Chapter 16:

Bonus Chapter (Skippable) - Aardig's Letter to Pierre Havelock - Appendix #1

The Girl He Used To Know - Original HoneyFeed Version

Dear Gem,
Or rather should I say Pierre? I don't believe Maka ever asked you which name you prefer. 
At this point you've been Pierre longer then Gem, yes? 

You were what, 27 or 28 when you departed my side? That would make you nearly 60 now, I'm sure Maka would have teased you to no end had she discovered your age.

But time is short and there is much I must tell you Pierre, much that you have a right to know.
I want these last two weeks and this letter to be your resolution, to answer every question you have, so that you can move on from it all - Move on from the UnderCurrent.

Firstly sorry to put you to sleep like that but all going well you have now remembered our final moments together.
It is a technique I have only learned in the years since you left - An ability to drag out distinct or heavily guarded memories from other Magi - In doing so putting them into something of a sleep-like trance.

A heavy handed method I'll admit but I needed for you to see our last day together again, for your own good to move past it.

You were right, about those 'Aztecs' - They didn't just build similar temples to our world's 'Ancients' - The two are one and the same.
The ancients disappeared one day, the entire race, To Earth.

That's what the temple really is!
The cannon was an accidental by-product...

I've learned much about this place in the years between our parting.
I believe the ancients were an entire race of Magi sensitives, who knew the magical properties of Magite. This city, these temples, they're laced with it.
I have no doubt in my mind this is the largest above-ground collection of the radioactive metal on the entire planet - Indeed I don't think there will ever be as much in one place again.

It's in the walls of every brick, every house, shop and of course it's rampant throughout the temple walls and even floors.

I'm sorry it took so long, I used the Empire, the one we built - Found people from all across it to research the ruins and relics, to find a way to get you back!
But there simply isn't one Gem. There's no Magite or 'Goibniu' as they call in now, on Earth.

That's why the Aztecs never returned back to Bhaile, they made new temples but without the Magite it's impossible. They got stuck, just like you.
They used the same building techniques, found precious resources, resorted to pagan rituals even, but none of it worked.

They were trapped forever.

Eventually we learned how to use the temple for its original purpose, not as a gun or a teleporter but a looking-glass!
That's what the ancients actually wanted to create, a way to look out at distant stars and worlds, like Earth.
In a way they created a very primitive and yet mind-bogglingly powerful version of the NTME.

But it's so much more than that!
This much radioactive material in one place is the sort of insanity born only of ignorance.
The ancients had no idea what they created.
Their goal was to project themselves with a body that could touch and taste and feel, but what they actually made was the very thing I guessed back then - 'A Magi Amplifier'.

The one who steps into the light-pillar becomes the conduit as it were and the temples form a giant circuit-board of sorts.
In essence the Magi has their latent physics powers multiply by a factor of thousands or more.

You know had I been the one to step into the light, with my level of Magi ability it is highly possible the resulting blast would of destroyed the whole world, maybe the whole solar system. It would at the least of knocked our planet off its axis - In a way you inadvertently saved us all from our own ignorance that day.

That cannon could of been anything too, I and the alliance researchers who fired it the first time, both simply imagined a God-like smiting ray from the heavens - The temples amplified that through the power of the one in the light beam and, well, Bam - 'Space laser' as the Earth-Humans might say.

However this temple is old now Gem, used once to move the entire civilisation of the Ancients, twice more to fire the cannon and presumably send both you and one other to Earth - And now to allow me to project myself to you as Maka.

It's like the filament in a light bulb - With each use the Goibniu here loses some of its potency.
I have attempted to gather more, the amount worked into ornamental weapons like our old swords or even woven into tapestries is incredible!
But for every Magite sword I bring here, I gain perhaps a second or two's worth more time with you. There simply isn't enough in the world to replace the amount the temple once contained - Except perhaps with-in the dwarven-stronghold but even I could not conquer that city, not even for you.

Two weeks, that's all that can be done now.
Using my own magic as the conduit, having had 30 years to properly study how to use it without activating any accidental cannons of mass-destruction.

I was able to get just two weeks out of what's left but after that the portal may never open again.

It took quite some practise, I used it in lesser forms at first, spying on your world as a ghost with no body - Learning the language, how to read & write, and of course tracking you down.

This project has been one of the only things that's truly kept me going all these long years.

The day you disappeared is lauded as my greatest moment, the cannon fired as planned - We were able to hit an uninhabited place, intimidating the enemy army into standing down and soon after the alliance surrendered and disbanded - All while my forces had zero casualties - That's what they say anyway.

The history books, the heralds, the bards in taverns - 'Empress Aardig's greatest battle, when even the Gods in Heaven above aided in her Conquest'. Pah! 

That day was the one I lost more than any other - You dragged through that portal and the Golem...

It fought bravely Gem, held off the enemy army's forward scouts by itself while we were arguing over who would fire the cannon. It got damaged because we delayed, because I was indecisive and so very selfish. 

I've never been able to fix it.

It seldom talks in sentences anymore, it shows little emotion. In a sense it's more alike to a dog now, though it hurts so much to say that.
It stayed by my side all these years mind you! Always with me, a silent hulk of brick and mortar that speaks even less then I.

But with its mind shattered and you gone. Well you two were all that was left of the old crew, there have been few others who would talk to me like a person - They speak to me though I was inhuman, a blasted Demigod among mortal men....

But of course there is your sister! She still visits me Gem, she may be the only person I know who still uses my real name and speaks casually enough with me.
Her visits grow rarer, I'm afraid she got old but she is ever spritely!

She's had three wonderful children now, and plenty grandkids.
Oh I'm sure you would love them all dearly Gem - I have met them on occasion though they too speak to me as Empress rather then Auntie... Still they are wonderful kids.

She lives in a village to the south, a quiet place, a good place I made sure. Your father was there too until his death.
It was a good death Gem, no disease nor war - He died surrounded by his family, a couple weeks after his first great-grandchild was born. Peacefully.

I always worried they would hate me, blame me for your disappearance but instead they continued to threat me as one of their own.
But the journey down the mountains to Southern-Ivernia is long now and your sister is old. I wish I could see her a little more, she is surely my last confidant.

I am so lonely.

Everyone around me is aging yet I barely do. I'm nearer 70 then 60, yet I look at most 40.
My father, under the stress of war, invasion and having to send his only child to lead his desperate rear-guard armies, lived to be over a hundred.
The family records list many of my line who lived pasted 150 and were still fit at that age, Still ruling.

I wonder if I will ever be allowed to seize being Empress?
My powers are greater than my ancestors, it's possible I could live to 200 or more and still be combat capable at that age.
Who will be left to watch over me then? For me to simply talk to then? 

I am human regardless of my powers - My bones and mind ache but they refuse to break from this blasted curse of a power!
Elves may live this long but the human body isn't made for it Gem, the pain I feel all over, the loneliness of it all.
Knowing one day soon your sister will perish or the Golem will finally give up what little life still remains in it - Those thoughts plague my long nights.

I am so--

Ah-ha-ha, apologies Gem I got a little disorientated and began writing my gibbering train of thought - A side-effect of the Astral projection no doubt, I would re-write the whole letter but I have little time so I shall simply cross out the incorrect parts so please don't mind those, pay them no heed.

As for Maka.....

You must understand old friend, Maka is me and I am her.
She is simply a side of me I never got to show you back then, she's the idealised version not from your head but mine. She's the way I wish I could of looked, the way I wished I could of talked with you.
She's is a projection of my subconscious personality, that the temple gave life.

She is not so much a Japanese Waifu from out of your mind but rather one from out of mine.

She, and in turn I, must return now.
Not only is the Magite losing its last sparks but further I am unconscious for as long as a project to you - It will not do to leave my Empire unattended any longer, even if it's for your sake.

Oh and don't hold it against young Maka, she honestly knew nothing.

Like you, she had dreams, hints of my real memories but for all intensive purposes she really believed herself to be a younger me - One from before things got so complicated between all of us.

My consciousness has awoken now, hence my writing this letter.

Do not mourn her as she will always be within me and I find myself surprisingly fond of her childish ways, in fact she insists - That before we leave we visit her, my, favourite place one last time.
She will wait until you enter the house and then leave, by the time you have read down this far she will most likely be there and ready to re-join with me fully.

I apologise my goodbye could not be in person but bizarrely both me and Maka share some few traits - We both seem to hate goodbyes - Then again she is just another facet of me so that shouldn't be so surprising - Her kissing you, now that was something I didn't know I had in me however deep I looked!

Indeed it is strange to talk of Maka as though she were separate to me, dissociative I suppose. It's complicated, things always are eh?

My reasons Gem, for all this are simple ones, selfish one's really.

I have spent years fearing what happened to you, hoping against hope you were not dead, atomised by the temple - But also hoping that you moved on.

I never could, I'm too different but you? You went and did it, became a great storyteller, made people happy with your tales!

Do you remember when I was still Princess and you my sword-tutor, how you told me you one day wanted to retire from soldiering to be a storyteller? I think you succeeded greatly my old mentor.

My last request of you is therefore that you don't let this be the end.

Take what Maka showed you and live your own life!

Go out there and find someone, don't ever hide in your attic-study again, that Earth of yours is a more beautiful place then you have given it credit for.
I don't know for sure if you will understand fully all this talk of Magite and Aztecs, but I guess in truth none of that really matters. It's complicated jargon but then again that's always been the way with the two of us - Makes a change from you explaining things to Maka, yes?

I am Aardig and you are Gem - Let this be the last place that phrase is ever uttered, thought of, or written down - Let this be its end Gem, move on from you and me, move on from 'Gem and Aardig' and go out to live in the real world - As Pierre Havelock, you picked a strong name after all.

My wish dear Gem, is that if this temple still has any power left, or if I can gather enough enchanted blades - That in one year's time I can look in at you and see you out on another Valentine's date, that I can know you won't spend the rest of your days alone because of me.

I hope you understand.
I hope this experience was ultimately for the best and not just my own selfish delusion.
I hope that the good Maka did will outweigh the hurt I know you must be feeling right now and,
I hope that you can finally move on from the UnderCurrent and enjoy the rest of your days in happiness - Not alone in that dusty old house.

And to prove once and for all this is me, I shall sign with my true name rather than as St.Aardig.
Dear Gem please live well and long - All my love,

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