As chaos erupted within the room, a familiar tug of material over her skin enveloped Gwendolyn. It had been quite a while since she had last worn the suit, after the previous one was destroyed.
But seeing as they didn’t know any other livelihood but to serve with their bodies, she and her brother begged for replacements.
They wanted to be useful. They wanted validation. A sense of security that their current Master would not abandon them. It would take quite some time to consider themselves as anything more than tools. Especially when they couldn’t walk independently without each other.
They were broken, flawed, and useless as individuals. They were dependent on each other, begging to move as a set. That was why they didn’t see themselves as anything more.
The two of them pleaded to return to duty. And after a while, the Queen of Sistina gave in. Using the scraps that were recovered from their old suits, she crafted brand-new ones. Unveiling upgraded versions, the mark of Sistina could be clearly seen on the chest area, an angel descending to bring forth fortune. A shiny gem in the center gave off a warning glint.
It was a Resonance Stone, able to fuel the two with mana like their old suits did.
“Please wear them with pride. And though he may not be as active in the field anymore, please try not to wear him down too much,” the Queen smiled as she draped them over the two.
She was referring to the King, who now possessed the Power of Mana. Of course, Gwendolyn knew that it was a joke, seeing how unlikely anything they did could exhaust such an immense reservoir. But she could see it in the Queen’s eyes. It was her way of telling them to take care, just like how Olivia used to.
The words and faces were different, but the warmth and care felt the same.
Gwendolyn and Orwitz fired their guns rapidly, now protected by the suit. Magic harmlessly bounced off them. They returned the favor by sniping the spellcasters in the head with stunning rounds.
The bullets tore through their mana shields, taking them by surprise as they considered themselves to be somewhat proficient magicians. However, their expectations shifted as they soon realized that they were fighting against the might of the crown. The gun was of custom build, harnessing the energy from the Electi of Critical and crafted personally by the Inventor Queen.
Since each shot carried the intent of Sistina to rid its evils, the crowd had no way of guarding against the same strength that protected the entire kingdom. However, these bullets weren’t lethal, but simply held a Lightning spell that discharged upon impact, zapping the target into an immobile state.
This was not Purnesia. Those who were deemed troublesome weren’t executed on the spot. But that didn’t mean that Gwendolyn and Orwitz would let them off easy. They knew what it was like to be hauled off and imprisoned, waiting with dread for a bleak and uncertain future.
But in their case, someone had come to save them. A gentle hand that was covered in blood reached out, beckoning them to swallow their fear and embrace courage. Even smeared in dark red, Olivia was their savior. And that was what their people needed most now. The two of them would return the favor after their good fortune.
Bullets and magic flew across the room, the finely arranged décor uprooting from its place and scattering all around. It was clear which side was prevailing. Between the two suited fighters ‘terminating’ their surroundings and the nobles cowering behind what cover was available, several people gave up the fight and fled to cut their losses.
Gwendolyn and Orwitz didn’t let them, though. They immediately honed in on them, shooting a few rounds into their open posteriors and watching them convulse to the floor. Gwendolyn wanted to do more to the cowards, but she heaved a deep sigh to calm herself. Revenge was not what they came here for. They had come for the prison-
“Orwitz! Cover me!”
She had nearly forgotten about the captives in the heat of the moment. Letting herself get too into punishing the vile people, her mind had skipped over the other portion of their plan – to release their countrymen.
The two of them would be fine apart for now. The vibrant hum of mana coursing through their suits kept their cores going for a while, more than long enough to handle the situation. Rather, a compulsion to stay close to each other hovered over their actions, something that technology alone had yet to resolve. Matters of the heart required other measures.
Gwendolyn was about to dash toward the back to free the prisoners, but then, the wall behind them exploded, spraying bits of stone foundation and wood across the stage. The impact was so great that they couldn’t help but tighten their defenses at the looming power that created such an entrance.
‘More guards? Did they call for backup?’ Gwendolyn thought, cursing under her breath for not disabling them sooner.
But then, the glint of a toy mask poked out from the plume of dust and debris. Wearing baggy dark robes to hide his own profile, the peculiar face covering turned the otherwise normal appearance comical. It didn’t help his case when he spoke.
“Oh yeah! I’m here to arrest you, evildoers! For I am, Slicey Mask!” The shrill cry of a bad falsetto made everyone pause their attacks in confusion.
“Ah, it’s the King,” the twins said bluntly in response. That made Slicey Mask trip and nearly stumble.
“N-No, I don’t-, I’m Slicey Mask!” he insisted, waving his knife around. A chef knife, the weapon that the King was well known to use. Seeing that the twins both pointed to it as a dead giveaway, he didn’t need any other reason to give up his act.
“Dammit!” he cried in his normal voice, slipping back into the hole like he could save face by doing so. The sound of fabric rustling and the plunk of a thin object echoed from within.
“The King is here to arrest you!”
This time, a man in regal white robes and golden light armor pounced forward. There wasn’t a person in the room who didn’t recognize the face of their new King, Claude Evers de la Sistinia. Moreover, the stories of his battles traveled far. However, this was certainly not the time for the crowd to dwell upon such things. The very fact that the King was present at this site of illegal activity made any hope of escape impossible.
Claude zoomed past the twins, sending a vertical slice of mana that filled the space between the floor and ceiling as it tore through everything it touched. It was like he had parted the room, cleaning up whatever debris and carrying it forward. The wave crashed into the door at the end, dumping its load in front and thereby blocking the main exit.
“Don’t worry about the guards and prisoners. I already took care of them,” he said without looking back. He simply dove into the crowd afterwards, giving each offender hardly a moment to reflect before his knife carved away the mana within their bodies.
Gwendolyn and Orwitz nodded lightly, not expecting the sudden help. But they couldn’t object to it. Their lives had been in his hands ever since he had saved them from being controlled by Lamps’ suit. While they didn’t mind being used as tools, death wasn’t something that they sought.
After waking up to find out that the war with Sistina was over, they learned of Lamps’ master plan. And how after that was revealed, Claude felt determined to save them. They couldn’t help but hold a small measure of trust in their former enemy after Golabki vouched for him. With their former Masters dead, the twins had nowhere else to go.
“There’s always a place for you. You just need to work hard to get it,” Claude said at the time. And now, he was still extending that hand to them, to all the Purnesians who were displaced by the war. The back of the King of Sistina, as he punished the greedy hands that were raised against them, gave Gwendolyn a glow of respect.
As the room erupted into chaos due to the King’s assault, Gwendolyn and Orwitz leapt into action, rounding up the ones that were out of his reach. In mere minutes, a room inhabited by tens of corrupt nobility fell under their complete control. The few that weren’t unconscious had their heads to the floor, bowing for forgiveness.
Claude merely looked at them with a pained sigh. He was not there to be a judge or executioner. That was best left to a panel of chosen people, where their punishments could be negotiated to a satisfactory level.
Gwendolyn and Orwitz approached him, reverting back to their prior outfits and saluting him. He turned toward them and dropped the intense focus that he held during the struggle. The air in the room felt like it had dropped several degrees instantly, back to the normal temperature.
“Fancy seeing you two here. I kind of expected that you wouldn’t sit still, but going undercover on your own? That’s a bit risky. Maybe I should have a talk with Dengel.”
“No, Your Majesty. It was us who insisted on this task. We wished to take back our countrymen with our own power.”
Gwendolyn’s eyes shone with conviction. And seeing that, Claude smirked.
“Is that so? Alright, if that’s what you two want, I’m glad to see that we were on the same side. Though I can’t help but wonder if you get a bit toooo into it….” Claude looked between her and Orwitz. “That’s ah…, quite the outfits that you have on. Very nice, haha.”
Claude’s eyes lingered upon Orwitz in a frilly dress and long wig, making it obvious where his sarcasm was directed. Orwitz remained indifferent, not particularly minding the disguise as it helped attract the target in question. They had purposefully set themselves up to be kidnapped by Baron Sauvignon. The Earl had given them permission to access their suits for the task, and a clean-up team was en route to round up the offenders, but having the King here simplified the process.
“Yosh, guess I’ll call up Roderick and throw them all in the dungeon for the evening. Spent enough time messing around…”
“Your Majesty, does the Queen know that you are here?”
That innocent question, spoken with the purest of intent, caused Claude to freeze. Gwendolyn was used to the schemes of Lamps Magellan taking him to all sorts of places. As such, Olivia often questioned if they had seen the inventor roaming about.
“Ah…” Claude turned back toward Gwendolyn and placed his hands on her shoulders. In a low voice that only Orwitz and she could hear, he spat out.
“Katalina does need to worry about such things. A man has to let off some steam occasionally, built up stress from all the deskwork. And… she doesn’t need to know about the ‘mask’ either, understand?”
Claude put extra emphasis on the later part, to which they merely nodded. They had no interest in stirring up drama over whims. And he had done it to help them. That was just the kind of person that was slowly being etched upon their minds, that of an easygoing ruler that held his beliefs stoutly upon his chest.
It would take some getting used to, superiors that treated them with care and a measure of casual attitude. Gwendolyn wondered if that was what she would have felt if the two of them had been born ‘normal’. Regardless, the mana that flowed from Claude was warm, unlike what came from Lamps. She felt like she could become dependent on it if siphoned too often.
“Ah, by the way. The two of you should swing by the castle at some point. Katalina came up with something that might help with your unique situation.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. We can depart at on-”
“Hey, no rush. It’s late. Why not come by tomorrow morning?” Claude interrupted, holding out a hand. He had to remind them constantly that very few of his statements were orders.
“As you wish.” The twins said once again in sync.
Claude sighed. At least, he wouldn’t have to explain why the two were dressed so strangely for the visit if they came the next day.