The Lab for Experimental Magical within the Academy doesn’t generally see a lot of activity. Due to the high status of the students, security on campus is excellent for keeping new techniques secret. However, the high status also means anything too dangerous has to be held to stringent rules.
As such, it’s a rare opportunity for Prince Geord to attend the experiments being held here, and one he’s taking full advantage of, quickly shutting the door before a certain brunette can spot him.
“Prince Geord! Wait-”
He huffs a sigh of relief as the voice fades out. Honestly, he gets that Katarina is his fiancé, but ever since he started conversing with Maria, she’s become intolerably clingy.
“Having fun, your Highness?”
Geord smiles, looking over to see Keith Claes knelt inside a giant rune on the other side of the room, magicians and scientists dotting about and making notes.
Keith, he’s sure, is just as grateful Katarina’s grades do not allow her entry. The girl normally ignores him, but his flirting with Maria has not gone unnoticed either.
“Greetings Keith,” he says, walking over and looking at the rune. “Well, this is quite fascinating...”
It is a beautifully intricate rune – Geord doesn’t think he’s seen anything quite like it. “Where did they find something like this?”
“It was in an old tome that was willed to the Academy,” Keith explains. “Some old Viscount who spent his life collecting rare volumes. Most of it was destroyed, but how to draw the rune was still intact.”
Geord smiles and walks over the threshold, walking along the inner lines and taking in the spell work. “It’s amazing. What does it do?”
Keith chuckles. “They have no idea. Best guess is it’s some kind of transportation array, but no one can figure out how to activate it.”
“Transportation...” Geord says, kneeling down and looking at the centre. “I can see that – those are definitely runes used for it-”
“Alan was the one who figured it out,” Keith says. “But it drove him crazy because they’re not lined up right.”
He smirks at the Prince. “Do me a favour. If you figure out how to activate it, don’t tell him when I’m in the room. I have enough sibling squabbles without dealing with yours.”
Oh now the teen’s gone and made it a challenge. Geord smiles.
“Come now, if my little brother of all people can figure out it’s a transportation rune, I’ll have it running by dinner. Just in time to visit Maria and tell her all about it.”
Keiths smiles immediately falls, scowling at the Prince.
“You know, you have a fiancé. How about you leave the single girls to me?”
Geord huffs. “Maria deserves more than a flippant playboy, Keith. I might be stuck with Katarina, but I won’t just stand by and let you play around with Maria’s feelings.”
“I’m playing around?” Keith says. “You're the one whispering sweet nothings you can’t follow through on. Katarina will never agree to annul the engagement, and you know can’t break it without a valid reason.”
Geord frowns, and stands. As much as he hates to admit it, his fellow student council member is right.
“I wish Katarina didn’t have any feelings for me,” Geord says. “It would solve so many issues.”
Keith smirks and gets to his feet.
“And I wish I could have lived in a world where my family actually wanted me,” he says. “If wishes were horses, your Highness.”
He walks over and pats Geord once on the back, and the two start to walk out of the rune. However, when they both entered the middle circle, a bright light lit up against the pentagram, and both men paled as they found themselves frozen to the ground.
The rest of Geord’s worlds are stolen away as the rune activates. Outside the markings, they can hear teachers starting to yell, but it quickly fades away, as the rune pules a terrifying bright white.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come and see it Katarina?” Gerald asks, outside the door of the Lab for Experimental Magical. He’d convinced his fiancée to escort him to the door, and he’d rather continue the rare conversation he gets where it’s just the two of them.
The brunette laughs and waves off Gerald’s question. “Thanks for the offer Gerald, but my grades aren’t good enough to be allowed entry.”
“I’ll escort you,” he insists. “We can make it a date.”
To his frustration, Katarina rolls her eyes. “Don’t tease, Gerald. Besides, I have plans with Sophia and Mary and Maria.”
“And Nicol?” Gerald asks, eyebrow twitching, because lord knows Sophia doesn’t go anywhere without her brother.
“Huh? Oh no, he had Student Council work,” Katarina says, which is a little relieving.
Suddenly, someone throws an arm around both of their shoulders, and Gerald grimaces as Keith’s face looms between them.
“Here you are,” he says. “You weren’t trying to take Katarina into a secure room were you, your Highness?”
“Keith,” Gerald says, voice tight. “So, you also signed up to view it?”
The teen grins.
“I’ll be taking his Highness now, Sis,” Keith says with a strained smile, freeing his sister and yanking Gerald towards the door. Katarina merely waves them goodbye..
“You know, one of these days, you’re going to have to stop being so protective,” Gerald mutters, as Keith slams the doors of the Lab closed. “She’ll be my wife one day.”
“Not if I have anything to say about it,” Keith says, and turns to look at the rune being examined by court magicians.
“So, this is what all the teachers have been so excited about?” he asks. “I’ve never seen a rune this complicated.”
“I agree,” Gerald says, quickly following and heading for the centre. “I want to say some kind of transportation array…but there’s no way to set location, or even protection for the transport.”
Keith frowns and kneels by the outer array.
“It’s crazy. Nobody puts these incantations together, it doesn’t make any sense at all. I think there might even be musical notes in here.”
Despite himself, Gerald smirks. “Oh? Should get my brother in here then. He’d probably be fascinated.”
“Nah, he’ll just get frustrated that you got a chance to see it first,” Keith says. “Besides, he already turned down viewing it.”
“Right...” Gerald says. His brother had a recital coming up, and he’s no longer so obsessed with proving himself that he has to compete with Gerald in every arena.
“It’s a pity Maria doesn’t have the status to view it,” Keith says. “She’s really got a knack for figuring this sort of thing out.”
Gerald nods. “True. Sadly, she’s spending the afternoon with the other girls.”
Keith immediately looks up. “Worried?”
“Of course not,” Gerald scoffs. “Maria and Mary essentially cancel each other out, and Nicol won’t be there, so Sophia won’t be on the offensive. It’ll be a perfectly harmless get together.”
He stops, and sighs.
“Not that there’s any other sort when Katarina’s involved,” he adds. “She truly is dense to all compliments isn’t she?”
“I thank God every day that she’s still oblivious to your charms,” Keith replies with a satisfactory smile. “Don’t you think you should give up?”
Gerald doesn’t answer, and Keith looks up in surprise.
The Prince sighs, tracing the runes on the ground.
“She’s my fiancé, you’d think she’d have some affection for me at this point. Have I ever given her reason to doubt my intentions?” he asks. Keith winces – for all that he disapproves of Gerald’s match, the Prince has never been cruel or rude to Katarina. He’s just not selfless enough to give her up to anyone she doesn’t love back.
Gerald shakes his head. “I just wish I lived in a world where Katarina loved me. Is that such an impossibility?”
He then gives Keith a short glare. “And hopefully that would mean a world where you don’t try and sabotage me at every step.”
Keith just gives him a sharp smile. “Not going to happen. Though I have to admit, a world where I didn’t have to worry about my sister’s love life would be a relaxing one.”
He looks a little wistful. “Or even a world where she didn’t see me as a brother. That would be something to wish for.”
Gerald laughs to himself and stands up. The absolute last thing he needs is Katarina seeing Keith as anything other than her brother. But before he can voice his opinion, the ground beneath their feet starts to glow bright white...
Isekai World - Game characters
When Geord starts to come to, he’s in the infirmary. For a moment, he blinks at the roof, before memories of the light come rushing back, and he jerks up in bed.
The rune! It activated! What had it done?
He hears a groan from his right, and looks over to see Keith propping himself up – a look of disbelief on his own face.
“What happened?” he mumbles.
“I’m not sure,” Geord says. “The rune activated, but I’m not sure how. And I don’t remember exactly what it did.”
“That can’t be good,” Keith says, running a hand through his hair and looking over at Geord, scanning his frame quickly.
“Well, if nothing else, we both look like we’re in one piece,” he offers. “So that’s something.”
Geord nods, but before he can answer, a nurse walks into view, face clearly delighted.
“You’re awake!” she claims. “That’s wonderful. The professors were getting quite worried.”
Geord bets they were.
Keith quickly sends a winning smile her way.
“Thank you for taking care of us so well,” he says. “Any chance we can leave?”
To their frustration, the woman shakes her head. “Sorry, but we’re under orders to keep you here overnight. The professors will be in shortly to discuss what happened.”
Geord sags. That’s not unexpected, but still somewhat irritating.
“However, Lady Claes has been waiting outside ever since you arrived,” the nurse continues, and heads for the door. “I’ll send her right in.”
Both of them blanch at that.
“Wait-” Geord starts, but it’s too late. The nurse has opened the door and left. A second later, a familiar brunette practically knocks the door down getting in.
“You’re okay!” Katarina yells, looking overjoyed.
Geord freezes, then braces himself for the girl to invade his space. Only to blink and stare in shock as Katarina runs past him with barely a glance, in order to sit at the side of her brother’s bed, slipping a hand onto the equally shell shocked Keith’s forehead.
“Are you okay, Keith?” she asks, worry clear in her voice. “When Maria told me there’d been an accident with an experimental rune, I was terrified. Are you hurt? Do you have a fever?”
Keith is boggling at his sibling, and Geord doubts he’s doing much better. Is that really Katarina? He doesn’t think he’s heard his fiancée say that many worlds to Keith...ever. Least of all with any genuine concern.
Keith slowly gets over his shock, slowly pulling Katarina’s hand away. Katarina just looks puzzled.
“Keith?” she says. “What’s wrong?”
“I...why are you here?” he asks in clear confusion. Katarina’s expression doesn’t look much better.
“Where else would I be?” she replies. “You might be quite grown up, but you’re still my baby brother! Of course I’m going to be by your side when you’re hurt.”
Anger takes over her face, and before either of them can process what she’s said, she’s spinning in her seat and pointing a finger towards Geord.
“Did you do something?” she says. “You know Keith is sensitive! Was this your fault? I know my brother would never mess with a rune he didn’t know, so it must have been you.”
Geord is openly gawping. He honestly doesn’t think he can stop.
A passing thought comes to mind, and the edges of his lips twitch upwards.
“Aren’t you being a little cruel to your fiancée, Katarina?” he says. The girl immediately pouts.
“You’re not going to get out of it that easily, Gerald,” she warns, and his eyes twitches at the odd pronunciation of his name. However, that thought quickly gains traction, and his mouth starts to curve into a hopeful grin.
“Katarina...are you in love with me?” he asks. Katarina frowns.
“What...no, of course not,” she says, and Geord’s heart leaps. “I mean, I love you, you’re my dear childhood friend, but we both know you don’t love me, not that way. I told you a dozen times that I’m happy to break the engagement ever since my scar faded. You’re the one who refuses to break it.”
The girl quickly turns and gives Keith an exasperated grin.
“I know he likes having a shield for all the other girls, but really, you’d think he’d be willing to admit his affections for someone else at this point.”
Her smile fades as she takes in Keith’s face. Honestly, it looks like the teen might start crying.
“Keith? Keith, are you hurt?”
“Miss Katarina...” he says, barely more than a whisper.
“Miss Katarina?” she yelps. Keith gets panicked.
“I-is that wrong?”
The girl looks almost broken. “Did I do something wrong?” she asks. “You always call me Sis...”
Geord thinks he might faint – Keith isn’t much better, but he’s clearly trying to gather that playboy confidence to ask the question.
“Then...Sis,” he says. “Do you love me?”
Unlike Geord’s question, this clearly upsets her.
Of course I do!” she says, as if outraged he could question it. “You’re my brother! I adore you.”
She lunges forward, arms wrapping Keith tight in a hug, and Geord is privy to seeing the school’s biggest casanova near tears at the touch.
“Why would you even doubt that?” Katarina cries, looking close to tears herself. “I love you.”
“Nobody loves me,” Keith says, shaking his head.
“That’s ridiculous!” Katarina insists. “Of course you’re loved. For God’s sake, we both know you’re mother’s favourite.”
Keith gives a choked gasp, looking as if he might throw up, and Geord decides to throw his friend a bone.
“Katarina, I think Keith and I could do with some more rest,” he says. “Could you give us some privacy?”
The girl frowns in his direction, but when Keith nods in agreement, she reluctantly releases him from her hold and shuffles off the bed.
“I’ll send in the healers in a few minutes,” she says. “And when you’re up for it, I’ll bring everyone to visit? Alan and Nicol and the girls were all really worried about you.”
As far as Geord is aware, Alan has never given a damn about Geord’s well being and would probably be elated if he was in the medical wing. Or, at least, his Alan would…
But as Katarina walks out the door, barely giving Geord anything more than a simple wave, it’s becoming very clear that something is off.
“Keith,” he says, the second the door is closed. “This is not our world.”
“You think?” Keith says hysterically, yanking off the blanket and throwing his legs over the side. He immediately crouches over himself, running his hands through his hair. “Katarina never even touched me without injury. Let alone call me her brother .”
Geord can’t help himself, he starts giggling, pulling off the blankets and sitting on the side of the bed to join his friend. Keith starts glaring at him, but there’s no real ire in it.
“Keith,” Geord repeats. “This is not our world. We wished for this. A world where Katarina did not love me-”
“-And I was wanted ,” Keith finishes, eyes wide. “Did...did we change reality?”
Geord shakes his head. “No. Reality altering magic is far beyond our current understanding. But that rune had travel incantations hardwired into the core. Nobody could figure out why, but it’s clear now. We travelled to a different reality. One with the parameters we set.”
Keith nods, though his face is scrunched up.
“But that would require more power than we provided,” he says. “Transportation is a two way street.”
Geord nods. “Which suggests that in this reality, our counterparts were also in the rune at the same time. And possibly requested made offhand wishes like we did. Our world likely fit their parameters, and allowed us to make the trade.”
He chuckles, placing a hand on his chin. “No wonder the rune seemed impossible to activate. The odds of getting suitable matches within realities within the same time must be astronomical.”
“So, if we’re here, then our counterparts must be waking up in our world,” Keith concludes. Geord grins.
“Let’s hope their awakening is as enjoyable as ours,” he says. He doesn’t know what they might have desired that they can find in their world, but they are certainly welcome to it. For now, Geord needs to plan out the steps for the immediate future. If Keith now has the familial affection he’s always craved, he can’t complain about stepping back for Geord to pursue Maria.
First of all, he has an engagement to break.
Game World - Isekai Characters
Gerald frowns as he regains consciousness. When he opens his eyes, it’s to the infirmary roof. He has just enough time to wonder what happened, when a voice hits his ears.
“Prince Geord! I’m so happy you’re awake!”
He’s not exactly sure who ‘Geord’ is, but perhaps the rune has damaged his hearing, because someone is clutching his hand tight, and he turns in surprise to see Katarina sitting by his bedside, face filled with relief.
“Katarina...” he says, eyes flicking over to the next bed, where Keith still lies unconscious.
“I can’t believe the nerve of those magicians!” Katarina tells him. “To allow you to be injured like that. I hope your father punishes all of them. What would I do without you?”
Gerald honestly can’t believe what he’s hearing, and slowly shifts into a sitting position. He keeps his eyes on Katarina, as if she’ll vanish if he blinks. Carefully, he lifts up his free hand to cup her cheek, and nearly goes dizzy when his fiancée blushes .
“P-Prince Geord,” she all but giggles. “You’re being very forward today.”
“How can I not, when my fiancée is being so affectionate,” he says with a smile, and is rewarded with Katarina going beet red.
Dear God – he doesn’t know what that rune did but it’s officially his favourite magic artefact ever .
The moment is broken a second later when Keith groans from his bed, and Gerald sighs, dropping his hand so Katarina can go to her brother.
Except Katarina doesn’t. In fact, she barely even registers Keith waking, and just keeps smiling at him. When Keith finally joins the living, he shuffles into a sitting position, and glances over in confusion at Katarina’s back.
“Sis?” he asks, glancing at the two of them. Gerald can’t blame him, Katarina never chooses him over her sibling. However, the second Keith speaks, Katarina’s back goes ramrod straight, and her smile becomes a scowl.
“What did you just call me?”
Gerald frowns as Katarina stands up and starts looming over Keith’s bed. His eyes are wide in shock.
“I don’t know how hard you hit your head, but don’t you ever refer to me in such a way again!” Katarina yells. “Know your place, Keith!”
Her brother is looking up at her in horror, about ready to cry, and Gerald starts to get a sinking feeling in his stomach.
“Katarina, I think the two of us could use some more rest,” he says. “Would you mind leaving us for a bit?”
Katarina’s tirade cuts off as she turns her attention back to Gerald, and suddenly becomes all smiles yet again.
“Oh, of course Prince Gerald,” she chimes, hands up to her cheeks. “I’m sorry I have to leave you with this , but I’ll come see you first thing tomorrow!”
She walks towards the door, though she keeps her eyes on Gerald as long as she can before reaching the door. There’s not even a second glance in Keith’s direction.
“Keith, are you okay?” Gerald asks, once the door is closed and they’ve been left alone. The teen is practically curled into the foetal position.
“Yes...no…I don’t know,” he says. “Sis-Katarina...she’s never been that mad at me. What’s going on?”
“Keith, the rune,” Gerald says. “Do you remember what we said before it activated?”
The other student looks up, realisation crossing his face.
“Oh god...I wished Katarina didn’t see me as her brother,” he whispers, hands twisting into his hair. “What have I done?”
“And I wished she loved me,” Gerald adds. “But specifically, we wished for a world in which that was true. The rune has transportation incantations – I think we’ve swapped places with this world’s Gerald and Keith.”
Or - ‘Geord’ and Keith, apparently.
That seems to relieve Keith, and his shoulders relax.
“Wait, so that wasn’t our Katarina?” he says.
“No, or at least, not the one we’re used to,” Gerald says, and smiles. While Katarina had been overly harsh on Keith, she’d probably just been upset because her beloved fiancée was injured. As far as Gerald is concerned, a Katarina that isn’t overly doting on her little brother can only be a good thing.
“I’m sure you can smooth things over with her tomorrow,” Gerald says. “Katarina isn’t the kind to hold grudges.”
Keith glares at him, before shuffling back down and throwing the blankets over his head. Gerald chuckles and settles down himself. Tomorrow, he gets to spend time with a besotted Katarina, and no Keith to sabotage them.
He cannot wait .