I stared blankly at the elven girl beside me, her emerald eyes locked onto mine as we examined each other. Something about her was different than normal. I could tell from how composed she was despite the fact that we were in the middle of a heated battle between the Chancellor and Saki.
‘What are you doing here?’ I wanted to ask, but I caught sight of a blur in the distance where Eryn and Cornelius were engaging Saki. A brief pause revealed a speedy girl in a frilly outfit, and next to her, a young magician who had barely turned ten. They likely came back together. It seemed like not even the young ones were afraid to fight, so I turned back to the awaiting gaze of the girl who happened to be the Luck Electi.
One thing was for sure. Chrys had never used my full name before, usually only calling me ‘Claude’. Furthermore, there was a tone of maturity in her voice, rather than the innocent, brash tone of a child.
“I ask again. What do you wish to do?” She said to me.
“I uh… I want to help the others fight, but I’m not sure what to do. The Chancellor did something to me, and I’m afraid that I’ll end up like that girl over there.” I pointed at Saki, who had fallen into despair and was slowly being consumed by the darkness. My hand shook as I imagined myself falling as well; the dark miasma was already starting to infect my core. The more I used my abilities, the faster it would likely take over. But without it, I would be seriously outmatched.
Chrys stared for a moment at the girl who was easily fending off several gifted magicians. Then, she clasped my outstretched hand and gave me a smile.
“Your heart is kind. I could feel it the first time I met you. Now, it is my turn to help you.”
My attention was absorbed by the peculiarity of how Chrys was acting. Her voice held a somber weight to it, different than anything that I had ever heard from her. Before I could ask what had come over her, she opened her mouth and let out a sweet melody.
“Nascer do sol,
vento da benção,
graças a Deus—”
As the gentle but somber words graced my ears like a lullaby soothing a frightened child, I couldn’t help but remain frozen in place.
A feeling of warmth spread from Chrys, wrapping around me like a sense of nostalgic familiarity.
“Dança da terra,
canção do povo—”
These words, though completely foreign to my ears, had tickled something deep in my memories, of a time when another sang all alone as the world around her ended.
Cantem, a nossa canção…”
Even when that girl knew that the end was coming, she continued to hope and pray for the future.
“It… it can’t be… How do you know that song?”
My lips trembled as the shadow of the girl in my memories overlapped with Chrys. The evidence before me already lit up my suspicions as her voice winded down.
“We meet again, Hero Claude.”
Chrys looked at me again. This time, the image of the girl in my previous world, the war-torn world where she had been called upon as her country’s hero, greeted me like that day I stumbled upon her in the courtyard. I clammed up as I still had a hard time convincing myself that any of that had actually happened.
“I prayed… for the day that I could meet you once again. Though I didn’t know that it was you until my memories came back, I could tell it was you once I did.”
“But, why? Why now? Why here? This doesn’t make any sense to me?”
First, I learned that I had a hidden past, smashed in between my original world and this one. And then, the Chancellor forcefully drew it out into the open. And now, the girl that I saw killed before in that world had once again shown up in this world. With all that being crammed into my head, I felt like my mind was starting to break down. Like I had awoken from a dream to find out that I had become a different person.
Chrys placed a hand on my head once again. The reassuring touch seemed to bring me back to reality.
“The Goddess said that my job wasn’t done yet. That there was still something I could do in this world. Perhaps, she wanted me to be a guiding light for you. I mean, don’t you feel a bit better after my song?”
“I… uhh? Wait, the feeling is gone?”
I hadn’t noticed it until just now, but the sickening feeling of miasma was nowhere to be felt. Just to be sure, I powered up my eye skill to verify. Thankfully, my vision had returned to normal. The lines that I saw across people’s skin had disappeared once again, and the strange feeling from before did not come back.
I checked my status window. Interestingly, the other, more ominous, skill was still listed there, but it had stopped triggering by impulse. Perhaps, a great disturbance in my heart would cause it to flare up again. Therefore, I had to make sure that my spirit didn’t falter.
Seeing me satisfied with the result, Chrys smiled like she usually did. The innocent girl that I had always known was back to herself. “Go on. Kick some Chancellor butt!”
“Alright. But when this is all over, I want some answers. Don’t you go disappearing on me and hiding behind that innocent face.”
“Okay.” We both nodded at each other before I turned back to where the Chancellor was fighting against Pietro and Lau.
If Chrys had been sent here for a reason, then perhaps, I had been also. If I had supposedly failed in the last world, then I would have to make up for that error. Screw the Chancellor and his freaking plans. It was time for him to get a taste of ‘being served’ Claude-style!
Pietro and Lau wiped their brows as they weathered yet another magical attack. The Chancellor was seemingly toying with them as his attention was half-focused on the out-of-control girl in the distance.
The magicians kept their distance as they continued to launch attacks to slow down the girl who was barreling through anything in her path. Regardless if it was Cornelius’s ice spears, Eryn’s wind blades and fireballs, or Katsys’s ice magic shots, Saki easily brushed it all away with a single swipe of her hand. With a speed that left a blurring trail of miasma, she then lunged towards her nearest target.
Katsys managed to fire off a portal for her ally to escape into, just in time to avoid the poisonous air that whipped around Saki’s incoming body. Eryn and Cornelius drew Saki’s attention for the most part, being the most experienced. Ludmila sped around, occasionally being the distraction that no one could catch, and Katsys oversaw the positioning of her allies away from the dangerous advances. Yi Long stood farther back, unsure of what he could do with his limited magic power, which was weaker than the others. However, even he tried his best to launch long-distance attacks.
All during this time, the Chancellor continued to watch on, like he was spectating a sporting event. His attention was diverted just enough to dodge the swirling mana blows from Lau and beams of hardened earth from Pietro. However, another voice in the mix caught his attention once again, leading him to turn towards the source of it.
“Eff this!” The chef sliced through a wave of fire.
“Eff that!” He demolished the earth stalagmites that erupted from the ground.
“Save me the bullshit attempts at ‘skewer and flambé a la chef’!”
In mere moments, the advancing attacker had angrily cut through the Chancellor’s magic assault and came into striking range. A single knife slashed at his outfit, creating a wide tear in it. However, this time it did not draw blood.
“Useless! Why would you cling to a pitiful sense of humanity? Why will you not embrace strength, over all else? You and I are destined beings!” The Chancellor growled with annoyance as he realized that Claude had reverted to his normal self. Just when he thought that he had stirred him up enough, too.
The chef didn’t respond, but rather, mixed in pressure point strikes into his weave of attacks. Regardless, they had been too slow to strike the faster demon. Chancellor Willingham had stats equivalent to the greatest heroes. He wouldn’t be undone so easily.
He called for a magic spell, but suddenly, Claude slashed the air around him, causing the gathered mana to dissipate.
‘Curses, the drawback of a spell caster. Not enough time to complete the evocation.’ The Chancellor swung his fist at Claude, hitting him square in the chest. However, the blow had simply rattled the man’s mana shield, something that he was unaware the chef could do.
The Chancellor had already started preparing for another spell, since he thought that he would have enough time in between, but Claude quickly rebounded and cancelled it again.
Suddenly, a drill fist and heavy slash collide on either side of the Chancellor’s back. Claude’s diversion had allowed for the other two ‘heroes’ to connect an attack on him.
“I got him first!”
“No, I believe it was my strike that was a smidgen faster.”
Lau and Pietro were still at odds with each other, now competing to see who could beat the Chancellor first. With a sigh, Claude reached forward and jabbed a finger into the Chancellor’s neck, sending a shock throughout his body.
However, this was something that countermeasures had already been prepared for. Chancellor Willingham cycled the mana in his body to counteract his shaken mana gates, forcefully rebooting them in the process.
“Hehe, that won’t work. You think I’m the most powerful magician just for show? Your half-hearted mana strikes mean little to me!”
Claude turned an eyebrow up. “Is that so?” Reaching into his Item Box, he pulled out a strange jar and removed the lid. With a quick leap, he crammed it into the face of the Chancellor.
“What mockery is-,” the Chancellor started to say, a little slow from the effects of the previous attack. What could a mere jar of stuff do to a demon like him? He scoffed at the man’s lame attempt, until the contents brushed past his lips and hit his tongue.
Immediately, the Chancellor saw stars and felt an immediate urge to gag. The most horrid substance that had ever graced his palette now coated his mouth. An indescribable urge to destroy everything enveloped him as he fell backwards to the ground.
‘Damn it all! Burn it! Burn it all with fire!’ His mind went into hyperdrive as he tried to summon fire from within.
Though his body tried to squirm away, the chef continued to press various pressure points to keep him chained to the ground. Next, fire engulfed his body in an attempt to turn the heat up on the chef. That, too, failed as his mana kept being sliced away as it pooled around him. At best, slight flames burst across his body turning him into a human torch, but Claude continued to hold the jar to his face, enduring the toastiness with sweat dripping down his face. The jar was starting to get quite heated, but Claude continued to press it over the Chancellor’s mouth even as his hand started twitching from the searing pain.
“Damn it! I don’t really have a choice, do I?” Claude gritted his teeth at the burning sensation stinging his palm. His purple glowing eyes suddenly started to shift, mana leaking out from them. Though it didn’t contain miasma like it did before, it nonetheless appeared as if a heavy burden was starting to creep up on the chef.
Bringing his knife into the air shakily, it appeared as if Claude hesitated to give the final blow. The Chancellor barely heard his trembling words as he was fairly occupied vomiting into the jar trapping his mouth.
“I won’t give into you. Not when I have those that support me.”
The knife came down. The sound of gurgled vomiting stopped abruptly. The flames across the Chancellor’s body died down, leaving a smoldering husk behind.
With one stab of the knife, the Chancellor’s head neatly parted from his body. His lifeless eyes stared hauntingly at Claude. The violent struggling ceased instantly, leaving only a few slight twitches afterward.
With a grimace, Claude looked at the blood splattered against his hand. He stood up and tried to wipe it away, as if trying to cleanse himself of the result. He had relied on it once again, telling himself he had no choice. A brief flare of darkness crept into his core.
The only noise was that of magic and fighting in the distance as the area around the chef had grown silent.