The Elder Scrolls Sandbox
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The Elder Scrolls Sandbox


Prologue

Two weeks. Two weeks since the death of the monster known as Morgan at his own stronghold in what used to be the underground Nedic settlement known as Shada's Tear, which the late Reaper of Cheydinhal fortified into a secretive compound, now empty of his Blackheart Privateers which were slaughtered to the last man after they were ratted out to the Hammerfell government.

Yet, Cristus Lynielle, despite his success, was left with no sense of satisfaction after killing the monster of a man that murdered his parents. Or so he thought that were his parents.

The journal protected by preservation magics even he did not know were possible until now. The contents troubled him greatly. Cristus was left with even more questions than answers. Questions that were gnawing at his mind. The contents shone light upon a pigment of who he really was, and confirmed his fears.

He was not the true child of Elyna Lynielle and the man named Fox. Elyna's true child had died from miscarriage, and Cristus himself was an orphan in secret. Regardless, it was thanks to Elyna and Fox that he was spared from death or worse, a life not knowing who he truly was.

Elaine finally came in towards Cristus' inn room after the latter had isolated himself in it for quite a long time. It had been way too long since he ate a meal.

"Are you alright? You've been very quiet since reading that journal." Elaine noted as she set down a small plate with roast pig in it and a tankard of brewed guarana tonic.

"You need to eat. Come on, before Hulgarth decides to try beating some sense into you." she noted to Cristus. The young man finally relented and went to slowly start eating the meal he had been provided.

After a few bites, the latter finally spoke up after swallowing and taking a sip of his drink.

"I'm sorry about all that. It's just... the truth can be a bitter pill to swallow. And yet..."

"You want to seek out the place mentioned in the journal, don't you?" Elaine sighed, "I'll be straight here; It's a province's worth away, even if we go by land. Northern Elsweyr is a long way to go to, and we don't even know if this settlement of Hakoshae still exists."

"But the ruins are still intact, even if lost to time. Most people tend to stay away from ruins haunted by ancestral spirits anyways." Cristus shook his head, already having made up his mind regarding what he wanted to do next.

"You and Hulgarth can part ways with me if you want. No need to risk your necks like this for me. Yet, I can tell that you already have an answer."

Elaine nodded, simply stating "You know it. The answer is 'no.'"

Cristus understood. He knew that trying to persuade either Elaine or Hulgarth would prove fruitless, if not raise more problems. If the duo were willing to see his journey to the end, who was he to argue otherwise?

"Alright." the young man sighed, "Gather up what you need and let's move. Don't worry, I'll catch up, I promise."

"You'd better." Elaine shrugged a little before leaving Cristus to prepare for now and fetch Hulgarth to gather the supplies they needed for the journey.

There was also the matter of having to leave Hammerfell behind them after the Sultan of Belkarth reward them for their contributions in fighting and crippling the Blackheart Privateers, among other deeds along the way such as the discovery of Nirncrux deposits and ancient Nedic secrets thought lost to time.

Elaine felt that the Sultanate would ask them for more assistance, but knew that she and the other two had to decline as they had their own journey to undertake. It was time for them to move on from Hammerfell, as they have done enough.

Sometime later...

Cristus and his company bid farewell to the Sultanate of Belkarth before starting their journey towards Hakoshae in Northern Elsweyr, having received their reward in the form of expensive gems.

The journey was long and tedious, estimated to take several weeks if not a few months of travel. Cristus decided that the land route was safer, starting from Belkarth via eastward travel towards the settlement of Elinhir. After leaving Craglorn, they would pass through Skyrim's Falkreath Hold and enter Cyrodiil. Lastly, they would enter Elsweyr via western Cyrodiil, From Rimmen, they would make their way to Hakoshae.

On the border to Cyrodiil in Skyrim, Falkreath Hold...

Cristus and his group continued to travel, only making necessary stops for food and rest. The former took his time getting to Hakoshae but did not want to waste any more time either.

On the way towards the border, the group's progress was interrupted when an armored man brandishing their blade came out of hiding and blocked the path...

"Finally." the armored man spoke up, their voice altered by the helm they wore, which resembled a demon-like appearance.

"What? Who are you?" Cristus demanded, with Elaine, Bryn, and Hulgarth immediately moving between Cristus and the mysterious warrior.

"I promise to make it painless if possible." the warrior said before drawing their blade and slowly approaching. Elaine kept Cristus behind her as Bryn and Hulgarth rushed in to engage the warrior, the Nord summoning four swords in tandem with his magic to shoot towards the enemy.

The four would find that the warrior was skilled in using offense for defense as he slashed the bound swords away from him with vicious strength. The attacks were strong enough to cause the weapons to recoil or vanish, if not both.

Hulgarth analyzed what happened and resummoned a single bound greatsword at his right hand, reinforcing its potency and endurance before trying his luck against the warrior, going for a downwards swing from the right. The warrior met the attack head-on with his own horizontal slash from his left, his blade almost slicing Hulgarth's throat were it not for the Nord's reflexes and footwork to distance himself in time. The spellsword quickly turned his weapon to the left, swinging for the warrior while his sword was to his right.

The attack connected and slashed the warrior cleanly, but the blade passed through, and Hulgarth noticed that no blood spilled out of his opponent. Backstepping, he went to regroup with the other three.

"A ghost, it seems?" the Nord asked the others.

"Looks like it. Stay on guard." Bryn said as she kept close to Cristus and watched the group's six.

The ghost looked aware of the strength of its adversaries and went to slide his left palm on the flat of his blade, imbuing it with magical power as it started glowing an unnatural aura. Elaine didn't hesitate to shoot a bound arrow towards the ghost while it performed its action, but her opponent went to counter the attack by slashing it with speed and precision, causing it to fly away violently.

Hulgarth didn't have any further inquiries as he went to rush at the ghost again, immediately strafing to the left as Elaine fired off another shot, trying to keep the enemy preoccupied from multiple attacks. The Nord had better chances of striking more blows against the enemy this time.

The spellsword kept running for the ghost as it parried away Elaine's arrows. Once he got in range, he immediately used his Seven Swords Summon to lock the enemy in. However, they were prepared for Hulgarth and leaped away before slashing towards the Nord diagonally. Hulgarth barely managed to block the attack with his sword. Thinking quickly on the fly, the Nord went to control his Seven Swords and attack the ghost after he pushed it back.

The ghost took several slashes from all directions from Hulgarth's technique before it quickly pulled something out of its person and cast a barrier-like effect around itself. The magical barrier mitigated the rest of the attacks before the Seven Swords vanished.

Hulgarth took a quick look at what the ghost pulled out from a distance. It was a sort of paper piece with writings on it that glowed with magic. A scroll fragment, perhaps?

"Did he just use a scroll?" the Nord asked the others before he was forced on the defensive when the ghost performed a reckless abandon, slashing wildly towards Hulgarth after closing the gap between them.

Elaine noticed the effect of the paper-like object being similar to what magical staves could do. Other than that, the barrier looked volatile. She ran for the ghost from the rear. Rushing towards the enemy with a timed mist form, she went to slash at it with a downwards swing without overdoing it. The attack caught the enemy off-guard and broke its momentum against Hulgarth, sending it staggering to its right just before its barrier effect expired. The barrier exploded outwards, sending a blast that fortunately only blew Elaine and Hulgarth away lightly.

Elaine didn't allow the ghost to recover any further, however. Using her mist form again, she closed the gap and stabbed the ghost from behind with her unique sword. The attack hit cleanly, and the spirit slowly disappeared from the mortal world upon defeat...

"What was that thing?" Bryn asked the others as she remained on guard still.

"Does it matter? Its dead now. We need to get a move on, and fast." Elaine answered back.

"Alright, let's go." Hulgarth understood, having no further inquiries as the group got a move on immediately afterward...

...

The company continued to march onward towards the northern region of Elsweyr, only making stops as necessary for them to rest and recuperate. Never staying longer than necessary in any of the stops, the four made it to Northern Elsweyr in a matter of several weeks...

...

The town of Hakoshae. Located in the eastern part of Northern Elsweyr and south of the Anequina Aqueduct. It was founded by Akaviri refugees fleeing Cyrodiil after the assassination of the last Potentate and the sudden realization that they were no longer welcome in their long-time home.

Cristus and his group would find that they had arrived at a strange time. The town was on heightened alert, and Khajiit soldiers from Rimmen were sent in, presumably to maintain order. Their relationship with Hakoshae's own town guard looked strenuous, regardless. While the four were getting used to the new environment, a welcoming committee of two people from the town went to greet them.

"Welcome to Hakoshae, outsiders. But I must ask, what is it you seek here?" the first man asked them, with the second acting as their guard.

Cristus looked like he wanted to answer but was otherwise pretty tense, getting the feeling that he and the others were being watched. Elaine went to quickly greet the welcoming committee in his stead.

"We're here to visit your town after we heard that you have a unique history here. The kid and I are scholars, actually." Elaine answered.

"Really? The kid, I understand. But you in armor? I presume you're also a fighter?"

"Yes, I am. I also learned how to fight. No knowledge is good or evil. It's how people use them."

"That's good to know." The man understood and nodded in respect before addressing the group more cordially.

"I apologize if I seem suspicious. You, your ward, and your bodyguards have arrived at uncertain times."

"Oh? Has something happened?" Bryn asked to try clearing things up and find out more about the situation in the town now that the Imperial mentioned it.

"Yes, and it's not pleasant at all." the Imperial said, "Since your employer and her ward are here for no reason other than knowledge, I believe that they're both here to study the Ancestral Tombs east of the town. Long story short; Something has angered the Guardian Spirits that protect the tomb. They already killed two of our people and three soldiers from Rimmen."

"I see..." Elaine shook her head, "If I may ask further, did something happen recently before the Spirits got agitated?"

As the Imperial and Elaine discussed details regarding the tomb, Cristus' observance of the environment around him caught his eye. Someone or something was watching them. He saw someone within the town immediately vanish as soon as he laid eyes on them...

"...If you want to help us solve this problem, who am I to stop you? Just please be careful when heading for the tombs. I don't wish to be the reason for your deaths." the Imperial answered after Elaine offered assistance in investigating the cause of the Guardian Spirits' anger.

"I have details that I need to sort out if you'll excuse me. If you need me, I'll be at the town hall." the Imperial said before leaving the group for now.

Turning to Cristus and the others, the boy informed Elaine and Hulgarth of what he wanted to do.

"I want to speak with the leader of this town and ask him about this place. Bryn will keep me safe, so don't worry," he said.

"Alright, just be sure you two stay out of trouble, you hear?" Hulgarth patted Cristus lightly on the shoulder. The latter nodded in response before he took Bryn and started to head for the town hall.

"I guess it's just the two of us for now. Lead the way?" the Nord answered Elaine, who simply nodded in response before heading east of the town and towards the area around the Ancestral Tombs to figure out what was happening so far...

...Outside of the Ancestral Tombs, Rimmen soldiers were posted at a barricade. One of them immediately approached when the two got close.

"Stop right there. What's your business here?" the Rimmen Captain asked Elaine and Hulgarth right to the point.

"We're here to investigate the tomb on behalf of the town leader. Will you let us?" Elaine answered in response.

"The town's Magnate? Very well. This one will not interfere with your errand. But if you two get in trouble, you both are on your own." the captain shrugged before gesturing for his fellow khajiit to let the two outsiders through without incident.

Elaine and Hulgarth carefully approached the outskirts of the area. So far, they managed to get close without incident ... at least until three Guardian Spirits appeared before the entrance and drew their blades.

"By Shor, now there's three of them," Hulgarth grunted as he summoned his bound greatsword in preparation for a fight. Elaine drew her unique sword as well when the ghosts went to attack, the presence of the two provoking them to do so...

...The fight reached no end. No matter how many Elaine and Hulgarth took down, the guardians kept returning as fast as they were slain.

"These spirits just don't know when to quit, do they?" Hulgarth said as he was forced back like Elaine by the guardians.

"We need to pull back for now-"

Before Elaine and Hulgarth could retreat, they saw that the guardians stopped attacking all of a sudden before they knelt in honor for some reason.

"Huh?" Elaine wondered what was going on. The change in behavior of the guardians unsettled her until she went to look behind her.

Cristus was standing behind the two, past the Rimmen soldiers after the Magnate gave them the go-ahead despite the soldiers' protest in letting a child go near the tomb.

"Just what is going on here?" Hulgarth asked no one in particular as the guardians continued to kneel before them. Cristus himself approached and decided to try commanding the spirits via hand gestures, telling them to let him and his companions through.

"As you command, my Prince." the guardians spoke in a different language. The soldiers behind them were confused and prayed to Jone and Jode that the foreign language wasn't Daedric in origin. Considering that they didn't attack since the child's arrival, they took it as a good sign for now.

"If you don't mind, we'd like to enter the tomb and get to the bottom of all this. Will you let us in?" Cristus asked the soldiers as his three bodyguards kept watch.

"...Fine. But as before with your other two companions, you get in trouble, you're are on your own. This one will not send in his troops unless absolutely necessary." the captain said, still finding the turn of events very hard to believe. Regardless, if it meant the tomb guards ceasing all aggression, he allowed Cristus and his group to enter the tombs uninterrupted.

"Thank you," Cristus said before he got Elaine and the others to head on inside. As before, all the other guardians they encountered afterward knelt in honor of the child for some reason, with those behind them remaining on guard after they got far enough from the spirits...

The interior was well-preserved for the most part, save for a few things like ages-old banners and the heavy amount of dust over objects like jars. When the group made it to the far end of the inside, a chief Guardian Spirit knelt before him.

"Welcome, my lord. The true Inner Sanctum remains sealed from interlopers. Shall I remove the Talismans guarding the way?" the spirit said in the same foreign language as the previous guardians outside.

Even Cristus himself did not understand what the spirit said. But feeling that the guardian did not refer to anything directly hostile towards him or the other three, he went to answer "Yes." in their own language, based on what he learned from the Magnate before their arrival inside.

"Yes, my lord." the spirit understood and went to shut down whatever was barring the way...

...The eastern end of the Ancestral Tomb turned out to have a secret entrance behind it, kept under cover of powerful magic until now. Without further ado, Cristus went in with his three companions close behind him.

...The inside of the end of the area had some relics and antiques from the Akaviri Potentate's time. Cristus found what he was looking for inside: a stash with a sealed journal and a bundle of paper-like objects that the ghost from Falkreath used.

Before any of them could speak up, they could hear clapping behind them. Elaine, Hulgarth, and Bryn immediately moved to cover Cristus as the new arrival approached.

"Well done, for a bunch of barbarians." the man said, garbed in some foreign armor of sorts. It didn't look Daedric at all, but rather very Akaviri in design from how the armor looked.

"I'll get straight to the point. Where is the treasure?" the arrival asked the four right away.

"What? Who are you? How did you get in here?" Bryn asked, frowning at the man.

"I'll ask one last time: where is the treasure?" the man asked, annoyed at how Bryn dodged the question.

"If you're here for the same thing we are, I'm sorry: we're not willing to share unless you state your intentions and how you ended up knowing about it," Hulgarth noted.

"Very well."

The man didn't respond any further before he held out his left hand and spawned what looked like Flame Wyrms the size of Ice Wraiths to rush towards the four.

Elaine and Huigarth immediately went to defend the other two as Bryn got Cristus out of the way. They had to act fast if they didn't want to risk getting cornered in a wall. Amidst the chaos, Bryn noticed a few Flame Wyrms about to explode from Cristus' rear. Left with no other options against time, she used herself to shield Cristus from the violent explosions that came seconds after the boy was covered...

The armored man didn't give the group any breathing room as he ran for them. Elaine was the closest to him as he went to swing his unique sword towards her, with the Breton countering via deflecting the strike.

Elaine didn't expect that the armored man's sword and physical strength were so high, she lost grip of her blade during the parry. Elaine pulled back quickly by backstepping before using her Dimension Gate to recall her weapon back to her hand.

"Bastard!!!" Hulgarth roared at the armored man for what he did to Bryn and his willingness to kill a child. The Nord summoned multiple bound daggers using an aspect of his Seven Swords to attack the man relentlessly. The latter responded by forming a flaming barrier to block the attacks.

The enemy didn't respond as they continued battling against Hulgarth and Elaine. Although they fought seriously against the new arrival, the stranger's skill and power were arguably higher than either of them as they moved away from the duo's attacks with little effort while counterattacking with his own moves.

-

"No, come on, Bryn, stay with us!" Cristus tried to get the other Breton back up, but she was burnt and beaten badly from the explosions meant for the child.

"Cr... istus... I... ...I'm... sorry..."

The child could feel himself plummet when he realized he couldn't do anything to save Bryn's life. He looked to the latter's now lifeless eyes with grief and sorrow before closing them, knowing that she was already gone after muttering her last words to him.

Looking towards the fight between the new arrival and his other two companions, he saw what was at stake. Realizing what he could do if he wanted and tried. The inscribed paper-like objects were still at hand, and based on what he read from the part of the stash he recovered within Hakoshae, he might be able to use them...

Gently setting down Bryn and leaving her where she was, for now, Cristus went to gather a few of the paper-like objects and walked for the battlefield...

Triggering the objects using a bit of his Magicka, Cristus threw two of them towards Elaine and Hulgarth. As if like a spell homing towards its intended target, the papers disintegrated and imbued the Breton and Nord with increased physical strength and speed via magic while also casting a magical armor effect on them each.

"What?!" the man let out when he saw the child use the objects without much trouble, "You'll die for even touching those Talismans-"

Elaine didn't give the man any breathing room as he ranted, and neither did Hulgarth as both attacked with increased speed and strength, taking quick turns to deliver their own blows against him.

The power of their blows was enough to send the man on the defensive until his defense finally lapsed, with Hulgarth managing to slice the former's left arm clean off. Blood flew everywhere as the man screamed for a bit.

"Did we get him?" the Nord asked Elaine as both remained on alert, their opponent still standing before letting out a slight unnerving laugh.

"...Being an agent of Tosh Raka taught me that no setback is too great, especially when against barbarians... When you think about it..."

The man's stump of a severed arm soon formed in the shape of bright orange flames to reconstitute his missing arm...

"A limb's easy..!" he laughed before also igniting his sword with magical flames. Elaine and Hulgarth got ready to fight, aware they weren't out of the woods yet.

"Don't let up! You both aren't dead yet!" Cristus encouraged his two bodyguards to keep on fighting as he used another Talisman that gave them boosts in strength each as the agent of Tosh Raka rushed for the two, roaring in anger.

Hulgarth summoned as many Bound Daggers as he could to slow down the Agent's momentum, with Elaine coating her sword with volatile energies to discharge against the enemy.

The Breton noticed that the enemy notably dropped the refined moves he used before he lost his arm and went to attack with near-reckless abandon. Choosing to use that to her advantage, Elaine surged behind the adversary using Mist Form and discharged her attack towards him after Hulgarth entrapped him with his Seven-Swords power.

Although the attack connected cleanly, the Agent showed no signs of hitting the dirt. If anything, it made him more aggressive than before as he focused solely on attacking Elaine, whom he saw as the most imminent threat.

Slamming down his artificial arm, he created a Firestorm-like spell effect that sent Elaine and Hulgarth crashing towards the floor from the force of the explosion and the scorching heat. Despite being severely exhausted and his prosthetic, flaming arm gone, the Agent still had the strength to walk towards the weakened Breton.

"Just wait until he arrives - YOU CANNOT STOP WHAT IS TO COME-"

The Agent's own anger cost him dearly. He didn't even realize that he started to feel cold until he tasted his own blood pouring out of his own mouth from being stabbed from behind with a spectral sword. Behind him was Cristus who commanded the mysterious forces within the room to form the weapon that ended the man's life...

As the battle drew to a close, Cristus used one of the stacks of Talismans to restore some of the strength of Elaine and Hulgarth to get them back up. The Nord immediately went to ask Cristus, "Are you hurt?"

The boy shook his head in response. He went quiet as he looked towards Bryn and knelt before her once more. They won against the man that tried to kill them, but it came at a cost.

...

When Cristus and his company came out with Bryn in tow, they were immediately asked questions by both Hakoshae's Magnate and the Rimmen Captain. While Elaine handled the details and explained what transpired in the tombs, Hulgarth and the Magnate helped Cristus however they could to give Bryn a proper burial...

...After their fallen friend was given her final rest, Cristus remained quiet, yet with a bright fire burning in his eyes. He was tired of all of it. He was sick and tired of being a burden to others, and most importantly himself. He realized what he could do, and had the means to do so...

...It was the end of his old life. And a new beginning for that which has ended.

Chapter 1

"I still can't believe how this... is how you actually look like..." Elaine sighed as the three rode along on their Imperial steeds.

"Will you grow body hair even in the slightest, I wonder?" Hulgarth added as he watched the group's back being at the rear.

Since his breakthrough no more than five years ago, Cristus' appearance as a brown-haired young man with green eyes and very little body hair turned out to be a lie. A lie fabricated by a powerful illusion spell never before seen in Tamriel until the day of the breakthrough. Elaine could still remember how all her five senses were fooled by such, especially her sense of smell which was already supernatural thanks to her vampirism.

"You two, we've been over this since like 3 years ago. I thought we talked about this." Cristus shook his head a little over how his two bodyguards couldn't stop bringing up the subject every now and then.

"Huh, you sound rather glum just now." the vampire pointed out, picking up on their ward's tone of voice.

"You alright?" Hulgarth asked Cristus right away, who just sighed.

"It's nothing." the latter said, "How long until we're there?"

"Not long now. Up ahead past these woods should be Evermore." Elaine answered Cristus' question as they made their stop at the eastern gate's entrance, where the Evermore City Guard under the authority of the Royal House of Guimard approached them to discern their intentions.

"Welcome to the city of Evermore, outsiders. Please state your business here." the guard captain asked, flanked by three other guards. The other three Guards and nearby others who saw Cristus' face gave weird looks after partially his face under his linen hood.

"We're here to rest up and resupply after our steeds get enough rest. We won't stay long." Elaine answered up ahead of Cristus and Hulgarth.

The Guard Captain didn't hear any malice on Elaine's voice, allowing them entry after writing their descriptions down a list.

"If I may ask: does a woman named Elyna Lynielle live here?" Cristus asked. His voice has changed from his previous appearance since his breakthrough, which only Elaine and Hulgarth knew outside of Hakoshae back in Elsweyr.

"You mean Miss Lynielle? Yes, but how do you know her?" the Guard Captain asked Cristus out of curiosity.

"She used to be my guardian until she had to leave me behind for her own reasons."

"And what reason may that be? Actually, never mind. Just remember to be mindful around her. She is... not in the best health." the Captain said before letting Cristus through after gesturing for his fellow city guard to return to their posts.

"...I understand. Thank you for informing me." Cristus nodded before he followed Elaine and Hulgarth towards the city.

The first thing the trio did was to find a stable for the steeds to rest for a day or two before booking one Inn room or two for them to rest in. After the necessities were arranged, Cristus immediately headed for the southern part of the city, seemingly knowing where to go.

"Cristus, where are you going?" Hulgarth asked his ward as Elyna followed as well, but the ward didn't respond as he kept walking until he ended up in front of a large house, which also doubled as a Mage's shop and Apothecary in one place.

Cristus immediately knocked on the front door and was answered by a Breton maid in her late 20s.

"Excuse me, what's your business here?" the maid asked.

"I'm here to see Elyna Lynielle. Is she here?"

"I'm sorry, sir, but we haven't been expecting you, and the old lady needs her rest. Come back some other time." the maid answered, but before she could close the door, Cristus answered "Please; She told me to come here Once the Rose's Thorns-"

"-slowly weeps at the Last Seed's end..." the Maid interjected when she recognized the phrase almost immediately.

"...Master Cristus Lynielle. Is that... really you?" the Maid asked, still having doubts, but considering only two people aside herself knew the phrase for this very moment she was told to wait for, she had little choice.

"I-I apologize. Do come in, please. Mistress Elyna's been waiting for you for a very long time. She is at the bedroom on the third door to your right after you turn left here in the second hallway." they answered afterward. Cristus nodded in understanding and wasted no time in heading for Elyna's bedroom to meet her. Cristus opened the door to her bedroom after he received no response for a bit aside from coughing from the other side.

"Elyna..?" he asked when he felt his heart drop on seeing his long-time guardian's state. The years of depression, along with physical and mental stress, had not treated her well. She seemed to be on death's door at any given moment, yet she was still clinging to life despite the ravages of time.

"Elyna..? It's me, Cristus. Cristus Lynielle. You told me to find you when the Rose's Thorns wept at the Last Seed's end..." he said gently, hoping that the middle-aged Breton would still recognize him.

The woman's eyes widened when she heard and understood what the white-haired young man said. The phrase was unmistakable, despite the latter's outlandish appearance. She would've gone over to him and given a loving embrace, but a coughing fit prevented that as Cristus tried to make sure that she was stable.

"...Look at you, heh," Elyna answered after composing herself, "I never expected... your real face to be so handsome..." she smiled, ruffling Cristus' hair as she did over a decade ago. The young man did not resist but ensured Elyna was as comfortable as possible in her chair.

"Elyna, I..." Cristus didn't know what to say. He was joyful that he met his guardian again but saddened over how the latter was at her final days.

"Don't worry too much... ...We have plenty of time to talk." Elyna insisted.

Elaine and Hulgarth watched from the door and gave sympathy to their ward. The Maid entered past the two to inform Elyna of what was to be done with the other two guests, but her master allowed the two bodyguards to stay, with the Maid understanding and making sure their talk remained undisturbed.

"...You must be the two bodyguards of my boy here." Elyna said wearily, "...Please, take a seat, all of you. We all must catch up..."

After the trio got accommodated in the home, Elyna and Cristus exchanged stories of their experiences throughout the years, which took days of conversation even in the earliest parts of their stories.

To her regret, Elyna never managed to find Cristus' real parents, even though she had a guess as to who they were when Cristus shared his side of the story.

From his departure from Skyrim to his first and final stay in Hakoshae, Elyna did not take long to manage to piece the puzzle of information together...

"I see..." Elyna understood as she contemplated on the information before sighing from exhaustion, "So I've been walking around in circles this whole time..."

"Yet you saved me from death or even the fate of a mediocre life." Cristus shook his head, telling his guardian not to blame herself for her failings.

"...And I'm grateful to have raised you as if you were my own child... I just... wish that I could return you to your real parents."

"And I'll go see them one day. That I can promise you."

Elyna wanted to thank Cristus once more, but a hard coughing fit prevented that. Being worse than usual, Elaine went to call for Elyna's head Maid to provide her mistress some tonic.

The mistress stopped coughing once she was given another dose of her medicine. Looking to Cristus, she sighed and asked him a request as she handed him what looked like a closed letter.

"...Can you do me a favor? Go to Viridian Woods, east of Evermore. Find a small shrine at the north-eastern end of it. Once you're there, light a candle before the shrine, and burn the message I gave you just now. Don't forget to write your own for someone you held dear. Will you do me this kindness?"

Cristus took a bit of silence before he understood and nodded, "...I will, Elyna. I won't take long."

The old Breton nodded slightly with a smile, content with how the boy she raised had turned into a grown man after all these years.

"...Thank you. All of you." Elyna told the trio and her head Maid before her servant tended to her master once the trio saw themselves out to do Elyna's request.

After the three were outside the house, Hulgarth asked Cristus "You alright, friend? This is a lot to take in."

"I'll be fine, Hulgarth. Thanks." Cristus sighed, rubbing the sides of his head a little before seeing to it that they did what they had to do...

...Sometime later...

The trio arrived at the aforementioned shrine northeast of the Viridian Woods and the Duchy of Vermeir. Cristus wasted no time in performing the task Elyna gave to him. Lighting the candle after writing his own message for someone, he went to have the message burnt along with Elyna's own...

When the messages were burnt, the spirit of a female Breton appeared and nodded with a smile towards Cristus. Elaine and Hulgarth immediately recognized the spirit's identity but chose to offer their respects in the form of silence.

"Bryn..." Cristus muttered after her spirit disappeared. He never expected that to happen at all, given his secularity and total lack of belief in the Divines.

"...Let's head back," he said afterward, mounting his steed before the other two did the same. The trio went to hurry back to Elyna to tell what had transpired at the shrine...

Later...

While Elaine and Hulgarth were asked to wait at the living quarters on Cristus' request, which the Maid followed, the young man went to enter Elyna's room and saw her sitting at her chair, facing the window.

"Elyna, I'm back," he informed her. After a small while of silence, Cristus checked if she was alright.

"Elyna?" he asked once more. There was no response. He went to tap her shoulder a bit but noticed that she didn't respond or move at all as her left hand fell down from the left armrest, dropping a letter in the process.

"..."

Cristus quickly realized what had happened. It took him a bit before he picked up the letter and read the contents...

...After he did so, the young man went back to the living room to give the head Maid and the other two the news.

The Maid quickly picked up on Cristus' expression of grief. "Is something wrong?" the Maid asked out of concern.

"...Elyna... has passed."

The Maid understood and placed a hand on Cristus' left shoulder to comfort him.

"I'm so sorry," she said to him.

"She... passed on peacefully... and with dignity..."

"...Shall I make preparations, then?"

"Yes, please. Make it something appropriate for Elyna... I'll have everyone gathered in the meantime..."

The Maid understood and went to see to Elyna immediately. Hulgarth placed a hand on Cristus' right shoulder to comfort him while he mourned, with Elaine doing the same with her right hand on his left shoulder...

...

After having Elaine and Hulgarth gather the others, Cristus went to start digging for Elyna's grave. As the sun set as he did so, the words of Elyna's last letter echoed in his mind...

Cristus,

If you're reading this, I failed to say goodbye to you as I wanted, but the time never seemed appropriate.

I leave my land, and all of my possessions to you. We both were never good at words, but we at least make our points known to those before us.

When I first took you in my arms after the woman that kept you away from those who wished to end you for who you are, I wasn't even sure I could take good care of you and live up to the promise I made to your first savior. But after I saw what you've become after all these years, you've given me hope that all is not lost, and for that, I thank you. You were never born as my own son, yet I saw and loved you as my own. I want you to know how grateful I am for the time we spent together. The laughs we shared, the trials of life we went through.

Every moment I spent with you is, without exception, a priceless treasure to me. You showed me that there are indeed good people in this world, despite what others may say about you. Now that I am gone, I only regret that we never had more time together.

You need to look forward now, Cristus. Never let anyone dissuade you from the path you truly want to take, and never let your resolve waiver. For you, and you alone, are the only one who can determine and shape your future. So long as you're happy, I'm happy.

Yours truly, Elyna.

...

The trio and a few others were gathered before Elyna's grave after she was laid to rest there in her coffin. The attending Priest of Arkay there, an Imperial in his early 30s, spoke for everyone after they gathered.

"Prayer and sermon do not suit this occasion. Elyna Lynielle was not a woman of the Gods. Not our gods, at any rate, and neither was she a woman of the Daedra.

We are gathered here today to mourn a loss. Elyna wanted only one thing, the safety, and happiness of those she cared about, even after she passed on.

For us that remain, death should never take precedence over life. You all had your own moments with her, and I implore you all to share those memories together when the time is right for you.

Elyna, the Sorceress of Evermore, you will be missed but never forgotten. Go safely, old friend. Go safely to where your soul needs rest..."

After the Priest's final words for Elyna, the others paid their respects to the late Breton, placing flowers before her coffin before they left one by one, with Cristus being the only one left after everyone else returned to where they had to.

Placing a Lady's Smock before her grave, Cristus quietly paid his respects to Elyna as she was laid to her final rest.

"I'll make you proud, I promise," he said before he went to head back to Elyna's former home, now his property.

...

Two days after Elyna was laid to rest, Cristus prepared to continue on his journey to find his true heritage. He made arrangements regarding his inheritance to be passed on to the head Maid, Noemie Etienne, as a token of his gratitude for caring for his late guardian in her final days.

"Sir, I... I am truly honored. I wasn't expecting this at all, nor am I worthy of this." Noemie answered after she was given the news personally by Cristus.

"Don't give yourself too little credit. You took good care of the one who saved me from a mediocre life. Of course, you deserve something in return from it." the latter answered, "But you do know what this means. Everything I have after the others got their share is all yours. I'm most likely never coming back here."

"I... see... Now, this is something to really think about." Noemie understood after a bit. She had her doubts that she could manage things alone, but she already came so far and learned much from her late Mistress.

"You take good care of yourself now, Noemie. Thank you for everything. Goodbye." Cristus said, saying goodbye to the new owner of his passed-on property and leaving with Elaine and Hulgarth, who bid farewell to Noemie as well.

"Thank you as well, Cristus. Have a safe journey wherever your path may lead." Noemie nodded as the trio left...

Wasting no time, the three immediately departed Evermore and rode for the westernmost region of High Rock, Glenumbra. After a few weeks of travel, the trio arrived at the great city of Daggerfall, ruled by King Cassander of House Auld.

Once they were granted entry after some minor paperwork from the Daggerfall Guard, Cristus knew that he was close to the start of the real journey ahead and wondered if Elaine and Hulgarth were really up to it and willing to follow him into lands beyond. He had already shared his intentions during his stay in Hakoshae years ago, but he wanted to make sure that the two were willing to follow him despite the possibility of never returning to the land they call home.

"Well, we're here," Cristus said after making it within the city walls and finding a stable for their horses to rest. After the horses were accommodated to the stables, the young man went to speak with his two companions.

"Before anything else, thank you for coming with me up to this point. But after everything that's happened, I trust you know where I intend to head to next."

Hulgarth nodded in response, "You're really intent on sailing for Akavir, aren't you? Do you even know what you may find there?"

"No, but I don't think I can live with myself without finding answers to my questions. I'm going to find them or die trying. Either way, I stand by my decision." Cristus replied, "You know that you two don't really have to come. I'm serious when I said that the possibility of never returning to Tamriel is real."

"And you know where I stand as well. I'll be damned from Sovngarde if I end up dishonoring myself by leaving my debt to you unpaid." Hulgarth noted to the young man, placing his right fist on his chest in a salute, "I'll follow you to the depths of Oblivion if need be."

"Then there's no changing your mind then. Alright. Thank you, Hulgarth." Cristus nodded in respect towards the Nord before turning to Elaine.

"You know me. There's not much for me here anyway, and you know that my family can take good care of themselves and my brother likely has his own life now. I'm coming with you." the Breton pointed out.

"Then it's settled. I appreciate your trust and faith in me, Elaine." Cristus understood and decided not to dissuade her from turning back any further.

"Alright. I'll find a way to get us a ship after I sell our steeds. You two make any preparations you need while we're in the city. We can't afford to head to sea unprepared. And don't worry, I won't run off. I promise." the young man said afterward.

"You'd better not." Hulgarth nodded in response. Elaine did the same before she and the Nord went for the marketplace to stock up on supplies for the journey ahead. Food, water, potions, everything they needed for a long, treacherous journey they went to procure as much as they can carry...

Chapter 2

...After Cristus managed to sell the steeds for a fair amount of coin, he went for the western part of the city towards the docks. Upon arrival, he was greeted by the sight of the Harbormaster confronting a few rowdy sailors. With the Harbormaster himself backed by the presence of two Knights of the Dragon and at least four members of the city guard, the sailors cut losses and decided to leave back for their ship, grumbling all the while.

"Hmm." Cristus thought about the recent developments before speaking with the Harbormaster once the Knights and the guard left.

The Harbormaster raised an eyebrow when he saw Cristus approach. He would've told the young man to get lost, but something felt wrong about him, for equally many wrong reasons as well.

"I... don't want any trouble. So what do you want?" the Harbormaster asked carefully, unwilling to offend the young man but, his words were shaky.

"Relax, I'm not here for a commotion," Cristus sighed, "What was that argument with those sailors all about, anyway?"

"Oh, them? Just a bunch of goblin-spawns that refuse to be at their best. Spitting at the open waters and such. I hope those thick-headed dogs got the point.

But enough about me rambling. Was there something you needed, Wayfarer?"

"Actually, yes," Cristus nodded, "Do you know of anyone willing to sail far to the west, even towards the Sea of Pearls?"

"The Sea of Pearls? What? Why would you want to go that far from Tamriel? Are you looking for my lost homeland or something?" the Harbormaster asked, baffled by the thought of this young man's intentions to cross dangerous waters.

"I have my own reasons for going there, but I assure you that I'll be fine," the young man noted, crossing his arms.

"...Alright then. If you're so insistent on this, who am I to stop you?" the Harbormaster scratched his head, "I don't know of any specific Captain or crew that would be willing to take up your request, but, you know those sailors I drove out of here just now?

They have some Captain with a 'fearsome' reputation for sailing pirate-infested waters and coming out relatively unscathed. Maybe you can use that to your advantage to hire them and get all of them out of my port as well."

Cristus understood. Before he could answer, he noticed that Elaine and Hulgarth had arrived, with the Nord greeting the young man from a distance.

"Those people your friends?" the Harbormaster asked.

"Yes," Cristus answered, before nodding at the Harbormaster, "I'll see to it that the Captain you mentioned and his crew leave sooner than later. Thank you for your time." the young man concluded before he gestured for his two companions to follow him.

"You got us a ship already?" Hulgarth asked, pretty impressed on how Cristus managed to negotiate on his own without much trouble.

"Yes and no," Cristus spoke as he walked, "First is I found us a captain and his crew along with their own ship. Second, we have to convince them to go for uncharted waters, no matter how dangerous."

"Ysmir's beard, this ought to be interesting," Hulgarth smirked, with Elaine just sighing in response as she followed and kept an eye and ear out for her companions.

-

Arriving at the ship mentioned by the Harbormaster, Cristus decided to head on in before he and the other two attracted the attention of its rowdy crew. It did not take long for those at the deck to start wondering who the trio was, with the rest also gathering around them.

"Oi, lookin' to get yer brains switched 'ith yer cock or something?" the First Mate asked, the others bursting out laughing.

Elaine and Hulgarth were on high alert, while Cristus showed no reaction and simply saying "I need to speak with the Captain of this ship."

Most of the crew laughed over Cristus' request until the captain showed up from his cabin and the crew members fell silent on his arrival.

"Hey, who in Dagon's name are you lot to just walk into Captain Florin's ship as if you own it?" he asked, "Give me a good reason not to throw you lot in the sea after my crew gut you three."

"Looking to try? Go right ahead. Should you win, we leave this ship. If I win, however, you will do as I say." Cristus noted coldly towards the Imperial man. The crew would've gone to attack for the insult. The Imperial gestured for his men to stay out of it, however.

"A duel? Oh, how I'm going to enjoy marring your hair after I cut off your hands."

The duel now in place, Florin and Cristus were given space for their fight by everyone else in the area. Florin drew his frost-enchanted sword of elven design and material. He noticed that Cristus wasn't attacking, prompting him to snort.

"What? Scared already-"

Cristus moved at inhuman speed, using two of his fingers to yank away the captain's sword with little effort before throwing it towards a nearby crate before the latter could even respond. The sword narrowly missed a crew member that almost wet his trousers when the blade struck so close to him by mere inches.

Florin went to draw his dagger, but Cristus was faster. The latter immediately grabbed the man's sword hand with his left hand and almost crushed it with minimal effort, causing him to scream in pain. In a last-ditch attack, the Imperial tried to cast a stream of flames towards Cristus' face. Again, the young man was faster: he grabbed the fingers of the latter's spell-hand and proceeded to break them with minimal effort.

The Imperial fell to his knees before his opponent. Cristus shrugged before Florin and his entire crew, silent and frozen by fear. Who was this white-haired man? Was he a Daedra or the equivalent? None of them knew, but it was clear that this man was not ordinary.

"All you had to do was to give me what I want. Now, are you going to cooperate?" Cristus noted, his cold eyes locked before Florin.

"I... ugh... Alright, alright, just..!" the Imperial groaned in pain. Cristus did not pull any of his attacks at all, "Just... what do you want..?"

"I need your ship to sail westward, between the Sea of Pearls and the Azurian Sea." Cristus pointed out.

"Huh?" the Imperial let out, visibly confused as his First Mate went to heal him and pop his left fingers back in place, "You do know there's nothing in there, right? Yokuda, maybe, but where do you even want to-"

"Does it matter? You have a promise to fulfill after you lost to me, do you not?" Cristus simply noted.

"...Fine, fine. But I'm not hanging around, and it's gonna cost you, okay?" Florin sighed, hoping that he would get something out of all this at the very least.

"I'm aware, and take my advice; Don't try anything else. Get your crew to work and set sail soon. Now."

"...Fair enough. Gods, you are ruthless..."

After Florin recovered from his ordeal, he yelled for the crew to pack up everything they needed and prepare to set sail immediately. As Cristus went to take a seat at a nearby crate below the Helmsman's wheel to wait for his quarters, Elaine and Hulgarth went to accompany him.

The Breton and the Nord still found what they saw hard to believe. The boy they once knew was hardly recognizable anymore, especially after he displayed speed and strength far beyond that of a mortal man's...

After the final preparations were made, the ship Cristus hired, the Abecean Raptor, set sail for the western seas of Tamriel...

...

...

...

For the most part, even with fine weather, the journey towards Cristus' destination was long and treacherous. Despite their efforts of docking on wherever dry land was present in the regions between the Sea of Pearls and the Azurian Sea, the crew gradually grew restless, but Florin kept them together.

Despite his reservations, the Captain decided not to question his client, given they saw uncharted lands during the journey so far. Such knowledge would prove invaluable to him and perhaps make him a famous figure after Topal the Pilot, should he make it back alive.

...

On the 45th day of the voyage...

...

As Cristus waited inside his quarters belowdecks, he started hearing a commotion above, with the alarm bell being rung by the crew.

Elaine and Hulgarth were woken up by the sounds and quickly got ready, the Nord asking, "Pirates? Monsters?"

"Hardly matters, now come on!" Cristus said before he went for the deck first, with his two companions following shortly after gathering their things.

-

When the trio arrived from belowdecks, the Captain and his crew were already in a fight for their lives. They had been boarded by some foreign ship of design unknown to Tamrielics. What looked like Corsairs garbed in foreign outfits were slaughtering the crew. Eventually, the head of the Corsairs managed to overpower Captain Florin amidst the chaos and slew him without remorse.

"What the?!" Hulgarth went to summon a Bound Greatsword and attack one of the Corsairs, but the latter bladelocked with the Nord using his own sword with a laugh. The man immediately kicked Hulgarth in the gut as he did so to force him back, the Nord being winded from it.

Elaine went in to attack as well like Hulgarth, but the Corsairs she fought were fast and strong, almost like that of the man they fought in Hakoshae's tombs years prior. The Breton was eventually forced back with Hulgarth behind Cristus.

"This is bad..." Elaine muttered. If they were surrounded by such powerful opponents that shrugged off their attempts to attack, they were in serious trouble.

One of them laughed and spoke to his peers in a foreign language Elaine and Hulgarth did not understand. On the other hand, Cristus drew his sword and stood in front of the Breton and the Nord.

The corsairs wasted no time in attacking all at once. Cristus went to answer their response by moving at inhuman speeds and striking down a good number of them with disciplined strikes, mortally wounding those caught in his wake.

The head raider aboard the Abecean Raptor yelled out words in the same foreign language as his peers in an angry tone, and the others went to attack after some hesitation. As before, Cristus cut down those that tried their luck against him.

Seeing that the white-haired man was making short work of his men, the Corsair grunted and drew his two blades. Before he could engage, he heard his peers yell out to him. He grunted and went to jump back towards his own ship, seemingly cutting losses.

"Hah! That's right, run like the pansy bastards that you are-"

Hulgarth's words were cut short when the ship shook as if taking a severe impact towards its hull. As he and Elaine struggled to keep their feet steady, Cristus saw on the horizon three large ships.

Before he could even respond, another violent impact hit the ship before an explosion disoriented him heavily. As he slowly blacked out, he saw people in intricate armor boarding the ship and capturing Elaine and Hulgarth...

Chapter 3

Cristus slowly woke up from his ordeal. Quickly remembering what happened before he fell unconscious, he carefully looked around to see where he was.

The young man found himself in a room with only necessities, such as the bed he was on. As he sat up, a woman entered the room through the front door.

"Took you long enough to wake up." the woman spoke in a foreign language that Cristus understood. At first, the latter was baffled. But considering how he understood her clearly despite using a foreign language...

"Wait, are you... a Tsaesci?" Cristus asked. The woman grunted in response as if upset by how she was referred to by such a name.

"'Tsaesci' is just what Tamrielics call us." the woman in intricate armor frowned, speaking in perfect Tamrielic, which baffled Cristus even more.

"Then... Who are you?" the latter asked.

"I am Sara Amamiya. I refuse to elaborate any further until you answer me a few questions." the woman simply said.

"Now answer my questions; Why were you in a Tamrielic ship? How do you happen to possess that pendant you wear now? Who are you?"

Cristus heard her clearly and felt that she had a stronger aura of power compared to his own. Unwilling to kick a hornet's nest, he went to answer the questions accordingly.

"I am not part of the Tamrielics that were in that ship: I hired them to head for Akavir after defeating their captain to submission back in Tamriel. As for this pendant, it's been with me for years since I retrieved it from a settlement in Tamriel called Hakoshae via a letter addressed to me.

As for my name... People back in Tamriel call me Cristus Lynielle, but from records I recovered along with this pendant..." he paused for a second to get things right.

"The records state that I am Kazuya Amamiya."

Sara's eyes widened for a moment before they narrowed back, with the woman stating, "What? This is not a joking matter."

"The name Amamiya is the name of Okashiro's current Imperial Family. Do you have any proof that you are such one other than your word and that pendant you wear now?

Consider your response carefully. If you really are an Amamiya, show me the aura of your Cultivation. Now."

After the woman's sharp words, Cristus saw little choice but to do as he was told...

...Sara felt taken aback when she saw the man's aura before her. Cristus showed the Aura of the Golden Divine Body, an art practiced and usable only by the Amamiyas...

Before he could even respond further, Sara called for a few servants to provide a new set of garments immediately and said to the former, "The Imperial family would like to see you immediately. After my servants see to it that you're dressed for the meeting, follow me."

Afterward, Sara left the room and gave Cristus a few minutes to change attire. The latter was unaccustomed to having others dress him up. But after seeing how the clothes brought for him took time and effort to even secure after putting it on, he didn't resist. The attire he was made to put on was far more intricate than the robes he got from the Magnate back in Hakoshae.

With Cristus dressed up for an occasion, Sara escorted him towards the Imperial Palace immediately as soon as he was ready, leading the way after gesturing for the guards to let them through.

Heading for a semi-exterior area with what looked like a fixed pavement with an Array-like device at the center of it, Sara kept Cristus close as she activated it. After doing so, they were quickly phased out as motes of light...

...

...Sara and Cristus arrived somewhere shortly after the Array-like device was activated. The former immediately went to address Cristus before proceeding any further.

"Listen up. When addressing the Imperial family, you will do so with respect and never speak unless spoken to or allowed to do so. Understand?"

"Understood."

"Good, then prepare yourself. We are going to meet with the Emperor of Okashiro now."

After the exchange, Sara and Cristus were granted entry by the Amamiya Royal Guard to enter the throne room of the nation of the Tsaesci...

...Strangely enough, mostly only Royal Guards were present in the room, as well as the Emperor himself who remained on his throne.

"Behold his glorious majesty of Okashiro, Emperor Kosuke of the Amamiya Clan!" Sara announced before the court in honor of the Emperor.

"Long live the Emperor! Long live the land of Okashiro!" the rest of the very few but select court members chorused. Afterward, row by row, they lowered their heads in a reverent bow, hands clasped together.

"At ease," Kosuke commanded as he raised his hand after standing up. The court followed accordingly, raising their heads and lowering their hands.

Seeing Cristus beside Sara, Kosuke eyed the former, examining him with his stern gaze as he also picked up on the jade pendant the young man wore.

"Guards, secure the throne room. Everyone else but the visitor and the Princess, you are dismissed," he commanded after observing Cristus. The court members bowed similarly during the chorus before leaving the throne room on the Emperor's command.

Once only the Royal Guards, Sara, and Cristus were present, Kosuke went right to the point.

"So, the Princess claims you to be of my family. Firstly, let us see if you truly are of the Amamiya. Show me your Cultivation."

Cristus understood and did not hide anything regarding his Cultivation as he showed his aura from his practice of the Golden Divine Body...

Although he didn't show it, Kosuke was surprised on how this white-haired person before him was of his own blood.

The Royal Guards in the throne room quickly knelt before Cristus after it was confirmed that this young man was indeed of Amamiya descent...

"Guards, leave us," Kosuke commanded his Royal Guards to leave the three in solitude, with the guardsmen following without question and leaving after the order was given.

"I have my doubts still, but since you showed that you have affinity for an art only my family can use and practice..." Kosuke said to the young man, "Welcome home."

...

Cristus, now well-groomed after he was allowed to clean himself up, received a new set of clothes from Okashiro. He never bothered going back to his old Tamrielic clothing after he experienced the high-quality of the attire given to him , which he never thought possible.

Despite receiving a warm welcome from the Imperial family after his Amamiya descent was confirmed, Cristus was still not exempt from the customs and laws he needed to learn and respect. As such, he was to be brought under the tutelage of someone soon as the Emperor told him. Before that, however, Sara had given him the task of studying Okashiro's laws and customs to get him up to speed.

As a Cultivator, Cristus' memory and reading speed far exceeded that of normal men, even for one which had reached the Golden Core stage. He had memorized everything he read from the tomes and guides given to him in a short period of two days...

...

Cristus woke up after the sun rose. It was now his third day in the land of Akavir. As he quietly prepared for the day, he wondered what became of Elaine and Hulgarth, only remembering that they were captured when their ship got destroyed at sea.

As if on cue, Sara arrived after Cristus got fully prepared.

"Yes, Oba-san?" the young man asked his aunt.

"It's time, Kazuya-Kun," Sara informed him, "You're to go to Sakuranomiya and meet with the Shrine Maidens there to receive your blessing. I've been told you are also to meet your tutor and guide there.

Do you have any questions before you leave? Otherwise, have a pleasant journey."

"I do, actually. Just one question," Cristus said, "What happened to my companions back on the Tamrielic ship? Are they still alive?"

Sara raised an eyebrow, but answered "Those two outsiders? Yes, they are alive and under detainment. They claimed that they were your bodyguards back in Tamriel when you were young. Is this true? For I find it hard to believe."

Cristus nodded, "Yes, they are. Long story short: they protected me from a Cultivator after the pendant I wear along with records meant for me. Is it possible for me to appeal for their release?"

Sara thought about it but shook her head in response, stating "That will be up to the Emperor's decision in the end. Since they seemed to speak with honesty, I'll see what I can do. However, I cannot make any promises regarding their release."

"I understand. Thank you." Cristus nodded in response, before standing up and following Sara after she got a move-on to take her nephew towards Sakuranomiya via Teleportation Array...

...

...After a short walk and usage of the Array, the two arrived at Sakuranomiya, the main shrine of Okashiro. Sacred national treasures are kept here and girls were trained as priestesses to officiate national ceremonies. While there were many shrines and temples around Okashiro, none equalled the name of Sakuranomiya.

The arrival of Cristus was expected and three Shrine Maidens that formed the welcoming committee of the shrine approached them.

"Welcome to Sakuranomiya," the front Shrine Maiden greeted, "We were expecting your arrival. I am Yukime Kiyoshi. it is nice to meet you, Ouji Sama."

"Good to meet you, Kiyoshi San." Cristus greeted back, bowing his head slightly. Yukime shook her head slightly in response, stating "There is no need to be so formal, Ouji Sama. You are of the Imperial family, after all."

Sara thought that Cristus could handle himself from here, "I will leave you to the Mikos for now as I have other matters to attend to. I'll come to find you again when the time is right," the princess said before she left for elsewhere and left Cristus to the Mikos' care as stated. Yukime understood and proceeded to waste no time.

"Come. We should begin as soon as possible." the Miko told the prince before she escorted him further into the temple, towards the pools where Imperial princes and princesses were washed by Mikos based on old yet prominent traditions...

...

...Cristus did not understand why he had to be completely undressed as he sat in the middle of a pool he was told to wait in but did not question it when he was told to do what was required.

Eventually, Yukime came out from one of the rooms through the sliding door. She bowed slightly to the sight of Cristus in the pool.

"I apologize for the wait, Ouji Sama," she said, not even bothered by the fact that the prince had nothing on.

"No, it's alright." Cristus shook his head. Yukime understood and nodded in response...

...As the Miko removed her robes to enter the pool and begin the process of washing the prince, Cristus could see her in all her beauty, her features and figure are all in harmony without flaws. He thought that she may have been born from the nobility or simply inherited good traits in part of her parents. It was clear either way that Yukime is a very beautiful lady...

"Uh, why are you naked?" Cristus asked Yukime. As a Cultivator, his mind was very focused and his body under control. As such, he wasn't easily seduced by the sight of even Yukime without any clothing, despite his question just now.

"If I wore anything, it would get drenched, wouldn't it? Your washing should have been done when you were an infant. I wouldn't have needed to undress then. May I know why it had to wait till now?" Yukime answered, being similarly focused and under control as the prince, being a Cultivator herself. After bringing the necessary things, Yukime proceeded to begin washing Cristus in the pool in the tranquil atmosphere.

"It's... a very long story, but I suppose we can discuss parts of it while we're here." Cristus sighed as he let the Miko do what she had to do.

"I understand, Ouji Sama. I'm listening."

"Well, based on what I recollect on all I remember to date, and from what I found out about my past, it starts from here..."

Cristus recited his story based on the records left for him by the caregiver and one of his parents, his mother, on how he was spirited away from Akavir towards Tamriel for his own safety. On how he found out during his stay in the other continent and up to where he was now...

"I... see... So this is why you only received your blessing just now." Yukime understood, piecing the information together after Cristus recited his story to her,

"Now that you're here, what's next for you? What are your reasons for coming back?" she asked him as politely as she could without sounding intrusive.

Cristus remained silent for a bit before he answered, "I want to find my parents and meet them personally. To thank them despite what had to be done for me to live. And I'm tired, tired of being weak. And I have no intention of staying weak.

I want to make it up to my family for being away for so long. Maybe I can set things right. The only way for me to find out is to try and keep on trying if need be."

Yukime heard the prince's words clearly and thought that he was indeed a determined spirit. She still sensed some doubt in him but decided not to point it out and darken the subject.

"I understand, Ouji Sama. I do hope you find what you're looking for in the end," she nodded in response before she stood up and offered her hand after putting away the items she used to wash Cristus. Cristus got up with Yukime, and the two proceeded to dry up and get dressed afterward.

"So, now that you're here, what's next for you?" Yukime asked Cristus. The latter thought about it, before answering "I'll see about making necessary arrangements to meet with my parents soon, provided the Emperor allows it."

"Of course." Yukime nodded. Once both were dry and dressed up, the two left the pool area to meet up with the Mikos that were waiting for them.

"Welcome back," the Mikos greeted, before one of them turned to Cristus and said "Are you ready for your other accomodations, Ouji Sama?"

"Yes," the latter answered.

"Very well. Let us proceed," the Miko nodded before having Cristus shown around the place with Yukime, before he was allowed to cultivate as he pleased for the whole week...

Elsewhere

..,At a certain place...

It had been days since they were locked up in their cells. Elaine and Hulgarth had already lost track of time. They even wondered if Cristus was still alive or had left them to their fate. Both wouldn't accept it regardless and had faith in Cristus that he would come to their rescue later...

As if their questions were answered, their captor appeared before them in front of their cells. Before anything else, she addressed them of news they needed to hear.

"We have taken into account your stories, and the Emperor himself has decided to have you both released. However, you are to be placed under my custody until further notice. Before I release you both from your cells, take the following from the boxes provided to you both," Sara informed them in Tamrielic as two of her servants who came with her placed a single box each, for Elaine and Hulgarth.

As Elaine opened hers first, she saw what looked like a spherical object within the box. She asked Sara first, "What's this?"

"Consume it and find out. You wish to be released, do you not?" Sara noted, shrugging in response.

Hulgarth looked to Elaine just as the latter did to the former. What was this strange object they were being made to consume? Something felt very off about it, but considering the circumstances before them, they had little choice.

After nodding to each other, Elaine and Hulgarth went to take a leap of faith and take the small spherical object they were given, taking in mind that they wanted to get out of there and see Cristus again...

...It did not take long for the Breton and Nord to start feeling the effects of the objects they were made to consume. Despite her vampiric nature, Elaine felt like her bones were breaking, her flesh felt like it was on fire. Hulgarth felt the same thing as Elaine before he fell to the ground, black substances oozing out from their bodies...

"What... What is this..?!" Elaine asked, fearing that whatever she was made to consume was some sort of malevolent poison...

Sara shook her head, simply stating "The Emperor decided to give you both a chance. What you took will either break you or make you into something new, like your friend here."

"What does that... mean..?!"

Elaine barely stayed conscious as she lay helpless on the ground. The last thing she saw and heard before passing out was the woman in intricate armor ordering her servants to clean up the mess left behind...

A day later

...Elaine woke up, finding herself in a bedroom with only basic necessities present, other than an end table, a desk, and a chair beside the bed she was in at present.

She remembered what happened before she passed out. She would've thought herself dead if she didn't realize how she felt healthier than she had ever been. Whatever had happened back in the cells, it seemed that they were not poisoned after all. After she sat up, a new face entered the room to check up on her.

"Back from the land of the dead? Surprising." The man stated in Tamrielic after the Breton sat up. The latter was surprised at how another Tsaesci spoke her native language after their captor.

"What? Where am I? And... who are you?"

"You're at a room at the Outlander's Stop Inn in the port city of Makoto, outsider. As for my name, it's Miyamoto Kojiro. Just call me by my first name, Kojiro." the man noted.

Kojiro Miyamoto. A soldier of the Amamiya Dynasty's Imperial Army and underling of Sara Amamiya. A young man with choppy, medium-length brown hair, some of it tied in a ponytail behind his back. He has black eyes and his usual neutral expression. He wore a short kimono with a riding hakama and a haori, sporting black-and-crimson colors.

"I see... I need to ask; Where's my companion?" Elaine asked Kojiro another question, with the latter answering, "You mean the 'Nord,' correct? He's awake and is recuperating at the living quarters assigned to you two."

"I suggest you recuperate as well and prepare to begin your training in earnest. You only have one week to do so," he added.

"I'm sorry, what?" Elaine asked.

"I was informed that you were given your chance by the Emperor from my superior. Now they're looking to see how you two will handle it accordingly.

Long story short: you and your companion are to begin your first step into Cultivation. Starting today."

"...What?"

Elaine was confused. She didn't fully understand why they had to practice and perform the same arts that Cristus told them about back in Hakoshae. If they couldn't even grasp the concept that Cristus talked about to them, she didn't understand how they could proceed...

...Then it came to her mind regarding what happened before she ended up at the Inn room over a cell. Perhaps the spherical object given to them was the key that made it possible for them to do so.

Before Elaine could answer further, she was handed a manual by Kojiro, all the contents written in the Tsaesci's language.

"You have one week to complete this. I suggest you don't waste time fearing what might go wrong. Just follow the instructions accordingly, and you will do fine." Kojiro shrugged.

"Now I have to get going for the time being. The living quarters are downstairs to your left after you head out of the door behind me."

Without any further words, Kojiro left Elaine alone in her room for her to dress up and get ready for the day after cleaning herself up. She still smelled of the impurities that oozed out of her body when she took the object that changed her in more ways than one...

...After getting ready, Elaine went downstairs and saw Hulgarth racking his head over how he was struggling reading and memorizing a manual given to him, which was the same as hers as the Nord was handed a separate copy.

"Hulgarth?" the Breton asked, with the Nord turning his attention to the former for a moment.

"Good to see that you're up and about," Hulgarth said, glad that Elaine was alright. The Nord looked troubled regarding the manual he was given, however.

"From the look on your face, you're having problems reading up, don't you?" the latter scratched her head slightly.

"Yes. As if we didn't already go through enough, now we have to study arts completely foreign to us," the former shook his head, unsure on how to proceed from where they were now.

"I told you that studying with Cristus would serve us well in the long run," Elaine shook her head regarding the manuals given to them, which were written in the Tsaesci's language.

"Fair enough, Now how do we proceed? What's these 'meridians' and 'acupoints' the manual keeps stating?" Hulgarth said as Elaine took a seat opposite of the former in front of the table of the living quarters.

"Let me read up on it first..." the latter shook her head a little and tried to decipher what the manual meant regarding the two terms stated by the Nord...

...

"...What is this? This sounds all too foreign..!" Hulgarth said after reading up on the manual again and failing to pick up any useful information despite doing so thoroughly from what he could read.

"Giving up already? Or are you two just restricted by language barriers?" Kojiro shook his head, having returned from the kitchen quarters of the suite they were given.

"You could say that. Just what are the Meridians and Acupoints, anyway? The manual states that they're present in everyone but, how can we even see ours?" Elaine asked, not making any real progress either.

Kojiro saw the ignorance of the outsiders regarding Akaviri arts as something tolerable for now, given their charge very likely kept them in the dark regarding his Cultivation despite the trust between them. This was correct to him as well, as he is against the sharing of very sensitive secrets to outsiders. However, given that Sara ordered him to get these two outsiders to cultivate, he did not question it despite his reservations on the matter.

"...Alright. Let me try to describe it as accurately as I can for you two," Kojiro sighed, "You two are aware of what Tamrielic Magicka is, yes?"

"That we are. What about it?" Hulgarth asked, not sure why it was brought up.

"Consider the Mind Sea within you as your Magicka reserves, your personal reserve of power. As you two were already altered to begin Cultivation in its most basic form, you need not worry about your Spirit Roots until later." Kojiro explained.

"The Meridians are the pathways in which Reiki, or Magicka in your tongue, passes through in and out. You collect ambient Magicka from the environment using your Meridians and condense it into your Mind Sea as your personal Vital Qi," he pointed out, "Is any of this getting through?" he asked once more.

"...I believe so?" Elaine said but asked another question that came to mind, "Let's say we understood what you said: How and where do we start?"

"You can start off anywhere via Meditation, even here in this very room. You can bother doing so in places rich with energies later." Kojiro stated.

"...Alright. I guess I'll give it a try now." Elaine sighed before turning to Hulgarth, "Wish me luck."

After the Nord nodded at the Breton in response, the latter proceeded to be the first to try out and begin their Cultivation based on what Kojiro had explained to them...

...It took a long while of silence and idleness from Elaine before she even moved. It seemed like forever, but Hulgarth did not try to bother her despite his concerns, out of fear that something might go very wrong if he broke her concentration during her Meditation...

After completing the first step and the basics, Elaine returned from her meditative state, feeling the slight changes in herself. It was minuscule at best, but she did feel it.

"I think someone here actually succeeded. You still have a long way to go, however. But how far you can go is the real question. isn't it?" Kojiro said, having noticed the changes that Elaine had experienced after she followed the manual's instructions and Kojiro's input on the matter.

"By the way, you two should eat first before resuming your progress," the Tsaesci said as he placed a few dishes on the dining table for the two to consume. It was a basic set of soup, two rice bowl dishes with chicken and egg with sliced scallion, and clean water.

"Take my advice; It's better to meditate on a full stomach. Distractions of any form during meditation are very bad." he pointed out.

The two Tamrielics started eating afterward, able to use the unique utensil used for eating due to their time in Hakoshae back in Tamriel. After they were finished eating and drinking, the Breton and Nord resumed their training on starting off their Cultivation...

...Hulgarth himself had problems starting off from the basics due to his lesser comprehension of the manual given to him. With some assistance from Elaine, however, he was able to start off after figuring out how to meditate and begin filling his own Mind Sea, based on what she had told him from her own experience...

One week later

...A week had passed, with Elaine and Hulgarth focusing solely on meditating and filling their own Mind Sea. They felt that they had more stamina than before they started their training, yet they didn't notice any remarkable changes so far.

"Is this really working or are we just clearing our heads over past problems?" Hulgarth asked Elaine, with the latter answering, "I think it's working, but honestly, only one way to find out."

Kojiro entered the room after a while as the two rested before they were handed wooden training swords for them to use.

"Follow me." Kojiro simply said. When the two followed, the Tsaesci led them towards an area where basic combat training was done. Kojiro went into place before he had his own wooden sword drawn.

"I trust that you two have already formed your own Mind Seas based on your first stage of Qi training. Now I want to see if your efforts have borne fruit and if the Emperor was right about you two having potential." their handler said.

"Now come at me," Kojiro concluded as he waited for Elaine and Hulgarth to strike at him. Their first training session in Akavir had begun...

Elaine and Hulgarth looked at each other at first before the two understood what needed doing. As told to them by their handler, the two went to strike at Kojiro with their training weapons...

The two started off by striking at Kojiro with everything they had without using magic. Despite their efforts, they were unable to bypass Kojiro's speed and defensive maneuvers. Still, the two were far from tired even as the fight dragged on for minutes without pause.

As Hulgarth went to strike at Kojiro with brute force, the latter managed to block the attack and lock weapons with the former before pushing him back with merely one hand.

"Although you couldn't get past me, the results show themselves already." Kojiro nodded as he swiped his training sword in the air.

"...Now show me what you two really got. Stop trying to hit me and hit me." the Tsaesci said before his training sword started having small swirls of wind around the blade...

Elaine and Hulgarth took this as a sign that their trainer was starting to get serious. Choosing to up the ante themselves, Hulgarth went to summon an extra blade via his Seven Sword Summons, with Elaine infusing her own training sword with her electrokinetic abilities.

The two Tamrielics noticed that their Magicka reserves had dipped significantly, and both had problems casting their abilities even on a basic level. They barely had time to react as Kojiro ran for them to swipe at the two with a horizontal sweep. The duo managed to intercept the attack in time but otherwise was still taken aback.

"Don't rely on those old skills. Use your body. Now come at me!" Kojiro said as he slowly circled the two from a distance.

Hulgarth took the advice in a literal manner as he unsummoned his bound sword to attack Kojiro, holding his wooden sword with both hands. The Tsaesci went to reply in kind by intercepting the downward vertical attack with a horizontal block. At the same time, Kojiro used his left hand to deliver a blow towards the Nord's gut and send him reeling back.

While Hulgarth staggered backward, Elaine did not waste time and attempted to strike at Kojiro from his left. He noticed it and turned to face his second attacker after parrying her wooden sword vertically. Kojiro then went to counterattack by rotating his blade towards Elaine and blowing her away with a small gust of wind from his left palm.

Despite the setback, Elaine quickly recovered using ample footwork and bolting back towards Kojiro to strike at him with a flurry of slashes, all of which put the Tsaesci on the defensive. Hulgarth had recovered after a small while and performed similar attacks against Kojiro to break through his defense by combining his efforts with Elaine's.

After a swift exchange of blows, Kojiro had enough of the deadlock and proceeded to lock blades with Elaine and Hulgarth before blowing them both away with a powerful gust of wind. Both the Nord and Breton lost their footing, with Elaine falling on her back just in front of someone else who had just entered the room.

"Ah, good to see that you two are alive and well. And training with an instructor to boot." the newcomer greeted Elaine, who didn't take long to realize who this man was.

"Cristus?!" Elaine asked, shocked yet relieved to see that their charge was doing well as she was helped back up by the one she addressed.

"Cristus? So this woman here is one of your old bodyguards from Tamriel?" the woman beside Cristus asked in the Tsaesci's language.

When Kojiro saw the man and the Miko before him, the handler immediately bowed out of respect for Cristus, who quickly told him, "At ease," prompting the soldier to stand up and dust himself off of dirt.

"Ysmir's beard, I'm glad you're still alive..!" Hulgarth said as he got up from his predicament.

"Good to see you too, Hulgarth." Cristus nodded, "Come, we should discuss things over a meal and some drinks," he said before telling Yukime the same thing in the Tsaesci's language, as the Miko had next to no knowledge regarding Tamrielic language...

Sometime later...

An awkward silence filled the air at the dining quarters of the suite. Elaine was the first to break the silence, however.

"So, how did you end up with that woman? Who is she?" she stated to Cristus.

"Her name's Yukime, and she's a Miko who decided to accompany me after being assigned as my bodyguard and guide," the latter answered.

"What's a Miko?" the Breton asked afterward, her curiosity for knowledge taking over from her scholarly traits.

"A Miko is a Shrine Maiden. They practice Cultivation arts related to the Yin aspect and are the managers of Okashiro's official religion, which would be the Okashiro Shinto." Cristus said, taking a sip of water after a mouthful.

"Okashiro Shinto? Does the Tsaesci have a religion? And Shrine Maidens? What do they do to practice the religion? Do they demand prayers or so? And how does the government manage to keep things balanced between them and the Shinto?" Elaine asked after being given her answer, now more curious than ever...

"She asks more questions than an inquisitive Yuan Guo concubine..." Kojiro shook his head regarding the Breton, with the latter answering "I understood that y'know. And I am not his concubine." and pouting afterward.

Kojiro raised an eyebrow regarding how Elaine understood what he said in his own language, before letting Cristus take the front of answering the outlander's questions. After some time, Yukime came out of the kitchen with lunch ready for the whole group.

The meal prepared was different this time. The main course is a bowl of rice topped with deep-fried breaded pork cutlet, egg, vegetables, and condiments.

"Now this is certainly different from the last ones I ate..." Hulgarth said to himself as the bowls were being served to the whole group. He found the new type of dish refreshing over the ones he and Elaine had to eat for a whole week. Despite the larger serving of a meal, however, he felt that they may be in for something soon, but he didn't voice his concerns until he felt the time was right.

As the group started eating, Cristus had to answer a load of questions from both Yukime and Elaine with the Miko asking questions concerning the outsiders, while Elaine proved to be very inquisitive regarding Okashiro's history and culture.

Anything that could not be answered from tomes covering the appropriate subjects, Cristus answered for Elaine and also answered all he could for Yukime in the Tsaesci's own language.

On the other hand, Hulgarth didn't feel comfortable interrupting the conversation between Cristus and the other two. Instead, Kojiro went to answer his questions, mostly covering topics concerning Cultivation and improvement of such.

"-and Tosh Raka? What's his story? Is he a long-lived immortal of great power?" Elaine asked another question after learning about the Mikos based on what Cristus knew. The prince shook his head and proceeded to explain.

"'Tosh Raka' is a mistranslation on Tamriel's part. It's not a name at all. It's a royal title for their Emperor. The real term used by Yuan Guo to refer to their Emperor is Huang Shang as they are forbidden to call him by his real name. No person in Yuan Guo actually calls him 'Tosh Raka'.

This also explains why Tamriel was never conquered by the Akavir during the Second Era up to the present. As 'Tosh Raka', or more accurately, Huang Shang is a title for the Emperor. The Yuan Guo Emperor who stated his plan to conquer Tamriel is long-dead.

From what I know and read, the man known as Li Aotian is the most recent Emperor of Yuan Guo. And he seems to be the person closest to making the conquest of Tamriel a reality to date."

As Cristus took a sip of his drink once more after such an explanation, Elaine took down what she heard to memory, planning to write all she heard down on her recent journal soon.

"One last question, if I may. Since 'Tsaesci' is what people in Tamriel refer to you as, which sounds wrong to me, what do the people of Okashiro refer to themselves as?" the Breton asked.

"Okashirojin. Meaning 'Person of Okashiro' or 'Okashiro Person.' Give or take." Cristus said. Elaine understood and nodded in thanks before she excused herself from the table, for now, to start writing down what she heard as a backup for her newfound information.

"She's such a strange person..." Yukime whispered to Cristus quietly, with the latter just sighing. He was willing to explain later after the table and dishes were cleaned up. After everything else, it was continuous training until Elaine and Hulgarth gained enough strength to be ready for the next step...

Chapter 4

A month had passed since Cristus and his two outlander companions arrived at Okashiro. The group was hard at work in their training, especially for the two outlanders. Kojiro supplied the outlanders with supplements to further their training. To push them towards the realm of Foundation Building as fast as possible.

Kojiro noticed that Elaine and Hulgarth were improving fast, and found their current strength acceptable enough for the next step to take place after another round of sparring...

"Alright. Now, for the final steps of the basics," Kojiro said. Elaine and Hulgarth looked unsurprised, as they were already expecting more after everything they've been put through so far.

"You two feel it, don't you? Your own Qi within you two. Now, let's see how you two can use it to ward off attacks from me, and if you're able to project even a basic attack of it against me, Don't worry, I can take what you can throw at me," their trainer said.

"And how are we going to do that?" Hulgarth asked, ready to learn.

"You feel the Qi within you, correct? If so, project it into a defensive barrier all over your body. Now focus."

"..."

The Nord didn't question further and proceeded to focus his Qi defensively. Before Hulgarth knew it, Kojiro went for a strike against the Nord. It hurt, but the defensive barrier mitigated most of the light attack.

As Kojiro went to test Hulgarth's focus on his newfound defensive power, Elaine went to focus similarly like her fellow outlander before Kojiro went to do the same attacks against the Breton. Both outlanders were successful in projecting their Qi defensively.

"Now, for the last part. Project your Qi into a ranged attack, like an arrow shooting true towards its mark. Aim for me and attack. Don't worry, as before, I can take it," Kojiro said before waiting for the two to attack using only projected Qi...

Elaine and Hulgarth looked at each other before they formed an idea. They thought of crossbow bolts. Compressing their Qi as they focused, they projected it with their mind and body towards Kojiro, who noticed the attacks and blocked with his own Qi barrier.

"...Well done. You both are ready for the next step." the trainer acknowledged the outlanders' progress.

"Before I sent you two off for your final initiation, there's one last thing you two need before you take on the task ahead: your Soul Images."

"A Soul Image? What's that?" Elaine asked. The Breton's curiosity was at work once more.

"Basically put: It is a reflection of yourself and your cultivation path. The power that suits you as a Cultivator: it is a collection of your life experiences and defines a large part of what you can do with your cultivation, and shows your progress in it." Kojiro explained before taking out two new manuals for Elaine and Hulgarth to study.

"These will teach you what you need to get started. You have until tomorrow to figure things out, as the time of your first task as visitors of Okashiro nears." the Okashirojin said before he went to leave the two to study for now.

"Here we go again..." Hulgarth sighed before he found a meditation rug to sit on and start reading the contents of the manual he was given. Elaine did the same after dusting herself off of dust and sand...

-

Kojiro went for the living quarters of the Inn room that Elaine and Hulgarth were provided. While Cristus and Yukime were busy preparing dinner in the kitchen, the military officer noticed someone enter the room from the main door. He recognized the presence as his superior.

"Ojou Sama," the officer greeted Sara, who gestured for him to be at ease shortly afterward.

"I trust you're making progress with the two outsiders?"

"Yes, Ojou Sama. I gave them the manuals you provided for forming their Soul Images. They're in the process of studying it now."

"I see."

Sara was pleased that Kojiro was making progress, as she had little patience to deal with outsiders given her position in the military. As well as being a princess of the Imperial family.

"The time nears for the prince to prove his worth, and the Emperor's patience is not infinite. I trust you realize that."

"Yes, Ojou Sama. I already hastened the pace of the training of the two outsiders. They should be combat-ready at the minimum standard required by then." Kojiro nodded in response. In truth, the officer was unsure if the two Tamrielics would even make a breakthrough by night, but he was confident that they shall before tomorrow. His thoughts seemed to be answered after a while when he sensed a fluctuation and heard sounds coming from the training area.

"Hm."

Upon checking on the outsiders, Kojiro could see Hulgarth practicing with what seemed like an ethereal sword closer to a real object in appearance than a bound weapon from Oblivion in Tamrielic context. Elaine herself had what looked like thorny tendrils protruding from her arms in an ethereal form.

"...Seems the Emperor's faith in you two was well-placed," he stated to them, which caught their attention as they dissipated their Soul Images. He didn't show it, but the officer was surprised at the speed at which they formed their Soul Images after a month of rigorous prerequisite training.

"I... thank you?" Hulgarth said, unsure how to respond. Elaine simply bowed her head in response.

"Thanks aren't necessary. Just continue excelling at your duties, and all is well," Kojiro said, "Now come. It's almost time for dinner. After that, get some rest. For your real trial begins tomorrow."

"You said something about that before. May I... ask what will it be about?" Hulgarth asked carefully as not to offend the Okashirojin.

"You're going to perform a service for the city of Makoto or die trying in the process. Consider this as your test that will solidify the trust the Emperor has placed in you both," Sara interjected as she walked through beside Kojiro.

"So really, enjoy your dinner tonight. For it may be your last. If not, you may end up earning my respect."

The next day...

Elaine and Hulgarth were up early after dinner from yesterday. They trained as much as possible alongside their newfound powers before they were called for their task.

...Kojiro escorted them towards the south-western outskirts of Makoto, where their quarry was prowling. The Okashirojin stopped before the border of the wilderness' region at a small camp before addressing the two outlanders.

"Alright. This is as far as I go. Everything else here is on you. Find the quarry you are meant to hunt as detailed here and return with proof of its death once you're done," their handler said as he handed a parchment detailing the appearance of the beast they had to hunt. It was a horse-like creature with the head and a dragon's scaly body, the tail of a lion, and cloven hoofs like a deer.

"Looks like some sort of Indrik," Elaine commented before nodding, "Alright. Anything else we need to know?"

"Be wary of its lightning. And don't be cheap. Use the talismans and pills provided to you by the prince's Miko to give you the boosts you need," Kojiro said as advice.

"Can't say I'm looking forward to taking these weird balls again, but alright," Hulgarth understood before he and Elaine set off to the wilderness to locate their quarry and hunt it down, with the Breton leading the way.

...

The forests outside of Makoto contained mixed trees, with the region Elaine and Hulgarth were exploring having maple trees. Both outlanders noticed that the fauna was too quiet and thought something greatly intrusive to the natural environment was afoot...

...Their suspicions proved correct when a beast matching the description on the parchment they carried appeared. The Kirin was agitated from previous conflicts and didn't hesitate to attack the two newly-minted Cultivators on sight, charging towards them with its horn in front.

If it weren't for both Elaine and Hulgarth's own magical Charms and activated Reinforcement Talismans, they would have been rammed through by the angry beast as it charged in supernatural speeds.

Hulgarth didn't relent and immediately rushed the Kirin from the rear, summoning his Spectral Sword and started hacking away at the beast once he got close enough while Elaine attacked with her shadow tendrils, lashing them at the Kirin. Both Cultivators were careful not to attack too relentlessly in fear of getting counterattacked by the beast.

When the Kirin slightly stumbled, it neighed like a horse before suddenly bursting with lightning, infusing itself with its innate power before calling localized lightning strikes that followed it wherever it went. The beast turned its sights on Hulgarth before angrily maneuvering around the battlefield, leaping in a zigzag-like pattern to confuse its quarry. Every hard landing from the beast's hooves also released lightning explosions similar to Shock Runes.

"Ah shit..!" the Nord did his best to start moving and avoid getting cornered. To even skirt towards the beast's rear was dangerous as random lightning bolts struck everywhere around the Kirin in a 22-meter area.

Elaine was more of the risk-taker as she went in to attack after activating a Barrier Talisman she had to boost her defense. As before, she went to lash at the Kirin with her shadow tendrils as it remained fixated on Hulgarth. One attack sent the Kirin stumbling down on the ground, prompting the two outlanders to attack while it's grounded. Hulgarth went to perform a series of slashes at the back of the Kirin while Elaine lashed the beast's belly.

The beast recovered eventually after the outlanders pulled back after having to do so when the beast started accumulating its own Qi. Now enraged than before, the Kirin manifested itself as pure lightning, focusing its power towards itself before charging towards Elaine this time in leaps, as if seeking payback for insolence.

Elaine went to pull out a speed-based Talisman, but the Kirin was faster in its furious state as it headbutted the Breton towards a tree. The tree itself was smashed to bits, but Elaine's double-layered barrier saved her from mortal wounds despite the attack still hurting a lot.

"Hey, you bastard!!" Hulgarth yelled at the Kirin, trying to taunt it away from trampling Elaine as he fired Qi bolts towards the beast. The diversion worked as the Kirin turned its sights on the Nord once more.

Elaine recovered from her ordeal after a small while. Dusting herself off, she went to pull out a Talisman infused with ice-based magic and threw it at the Kirin while it was distracted. The freezing effect worked as it slowed the beast. Hulgarth noticed it and went to try his luck by rushing at the Kirin and attacking past it from the rear. Elaine continued her offensive as she went to trap the beast with her shadow tendrils. The Kirin ended up trapped in place as Hulgarth went to strike at it with speed and strength, his sword tearing its scales and flesh down as it attempted to break free.

In desperation, the Kirin mustered its strength and called down a focused lightning bolt to strike at Hulgarth, which hit the Nord despite his efforts to avoid the attack by quickly using a barrier Talisman on top of his charm's effects. The barrier broke with some of the lightning's power sent the Nord into a painful shock, paralyzing him temporarily.

Seeing the developments, Elaine focused all her might on binding the beast and finishing it off. She used one of her tendrils to smash through the eye of the Kirin and dig towards its head to destroy it. Her gruesome attack worked. The beast finally fell dead.

After making sure the Kirin was down for good, the Breton checked on Hulgarth, fortunately, alive and recovering from his ordeal.

"You okay?" the Breton asked to make sure.

"I'll live," the Nord said as he dusted himself off, "At least we didn't have to take those 'pill' things again," he sighed before looking over at the dead beast. He and Elaine went to harvest what they could from the Kirin and took its horn as proof of the beast's death as well.

The two were put on high alert when they heard clapping from a distance. They stood down for a bit when Kojiro and four Makoto soldiers were the new arrivals.

"Most unexpected from Outlanders. Good work in taking down the Kirin. I thought I'd had to intervene from the shadows," the officer said before gesturing for the soldiers to secure the rest of the beast's corpse and harvest what valuables remained from it.

"You were watching us this whole time?" Hulgarth said, leaving out the part on why he was unsurprised about it.

"I was, yes. Now come, let's head back to Makoto. I believe a small celebration of your victory is in order."

...

After returning to Makoto, Elaine and Hulgarth were made to wait at their Inn room as per standard protocol. Their deed of slaying a Kirin had taken out quite a lot from them, but that did not stop either of the outlanders from looking to improve further.

They had never expected that power of such scale even existed. Much doubt was quashed after they witnessed it themselves, even long after Cristus' own display of power...

"Say, I need to ask," Hulgarth told Elaine as they waited, "I noticed that you're forgoing blood since several days ago. What gives?"

"The thirst? Honestly, I'm quite surprised myself when I noticed that it's gone," the latter said, "It must be from that weird 'pill' that Sara made us eat as per the conditions to our release. Still, I can't help but think of what that meant for the two of us..."

"We might as well ask Cristus about it once he's not busy with the Miko lady. We'll be lucky if we can talk to him tonight. He seems to get busier day-by-day."

"Well, he's a prince, after all. He's surely got his own set of responsibilities as he's part of royalty..."

While outlanders waited at the dining area, they were surprised that a small feast awaited them, enough to feed a small group.

"A lot of work went in preparing all this. Don't let any of it go to waste," Cristus informed the two as he helped set up the dinner for the four to eat.

"So, what is being served today?" Hulgarth asked, with Cristus answering "What else? The meat of the beast you slew, carefully prepared and cooked accordingly."

"I'm sorry, what?" Elaine asked before Hulgarth could respond, showing slight surprise.

"Trust me, just dig in and find out," Cristus said before he and Yukime took a seat. Once everyone was ready, they started digging in. The Outlanders showed some hesitation at first. But after some small bites to taste, they started eating normally afterward.

The feast itself felt different from taste and filling, for the lack of better terms. The outlanders could feel a boost of Qi as they ate more of the cooked Kirin meat, which explained Cristus' words to a degree, if not entirely. One thing they learned was that the people of Okashiro were indeed efficient, and abhorred waste...

...After dinner, Yukime went ahead to clean up the mess and start washing the dishes, while Cristus sat at the dining area and waited along with the two outlanders.

"Got anything to ask, both of you?" Cristus said to Elaine and Hulgarth.

"Yeah," Hulgarth said, "So, I remember weeks ago that our captor made us take these weird pills. We thought it was poison, but we survived despite being wracked in pain and filth. What was that thing, anyway?"

"Hm. She gave you two Spirit Root Improvement Pills. It purged most if not all the impurities from your bodies as it also improved your Spirit Roots, which Tamrielics would call Magical Affinity if they got to studying it," the prince explained.

"I see... So does that explain my thirst for blood being forced out as well?" Elaine posed her own question concerning Hulgarth's own.

"You can say that, yes," Cristus nodded, "If anything, you're most likely the first to snatch one of Molag Bal's many creations and adapted it as your own."

"What?" Hulgarth asked all of a sudden, "What does that mean?"

Cristus shook his head in response before simply stating "By cultivating, you essentially started walking a path meant to defy the heavens and hopefully one day surpass it. Yukime and I are no different. You two took your first steps after you took the pill Sara gave you."

Hulgarth wasn't sure what to think about that. Does this mean that he was denied his seat in Sovngarde for defying the heavens? The revelation of such information created more questions than answers for him. Elaine on the other hand seemed relieved. If what Cristus said was true, then Molag Bal had no hold over her soul anymore and she would not end up in Coldharbour for an afterlife.

As the two Outlanders had their mixed reactions, Kojiro arrived, his expression being serious.

"I have news from the Emperor. He requests the presence of the Outlanders at once," he stated.

"Is something wrong?" Cristus asked, wondering why the officer's tone of voice sounded serious.

"No, Ouji Sama. Speaking of which, he wants you and Kiyoshi Sama to attend as well," Kojiro responded before he ended up forgetting.

Cristus understood before getting everyone ready for an audience with the Emperor...

...

...It did not take long for the group to prepare accordingly and enter the throne room after they were given the green light.

The group bowed before Emperor Kosuke of the Amamiya Clan on reaching the designated area of the throne room.

After eyeing the Outlanders meticulously to measure their worth for himself, Emperor Kosuke gestured for them to be at ease and had the royal guards dismissed, wishing to speak with the group in private.

"Sara, ensure that no one eavesdrops on us," he informed the princess beside him. Sara nodded, answering "Yes, Ou Sama," before she went to work immediately on the Emperor's command after leaving the throne room.

"So these two Outlanders are your companions back in Tamriel, Kazuya-Kun?" Kosuke asked his tone of voice and expression as stern as ever.

"Yes, Ou Sama. They were integral in protecting me until I reached adulthood," Cristus answered.

Kosuke understood as Kazuya spoke only the truth in his words while keeping them short. The Emperor had his doubts on the Outlanders, however, as well as his personal disdain of Tamrielics in general.

"Hmph," the Emperor spoke after a bit, "Speaking through this language of yours annoys me, but for the sake of understanding, I will speak it to you Outlanders for now.

Do you even know why I put you both on probation? And not be locked in a cell for the rest of your lives?"

Hulgarth wanted to answer accordingly, to avoid disrespecting the Emperor with silence but felt that Elaine was the better speaker for himself and her. The Breton responded after carefully considering her response.

"Yes, your grace. From what our warden told us before we were released, we were given a chance to prove ourselves to you. I apologize if your expectations were not fully met, your grace."

The Emperor's eyes narrowed a little. Not out of anger but from intrigue that the Outlander woman before him could address him without disrespect or prayer to what he deems as false prophets.

"You surprise me, Outlander. I expected you to pray to your false prophets by now for saving from your predicaments, but you're willing and able to get things done on your own," the Emperor noted before turning to Hulgarth next and speaking to him.

"And you?"

The Nord didn't know how to respond, but taking example from Elaine's words and remembering his debt to Cristus, he spoke, "I merely wish to protect those I regard as my companions and dearest friends, and to repay my debts to them even if it means my life, your grace."

Emperor Kosuke was curious. He could definitely see through Hulgarth's humility but sensed no lies in his words. After assessing the Outlanders himself, the Emperor moved on to another matter that needed settling.

"Very well. Since you have made your intentions clear, I will allow you, Outlanders, to take the next step. Be warned: Practice treachery, and we will deliver punishment accordingly to you both.

Now, before I send you two off to travel with 'Cristus,' you are to swear an Oath of Secrecy. You will never refer to him by his real name or his title. Never betray him in any way even if it means death itself. And you will defend him with your lives when he is in danger, no matter what the cost for you both. Lastly, you will never wander Okashiro without his guidance and my blessing, and breaking this part of the oath will lead to the penalty of death.

Are we clear, Outlanders?"

"Yes, your grace," both Elaine and Hulgarth answered almost simultaneously. Once more, the Emperor sensed only truth in their words and spoke no further to the Outlanders.

The Emperor went to address Cristus and Yukime next, "Your companions show promise, Kazuya-Kun. I trust you won't disappoint, either," the former said.

"I won't disappoint you, Ou Sama," Cristus answered. Kosuke nodded before getting to the detail on why he summoned the prince and the Miko.

"Now, for your first task, you are to head for the mainland, landing in Miyato County at its port city and capital, named after itself. My contact there will fill you in on the details regarding your mission. Just ask her regarding the blooming White Blossom in private.

Feel free to stock up on supplies before you begin your journey. Just remember in your travels to not lose sight of your primary objectives. Understood?"

"Yes, Ou Sama. We leave immediately, once we are ready," Cristus responded to the Emperor.

"Then you are dismissed," Emperor Kosuke answered before Sara went to see the four out of the throne room shortly after the group was dismissed from the throne room.

Elaine and Hulgarth looked like they had butterflies in their stomach during and after the audience with the Emperor. Sara noticed it but decided not to pry on the matter and instead said, "Come, we'll make final preparations at Makoto before I see you all out," to the Outlanders. Cristus and Yukime followed along as well, as she and Cristus needed to stock up on supplies themselves before making the trip to the mainland...

At Makoto...

At the city streets, Cristus and his group traveled to the marketplace to purchase some supplies. The sight of two Outlanders accompanying him caught the eyes of some people, some out of curiosity and others suspicion.

"It's best we travel separately for now. You two should stick close to Kojiro at all times as you shop, alright?" Cristus said to Elaine and Hulgarth in a low voice. The Outlanders understood, separating with Cristus and Yukime for now, leaving them with Kojiro to shop alone for the time being.

As Kojiro kept an eye on the two, Hulgarth wandered towards a general goods stall not very far from their location. The local stall owner raised an eyebrow when the Nord approached.

"Hm, you and that woman over there are the first two Outlanders I've seen, perhaps since old Edrys," the owner said in Tamrielic, which surprised the Nord a little. He thought that only a very select few ever managed or even bothered to learn Tamrielic in Akavir.

"I... see. If I may ask, sir, where or who did you learn Tamrielic from?" the Nord asked politely.

"Sir? How quaint," the stall owner said, "I learned it from Edrys as I mentioned, of course. The pointy-eared man called himself Edrys Nerevar, and he's one of my old friends."

"I understand, thank you," the Nord responded before nodding. A Nerevar? Hulgarth had some ideas, but he wasn't sure if this friend of the stall owner was who he thought the person was...

"So, are you going to buy something or what?" the stall owner said, with the Nord nodding in answer before he browsed the various tomes at the former's stall. One of them, a manual of sorts with the depiction of a sword in it, caught Hulgarth's eye.

"That one, if I may?" the Nord asked, pointing at the manual he wished to purchase. The stall owner understood and procured the item for Hulgarth but did not hand it over until the Nord paid him accordingly.

"For a piece like this, I'd say... 10,000 yen. Do you have it, outlander?" the stall owner said. Using the funds given to him, Hulgarth purchased the manual for himself, leaving him with only less than half his allotted funds for other purchases, which he would spend on long-term provisions for the road.

After he and Elaine bought up everything they needed within their budget, the two Outlanders were treated by Kojiro for one last break in the city before their journey. It was a small but semi-popular teahouse within Makoto. As the Outlanders entered, they saw someone they least expected to see within the land of Akavir...

"Is that a... a Dunmer?" Hulgarth asked no one in particular, "Yes, yes indeed, but how?" Elaine muttered.

"You know this man?" Kojiro asked the two Outlanders, with the Dunmer not noticing them yet as he was busy receiving an order by the waitress, which was tea and some light snacks.

"Ah, Miyamoto-san," the Dunmer stood up a bit and nodded, with Kojiro gesturing him to be at ease and asked, "Is it alright if we join you?"

"Of course, Miyamoto-san. Allow me."

The Dunmer then, to the Outlanders' surprise, spoke fluently in Okashiro's language to the waitress to accommodate the three to his table, with the waitress nodding in understanding and went to fetch the menu along with some drinking water. The trio then took their seats at the Dunmer's table afterward.

"Forgive me, Miyamoto-san, but where did these Outlanders come from?" the Dunmer asked.

"They're from Tamriel, Edrys-san. But as to how they got here, apparently via ship," Kojiro answered.

"I see..." the Dunmer nodded in response, going deep in thought for a short while. He never thought that, after all these years, the people from Tamriel would take an interest in Akavir...

"So, if I may ask, who are you, really?" Elaine questioned the Dunmer afterward, so she would know him by name and address him accordingly to avoid misunderstandings in the long run.

"Me? I'm just another commoner here in Okashiro. People from Tamriel may or may not know me even now as Edrys Nerevar. Even then, my title as Nerevarine carries little to no weight here in Akavir, but I care not for titles. Only a livable, comfortable life."

"What??"

Both Elaine and Hulgarth were caught off-guard. This green-eyed Dark Elf who looked like he was in his middle-ages or below for an elf was the actual Nerevarine of legend? When people with great power like Cristus existed, however, it did little to surprise them as to why the Nerevarine decided to live like a civilian in Okashiro.

Regardless they still felt the urge to ask the old elf their own questions on why he decided to go to Akavir and ultimately stay. This may be their only chance to do so as well.

"And why does that surprise you, sera? Arriving within the borders of Okashiro, surely you would've seen the power of Cultivators by now. If you're not Cultivators yourselves, already..." Edrys said as he raised an eyebrow before taking a bite from one of his Tamago sushi, using the chopsticks provided to him.

"Perceptive as always, aren't we, Edrys-san?" Kojiro nodded, approving of Edrys' sharp eye and mind, "Yes, but I trust you'll keep this quiet, hm?"

"Of course, Miyamoto-san. My loyalty lies with the people of Okashiro," the dunmer nodded before the waitress brought some water for Kojiro and the other two Outlanders along with the menu for them to start ordering some food. After the orders were made, the waitress went to have them made immediately while the guests waited.

"So, Outlanders, tell me, what brought you to come here in the first place?" the Edrys posed his own question afterward, eager to see how the Breton and Nord would answer.

"I'm here because of my charge's plan to head for here. I'm sorry, but that's all I can say. Rest assured that it's not of ill intent," Hulgarth said, with Elaine nodding in response, seeing that the Nord already gave the most viable answer without breaking their oath to the Emperor of Okashiro.

"Ah. I understand," Edrys nodded, deciding not to pry on the matter further just as drinking water was served for them shortly afterward.

"I need to ask something else, if I may. Forgive me if it's rather personal," Hulgarth said after taking a sip.

"Depends. Ask away," the Nerevarine said, awaiting the Nord's question to answer accordingly.

"Are you... concerned about what happens to you once you head for the next life?"

"...Honestly, no. And I don't like giving a damn about it either, sera," Edrys said, his tone of voice expressing disgust, "I've had my fair share of doing something for nothing. I'm sick and tired of working for no reward and being thrown away like yesterday's breakfast by beings who think they're higher and more important than everyone else. What have they even done for others aside from serving themselves?"

"...And who are these beings you're referring to?"

"The gods, of course. The Divines and the Daedra, to be precise, especially the likes of Azura," the Nerevarine shrugged before posing his own question to Hulgarth, "My turn to ask out of my own curiosity: Why did you ask me such a question?"

"I'm just... concerned over how I won't make it to Sovngarde... now that I'm a Cultivator who defied the heavens..." the Nord said in concern.

"I'm sorry, what?" Edrys asked, his eyes narrowing as if in contempt, "Did you hear what you just said? If you only saw the things when 'Tosh Raka' nearly destroyed the mainland of Okashiro, you'd see things in a different light. I may not be a Cultivator myself and never will be, but I know of the basic principles.

Stop whimpering and grow a backbone, Nord. You have more blessings and fortune than me since you earned the chance to Cultivate, and you come crying to me like a s'wit? What have the Gods even done for you? Even when you came of age?" the Nerevarine chided the Nord for showing weakness as a Cultivator.

Hulgarth himself felt offended but then remembered his harsh upbringing in life, from the death of his family and becoming an orphan early on to being incarcerated and sentenced to being an arena gladiator as punishment. He knew all too well that the gods did not save him from his woes at all, no matter how poor his position was before he met Cristus back in Windhelm.

Kojiro shook his head in response but did agree with Edrys' statement, with Elaine quietly agreeing as well. To be a Cultivator is to defy and hopefully, one day, surpass the Heavens. After all, for any true Cultivator, they worked hard to make things they wanted to happen a reality over praying to higher beings who may or may not even acknowledge their prayers for intervention.

"I..." the Nord said after a moment of silence and contemplation, "Damn you, but... You're right. I'm sorry," he sighed afterward.

"Just make sure I don't hear this from you again, understood?" the Nerevarine said afterward.

After a while, the meals were fully prepared and served afterward. The aroma of the meals filled the table, and the four were now free to start eating after some further conversation regarding past events in Tamriel a year ago...

...

Meanwhile, at the marketplace...

Cristus and Yukime were finished making their final purchases for the journey ahead. As they waited at a local food stall for their order, the Miko went to hold his left hand with her right, which piqued Cristus' curiosity.

"Before you say anything, don't. I'm communicating with you through my Qi via direct contact," Yukime's voice could be heard by Cristus somehow without the Miko actually speaking. It was a method used by Yukime to communicate discreetly.

"I'll teach you how to use this skill later, but I just want to say that be careful when discussing our tasks ahead, alright? Even with the peace before Okashiro, people of ill intent can be anywhere."

The prince understood and nodded in response before he went to respond "Understood," to the Miko in the same manner, surprising her with his quick ability to learn even basic Cultivation techniques like her communication just now...

"I... nevermind. Apologies," Yukime answered before she let go of Cristus' hand. She felt awkward somehow, and it bothered her, but she tried her best to forget about it...

...After their meal at the local food stall, the Prince and the Miko met up with the others before heading for the port of Kyoshima, where the Solace of Ei finished preparations and was ready to sail. The ship and its captain wasted no time in setting sail for the mainland to meet tight schedules of his own, unaware that he had royalty as a passenger...

Their paths were now set. It was now entirely in the hands of the Cultivators to determine their destination and overcome the trials and tribulations ahead...

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