one extricks it, no?"
Wilhelmine: "How often does that occur, though?"
Mana: "Oh, never."
Mana: "That's why they call it a miracle."
Wilhelmine: "Heh."
Wilhelmine: "This is a long-shot, but are you familiar with the principles of katsujin-ken?"
Mana: "No, not at all."
Wilhelmine: "'The Life-Giving Sword.' It is a discipline practiced in eras of peace - swordsmanship practiced not as a means to subjugate others, but to refine one's own spirit. Power that's meant to protect, like a parent wields for their ignorant and defenseless children."
Wilhelmine: "The Emperor thinks of all power as cruel in nature. Which, given the stories in this world, may be correct. But he also forged this world to take that shape, because he knew of no other kind of world."
Wilhelmine: "… But Pure Hearts can bring that kind of world into being."
Wilhelmine: "Either I will fail, or you're looking at such a law-breaking power in the making."
Mana: "Ah…"
Mana: "So, to unseat the world from its firmament of cruelty, from its love of sorrow-"
Mana: "-And to set a new one into motion."
Wilhelmine: "It's said that students would seek out masters of katsujin-ken merely to be defeated, to have the flaws in their technique be made apparent in light of the master's perfection."
Wilhelmine: "… They describe it as bliss. Knowing where one falls short and where to cultivate themselves next."
Wilhelmine: "The emperor needs such reflection. I will provide it for him."
Wilhelmine: "If you'll excuse me, I have a sword to forge. It was good to see you are well."
Mana: "Yes. The same to you."
Wilhelmine: Two stops: the Dryad and Jinn temples.
Wilhelmine: One is a simple matter with [Impossible Road].
Mana: That's to Jinn, yes?
Wilhelmine: … thuogh she lacks the Lodestone she requires. So that's out at the moment.
Wilhelmine: That would be to Jinn, yes. But she lacks the prerequisites. So, Dryad.
Mana: So you have to go the longer way to Dryad - through the forest whose leaves are caught by surprise by the sudden snow, that take on a gleaming coating of ice still green.
Mana: Its villages are empty. The Palace is open.
Wilhelmine makes her way in, and reflects on herself so far. When she awoke, she didn't think she'd … care so much. Nothing seemed to matter. Now everything does.
Wilhelmine also tilts her head. No Calaverite. Hopefully she can get the gist across.
Mana: A tiny flower-garden, sheltered from the snows of the outside, at the heart of the palace.
Mana: Something remains in the halls outside - a strange passing feeling, a scent of fiends and honey - But this place is peace.
Mana: The Dryad spirit is there.
Wilhelmine rests on her knees and places the Incarcerem Delicto and her sword on the ground in front of her. And she bows her head.
Mana: "Hello. And welcome."
Mana: "How strangely the seasons pass, now."
Wilhelmine: "Blame the Emperor."
Wilhelmine: "He is still but a child."
Mana: "Such is the fate of those beneath the boughs."
Wilhelmine: "Ignorant, in need of guidance. But simply killing him would not teach him, would not let him grow, would not cultivate that noble spirit of compassion he holds."
Wilhelmine: "Would you assist me in gaining the means to show him the error of his ways?"
Mana: "You seek to bring about the new era?"
Wilhelmine: "A different one than he seeks, I'm sure. To return the world to its original purity - to do this, I must borrow a little more of your power before fully returning it."
Wilhelmine: "All of it, not just what I've personally taken so far."
Mana: "Such a pact may be formed."
Wilhelmine: "Thank you."
Mana: "You wish me to flower within that sword, then?"
Wilhelmine: "My plan was for the ring first, and I'd shine the light of Beautiful Three on the sword. But if we can skip that altogether…"
Mana: "There are tricks, and there are games, but some things may be done simply."
Mana: "In exchange, I must ask for something to be carried into the new era."
Wilhelmine: "Go on."
Wilhelmine also shrugs. "And as for tricks - deep, hungry, insatiable Shade. Making things more complicated than they need to be is a bad habit of mine."
Mana: Dryad considers. Closes its eyes. Dreams of what could be.
Mana: "In the new era, there must be roads that cannot tamed, fierce by all measure of my majesty."
Mana: "The land must be wide."
Mana: "There must be many nations, and many traditions."
Mana: "And the spaces in between must be treacherous to navigate, and arduous to explore."
Mana: "In this fashion, the new era will flourish."
Wilhelmine: "How so?"
Mana: "Different soils foster different flowers."
Mana: "The surge of roads dilutes the world and drains it of its wonder."
Wilhelmine: "But I fear the terrain will mean no one sees any flowers but their own nation's. Why bother?"
Mana: "There shall be some that dream of far arrivals."
Mana: "They will rise, wander, soar."
Mana: "The moon will still wax and wane, no matter how far my forests stretch."
Wilhelmine: "You talk of fierce, untamed roads - what of shelter for the weak? What prevents tyrants from rising instead of protectors in this world of yours?"
Mana: "Such things are not my demesne."
Mana: "I know that this world had not these things, and did not flourish with a multitude of flowers."
Mana: "Thus, I seek insurance that a panoply will fill the new era."
Wilhelmine: "You would be fine if I take measures to insure no such tyrants, then?"
Mana: "Give me what I have asked for."
Mana: "A contract is that alone."
Mana: "Human and spirit. Grant my wishes, and I shall fulfill yours."
Wilhelmine: "… You are not my only recourse of action here. Was that a yes or a no to my question?"
Mana: "I ask nothing that was not included within what I had said."
Wilhelmine pauses in contemplation. She is not opposed to such a world, but something can't help but feel off about this contract.
Wilhelmine: The power of the spirits - is it something that she needs to request, or was it in her all along? Doesn't the history of this world, pages of history that lay beneath many layers of snow that recount this world's beginning, say otherwise?
Wilhelmine: "Might I consider my options and answer you again at a later time?"
Mana: "So you may."
Wilhelmine: "Thank you. It is not a light matter."
Wilhelmine: "It is not your world I take issue with. It is the very concept of a contract."
Mana: "Arrangements between humans and spirits are bound by such things."
Mana: "Earth and sky must be held in this way."
Wilhelmine tilts her head again and her face sours as if from some distant thought.
Wilhelmine: "It turns out you are, in fact, my last recourse."
Wilhelmine: "It will be as you say."
Mana: "So it shall be."
Mana: And so it was written.

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