A young girl of 13 was practicing her sword form in the courtyard, under the watch of an old man in a butler outfit. Though she had naturally been clumsy at first, a persistent will drove her to continue the study. It was one of the ways she could get closer to the person she admired so dearly, her mother.
She loved the way her mother moved as she danced around the grass swinging her majestic saber, Radiant Light. The sword gleamed in the sunlight, reflecting spots of light in an arc around her as she moved. It was as if rays of light were cut with each swing, yielding gems that sparkled for brief moments.
The sword had been a gift by her father, a symbol of his love and admiration for the female knight who captured his heart. A symbol of strength hidden under a gleaming beauty that could cut down any darkness that dared approach.
As the vivid scene played out in the girl’s mind, she tried to trace the steps and movements in an amateurish attempt to move the same way her mother did. After a while, the old man held up a hand, signaling her to pause.
“My Lady, how many times have I told you to clear your mind? I know you wish to get closer to your mother, but you must develop movements that suit you, that suit your style. Simply copying another will not get you very far.”
“I know, but I can’t help but wish to dance as gracefully as mother.”
“That will come in time. Be patient. Let’s stop here for now. Why don’t you spend some time on your magic training? Your parents will be proud of how far you have gotten when they return home.”
Her parents were currently away on a business trip, delivering goods to a remote location in the kingdom. They had been gone for about a week and planned to return the next day. In the meantime, she made several trips to her friend to practice magic control in her free time. Her friend’s precise control and excellent tutoring allowed her to grasp the basics much faster than the lessons at the magic academy.
Given her parents’ lack of magic potential, they would be no doubt proud that their daughter had made leaps and bounds at something they themselves had no ability in. Having a proficiency in two elements, fire and wind, was also an impressive trait. Seeing this, they hoped that the girl would join the prestigious magic knight guild that would ensure her future and open many doors to higher nobility if she wished to pursue it.
Eager to satisfy her parents’ hopes, the girl did her best in her training. Especially in the past week, her training had yielded great results, giving her an excuse to ask for a reward for her hard work. Her father, especially, was eager to spoil her, bringing back gifts from his travels as part of his regular merchant work.
After her training had been completed for the day, the girl went back to her room to change. Afterwards, she gazed at a glass jar on her dresser, containing a few round, spiky objects of different colors. These objects were one such thing her father would bring back, a candy that sparkled like a gem in the light. Taking one and putting it in her mouth, she smiled in delight at the sweet taste as it lightly crunched between her teeth. The jar was nearly empty, so she would be looking forward to refilling it when her parents returned.
The next morning, the doorbell rang.
Eagerly hoping that her parents had returned, she raced out of her room and down the stairs, still in her sleepwear. However, the only ones standing at the entrance had been her butler and a knight. As the butler turned around, she could see immediately that something was wrong, as he was carrying a heavy, solemn expression.
“My Lady…I am so sorry. Your parents…they will not be returning to us…” The butler looked away, unsure how to soften the blow.
“What do you mean! Not returning? Why?”
The butler shook his head sadly. “They have passed away. Victims of bandits.”
The knight moved forward and handed a small bag to the girl. “My condolences. This was all we could recover. Your father was clutching it tightly in his hand.”
As the girl accepted the bag with trembling hands, the words before echoed over and over in her mind. She couldn’t accept this. There was so much she wanted to show them. There was so much she wanted them to be proud of. To hear their kind words and encouragements…To have them watch her grow…Now, none of that would be possible.
Tears streamed down her cheeks as she came to this realization. Wordless sobs choked the back of her throat. Letting the bag drop to the ground, the contents scattered on the floor – a collection of round, spiky candies glimmered as they reflected the morning sunlight from the open door.
Eryn woke up with a jolt.
Clutching her face with her hands, she tried to shake away the dream she had awoken from. A dream which had played out the memories of her past.
It had been three and a half years since then, but the events of that day had continued to haunt her dreams periodically. Since that time, she had buried herself in her training, in part to keep her mind off of it. However, the pain crept into her heart whenever her mind became idle. After all, she was still a young lady, fighting for a place in this world.
For that reason, she wished to be powerful, powerful enough to take on those that caused her parents’ demise, powerful enough so that she would no longer lose anything else.
So much had happened since then, especially in the past six months, starting when she had summoned her familiar.
At first, she was elated that she had happened upon an Electi, as they had the prospects of becoming hero-like familiars. She would just have to treat him well to get him to do her bidding.
Her hopes were dashed soon after when she saw how inept he was in a fight. Pouring through his status window, her heart sank when she saw his imbalanced stats and lack of anything skill-wise. She seemed to have been dealt a strange hand, but one that perhaps could have been salvageable.
Dreading that she would have to spend significant coinage to provide him with strong equipment, her expectations were dashed once again as he had been unable to slay the weakest of monsters even when equipped with her sword.
Questioning how this could be, Eryn scanned through his menu once again, stopping at a page that highlighted equipment proficiency. Typically, a person’s proficiency determined how much of said object’s base stats he would take on when something was equipped. If one was skilled at using swords and wearing heavy armor, then they would naturally benefit more from using those items.
What was displayed on that page made Eryn rub her eyes. Her familiar, Claude, had a proficiency of 0% in attack and magic. That would mean that nothing he equipped would impact those stats either. Laughing inwardly at her terrible misfortune, she wondered if it would be best to abandon him right there.
However, he was human. Her conscience wouldn’t allow her to do such a terrible act. That would make her no better than the other nobles that looked down on her. Eryn saw that he had quickly closed his menu as soon as he saw his terrible stats upon level up, holding no further interest in something that would only depress him. For the moment, she neglected to tell him about the rest of the menu. She didn’t want to wreck his morale any further.
Still in disbelief at her bad luck, she turned to her butler and training instructor on what to do.
“Give him time. I sense potential,” he unexpectedly told her after a week of training.
Eryn couldn’t see where that potential could come from, but trusting her long-time mentor, she waited. Sure enough, Claude soon unlocked the secret to his ability, instantly slaying a monster several times stronger than himself in a single blow.
As signs of Claude’s hidden potential started to bloom, she continued to play her role as the ‘good master,’ ever-supportive to ensure a bond of trust would form between them. After all, he did seem like the straight-forward type that wore his heart on his sleeve. Simple encouragement and sweet words were enough to get him to follow her requests.
Yet, over the next six months, Claude would seemingly surprise her around every corner. First, by quickly grasping a battle sense based on his unique abilities. Next, with his strange decisions that got her through many situations.
With each step on her journey, he would manage to keep up, all the while serving delicious food, the likes that she had never experienced before.
Her plans were progressing smoothly with him around, so she continued to treat him as well as possible, all the time hoping that he would become her ticket to success.
Then, an unexpected event occurred – A demon appeared in the kingdom. Seeing as how easily Claude had been able to slay the demonized beasts, she took a gamble and convinced him to fight the demon. Though he was hesitant at first, she anticipated that he would risk his life for her. All it took was a little push in the right direction. Even if he had fallen, as long as they could take down the demon in the end, she would reap the benefits. She mentally chided herself for letting her ambitions take over, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
However, Claude surpassed her expectations once again, as she watched him finish the demon off. She marveled at how someone with so little promise at the beginning had grown to be an indispensable partner that could take down a being only the strongest dared to challenge.
Indeed, with his help, she had gotten much farther in her goals than she expected. Becoming a Senior Knight within the span of six months was nearly unheard of. Even Cornelius, with his incredible achievements and capability, took two years to reach the same point.
She welcomed the acceleration of her plans, as Claude continued to build up her achievements. After all, a familiar’s successes were his master’s, and she would accept any boost of prestige that came her way.
However, she couldn’t stop there. She had much more to do. With the wind in her sails, she couldn’t help but anticipate the moment her goal would be achieved.
Looking at her dresser, she eyed the glass jar on top. Though there was hardly any light illuminating the room, she could clearly make out the round, spiky candies that had filled the jar. Ever since that time, she had not touched a single one. It was a memento of her parents’ feelings and a constant reminder of what she needed to do next.
A dark shadow chased after her.
One that threatened to take her away from her current life.
With the clock ticking down in her mind, she knew that she couldn’t waste any time if she hoped to be free from it.
She had to make sure that her achievements would lift her nobility status by the time she was formally recognized as an adult, which was only just over a year away. Otherwise, all she had done would be for naught.
She couldn’t let her home be taken away. Everything her parents created and passed on to her was right here, and she’d be damned to let it all disappear.
Laying back down in bed, Eryn’s thoughts continued to work through her ideas, Claude being the centerpiece to her plans.
“Let’s see…what should I have Claude do for me next?” She whispered to herself.
At this point, hunting monsters was no longer necessary. Claude’s level had skyrocketed after defeating that demon. Bandits and small-time crooks were too minor to win over any praise. She needed something bigger to spread her name in the kingdom.
“If only there were another demon incident like before. That would give me enough renown to acquire a Baron title.”
For now, she would continue working to steadily build up her recognition, all the while looking for the next big catch. Having become a Senior Knight, she would have more access to dangerous requests and was allowed more input in which she would accept. With Claude the Demon Cleaver next to her, she had an invaluable trump card. She couldn’t be in a better position.
As Eryn started drifting off to sleep, she dreamed of the day that she would be free.
“Keep surprising me, Claude…,” she muttered, half asleep, before the room became silent once again.