And with that final word from the HR Manager, Volume 2 comes to an end.
Fushigi is here with you again, Dear Readers. Also known as the author, Eric Fretheim, also known as Eric the Fred, also known as … just kidding. I hope you’ve been enjoying reading about the life and times of Lady Tiana.
Volume 2 is complete with chapter 78. I originally expected this arc to cover about three quarters of the volume. I was a naive fool. The story I planned actually forced me to make volume 2 twenty five percent longer than volume 1 to avoid spilling over into Volume 3!
We’ll be headed back to the home and school side of Tiana’s life, but I’m afraid it won’t turn into a comfy slice-of-life story. In fact, it will be… no, I think I will let you find out by reading!
I’ve continued dragging in clichés. As promised, there were cat girls. Also, while I’m really not trying to go full lesbian vampire on you, it certainly had more than a few yuri moments. You can expect more on that front. I threw in a tavern, a dungeon (mine) and a guild hall (jobs office.) But will I continue building a harem around her? I’m not really sure that what she is accumulating is legitimately a harem, although I know more than a few readers see it that way and they are welcome to do so. It isn’t entirely wrong. Melione, Ceria and Bruna will be back, even if they won’t be at Tiana’s side full-time. Brigitte will be back, too.
And I’ve left you with a few new mysteries! What is the significance of Tiana so strongly resembling the ancient Stregas? (Or, to use the Italian plural, Streghe?) Or of Jurmat looking so much like Tiana, and therefore like a Stregone? Was Arken’s story about the ancient demon just a legend, or did it actually have something to do with Jurmat? Was Trisiagga a one-time thing, or is she part of the on-going story? What will happen with Aenëe? What did the HR Manager mean, when she said ‘Interesting?’ And, what about Naomi?
Sorry, that last item was a very badly dated joke, and it is possible that not one of my readers will get the reference. You can safely ignore it. There’s no Naomi.
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Inserted in case anyone skips over the currently locked chapters at the end of the volume to read this: The following may contain spoilers. You have been warned.
Q & A session!
Several weeks back I asked readers to contribute questions. I also went back and mined the comments for some, to give them more carefully considered responses. I’ve had some very astute commenters. In fact, a couple times they came very close to nailing upcoming chapters. I had to restrain myself several times from answering, “That’s right!” or “You’re so close!”
It’s kinda tough, knowing all the spoilers.
Q: Can a blood-slave (servant) hurt Tiana by draining her of mana through the connection?
A: Tiana isn’t actually the source of the mana. Mana on Huade is drawn from the environment. But Life absorbs it and thrives in its presence, so if the mana present inside a living being is drawn away (for example, by being drawn off during the flow of mana from the environment to the magic during a spell) it causes physical problems until the person can recover more mana from the environment. In addition, Tiana and other monsters like her (such as Bruna) can’t afford to lose the mortal-stabilized mana they receive through feeding because it will be replaced by unstablized mana from the environment that their monster bodies cannot stabilize on their own without help from that mortal mana.
What Tiana is providing her blood slaves is a better means of drawing the mana, a better conduit for it. The servant’s ability to do this on their own cannot match what their mistress can do for them. But yes, it does slowly erode her stable mana just like when she uses magic herself. The more her slaves draw, the more she will need to feed.
There is a huge limiter on the blood-slave though. They cannot use her ‘conduit’ as much as she herself can, because they cannot hope to match the other resource to magic, her pneuma. This is the thing that makes Mother (and Tiana) so strong. Fairies have freakishly strong pneuma compared to mortals. The rate at which you can draw mana is based on that conduit, but the amount of time that you can draw it, the amount you can hold at a time, and the rate at which that pneuma recovers are all based upon the strength of the pneuma. The blood slave is using the mistress’s ‘conduit’ but is limited by having to use their own pneuma.
So, again, she can be in distress, but it isn’t an instant drop-dead. It does very specifically put a limit on the number of magic-wielding blood slaves that she can have. She cannot build an army of blood slave magic users, because at some point she would have to feed 24/7.
Note that there are other factors that neither Tiana nor most other magic users on Huade understand yet (knowledge forgotten from that ancient past that we have seen a couple badly garbled references to) that also will be in play, both in Tiana’s favor and against it. A hint: Trisiagga mentioned one of these earlier, because the demons still know some of that knowledge.
Q: So we know turning mages into blood slaves unlocks her ability to use magic. But is it permanent? Would she lose her ability to use magic if her slaves died? That might be the main weakness of Stregas.
A: Well spotted. The answer is… it’s complicated. You are going to get part of the answer in the course of the next volume (no, she won’t lose either of the girls or any other servant, but she will get a warning about needing to avoid that at all costs.) All I will say for now is, the loss of the servant would have a significant effect on her.
Q: How old is Ryuu, anyway?
A: I haven’t specifically said it in the text, but when I stated “eighteen” in a response I gave in the comments, a commenter felt that was too old, and had some very good reasons for it, regarding his personality.
Well, since I haven’t actually given the age in the text, I still have the option of reducing it. I have stated that he is a dropout, and that makes him a minimum of fifteen. He is Japanese, and in Japan, education is mandatory through Chūgaku (junior high or middle school in the US, depending on where you live). You must either complete or at least continue trying until you reach the beginning of April as a fifteen-year-old. You cannot drop out before that.
So I might indeed decide he is as young as that. I’ve never stated which year he was in when he gave up on school.
Q: How do you pronounce “Aenëe”?
A: Ah-EHN-yeh (although uh-EHN-yuh would also be fine.) And for the fun of it, I will claim that the unnamed Japanese author of IseNai is spelling it アエニェ.
Q: Why was Aenëe so weak if fairy knights are supposed to be so strong?
A: First of all, you are supposed to suspect (and probably do) that Tiana might just be strong even for a fairy. The only being that has ever truly caused her difficulty was the dragon at the beginning of the story. And dragons on Huade are freaking strong. See the comparison she gave between dragons and wyverns early in volume one. (Wyverns traditionally are a form of dragon, but on Huade they are unrelated animals.) She also described the dragon as being the size of a blue whale. I once saw a size comparison between a blue whale and a tyrannosaurus rex. It was eye-opening.
In terms of size, the dragons on Game of Thrones are basically flame-throwing, winged beasts as large as the biggest T-rexes, only with stretched out necks and tails. They are probably about fifty percent longer than Huade’s wyverns. T-rexes (and therefore GoT dragons) maxed out at 14 tonnes, so wyverns are probably 3-4 tonnes, the weight of a male Asian elephant.
Meanwhile, the record blue whale is 173 Tonnes. A flying, flame-breathing lizard more than a dozen times as heavy as a T-rex is coming to eat you. Imagine that.
Actually, compared to a human, Aenëe is exceedingly strong. But she is, as Tiana already noticed, badly lacking in training for some reason. The reason remains to be revealed.
Tiana had not only excellent swordsmanship, but the ability to quickly read and react pounded into her head by the best trainers the Kingdom has to offer (the instructors of the Royal Knights.) That read-and-react ability, as any combat instructor can tell you, is a vital force multiplier.
Q: Trisiagga is supposed to be a terrifying, high-level demoness. What is up with her?
A: See answer above with respect to Aenëe.
More to the point, so far you have only seen what happens when one badly underestimates an enemy. The next time Lady Trisiagga appears, she will no longer be laboring under any false preconceptions about what she is facing.
Q: Tiana’s mother is a princess, so Tiana is royalty already, right?
A: The daughter of a duke is already royalty. Dukes are the peers of kings in Orestania (and historically in several European countries.) But I know what you mean. Is she a princess? Answer… read volume three. Although it’s probably painfully obvious what the answer is going to be :roll_eyes:
Q: I’m wondering, did I turn my back on my former comrade as he fell prey to a monster, or did I help out a bro?
A: The glass is both half-empty and half-full, My Lady.
Q: Again, are you going to see this story through to the end?
Okay, I added this last question myself, just like last time.
A: As I said before, this depends on YOU, dear reader. The hosting site where I post this is still repeatedly beset by scrapers, the motherless scum who steal stories (yes it is indeed THEFT) and post them on their own sites. Creative Novels cannot maintain its existence unless the readers boycott the other sites and come here.
Why does it matter whether you read it on the original site or somewhere else? Because scrapers do not pay the author or translator for their work. They simply steal it. Even if the author/TL is only earning a pittance, it pays for their website costs. A free website does not provide enough bandwidth for a site receiving tens of thousands of views daily.
Meanwhile the scrapers are taking this content without paying for it, then turning around and making advertising money off of you, the reader, by sharing the stolen goods with you.
So please, please, please make sure that you are reading this and other originals hosted by this site on the only site that I am actually posting on, Creative Novels (dot) com. We also have licensed translations that cost money which, if you read from a scraper site, is being stolen not only from the translator and the website but from the original author.
I do have an access-restricted location where a parallel copy of this story is kept, but as long as Creative can stay in business, I will not be putting Substitute Hero publicly online anywhere else.
Q: What about Naomi?
A: Naomi Foner was a producer on the 1970’s educational TV show “Electric Company” on PBS (the publicly supported broadcasting network in the US.) At the end of every installment of the recurring segment “Love of Chair” (a daytime TV drama parody) the script writers teased her by, after the voiceover announcer listed off various questions to be supposedly answered in the next episode, including as the final question, with very dramatic pauses, “And… what about… Naomi?” A question that was never answered, of course, because she wasn’t a character.
So, now you know.
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As always, feel free to go on Discord and DM me (find me on the Creative Novels server, same user name), or use the #chapter-discussion channel there, or find the chapter discussion thread on the Creative Novels forum, or just go right ahead and write a comment here in the chapters. I do read and often answer comments, and I would love it if people posted a lot more of them. (Real comments. You guys that are just farming exp, at least fake a little effort, ‘kay? I get pinged by email with each comment.)
This Afterword has been posted on an off day so that the next posting, the first chapter of Volume 3, will post on the normally scheduled time. Look forward to it, and to the volumes beyond, since I’ll be nowhere near done with volume 3!
Thanks again for reading!
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