"Am I good or evil, you ask? That’s for you to decide. To humans — I am an unseen fairy, only noticeable to those who move towards the future."
Name: Merlin Nickname:Grand Caster, Magus of Flowers Gender: Male Age: Unknown Clan: Senju Alignment: Lawful Good
Merlin’s appearance can be summarily explained as one which is indicative of his heritage; the union between a daughter of earth and a son of the moon. At nearly 6 feet, Merlin is surely an eye-catching individual, his very being is a motif of serene, white flowers which gently dance in the prairie. His skin is nearly as pale as the moon’s surface, though appearing gentle to the touch, as if made from the petals of his namesake. His robes and hair share this same paleness, though the similarities end there. The Magus of Flowers’ hair freely flows down the length of his back, easily reaching his calves, its volume betrayed by the way it wafts gently. It roughly frames his face, with small locks and strands poking into its features, emphasising its unkempt nature. Longer, thicker locks flair down and out from his face, with some protruding in such a way that they resemble pointed petals which cover his ears. His eyes are gentle, their sky-blue pigmentation further accentuating the softness of his features.
Merlin's attire is woven from the finest fabrics that were available in Camelot, though it still conveys an aura of modesty. The robe itself is hooded, and decorated with ribbons, ties and other varieties of cloth ornamentation, underneath which he wears a body suit which highlights a muscular figure otherwise concealed. The Magus of Flowers wears loose, baggy garments on his lower body, decorated with golden and red ribbons that contrast against the colors of his robe, and the leather boots which reach halfway up his knees. Merlin carries a large staff with him at all times, nearly equivalent in length to his height, and resembles a large crook. It is carefully sculpted from wood, resembling a crook, and has a black lacquer finish. Attached to the staff is a stylised sheath which resembles the Tower of Avalon, where Merlin carries a rapier.
A young man who is like wind blowing on the grasslands. Before him, anyone would end up letting the tension out of their shoulders - a refreshingly righteous person. Still, due to seemingly being quite lacking in terms of seriousness and such, together with a lack of a sense of responsibility, Merlin may also appear to those around him as no more than a shady conman. A rhetorician who, even while perceiving things in an objective manner and accepting the cruelty of the world of humans, turns it into something bright. He loves the world of humans, loves mischief, and loves girls. He is the Magus of Flowers who responds to most things with a refreshing smile and a calm expression. It is easy to see him as having a perfectly happy personality, a perfectly happy guy without a single worry, but since Merlin himself is self-aware about the fact that he is a foreign body in regards to human society, he never crosses that last step, the wall called friendship. Ultimately, he is always watching over and protecting the world so that mankind can reach a happy outcome.
Merlin is a good man, and a wise one. But inside, he is an incubus, a being very far apart from humans. He, a being whose existence is naturally greater, can understand human emotions, but cannot truly sympathise with them. He is an alien-like, inhuman being, who can form complete understandings of human nature and behaviour through rationality and objectivity. He understands humans based on their actions, but if the catalyst for such action is emotion, he cannot engage with it. Due to this macroscopic evaluation criteria, perhaps he just cannot understand the human heart. He is also quite boastful about his abilities as a magus, claiming that he inflicts jealousy and envy on all other magi, since they are second-rate to him. As such, he shares something of a rivalry with Solomon, the King of Magic, and holder of the title of Grand Caster. As one who could also be called Grand Caster, Merlin has a natural inclination towards taunting and teasing the King of Magic for his own amusement. Though they have their ideological differences, there is a mutual respect, and its existence is a mark of Merlin's capacity for maturity, rare as it is.
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Land of Birth: Unknown Warring States Clan: N/A
Rank & Chakra Information
Rank: Jōnin Health & Chakra: 160 & 2300
Skills & Elements
Wood Release.......................................................Sage Mode
Osmium Release..................................................Medical Ninjutsu
Dendera Light Release.........................................................
Mystic Fire Release................................................................
Earth Release Specialty (Primary)
Merlin is a master of Earth Release, being capable of utilising all of the element's techniques with but a single seal if required. Naturally, he is well-acquainted with the element, being one of the components of his unique Wood Release ability, alongside Water Release. His prowess with the element grants him access to the Earth Release: Mountain Smash technique.
Water Release Specialty (Primary)
Like with Earth Release, Merlin displays a great level of mastery over Water Release, able to perform all Water Release techniques with a single seal. His remarkable level of skill with the element allows him to use Water Release: Powerful Blasting Rain Trench and Water Release: Water Dragon Biting Explosion.
Advanced Speed Resistance (Secondary)
Despite Merlin's status as a magus, one who combats enemies from a distance through the use of arcana, he is a swordsman by preference. He combines his skills in each of these areas, and is thus capable of exerting a constrictive aura that slows down enemies within mid-range of him, subtracting two levels from their base speed. This grants him a slight speed advantage no matter which form of combat he elects to perform.
Sage Master Specialty (Extra)
Being a user of Wood Release grants Merlin access to the Wood Sage Mode, which bolsters his abilities greatly and grants access to a unique set of powerful Wood techniques, such as the Shinsusenju. Merlin's mastery of the mode allows him to activate it passively.
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The circumstances of Merlin's birth are shrouded in mystery, for those that know of him and have interacted with him have only done so when he was an adult. Even still, his appearance cannot be trusted, for as an incubus he does not physically age. All that is known of his history is that his mother was a human and his father, like him, was an incubus. He was raised in secret, hidden away from the world, and only emerged once he was of age. Taught in the ways of magecraft, Merlin was left to his own devices, free to use his gifts as he saw fit. But he did not use them, not for many years. Rather, he instead observed the actions of others, those of humans. Their joy was his own, and he resolved himself to protecting that joy.
Though Merlin was responsible for assisting many of the settlements and towns that would arise in the Era of Warring States, it was in the century after the advent of chakra that Camelot came to be. The kingdom ruled by King Arthur and his knights, of which Merlin was its Court Magus. Serving Arthur's father and the previous king of Camelot, Uther Pendragon, it was he who created the Sword of Selection, Caliburn, and bestowed upon Arthur the fate of kingship. His ideology, as well as his role in Camelot's affairs, put him at odds with Solomon, the King of Magic, though their conflict never amounted to more than one of words. It was due to Solomon's ideal of non-partisanship and distanced observation that he left the Magus of Flowers to his own devices.
With Camelot's fall due to a rebellion carried out by Mordred, the Knight of Treachery and once of the Round Table, all of Merlin's work was undone. However, he foresaw the fall of Camelot long before it had come to be, and chose not to intervene. He visited the battlegrounds of Camlann after the conclusion of the battle which saw Mordred slain, and accompanied Bedivere as he dragged their king to the lake from which he drew Excalibur. Merlin chose to save the King of Knights, sealing away his memories and nursing him back to health. Spending the centuries between the fall of Camelot and the present hidden away in the Tower of Avalon, he watches the world distantly, fated to do so for the rest of time.
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Though it is not known what year Merlin was born, the earliest evidence of his existence can be traced back to some few years before the time of Ōtsutsuki Kaguya's sealing at the hands of her sons, Ōtsutsuki Hagoromo and Ōtsutsuki Hamura. His existence is the product of a union between man and myth, the earthly and the otherworldly. His mother, Adhan was the princess of a state once known as Wales, and his father, Balinor, was an incubus. In other words, he was of the same kind as the interstellar travellers who pursued the chakra fruit throughout the cosmos, the same kind as the Rikudō Sennin. Although, his birth was not a celebrated event, for only his parents knew of it, and such was the case for most of his childhood. Raised away from the eyes of humans, he would later be faced with the critical choice that would define the rest of his life; whether to use his gifts in service of humanity.
But that was not a choice to be made until years from now. Let alone, learning how to harness chakra. On Adhan's insistence, Merlin was to be raised in the way of a normal child, oblivious to his true nature and his abilities until he was older. Balinor was acquiescent, such was his nature as an incubus, as a being whose ways were exemplified by the whispering of sweet nothings and airs of harmlessness. Deep down in his heart, Merlin's father did not have any kind of wish for his son's future, and did not dwell on the matter. He was more concerned with raising a boy who would always follow through with his choices and have no regrets, unlike himself. Adhan, who was human, held the hope that her son would make the choice to be kind to those around him, and to help those in need. She had witnessed all the warmth and despair mankind had to offer in equal measure, and hoped for her son to be a catalyst for change, someone that would push humanity to a better place. Merlin's parents were not at odds with each other, strictly speaking, though at times Balinor would be scolded by Adhan for not setting a better example for the young incubus. Though Merlin's father was pure and good, he was still an incubus, and his penchant for mischief did not entirely fade.
The day he turned seven, was the first day Merlin was taught in the ways of chakra. The countless hours he spent learning and training were ones spent alone with his father, for Adhan knew nothing of how to utilise it. But in this time, Merlin did not grow apart from his mother, continuing to help her in every day life with chores and other tasks. She had always been open with her view that her son's training was done in the hopes that he would become an agent of change in the world, something which the young incubus felt indifferent to. Balinor, who was far more easygoing by comparison, kept his expression of his beliefs confined to the times they shared alone. Every time Merlin asked his father why this was so, he was met with the same answer; "Because I'm an incubus." It would not be until later in life that the magus-to-be would come to understand those words.
Merlin showed great promise in his aptitude for magecraft. His power was abnormal, as to be expected, but it did not manifest in the same way as it did with Balinor. He did not bear either of the sacred Dōjutsu that typically manifested in the Ōtsutsuki lineage; the Rinnegan or the Tenseigan. His attunement with the world around him, however, was unparalleled, his very existence brimming with vitality. His more formal training progressed into games and competitions with his father, much to the annoyance of Adhan, whose household work was a casualty of their thrill-seeking behaviour on more than a few occasions. Merlin's years of learning and growth were all spent in seclusion from everyone but his family, and his desire to see the world beyond the confines of their home, buried deep within a great forest, grew each and every day. Eventually, it reached a boiling point, where Merlin would sneak out of home to explore the entirety of the woodland, hoping to find something new at the very least.
The great forest in which Merlin lived seemingly stretched on for miles. An intentional choice by his parents. They did not want to expose Merlin to the outside world until he was ready to face it, until the it was time for him to make his decision on how he would use his gifts. Though his mother hoped in her heart that he would choose the side of humanity, to guide them to a better future, a happy ending, she knew it was not her place to push her son to make any kind of decision. Humanity, the world at large, was more complicated than the mere black and white dynamic and good and evil. Though it was not necessarily difficult to see the difference between right and wrong, between good and evil, in both action and people, the world was not a place where either actions or people were met with outcomes that one would think they were deserving of. It was for Merlin, and Merlin alone, to decide whether he would be an agent to ensure that things would be set right. And besides, he was an incubus. Though the blood between mother and son was partially shared, they were two different beings in the end. These were the thoughts that filled Adhan's head for years, and particularly on the night Merlin ventured out into the forest. Unlike Adhan, who anxiously awaited her son's return and his decision, Balinor was less concerned, knowing that whatever choice the young incubus made, he would see it through to its end.
The forest seemed to stretch on infinitely, though Merlin had not deviated in his path of travel since he left his home. Even though he had never attempted to leave before, he was reasonably certain that the forest was not as large as it seemed. Attuning himself with his chakra, he realises that he is under a Genjutsu. Upon breaking it, the world shatters and coalesces around the young incubus, turning into an open landscape with mountains on either side of him. He progresses forward, eventually encountering great walls made from logs sharpened to spikes at the top. No doubt, to protect themselves from invasion or infiltration. Placing a hand on the wooden battlements, he exerts his unique control over the material to move through it, quietly entering. Emerging on the other side of the wall, he hears laughter and chatter, the light of campfires illuminating the tents and houses around the area. He stealthily moves through the village, observing the human inhabitants. He watched them closely, the adults conversing and carrying out a number of tasks while the children played amongst themselves. Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he turned to see his father standing beside him.
"This is the world of humans, Merlin. What do you think?"
"Not always. What you see now is humanity at its brightest. Your mother wants you to protect that, to nurture it."
"And what do you want, father?"
"I want you to be happy. I am a being apart from humans. I cannot understand them, so I do not lend myself to them."
The young magus looked back to the humans, laughing and mingling with each other. It was beautiful. It was in this moment that Merlin made his decision. Balinor knew deep down what his son would choose in that moment, and so he would offer no protest. He would not try to convince the young incubus of the other option.
"Let's go home."
By the time the two returned, it was the break of dawn. Merlin told his mother of his decision, to which she smiled and expressed her pride in him. She gave him the warning that Balinor did not, though he knew as well as she did of its merit, that the road ahead would be one full of hardship, paved with sacrifice and tragedy. But it was all for the sake of ensuring a happy ending. Because humans were capable of it. Because they were deserving of it. And thus, the greatest Kingmaker was truly born. The Magus of Flowers, and one who held the right to the station of the crown, Grand Caster, Merlin.
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It was early in the morning, the young Artoria was woken by the sound of hay being ruffled by the horses in the stable. Her eyes slowly blinked open, remaining slightly closed due to the brightness of the sunlight which peeked through the cracks of the closed windows. Standing to her feet, and brushing her clothes of the hay that stuck to her from lying in it, she opened the wooden windows to see the sun emerging over the horizon. Mild dread began to fill her chest.
"Oh, oh no..."
She turned away from the window and stumbled over the piles of hay to retrieve a brush to take care of the horses. She thanked the one next to her, Eto, for waking her up, admitting that she was worried such a thing would happen. She spoke to the horse, telling her that she was certain Eto would make a great war horse, just like her father's. Making a note to herself to prepare breakfast for everyone later, she brushed Eto, telling the animal of how she managed to land a blow on Ector the previous day during training. She corrected herself, saying that she managed to push him back one step, and said that even something like that would be enough to make a difference on the battlefield. She noted that Ector had become more somber recently, wondering if he was troubled by something. In her thoughts, she had stopped brushing Eto, apologising to the horse and resuming when it began snorting.
"A while ago, I told Ector that if he had any troubles, he could talk to me. I'd do anything I could to help, unless he planned to cut down our meals. I wondered if it was something to do with his legs or his back. He only said to me that it was my impression. His body would remain fit for another ten years. I, on the other hand, am not fit to do everything to help. He said that to me in such a matter-of-fact way... perhaps Kay nii-san must be causing troubles again."
Finishing brushing Eto, she remarked on his beautiful hair. Leaving the stables, she sprinted back towards the horse, where Sir Ector was waiting outside the front door, arms crossed and his sword sheathed on his hip.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, Ector! I overslept!"
"You seem lively enough for one who just woke up. Very well then. Be prepared to train within the hour, no breaks today."
Though the household of Ector was peaceful and cheerful enough, the rest of the country was experiencing harsh times. Foreign armies had crossed the seas to arrive here, demanding control of territories. Britain was an island ruled by a King and royal families. Due to unresolved conflicts and tensions between some of the royals, there was some cooperation between them and the invaders. The brother of the current King, Vortigern, was one of the individuals who conspired with the invaders to topple the current kingdom of Camelot. Uther and Vortigern eventually came into direct conflict, resulting in Uther being gravely injured and Vortigern's disappearance. Uther would never again be seen by the people, but he continued to quietly rule from within Camelot. With this, Britain entered a period known as the Age of Darkness. Despite this, the people did not lose hope, for the magus Merlin presented them with a prophecy.
"King Uther is hiding the one that will be his heir. He will become the King of the next generation. The new King, the incarnation of the Red Dragon, will bring many knights together to a Round Table, and together, they will vanquish the White Dragon. The King lives. It shall soon be known."
That was the prophecy Merlin foretold ten years ago. In the current year of 108, Artoria Pendragon would be fifteen years old. It would be this fateful year that Merlin would present the knights of all the kingdom with the Sword of Selection. But he knew that only one would draw the sword and earn the right to be called King. And that one was the daughter of Uther.
"Artoria, it seems that Kay forgot his things. Go to town and deliver them to him, you can make it on time if you leave now."
"Sigh... my own brother, a knight, forgetting his own lance. Is that possible?"
"Indeed, it must be because there have been no jousting matches held in years."
"Understood. I only have to take this to Kay nii-san, right?"
"Yes. It will be your last task for the day."
The edge of the town was packed with a great many people, looking towards the fields just outside it, where many knights were crowded together. Among the crowd of ordinary citizens was Kay, whose eyes were locked onto the gathering of knights in the field, much like everybody else. Making her way towards her foster brother, his lance in hand, Artoria paused when a young girl shouted Merlin's name, having spotted him walking towards the knights in the field.
"Yes! He came saying that he would choose Uther's heir! All the knights in the land are gathering here. The one who pulls the Sword of Selection from the stone shall become the new King!"
"Who'll it be? Who will become King?"
"I see. That is the Sword of Selection."
Moving on, Artoria strode towards her brother, calling his name and presenting him with his lance that he had left behind. They both watched the knights from afar, all of them trying their hardest to pull Caliburn from the stone. But the sword would not budge. None were succeeding. And none would. "So that thing tells me I'm not worthy to be King?", "Is that great knight also not worthy?", these were the sentiments expressed in great number by the knights present at the gathering. The citizens watching from town wandered if the new King really would appear. Kay spoke to his sister, saying that the sword was one that nobody would be able to draw, thus its existence was one that only caused problems rather than solve the one it was intended to. The King should be chosen through a tournament. He justified it as this; such a method of selecting the King, drawing a sword, is to search for things that cannot be seen. Who has more power, with their hands and with wealth, is the superior metric. It is easier to help further their objectives that align with their interests with such things. Nobody wants to see or become 'the agent of god that saves everything'.
"Do you really think that, Kay nii-san?"
"Of course. You should go back to father before you get mocked for having such a slender, feminine body that can barely hold a sword.
Do you understand? This is your first and final opportunity. Go home."
As the remaining knights who gathered around the Sword of Selection failed to pull it from the stone, more and more people began to turn away, dismissing Merlin's prophecy as mere fantasy. Artoria remained, her eyes fixed on Caliburn, and her thoughts on Kay's words. "Nobody wants to see, nobody wants to be...". She began to question everything. Why had she been living falsely as a man named Artorius? Why, since she had gained the use of reason, had she been trained in swordsmanship, taught about the country and denied her own desires as a person? In that moment, all became clear to her. It was all for this day. She possessed the kindness of heart to pull the sword from the stone. She did not know her parents' faces. To fulfill the objective of creating an 'ideal king', she was born as part of that plan. She felt nothing about the emotions or pain of her father, King Uther, because she did not know him. It was the same for the lessons that the Magus of Flowers, Merlin, had taught her. She felt something towards the fifteen years of her life that she experienced, living with Sir Ector and Kay, and the lively voices of the people living in the city. It was not admiration or love. But she knew that it resonated within her, as something right and beautiful. She did not possess any wish to come closer to people. Every time she pictured such a thing, she tenderly shut it down. As she walked into the fields, towards the sword in the stone, she remembered the life she had lived so far, with Ector and Kay. Standing over Caliburn, embedded in the stone, she thanks her foster brother, and asks him to forgive her. As she grasps the handle of the Sword of Selection, a voice speaks to her, from a few meters behind her.
"You should think it through before pulling that sword."
"You surprised me.
This is the first time we meet outside a dream, isn't it? Merlin."
"I hate to sound ominous, but it is better if you stop. After you pull that sword, you will cease to be human. Not only that, but you'll be hated by all kinds of people, and you will die a horrendous death.
Is that alright?"
"Many people were smiling, so... certainly, this path... I don't think is the wrong one."
With those words of affirmation, both to herself and to Merlin, Artoria drew the Sword of Selection, Caliburn, from the stone, holding it to the sky. With this, Artoria had taken her first step down the path of the King. Much like Merlin's mother said years earlier, the path ahead would be one paved with sacrifice and tragedy. And it would end with her horrendous death.
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Whilst Merlin worked to facilitate the rise of Camelot, he had learned of another magus who was of great renown, but it was not until Artoria had taken the throne that he pursued the one known as Solomon, the King of Israel. The Magus of Flowers wished to learn more of the king, the one who was known as Grand Caster. On several occasions, remaining unseen, he would peer into the mind of the King of Magic through his Dreamwalking ability. Over a number of visits into Solomon's mind and inner self, Merlin would come to know of the man's history, his reign, his exploits, and his greatest love. Merlin was sure of Solomon's awareness of him, but it was not until his seventh, and final visit that Solomon had developed a method of protecting his mind from Merlin's reach. It was in this final visit that Merlin adopted the form of Queen Sheba, one of Solomon's many wives but by far his most beloved, and interacted directly with the King of Magic. They sat atop a grassy hill, just outside the great palace of Jerusalem, which overlooked the great city. Knowing of this dream, and how it developed, Merlin, in the guise of Sheba, chose to play along. The two conversed for a great length of time, and as the sun began to set, Merlin revealed himself.
"Why do you insist on remaining a neutral bystander to the destiny of humanity?"
The form of the King of Magic's wife faded away, revealing the Magus of Flowers. Solomon stood from the hill, saying that it was about time the two stopped trying to fool each other. The landscape quickly melted away into darkness, and was replaced by a grandiose, otherworldly one. The Time Temple. Ars Paulina. One of Solomon's Noble Phantasms. Looking around the space isolated from time, Merlin got to his feet, and was subsequently trapped in a shining cage of light.
"For someone who also holds the right to the title of Grand, you sure are hopeless, aren't you? The fact that you couldn't see this right before your own eyes astonishes me."
"W-well, in my defence, this never happened the last six times I came here..."
The King of Magic was unimpressed. Not only due to Merlin's failure to foresee the mental fortifications Solomon had established, but also at his casual tone. Perhaps it was due to his disposition as a king, he expected that Merlin would show some modicum of respect. But nevertheless, he took no offence to it. He was a humble man at heart, and did not hold himself as someone 'above' others. The two discussed the kingdom that ruled parallel to Israel; Camelot. Solomon interrogated the Magus of Flowers on his relationship with the kingdom, learning of his status as Court Magus to Arthur Pendragon. Merlin also divulged his interest in the two children of Lancelot, Amara and Galahad, and his plans to have them become Knights of the Round Table. The King of Magic pleaded with the Magus of Flowers to see the error in his ways, to spare the bastard children of Lancelot a life that would be marked by betrayal and hatred. Merlin remained resolute, unwilling to reconsider what he was to do. Angered by this, Solomon chastised the Magus of Flowers for condemning an entire kingdom to raise children into weapons. Artoria, Galahad, Amara, they would be the greatest victims of all, for they would lose everything they stood to gain.
“Your interference will cost thousand of lives. And for what? To inflict tragedy upon two innocent children? Had you not convinced Lancelot to take them instead of turning them away, then Camelot never would have fallen, the siblings would have led peaceful lives, and the Great Schism would never have happened. Thousand of lives weighed against two mere children. The answer should have been clear!”
"You know better than anyone, Solomon. The end is something which comes to all things. When all is said and done, whether I like it or not, Camelot, Arthur, Galahad, Amara...all of it will fade away. And I might condemn them to an end worse than if I didn't intervene in their lives. But they will all go on to do great things, and save many lives."
The two conversed for a while longer, unable to best the other in the exchange of ideals and words. Their acceptance was mutually begrudging, and the King of Magic released Merlin from his spiritual shackles. Merlin would return to Camelot, continuing to advise King Arthur whilst also raising Galahad and Amara, preparing them for the lives they would lead as knights.
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After the King completed the construction of the new citadel of Camelot, and the seats of the Round Table were filled, he gave welcome to Queen Guinevere. Even though she knew the truth about King Arthur, she gave her full support to the King and fulfilled all her roles as the Queen. It was around this time, in the Year 110, when the stories about the Round Table bloomed all over the country. No matter how dim Britain really was, the kingdom of Camelot was always filled with smiles and hope. While the people believed that it was due to King Arthur's prestige, the knights took pride in the fact that it was not solely due to their efforts, but also the people's. Even still, the King was the only one who saw the suffering that still went on through it all. There is no such thing as a flower that blooms for eternity. Even if Camelot appeared as though it were enjoying prosperity and peace, Britain was on its slow downward spiral towards its fall. It just hadn't fully begun yet. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that the moment Artoria drew the Sword of Selection, the fall had already begun. It would simply take place so gradually, over such a period of time, the cracks would not be visible until far later.
As the King's Court Magus, Merlin was naturally fulfilling the role of an advisor to the King. The two frequently conversed about policy and military strategy, which Merlin was surprisingly knowledgeable in. At least, for King Arthur, who saw him as a mischievous individual. And as much as he was so, his years of acting as an advisor to other village leaders over the years granted him much experience and knowledge on the matters.
"So... the reasons behind the drought and poverty were not just the invaders, you say?"
"Unfortunately, yes. This land is isolated from the mainland, just off the coast of the Tobusekai, so there is supply chain to consider. If our trading partners fall on hard times, then our ability to secure goods and resources is hampered. Also...
Even with the continued disappearance of Mystery in this land, the island is still layered with it. The supernatural still exists in this land, and they do not wish to relinquish it to humans. The foreigners coming to our land aren't the only 'invaders', shall we say. The bad harvest will continue until the people die of starvation and malnutrition."
"So then we should obtain and develop new means of living? Expand our network of trade, accept new blood, and change our way of existing on the island?"
"It's one of your options."
Either way, the King needed time. If there was to be more international trade undertaken, or new methods of organising agriculture and allocating resources, it would need to wait until after the foreign invaders had been repelled. Merlin inquired as to whether he King thought there was a chance of victory, to which he replied firmly; "Absolutely". The day after, Arthur would set out with his army to carry out the twelfth and final battle on his land's soil. The final phase was approaching. There was not a day that passed without a war council, and no night without camping. That she was on the frontlines on the days of battle was probably a way to show determination. In order to maximise the chances of victory, one must be prepared to discard the lives of people. Undertaking battle on such a scale was for the sole purpose of protecting the kingdom from its enemies. In order to do so, taking over a small village and forcefully relocating its people to prepare an ambush was common practice. There was no other knight on the battlefield that had slain more than the King, nor was there one who garnered more hatred than the King. Despite that, there was no hesitation in entering the battlefield. When she sat on the throne to repose, she closed her eyes that were filled with sorrow. You must discard your human emotions if you want to save everyone. That was an oath she protected with great rigor. Then, after uncountable victories...
"The King does not understand the hearts of men."
Those were Tristan's last words to the King and the Knights of the Round Table before he left Camelot. More knights went back to their homeland over the years, and Arthur accepted that, thinking that it was an obvious outcome, and gave them the rights to administration of their lands. If they stayed there, depending on the course of the battle against the invaders, they could be used as bait. It was due to this way of being as a King that she grew overwhelmingly isolated. But her heart did not change. In the year 109, she left Camelot with a great army, emerging victorious from a battle against the foreign forces that would decide the fate of her country. It was a natural result. The knights were all fighting in order to see the light of tomorrow, and she used all military tactics at her disposal in order to secure that. That is how a country, on the edge of destruction, obtained a brief period of true peace. In that same year, Arthur had come to learn of a mythical artifact known as the Holy Grail, which supposedly had the power to grant the wishes of those in possession of it. Many knights had gone searching for it, but all returned empty-handed. In the year 112, Sir Galahad would embark on the quest for the Holy Grail. He wouldn't return to Camelot until the fateful year of 118.
Gawain never doubted the power of the King. He was the personification of the ideal knight. By seeing him fight with the vanguard, when he accompanied him, he was assured that Britain would have a bright future. However...only once. Only once, there was a fight where he feared for the King's victory. Where he was only able to stay behind the King and watch them. The demonic dragon, Vortigern. That form was the one he had taken in order to destroy Camelot, in the year 114. His rebellion had finally come. With one fell swoop, Artoria's retinue had been evaporated, Vortigern's fire incinerating them. Gawain's own Holy Sword, Excalibur Galatine, had its brilliance completely stolen. The light of the King's Holy Sword, Excalibur, was as dim as a weak bonfire. The battle lasted for several hours, the roar of the black dragon ushering dark clouds which blocked out the sun, casting thunder which tore the land asunder. The King probably knew. Vortigern was the incarnation of the very country itself.
"King Arthur! The body of the enemy is Britain itself! We can't hope to win, even with our Holy Swords! We must retreat for now!"
"I will require your assistance for a little while longer, Sir Gawain."
"You and I, here together. What are wielders of Holy Swords if they cannot quiet one or two fits of the island?"
The dragon bellowed, casting more clouds into the sky which drained all the light from the world. King Arthur and Sir Gawain continued to fight with their Holy Swords, weakened as they were, with renewed vigour. Even in such a dire situation, the light of the King did not fade. Vortigern continued to try swatting and smashing the knights with his great arms, the two warriors nimbly weaving in and out of position in order to avoid the earth-shaking blows. When an opportunity presented itself, they slashed at the great hide of the dragon. Avoiding an overhead strike by Vortigern, Gawain managed to drive Excalibur Galatine through the dragon's paw, skewering it to the ground.
"My King! I trapped one of Vortigern's hands!"
"Well done, Sir Gawain! If I take the other side, no longer can he take to the skies!"
"But because of that, we'll be unarmed!"
This was true. In order to keep Vortigern confined to the ground, they had sacrificed their weapons. Both Excalibur and its sister sword, Galatine, were embedded in the hands of the demonic dragon. That was, until a great gust of wind was unleashed by the King. Shielding his face with an arm, Gawain was proven wrong. Concealed by the Invisible Air magecraft, courtesy of Merlin, was the Holy Lance that was Artoria's other signature weapon.
"The Lance that Shines to the Ends of the World. Let light be released from the Ends of the World. It shall split the heavens, and connect the land. Anchor of the Storm!
The great blast of light that rippled forth from the Holy Lance, illuminated the planet. Tearing through the darkness cast by the demonic dragon, it rips apart the very air itself, eviscerating Vortigern. The Usurper had finally fallen, his destructive quest meeting an equally destructive end. His great body lay prone on the ground, bathed in puddles of water and blood.
"Fools, all of you... to defeat one tyrant, you would bring about genocide. Oh my little brother Uther, you cannot save this country. Because...the Age of Mystery has already ended. From this moment forth, the time of civilisation, the Age of Man, has begun. The essence of your power is at odds with humans. As long as you exist, Britain has no future. Curse your fate, for the old Britain fell long ago."
When the King pulled his spear away from Vortigern, the dragon let out a laugh which shook the city. With the end of the war declared, the King's spirits were bright as ever. Anyone who gazed upon that shining figure of the King would certainly be left captivated by his power. A testament to the titanic proportions of that battle. The country was dry, torn asunder by Vortigern's conquest, but as long as King Arthur lived, there was nothing to fear.
After the fall of Vortigern, Artoria began the reconstruction of the ancient citadel that was destroyed in his rampage. Even still, Britain's future remained dim. The daily life of the population did not change, the disturbance and destruction caused by Vortigern creating serious shortages of basic resources and commodities, allowing resentment to build and flourish within the hearts of the people. "Wasn't King Arthur the king that would shine?", "The one that would lead us to a prosperous country if we follow his words?"
"The fact that I would be reprimanded was inevitable. Because of this year's plans moving forward, we were forced to buy agricultural products from neighbouring countries. I'm going to be in need of Sir Lancelot's help another time."
"This land has always been struggling with poverty. Everybody thought that when the Usurper was defeated, we would gain peace. The result was very different. Humans desire the truth, but hate things that are too truthful. As long as King Arthur remains the ideal king for these people, they will depend on him and degrade him at the same time. You will have to ignore or even crush what they say in order to rule. You're constantly faced with injustices and distortions of the truth. But the more of it, the more the population stabilises."
"So the more I suffer, the more the country will prosper. Is that what you say?"
"Yes. You knew that, didn't you? You knew it since you pulled the Sword of Selection from the stone."
"Yes. And for that I have the pride to say that we are doing well. Please watch me, Merlin. I won't say that it will be now, but I can say with certainty that this country will become a great one. It won't lose to the legendary Avalon, I'm sure."
It was in that moment, the magus realised his mistake. What was important for her was not actually being king. She pulled the Sword of Selection solely for the sake of the people. Since the very beginning, she held no pride for being king. The mistake of the magus and the old king Uther. As soon as he perceived the difference between what each party sought, the magus knew that only despair lay ahead. Either way, no matter would happened, she would come to regret her reign. When this happens, be a guide to her, is what Merlin had told himself. The magus was ashamed for having such overconfidence, to the point of arrogance. He tried now, thinking he could still change the course of things, but... it was already too late.
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It was a ceremonial dawn in the month of May, Year 118. The harbour was bustling with people, who were making preparations for Artoria and her great fleet to disembark on an expedition to Rome. The King and her Court Magus were far from that commotion in the dock, having their final conversation before Artoria left the country atop a grassy hill outside the port town. In the war between Britain and Rome which had lasted for decades, and saw the rule of two British kings transpire, this military venture was a long time coming, but Artoria spoke of it quite casually. Attack relentlessly, and then present terms of peace after suppressing the opposing army. Simple and straightforward. Merlin sighed in mild exasperation, remarking that the King truly hated to lose. Such a plan was indicative of this nature, a style of rule that emphasised simplicity and effectiveness. But it was this way of ruling, Artoria's way of being as a King, that allowed Britain to flourish since she had taken the Throne. However...
"Britain is a country that is fated to fall sooner or later. Or, rather, it is one that is already decaying."
The Magus of Flowers asked his King what she would do if he started saying things like that. She replied that she would reprimand him for making light of such a thing with his joking nature. Of course. She would only see it as something natural for him to do, and thus his punishment would be no more than a mere slap on the wrist. Artoria insisted that Britain would not fall, that everything she had done during her rule was to ensure that outcome. Merlin apologised to his King, stating that he forgot that he ought not to joke about humans. He sat in silence, reflecting on his time with Artoria. From the moment she was born, watching her grow under the care of Sir Ector and Kay, witnessing her draw the Sword of Selection from the stone, and all that had occurred from that time till now, it all seemed like an old story despite happening recently. Uther and he set out to raise an ideal King, and though they had achieved their goal, what happened thereafter was something which was unforeseen by either of them. Though Uther and Merlin sought the ideal King, Artoria sought to secure the happiness of the people. From the very beginning, what Merlin and Artoria saw were different. Had he been aware of it sooner, then things would probably be better. Artoria uttered her Court Magus' name, curious as to what he was doing. He only responded by assuring her that things would be alright. A lie.
The bells at the docks rung, signalling that the great ships were prepared to set sail. Merlin apologised, sheepishly stating that he had made a mistake and needed to hide, thus he would remain in Britain while Artoria would travel with her army to Rome. It was the King's turn to take playful jabs, reminding him of the countless times over the years that she had warned him not to get into trouble with women. Merlin defended himself, confessing that it was only because it was in his nature to do so, posing the question of life's worth without any flowers to liven it up. She chuckled at her Court Magus' response, both exhausted and amused by Merlin's shenanigans. After a brief moment of silence, she turned to the magus who spoke proudly, giving a warm smile. A smile which Merlin had seen countless times. A smile which was never for her own sake. When she saw people were happy, she always smiled.
"Thank you, Merlin. I'm grateful to you, for you've been a great mentor to me. I, unlike you, never got involved with someone of the opposite gender, so I don't really know how to put this feeling into words. For being here, for accompanying me all these years, I greatly appreciate you. It could be that I might have been in love with you."
Her words left the Magus of Flowers speechless. The King did not blush, she showed no shame as a maiden. She only spoke honestly, from the heart. Of course, this alone was not love. She only tried to put into words her wandering thoughts, just wanting to show the highest level of gratitude. And with that, the conversation ended. Artoria boarded one of the many ships set to depart for Rome, her Court Magus watching from atop the hill where they both once sat, talking to himself as the vessels began to leave the dock. Though he was always empty in some sense, as he couldn't sympathise with the emotions of humans, that which he felt now was almost suffocating. His words were a release of frustration, directed towards only himself, and his failure to set Artoria on the correct path.
"I don't understand human love. Artoria... she does not know human love. Us, talking about love... is there a limit to the irony? Well... isn't that the result? Of two non-humans trying to imitate humans? It's doomed to fail."
The truth of the King of Magic’s words from years before were more apparent now than ever. Though Merlin knew beforehand what outcomes his actions could bring, he was sure that what he was doing was right. That he would be able to steer people and events on the right path, towards the correct conclusion. He had failed. And he lied to his King, the one whom he had placed all his faith in, more so than any other. Merlin lifted himself from his seated position on the hill, and made for the Reverse Side.
Very few knew of of the King's true identity. She cloaked it in iron and sealed it away for all her life. Of course, there were people that suspected it, but, the King, owner of the Sword of Selection, Caliburn, and later the Holy Sword, Excalibur, does not age or suffer wounds. That sword was blessed by the lake spirits, granting its wielder longevity and eternal youth. Indeed, the King was invincible. Consequently, nobody questioned the truth about the King. Lancelot was a knight from another country, held to a creed in which he will leave his own country in order to take the hand of a maiden he loves if they're in peril. For that reason, Lancelot as an outsider was able to watch the Round Table with clear eyes. "The King does not understand the hearts of men". The fatigue with the King had become remarkably apparent. Guinevere grew worried about Arthur, and so too did Lancelot. They each grew to rely on each other, conversing about the King. It was from Guinevere that Lancelot learned the truth, of the King's identity, of the Queen's loneliness, and of his own callowness. In that moment of clarity, the Knight of the Lake became filled with anger. A fury towards all things pure. An uncontrollable rage towards the island of Britain itself. It was under these circumstances that Guinevere and Lancelot began their affair.
Agravain, a knight who rose to the rank of secretary and secretly under the employ of Morgan le Fay, knew the secret of the King, and of the adulterous relationship between Guinevere and Lancelot. He used that knowledge to threaten Guinevere, and exposed it to the public. For her actions, she was to be executed. When knowledge of these events reached Lancelot, he made his final decision. He slashed through many knights, and stole the life of his friends, including the siblings of Gawain; Gaheris and Gareth. When Lancelot returned from the battle to his domain's castle and arrived in his chambers, sleep had overtaken the Queen . The marks of tear streaks were visible on her face. Betrayal. The maiden heart of the Queen was tainted by the infamy of infidelity. No doubt, she continued to apologise to the King, even in her dreams. Lancelot sat on the bed beside her, still in helm and armour. Knowing the situation the King was in, out of loyalty he was to remain in his armour until the return of the expedition from Rome. Until the Queen would awake, Lancelot reflected on what Guinevere told him of the King's life. He had become a traitor who committed adultery, a foul beast who lost the right to call himself a knight. And he accepted it. He shouted it within his own heart. It was all for the sake of the woman he loved. But even still... the King forgave him. She replied to his letter that he had sent in the wake of the civil unrest that erupted in Camelot, sending a written note personally to the former Knight of the Round Table.
"My friend, my pride, my ideal knight. If you had seen fit to commit such actions, then surely they must have good cause. I believe in their justness."
When Lancelot received that letter of pardon, he could feel his soul falling into madness. He foresaw a painful end. Impossible, he thought. But the truly kind do forgive. The King had given her blessing to him and Guinevere. If he were in the King's position, could he really forgive a man who wronged him in such a way? As he had wronged Arthur? No, it was a flawed question. The King was unlike everyone else to begin with. She was not human, nor was she raised as one. But even still, she tried to live as one. Despite not being able to experience human happiness, she loved the happiness of the people. She truly was inhuman. A monster. A greater one than Vortigern. That is why the others could not understand her, and thus feared her. Even still, in the midst of this reflection, Lancelot respected and admired the King. But he couldn't, he refused to, accept her way of being. If he called that way of living 'wonderful', he would be no better than Tristan. The fear born in Lancelot would one day become anger, then hate, and compel him to continue cursing the ideal king for all of eternity. It was a horrid future, but a fitting punishment for someone like him.
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Merlin arrived at the empty land where none would find him, not even Vivian, whom Merlin claimed was trying to murder him to Artoria. Encountering a gate that was built roughly with stones, resembling the stone circles found all over the continent, Merlin could make out an inscription etched into the gate;
"Only the sinless may pass."
The incubus shrugged his shoulders, and without deviating, passed through the gate. At that moment, the plane began to transform. Massive walls of stone emerged from the ground in front of the magus, seeming to vertically extend forever, effectively trapping him inside. Merlin inspected the tower that had risen around him, calling it a "botched job" by someone who seemed to be "quite bad with the detailed work". He tapped the ground with his staff, sighing to himself. All the entrances and exits were closed, with barred windows being the only source of light, or method of view outside the tower. The magus, here alone, chose to see the way of sin that brought him here when he was alive, without any particular motive. Merlin, knowing it was a trap, kept moving forward because those words hurt. For Merlin, who could see all possibilities, the world was nothing more than a painting, but one that he felt was more beautiful if it spelt a happy conclusion for humanity. However, in the painting, love for humans or even for a particular individual did not exist. Consequently, getting rid of the source of prosperity and happiness of a few was like killing bugs. A trivial act. Without even having to choose between good or bad, like or dislike. Thus, he himself was not even conscious of his own sin. In his own mind, he thought of himself as sinless. He lent a hand to humans, and so created kings. But he would take no responsibility, nor feel any guilt, for what transpired during the reigns of those kings. That was, until Artoria, who was not only the finest king he had ever created, but also the only person he ever loved. Love in the romantic, human sense. That love was the source of his guilt, and it was only for her that he felt true sorrow.
He sat down on a rock and looked towards the window, waiting. He peered outside the tower, gazing into the world beyond, and he saw her. Artoria. Merlin would watch the King as she returned from her expedition to Rome, bringing with her a victorious army and joyous spirits, only to be met with ruin.
When Artoria returned with her army, traveling up the hill that would lead back to Camelot, she was stopped by a messenger on horseback. One she had personally designated to be a liaison between her and the other royals who maintained charge of the kingdom in her absence. He delivered news of Mordred's rebellion, resulting in the deaths of seven of the eight princes. Camelot had fallen. That was the signal for her retribution of hatred. The burning fury of Mordred. Son of Morgan, a copy of King Arthur known as a homunculus. Naturally, as a copy of Artoria, she was truly female, but was recognised as a male by those around her. She prepared the elements for the rebellion and toppled the kingdom while Artoria was absent. She formed an army on the coastline border to eliminate her king, her father, on her return. The terrible conflict to follow would be immortalised in legend as the last battle of King Arthur. A battle where the flower atop the hill will lose its petals at sunset. A shining beacon of hope that would lose all of its light. The Battle of Camlann.
Mordred's army awaited Artoria's, tired from their expedition to Rome, for an ambush. Despite this, Artoria managed to properly disembark with her army and initiate a counterattack thanks to the efforts of Sir Gawain and Sir Kay, who remained in Camelot while their King was away. A war was waged that extended across the entire country, every territory being terribly scarred by the numerous battles. This battle, without retreat or surrender, the rebellion that ignited it, was one whose motive was known to Artoria. The knights that approved of Mordred's rebellion were all united in their hatred for the King. Uncountable wars. Dry lands. Starving children. The people who endured that were saying that they could no longer.
"These are the measures we must take for the current battle. I beseech you, lend me your aid!"
Artoria said this to her knights. She truly was the ideal King. If everyone could live righteously, without corruption, then surely the country would be most prosperous. But how long? How much longer would everyone need to endure to see that ideal become reality? The King was an ideal one. However, because she was ideal, she could not measure the weakness of the people. Anyone who could see her in that moment would understand. That her heart, in that moment, was broken. On the seventh day of fighting, the battle reached the hill of Camlann. The conflict between the two armies continued until sunset. Both armies extinguished each other until all that was left were mountains of corpses. In that hill soaked in blood, Artoria recalled the words of Tristan, who left Camelot behind.
"The King does not understand the hearts of men."
Certainly, now, after all that has happened, she admits it, while she holds together her broken heart and readies her spear. The Lance that Shines to the Ends of the World. Rhongomyniad. Even the Holy Sword, Excalibur, had lost its brilliance. When her heart broke, the star that inhabited the Earth froze. Only two knights remained on the battlefield. What stood in front of the King was an armour of strange form. A sword with boiling blood, Clarent, and the knight that wielded it in the shape of a ghost. The ghost, hungry for something that led her to steal the country and kill countless soldiers, spoke;
"Finally, King Arthur."
"It took me a long time to arrive here. I scoured the entire battlefield. What do you think? With this, your country is over. Over. No matter who kills who today, it's all over.
...Why do you deny me the throne? Why do you not accept me as your son? Why was I born with this form?! Answer me! Why?!"
Mordred and Artoria charged at each other. No more words were exchanged between the two. Father and son would grant each other their killing blow. Artoria's Holy Spear pierced the entrails of the leader of the rebellion. The cursed sword of Mordred, before perishing, cut part of the King's head, taking with it her life expectancy and one of her eyes. Artoria used her Holy Sword as a flare for the rest of the living to see them in the hill. Her face was one nobody wanted to see. She bit her lips with all her strength to suppress her desire to cry. The sadness overcame her ragged breath. She saw the end of Camelot. She screamed...
"I fought many battles, and stole many lives. That's why I accepted having a death crueler than anybody else. That is why I resigned myself to die while being hated by everyone. Despite that...I was never going to be the only one? Someone other than the King would have the same death?! That's not fair...it shouldn't have been that! This wasn't the end that I sought! That Camelot would end, I knew that...but, I wanted to believe that it would be a more peaceful end, like in a slumber...
This is wrong. Absolutely wrong! I, who has accepted my own death, this...this I cannot accept!"
She, who was a whirlwind of frustration, heard a voice. It proposed an opportunity. To go back and fulfill that wish. It wanted her life after death. The meaning of these words, Artoria did not know. Even still, the King held to that, saying that to avoid this end, the price did not matter. The King, out of hatred for the fall of Camelot, denied her own salvation. She wanted the Holy Grail. The very artifact that Sir Galahad had been sent to retrieve. But on the brink of death, she could not wait for him to return as she had
for all this time.
The battle had ended. The sunset was as the colour of the blood that stained the hills of Camlann. Soon, the darkness of nightfall would dominate the battlefield. The hills were filled with corpses, a breathless knight riding through the fields of those slain. His hands firm on the reins of his white horse, who continued to run earnestly. The only survivors of the battle were the rider of the horse, and his King, who lay on the horse's back.
"Please, stay awake! If we reach the forest, then certainly-"
The knight's words trailed off, ceased due to his own shortness of breath. He knew of the King's pseudo-immortality. Consequently, he knew that if the King could rest in a calm place, with the Holy Sword in hand, he would heal. He had no choice but to believe it would be so. He could not let his King die. He did not fight for the sake of the kingdom, but for the sake of his King. His life, his sword, were all dedicated to the King. The King that did not show her true face. The King that hides her feelings and acts impartially. If I stay close, maybe I'll be able to see the true face of the King, he thought. However, what happened completely defied his expectation. The King had never smiled for her own sake. That fact filled him with anger, and he wished for his King to be rewarded for such a thing someday. But the King remained alone. And so the knight would deny the King's death. When they arrived to the forest, the knight carried the King's body.
"My King, I will bring more troops immediately. So please, endure until then."
"My King?! Have you regained consciousness...?"
"Yes...I was having a dream."
"Yes. I have not seen many dreams, so it was a valuable experience."
"That's... then, please be at ease, and rest. I shall go to get the troops in that time."
The King sighed, her knight wondering if he had been rude in his behaviour. Artoria replied, saying that she was just surprised at his words. She did not know that a dream could be seen after one had awoken. She asked Bedivere if she would see the same dream if she closed her eyes again. He hesitated momentarily, unsure of what he would give to the King. Comfort, or the truth. He chose the former.
"Yes. If you so strongly desire, you should be able to continue watching the same dream. I have that experience as well."
It was impossible. What happens only once, and is not everlasting, is what people call a dream. Even still, Bedivere lied. He apologises that this will be his first and last dishonesty towards the King.
"I see... you are knowledgeable, Bedivere...Bedivere, take my sword. Listen. Pass through this forest and go over that bloodstained hill. There is a deep lake beyond it. Throw my sword into that lake."
"Ah!? My King, that's...!"
"Go. Once you have accomplished my order, return here and tell me what you saw."
And so, Bedivere takes the sword, Excalibur, and goes over the bloodstained hill, his mind plagued by indecision and hesitation. He lamented so much for the King that he was unable to throw the sword. That is why he returned from the edge of the lake, back to the King. However, the King had already foreseen that. When Bedivere lies to Artoria that he had thrown the sword away, she replies only to say "follow my command". But that came to an end. As Bedivere realises he cannot change the King's decision, he returns to the lake, finally mustering the strength to throw away the sword on his third visit. The Holy Sword had returned to the lake. When he returned to the forest, crossing the mountain entrance, the forest was shining from the morning light. The distant battlefield, without any trace of the scenery of bloodshed. Embraced by a gentle and pure light. When Bedivere threw the sword into the lake, he saw the shimmering silhouette of a girl beneath its surface. The lady of the lake, certainly.
"I see. You should be proud. You have obeyed your King's command. ---I am sorry, Bedivere. This sleep will be... a... long---"
"Are you watching, King Arthur...? The continuation of your dream?"
The sky is high, clear and blue. The battle was now truly over. The words Bedivere murmured were carried away by the wind. Just as the sky sinks towards the infinite blue, the King slept, seeing a far away, distant dream. Bedivere looked upon the King, wishing still that Artoria had met the end that she deserved. That her life, and Camelot, had not ended in such a brutal fashion. The next few minutes felt like an eternity, as Bedivere mourned the loss of one who gave her people everything, and was given destruction in return. He wept for his King, and for himself, for not being able to do more. The sound of footsteps behind Artoria's most loyal knight caught his attention, to which he turned to look, and was met by the Magus of Flowers.
Merlin knelt beside Bedivere, inspecting the resting face of his King. The wounds inflicted by Mordred were fatal, and though Artoria would not have fully recovered from them with Excalibur in her possession, her survival would be ensured. But the Holy Sword was gone now, returned to the Lady of the Lake. She had accepted her end, and would die full of regret. Bloody and savaged. Far from the peaceful end that she desired. Nor was she the only one to die in such a way; while everything they fought to protect crumbled around them. Even for Merlin, who had seen such a thing happen numerous times throughout his life, the situation was far too tragic. Against his better judgement, out of a deep sense of crushing guilt, he reached out to the King of Knights. He would interfere one last time. Bedivere would become the fifth person to learn the truth about Artoria Pendragon with his actions. He wanted to chastise the Magus of Flowers for putting Artoria down this path which ended in destruction and misery, but the words remained stuck in his chest. Merlin knew what Artoria's most loyal knight wanted to do, deep down. Words were not needed to know such a thing. Merlin, before anybody, had accepted the truth around the nature of his actions, and what they led to. And so in this moment, in pursuit of some twisted idea of recompense, he turned Artoria into a man, and healed his body. The King of Knights was no longer Artoria Pendragon. Now, Arthur Pendragon. The man whom everybody believed the King of Britain to be. The person that Artoria was, until everything unraveled around them.
Merlin left Bedivere with the comatose Arthur near the lake, where the King first retrieved Excalibur and subsequently had Bedivere return it. Arthur's body was healed, but the extent of the damage ran far deeper. The wounds of the mind were the kind that Merlin could not fix. Nobody could. But even still, he resolved to try, sealing away the memories of the one he condemned to kingship. He wished to spare Arthur the pain of knowing everything that happened. When he emerged from the forest, Merlin's first steps were over the bodies of the fallen, the sky dyed red over the hills of Camlann. He walked through the battleground, laden with corpses and those on the brink of death. Eventually, he reached the foot of the hill where Arthur and Mordred exchanged their final blows. The great spear Rhongomyniad was still lodged within the stomach of the Knight of Treachery, her hand firmly gripping Clarent even in death. Merlin gazed at her body silently, his mind flashing back to several distinct memories of all the Knights of Round. Memories of all the times they shared before now. Solemnly, Merlin began to walk, all the way back to the Tower of Avalon.
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Merlin spent centuries hidden away, watching over the world from his lonesome tower in Avalon. Unable to die, he would oversee the creation of the Radiant Order of Surgebinders by Galahad and Amara, their subsequent division and conflicts, and the development of the rest of the world as new factions and leaders rose up to take the place of Camelot after its destruction. From the tower of solitude, his eyes fell upon a young man. Emiya Shirou, a magus without any talent for magecraft. Son of the one known as the Magus Killer. He watched Shirou's life unfold, his attention captivated for the first time in centuries, in the wake of the great war between Galahad and Amara. In all his time of watching humanity from afar as a lone observer, he had not seen anyone quite like him. A Hero of Justice, some would call him. At first, Merlin couldn't quite place it, but as he watched the boy grow older, mastering his own magecraft, and fighting for his life to protect the ones he loved, becoming a Hero of Justice for those close to him, he realised who Shirou reminded him of. Artoria. They were opposites, but in that sense, they were also the same. Where Artoria discarded her humanity in order to protect everyone, Shirou discarded his in order to protect one person. It reignited the spark within Merlin's heart that had first awoken when he was a child, and died with Artoria Pendragon. Wishing to forge a new hero, Merlin emerged from Avalon for the first time in six hundred years. When Shirou found himself on the brink of oblivion against Angelica Ainsworth, Merlin intervened, saving the young Hero of Justice from the wrathful magus.
Shirou would awaken within the scenery of his Reality Marble, which appeared undamaged. As if the great blow from Angelica had never touched it. In his confusion, he didn't notice the presence of the Magus of Flowers.
"Greetings young man, with a body from swords forged, a mind from steel cast, and soul within ice encased."
Merlin introduced himself to the young Surgebinder, who was still in a mind of caution after the battle against Angelica. He assured Shirou that he meant no harm. He would tell Shirou what happened in the aftermath of his battle, as well as where he was. The two were not within Shirou's Reality Marble, which was a reflection of his internal space upon the Throne, but the very internal space of Unlimited Bladeworks itself. It was here that Merlin would teach the young Hero of Justice about the Surgebinders, the Holy Grail, and Prana. The story of Camelot and Artoria would be for another time. The Magus of Flowers took up the role of a mentor for Shirou, teaching him how to use his gifts, so that he may become a Hero of Justice for everybody one day. In the wake of Tiamat's resurrection, Merlin was called to action, and he has spent a great period of time tracking the whereabouts of the Necromancers, as well as monitoring the actions of other Prana wielders, including the Fallen Surgebinder, Ozymandias.
Blood of the Incubus: Due to his heritage, Merlin is capable of utilising an Advanced Element known as Wood Release. Formed through the combination of Earth and Water elemental natures, it allows his chakra to become a source of life, creating wood from sources of either component element, or even his own body. It is particularly potent against Bijū chakra, allowing him to counteract and even suppress their abilities. Additionally, Merlin is capable of utilising Wood Sage Mode, a unique Ninjutsu that allows him to harness Natural Energy, bolstering his Ninjutsu by thirty damage and increasing the strength of his Genjutsu by one rank, making them harder to break. His physical faculties are also enhanced, granting his Taijutsu an increase of thirty damage and multiplying his speed by four. Through this mode, Merlin is also able to access unique techniques, such as the Shinsusenju and the Myōjinmon. Merlin also boasts great vitality, capable of utilising a potent regeneration ability that can heal all sorts of wounds at accelerated speed, and boasts a greater chakra pool than most others.
Fūinjutsu: Merlin is well-versed in the sealing arts, granting him access to a number of unique techniques and abilities involving finer chakra control. One such ability is known as Mystic Fire, a unique element formed by a combination of Lightning and Fire Release, and controlled through Fūinjutsu. This element possesses universal neutrality to all other techniques and abilities, and is able to adopt the functions of Fūinjutsu. A seal with the kanji for 'Repository' is attached to his inner robe, allowing him to store and release chakra as he sees fit. Through the Pillars of Creation, Merlin's flames possess a sky blue color. Merlin also utilises an element known as Osmium, a unique mineral that boasts great physical integrity. He carries a small amount in a gourd at all times, allowing him to use it on demand. His staff and rapier are both marked with the Oathbound Insignia seal, allowing him to manipulate them in a manner resembling telekinesis through the use of invisible barriers.
(Shiraton/Fūinjutsu: Jikai Kairo) – Mystic Fire Release/Sealing Technique: Cygnus Loop
Description: This technique employs a tag seal with the word ‘Repository’ inscribed on it and placed somewhere on the user’s body or on a weapon; in the case of a weapon the weapon must remain in contact with the user at all times. The seal can either be placed on the user’s biography and stated or placed during travel or battle, counting as a move. Cygnus Loop is a technique which utilizes Fūinjutsu’s ability to seal infinite quantities of various objects within a vessel, in this case the Cygnus seal. This acts as an effect chakra storage unit and can store infinite quantities of chakra absorbed and drained from another target through two methods. The first method passively allows the seal to link itself to the user’s absorptive techniques, such as the Multiple Infinite Embraces. Typically the Embraces will drain chakra and immediately deposit it in the user’s body; with the Cygnus seal this chakra is instead deposited in the seal itself. The second method is through the seal’s unique relationship with Mystic Fire Release and Fūinjutsu allowing the user to utilize Ultraviolet Radiance, a technique based on the Cygnus seal. Regardless of the application used when chakra is drained from an opponent or their techniques the chakra will be deposited within the seal. In essence Cygnus Loop acts as a bank and middleman. When chakra is stored in the seal the chakra is ‘purified’ within the seal. This effectively converts stolen chakra back into raw chakra. For example, should the user absorb Fire chakra and store it within the seal it will be converted into stored chakra and made readily available for the user to use for a future technique. Alternatively stored chakra can be freely absorbed into the user’s body to replenish their reserves. The Cygnus seal itself is an A-Rank seal and is fortified as such due to its relationship and infusion of Mystic Fire.
(Shiraton: Sōzō no Hashira) – Mystic Fire Release: Pillars of Creation
Rank: B – S
Chakra: N/A (+10/20/40 chakra cost to applied technique)
Description: Pillars of Creation is considered the ultimate infusion technique utilized in conjunction with energy-based elemental natures (Fire, Lightning, Explosion, etc) as well as barrier Fūinjutsu. As a technique based around the principles of infusion it occurs instantaneously and can be used within the same timeframe as the technique it is applied to. Typically techniques of this category involves an infusion of chakra, in many cases of the same nature, to change numerous aspects of the technique. These can range from a shift in strengths and weaknesses, additional strength, different states and forms, and new and unique effects. This could be compared to ratios and the effects that chakra can have on a technique; the more chakra utilized the greater the changes. As such Pillars of Creation utilizes three separate levels of infusion, each becoming progressively greater. Unique to this technique is that it can be stated in one’s biography to allow for the passive infusion of the user’s energy-based techniques, listed above, causing their coloration to shift in accordance to Mystic Fire’s unique colors. As a passive occurrence this application does not require any chakra and is simply a cosmetic ability of Pillars of Creation. The infusions are as followed:
The First Pillar: This is the B-Rank application of Pillars of Creation and utilizes an infusion of ten chakra. As the simplest infusion this technique causes the effected energy-based technique to gain Mystic Fire’s quality of absolute neutrality. For example, when used on a Fire technique, the applied technique will effectively shed its strengths and weaknesses becoming neutral to all elemental natures. Additionally, this infusion causes the applied technique to gain Mystic Fire’s specialized interactions with sealing/absorptive-based techniques. When an S-Rank Lightning technique is infused with the First Pillar, for example, it will, in addition to gaining the neutrality of Mystic Fire, will also only be able to be sealed or absorbed by a technique of equivalent rank (meaning the rank of the seal or absorbing technique itself, not the rank of what it can seal, must be equivalent). Additionally, the First Pillar cannot be infused on channeling-based energy techniques (e.g. streams of fire).
The Second Pillar: This is the A-Rank application of Pillars of Creation and utilizes an infusion of twenty chakra. The Second Pillar, unlike the first, employs the ability to not only infuse an energy-based technique with Mystic Fire chakra but to convert it to the nature entirely; this effectively converts any energy-based nature, or barrier Fūinjutsu, into Mystic Fire. Because the technique is effectively transformed it will change its inherent color into any color allowed by Mystic Fire Release, namely any color on the visible spectrum while being able to become absolute black, like the flames of Amaterasu. Techniques which radiate heat, like Fire Release, will lose those qualities due to their inherent sealing nature. Additionally, these techniques will gain an additional rank in strength, or twenty additional damage for techniques above S-Rank. The Second Pillar can be used on any number of A-Rank and below techniques but it can only be used four times per battle on S-Rank and above techniques. It also cannot be used in consecutive turns.
The Third Pillar: This is the S-Rank application of Pillars of Creation and utilizes an infusion of forty chakra. Unlike the previous two pillars this Third Pillar only incorporates techniques which employ a partial or fullbody elemental transformation, much like the Hozuki, and must be energy-based in nature. This technique, through an enormous flooding of Mystic Fire chakra, converts any energy-based elemental transformation to become purely Mystic Fire based, while retaining its original abilities and qualities. For example, should a Bakuton based elemental transformation be converted to Mystic Fire it will retain its default explosive qualities while obtaining all qualities of Mystic Fire Release. Additionally, as long as the elemental transformation utilized allows for Fire and Lightning natures to be accessed, the user will still be able to mold chakra for techniques based on the original elemental transformation, even after conversion. The Third Pillar, like the Second, also enhances the applied transformation by an additional rank in strength, or twenty additional damage for techniques above S-Rank. The Third Pillar can be used twice per battle, requiring a two turn cooldown in between uses.
(Fūinjutsu: Chikai) – Sealing Technique: Oathbound Insignia
Range: N/A (Short – Long)
Description: The Oathbound Insignia is a seal with supplementary purpose, and is designed to be utilised in tandem with one’s weapons or tools. The seal can be placed on any piece of equipment or item of the user’s, or even ones they do not own, provided they make physical contact with said object. Once placed, the seal creates an invisible, form-fitting barrier on the object which is able to exert directional force and pressure on it, similarly to that of Infinite Embraces. This allows for the weapon to be controlled in a manner visually similar to that of the Lightning Blades Levitation, but through manipulation of a barrier, rather than an infusion of elemental chakra. This method of control only requires the user's thought, and does not cost a move slot to utilise in any way. This saves the user the trouble of having to physically reach for their weapon, and makes retrieval from a holster or from afar much easier. The user possesses total control over the behaviour of movement through the barrier, able to freely manipulate a marked object as they see fit. The speed at which a marked object can move via the barrier is 1.5x the user’s base speed at maximum, and always moves at this speed unless otherwise stated, allowing for swift recovery of the object. The user is able to mark their weapons and tools, but it must be stated in the user’s biography, otherwise one must manually place the seals during battle or when the situation allows. Only three objects can be marked at any given time, living targets cannot have this seal applied to them.
(Fūin/Ōsmuton: Futei Keijō) – Sealing/Osmium Release: Unfinal Shapes
Range: N/A (Short)
Description: Unfinal Shapes is a basic, supplementary application of Osmium combined with Fūin, designed to enhance its utility to mimic the usage of Sand Ninjutsu by Gaara. By having the element itself pre-made, and kept stored in a gourd or container of some kind, it is carried on hand by the user. The element carries a small amount of the user’s chakra sealed inside it via Fūinjutsu, which can be unlocked simply by flushing it with more of their chakra. In this manner, the user is capable of performing any Osmium technique using this premade reserve of the element. However, this can only be done once per turn, regardless of the rank of the technique used, and costs a move. Should they choose, the user can use that same source of Osmium for another Osmium technique, and it will behave according to its new rank/power, simply requiring that the user expend the stated amount of chakra, as if they were using the technique normally. Use of Unfinal Shapes requires that it be posted in the user’s bio, and at the start of battle.