-One week ago-
King Oswald sat on his throne, a half-drunken goblet of wine in his hand. Ever since he had ascended the throne, he found himself reaching for alcohol as a solution to his ongoing issues.
Like many newly-crowned kings, the thoughts of his position in respect to his people weighed heavily upon his mind. He had prayed for a smooth succession, and it had been all but certain. That was, until the events of the past several months happened.
Having been led into the belief that swift retaliation of any dissonance would be best, he had struck the first blow. By sending a platoon to subjugate the newly-established, unruly domain, he had hoped to press Viscountess Faulkner into submitting to his rule, thereby stifling any attempts at her rise in power.
However, this had resulted in the opposite effect.
Rather than submitting, the Lord herself had marched to the battlefield alone. A single girl who hadn’t even become of age had decided to face off against an entire force of over 500 men. All to protect an equivalent population of citizens hiding behind her – mainly those of peasants, craftsmen, and merchants. There were hardly enough fighters to defend such an area.
Her impudent action was as laughable as it was stupid. They would’ve simply made an example of her and her domain for all to see.
Yet, things went vastly wrong.
His men soon learned that the Viscountess was anything but a noble with novice skills. Like the hammer of Valhalla crashing down into a sea of fire, the men found themselves caught in a fearsome attack that had decimated a sizable portion of their forces in an instant.
Those that stood at the edge of its effects had started running for their lives, screaming as if the heavens had started coming for them. This created a huge disturbance that propagated through the entire platoon. Soon, it had devolved into utter chaos.
Those that looked back saw the figure of a lone girl in a sea of flames and shattered earth, daring them to approach. The haze created from the dust and heat had given her an ethereal veil that heightened their fears. Not one man had the resolve to continue the assault on the town. As a result, it had been a complete failure on Oswald’s part.
With the speed of a Magic Pigeon, the surrounding areas learned of the new king’s misstep in governing.
“How incompetent the new king is!”
“To be trounced by the likes of a lady, and one fresh in her role still.”
“Have you heard though? Her abilities are on par with that of heroes in the past.”
“Isn’t she the master of that Demon Cleaver? Her power appears to be enhanced by that partnership with an Electi. It’s no wonder that she could repel an army!”
Various gossip of the event had caught fire within the Kingdom of Sistina, and soon, people had started taking sides. Though unintentional from her actions, the stock of Viscountess Faulkner had started to swell enormously as a result.
King Oswald sneered at that thought. To be shown up by a single girl, his entire reputation had been jeopardized! Rather than giving up and letting things die down, the King next ordered a team of magicians loyal to him to assist in a follow-up attack.
Oswald was not one to give up easily. He had been put in charge of guarding the North in the past, where he had to be vigilant, knowing that they would poke holes in his defense otherwise. He had begrudgingly left the country’s defense against invasion to Sir Gadwin for the time being, so he could focus on crushing the threat that was starting to develop internally.
A week after the initial failure, he had rallied an even stronger force to take down the town of Faulkner. The men from before only managed to agree once they knew that magicians and magic knights would accompany them. Magic was a game-changer in any battle, as it could be used in many capacities to pepper the opposing side with long-range attacks and create openings for a frontal assault.
However, when they arrived near the borders of town, they were greeted by a strange sight – a giant magic dome that encompassed the town’s perimeter. The soldiers smacked at it with their weapons, and the magicians cast various spells, but the invisible barrier held firm.
Many minutes of futile effort later, Viscountess Faulkner casually walked up to the stalled men from within the safety of the barrier. A long cloak was draped over her, like how she had appeared to them last.
“How do you like that? I’ve been sleeping pretty well since we managed to get this up and running. Will need to thank the Princess for leaving enough detail for our craftsmen to piece it together.”
Apparently, Oswald’s dear sister had reverse engineered the barrier projection technology that shielded the country of Macali. Using the notes that she had left behind, the Faulkner Trading Company had gathered the right people to create a smaller scale prototype of this device.
Though the area was not as plentiful in mana as the country of Macali, there was an ample supply to power a barrier that stretched across the town. Such a barrier was strong enough to stop even the strongest of spells, reported the Chancellor when he went to examine it. While the barrier wasn’t indestructible, it would exhaust the magic supply of their magicians trying to take it down. Thus, the only access point was a gate that had been set up at the front entrance, which limited the number that could enter. Of course, this entrance was guarded by none other than Pythagoras Tromaine.
Once again, the failed attempt at capturing the town spread across the kingdom.
“She’s done it again! A barrier that turns away those who forcefully try to invade. Who would’ve believed that was possible?”
“Did you hear? The previous Captain of the Royal Guard has returned! And he’s in leagues with that Viscountess!”
“Really? Sounds more dependable than the nimrod that’s sitting on the throne right now. Maybe we should move there. Our lives would be in safe hands with her at the top.”
“Hey, I heard a rumor that the lords who support her would also benefit as well. The merchants are going around setting up barriers for those gaining her favor.”
Those that opposed King Oswald’s rule started to leave, hiding under the coalition that started forming under her banner. No longer would they have to fear the whims of a king who they lacked faith in.
The King’s former power had been placed in doubt as new technology and a well-received lord had taken away much of his ‘absolute’ might. Many started to question if they even needed a king, with how events would play out in the future.
‘My father would be rolling in his grave!’ Oswald threw his cup down as his thoughts grew more negative. The crown upon his head hadn’t even been worn in, and his royal legacy had already been put into question.
The wine that spilled from the cup splattered across the floor as the metal goblet continued to bounce, finally settling before the door to the throne room.
At that moment, the door opened, and a messenger walked in. He carried a small roll of parchment, and there was a slight tremble in his legs.
“Y-Your Majesty.” The man bowed before the throne and waited for the King’s acknowledgement.
“Well. Go on. Out with it. If it’s anything like before, it’s nothing but bad, bad news, now isn’t it?”
“Y-Yes, your Majesty. I-I bring news that a number of lords have continued to defect to the other side… Earl Warrington, Earl Roenback, Viscount Lingonberle, the domain that Marquis Auxerre used to head… they now fly banners of the Valkyrie-“
“Valkyrie?! What a farce! A girl merely blessed with the gifts of an Electi thinking that she is some mythical hero?! Unfathomable!” King Oswald’s anger boiled over, causing the messenger to slink back. He had grown tired of the little nickname that the girl had somehow acquired.
Before he knew it, Oswald realized that he had drawn his sword and pointed it right at the messenger. Needless to say, his action had caused a wet trail to form along the man’s pants. A slight pool had formed at his feet.
“Ugh. Never mind. Leave me! You are excused!” The King hastily sheathed his sword and turned around, reminding himself to call a maid to clean it up later. He heard rapid footsteps as the man bolted through the door and left him in peace.
“Damn it! If only, I hadn’t listened to the advice of that man! Why did it go so wrong this time?! Had I just fooled myself in trusting him?” The King cursed under his breath. All of this had gone wrong since the Chancellor had first suggested for him to rid his enemies.
‘And where was that blasted man now?!’ It seemed like the man was off doing other things, while Oswald was left here to piece back the crumbling bits of his legacy.
“Curse you, Willingham! Curse you, Faulkner! Curse you, sister! For all of these blasted troubles!”
The King’s feverish wailing continued to be heard off and on throughout the day.
Elsewhere, the Chancellor was in his office, reviewing the information his scouts had gathered. A hint of amusement could be seen tracing the corner of his lips. Unlike the King, he was rather enjoying the current state of affairs.
“I see… So that warrior was all talk in the end. Even after I had pulled some strings to give him a chance at disrupting the Holy Family. To think that things would play out that way…”
The Chancellor had seen an opportunity to disrupt the country of Sanshiro and weaken it. In order for him to set foot in the country once again, he needed someone to go and usurp the rule of the Holy Family, who was in charge of the mana barrier that blanketed the territory. Though it had no trouble allowing normal people in, those that had fallen to the whims of demonic power were kept at bay by design.
The Chancellor had no choice but to create internal strife if he wanted the barrier to crumble, allowing him to reclaim the precious test sample that he had found. If the country fell into disarray, there would be no choice but for the chef to flee with his dear princess.
Claude Evers – the name rolled off his tongue gently. Aside from Saki, he had been the closest to demonizing. As Electi advanced into their role, they gained skills that complimented their abilities. In particular, the chef had gained the eyesight and sense to cut through objects with the greatest of ease.
However, these advancements also brought them ever closer to the fine line of becoming a demon.
“Demon…,” the Chancellor chuckled.
That was what people in this world called it. Those with powers that had become unfettered. The beings that wielded abilities far beyond human comprehension. Former humans who had given up their sense of will and reasoning in favor of power beyond anything they could normally obtain.
However, what of those that continued to retain their reason and sense of humanity?
Does one such as himself, who had ascended beyond his limits and wielded the power of ‘Demons’, count amongst those evil incarnations? Did he deserve to be hunted down because his powers were unexplainable to the people of this world?
For that reason, David Willingham had fought for many generations in hiding, seeking for the way to create those like him – beings that transcended the mold that they were created with.
It was for a noble cause. That was what he had always told himself. Just like any desire for true change, sacrifices had to be made. People had to perish. This was all for the sake of his goal. Though others may have called him a ‘Demon’ for it, he wished for nothing more than to establish a place for himself.
A place for those that are believed to be ‘cursed’ by this world, a measure of safety for those who worry about going ‘too far’, an understanding of how to keep one’s power from destroying the container in which it was housed – these were the things that those who called themselves ‘Electi’ would face in the future.
The very concept of Electi as heroes in this world was flawed to begin with. Nothing came without a price. In exchange for their mysterious abilities, most Electi would undoubtedly fall at some point, turning into an unrecognizable monster that was merely a shadow of their former self. As with the birth of heroes, the signal of a demon’s arrival was not far behind. It was as if the Gods themselves had decided that Heroes could only serve their purpose for a time, rather than allowing them to be leaders of men.
Those that first discovered this decided that it was too dangerous for the general public to know. Hence, all records of it had been destroyed and lost throughout history.
That worked to the Chancellor’s advantage. He was free to promote the Electi as ‘heroes of the kingdom’ while he secretly observed their progress. What the people didn’t know wouldn’t invoke fear. If one of his subjects were to end up as a failure and demonize, then the humans would do their job to slay them like they always did. That had been the case for many generations.
A knock sounded on the door. After a brief pause, a blue-haired knight walked in.
“Chancellor Willingham, what business do you have with me?”
“Why, Marquis Reichenstein, or rather, the Watchdog… I believe that it’s time for your role in this to begin.”