The calm water reflected the moon and clouds as if they were part of the celestial scenery.
Clear enough to see all the way to the bottom, the water seemed infinitely deep.
“Ah… Hahaha. Ahaha…”
I burst into laughter and tears at the same time. I laughed and cried, making strange noises as I slowly approached the pond.
I had thought that by following the voices I would find the source of the water, but I was also worried that maybe…
Finally I understood.
I realized that I had been afraid, afraid of what to do if it were not the voices calling me, but something else.
The reason I turned away from the call of the voices in my past life was not just because I thought I should not follow in my father’s footsteps.
I knelt at the edge of the pond. The wet mud began to seep through my pants.
I leaned down and scooped up the pond water with both hands, and the moonlight swirled in my palms.
I could feel an abundant energy flowing in the air.
It was as if the pure essence of life itself was filling me, inside and out, with the vitality of the water.
[“I know. You know.”]
“Yes, I know.”
I answered the whispering voice.
My father, Alastair Estelle, Earl of Estelle.
The heir to the Empire’s only Fire Elemental King.
A unique genius in the field of elemental magic.
There was a time when he held me close and read a book to me, the first time he had shown such affection. As a child, I squirmed awkwardly.
“Pay close attention, Khalia.”
He pointed to a section of the book.
In the parlor, young elemental spirits summoned by my father were feasting on wood, making a satisfying crackling sound that mingled with the sound of the fire.
“When you summon an elemental, it will respond to you.
“You, my daughter, you have talent.
“Think of the essence of the elemental you wish to summon. Create an incantation with power in your voice.
“If all conditions are right and you are compatible with the elemental, they will appear before you when you call their name.
“At last, bound by a sacred oath, you and the elemental’s name will unite to finalize the contract.
“These words hold the essence of water. Meditate on them and remember.”
“Blue night. Flowing time. The memories of trees. Glistening dew. Lotus petal shadows and the hidden side of clouds. Guardian of ponds and lakes.”
As I chanted these words, a blend of childhood memories and an unexplainable power surged from my lips.
As my voice echoed, ripples began forming at the center of the pond.
“Pure warmth. Everlasting leaves. Golden grass hidden away. Returning foam and the master of black moss, O being made of water.”
The gentle vibrations grew stronger, quickly reaching the pond’s edge where I knelt.
The foam lightly brushed against my skin and clothes.
In that moment, an entirely unfamiliar power filled me.
I wiped off the mud, stood tall, and called the spirit’s name, carrying the newfound power within me.
“I am Khalia Tisina El Estelle. I invoke the Water Elemental, Undine. According to the ancient covenant, I humbly request, O spirit, that you answer my call.”
With a resounding crash, a powerful water column burst forth from the pond’s center.
It soared higher than even the tallest tree in Valentina Forest.
Water droplets poured like a waterfall, soaking me to the bone.
Gradually, the surging water took on a distinct form.
And at last, it formed the figure of a beautiful mermaid.
She was crafted from transparent water, with long, graceful fingers, a scale-covered tail, and fish-like fins. Her flowing hair danced elegantly in the ceaseless water flow, leaving shimmering ripples in its wake.
But her eyes were otherworldly.
Undine’s eyes were unlike those of humans or typical mermaids.
Her eyeballs and sockets were significantly larger, nearly twice the size of human eyes.
Furthermore, she lacked irises, with only deep blue pupils shaped like elongated diamonds.
As her large pupils shifted, they emitted a soft, flowing murmur like water.
Yet despite this peculiarity, she was stunningly beautiful.
I couldn’t help but be awestruck.
The elemental was right in front of me, yet she seemed to belong to a different realm entirely.
Her enormous eyes turned toward me, and she communicated, not through physical sound waves, but through ‘voices’ in my mind.
[“Caller, I have heard your call.”]
[“With your being filled with the essence of water, you are more than qualified to become my contractor. In accordance with the sacred covenant, will you establish a contract between an elemental and a human?”]
In that instant, a tremendous force seemed to exit my body.
My waist bent, and my body involuntarily twisted. Without realizing it, I took a few steps back.
Undine solemnly nodded.
[“The contract has been established.”]
I sat down on the uneven ground and burst into laughter.
Despite the release of power, my head felt surprisingly clear.
In this very moment, the sins of my father, my own wrongdoings, and shame all felt as distant as another world, and I cared not about them.
Undine hovered in the air, observing me with a curious gaze. While she initially seemed like an otherworldly being, after we formed the contract, she quickly became familiar.
I could roughly sense her current emotions and thoughts.
Rubbing my throbbing head, I muttered, mixed with laughter, “Ah… My head hurts so much.”
Until just moments ago, my body had been brimming with power, but now it had vanished entirely.
Only a slender stream of energy remained, connecting me to her.
Summoning an elemental was never an easy feat.
There were four major elemental types: Fire, Water, Wind, and Earth. Aspiring elementalists underwent specialized training and adaptation from a young age to determine their affinity with one of these elements.
They had to discover suitable summoning spells for each elemental rank and practice manipulating “aether,” the power required for summoning.
Continued training to enhance their elemental affinity was crucial.
Only after this rigorous process could they attempt summoning lesser elementals and beyond. But I thought, ‘Who needs all that?’
I couldn’t help but chuckle.
I had skipped all those steps, instantly recalling the intermediate elemental summoning spell I had heard seven years ago, and successfully formed a contract under the guidance of this unknown power.
The overwhelming emotions I felt when I gazed at the pond and the unexpected tingling sensations had all dissipated, leaving me with a sense of fulfillment that I would never forget.
However, I needed a bit more time before I could contemplate my victory.
If I continued to maintain the summoning at this rate, I felt like I might collapse right in the middle of the forest.
“Undine, stay inside until I call you.”
[“As the contractor wishes.”]
Undine lightly brushed her tail and nodded before disappearing.
Some of the energy that had left my body returned, and I managed to muster some strength.
I wanted nothing more than to collapse on the ground right away.
But resisting temptation, I pulled myself up from the ground, even though I felt weak.
‘Alright, now that I’ve started, I need to see this through to the end.’
I was determined to complete the contract with Undine, even if I had to summon the lesser elemental, Undine, right here and now.
If I succeeded in summoning a higher-ranked elemental, I could easily call lesser elementals without going through the formal summoning process.
I brushed off the dirt from my knees and buttocks. As the waves Undine had brought began to calm, I gazed at the now tranquil pond and began to speak.
“Guardian of streams and springs, born of water, Undine. I humbly request your presence for the sacred contract. Please reveal your form here and now.”
A small, spherical shape lightly leaped from the surface of the water.
It was nothing like the colossal water column summoned by the intermediate elemental. Instead, it felt like a small round entity playfully springing out from below the water.
The creature was about the size of an adult woman’s palm, and it had an androgynous appearance, with a subtle iridescence and misty aura. It exuded a fairy-like atmosphere, reminiscent of a character from a fairy tale.
With each flip and somersault, drops of water fell in all directions.
[“Khalia! Khalia! Khalia! Khalia!”]
[“Khalia! Contract! Name! Contract! Name!”]
“All right, so please be quiet.”
‘This little one already knows my name,’ I thought to myself.
It was likely that Undine had been the one tormenting me and calling my name in my mind all this time. Among the lesser elementals, water elementals were known to be the most mischievous and playful.
While all lesser elementals were generally cheerful and bright, water elementals were often the most playful among them.
The exact reason for this was unknown, but elementalists were becoming rarer with each passing day. Thus, Undine must have been bothering me because she had not encountered a contractor with a strong affinity like mine in a long time.
“I, Khalia Tisina El Estelle, seek a contract with you, Undine, the water elemental.”
[“The contract has been established!”]
A burst of light erupted. I could feel a connection forming between Undine and me.
Undine was elated. Her excitement was palpable through the newly established bond.
She was practically vibrating with joy, her plump water droplet-like body trembling.
Undine flew around me in spirals, singing loudly.
[“Contractor, contractor, contractor!”]
“Undine, that’s enough!”
[“How long has it been since Undine had a contractor?! Undine doesn’t know! That’s why Undine sings!”]
“Undine, if your voice was heard by anyone else nearby, you might have awakened everyone in the vicinity! Please lower your voice; my head is pounding.”
[“But that human over there is already awake!”]
Undine pointed with her plump little finger.
As my gaze followed her gesture, I saw a couple standing behind a thicket that reached up to their waists.
The maid, whose name I didn’t know, gasped and held her breath, covering her mouth when she met my eyes.
Next to her stood Claude Valentine, whom I had met three times today alone.