I stared at the lifeless body of the Chancellor.
“It had to be done. There wasn’t any other way,” I mumbled to myself.
The one that caused it all – my struggles, Eryn’s, Katsys’s, Saki’s, those in both the Kingdom of Sistina and the country of Sanshiro – was now silenced by my blade. His actions had done so much harm to all of us.
I tried to keep myself calm, convincing myself that what I had done was not an act of revenge, but a necessity to stop the disasters placed on the people I was close to.
My body was a bit battered from the magic attacks I dashed into. Cutting through the mana that supplied the magic spells had dampened its power, but it didn’t completely negate them. Also, the hand that had clamped the jar of foulness from a failed cooking session now shrieked in pain from the burns that I endured. It was surprising that something as dumb as that would do him in, but somehow, my instincts didn’t fail me.
Trying hard not to rely on ‘Eyes of Ruination,’ I unfortunately had to use it in the end. Hopefully, that brief flash of darkness was temporary. Apparently, fate didn’t seem to see it that way.
I clutched my stomach, the feeling of miasma once again seeping out of my core. Pietro and Lau ran up to me as I fell to my knees, looking for relief from the discomfort.
“Sir Claude! What has Willingham done to you?” Pietro was the first to ask, not having seen me dragged off before.
“That bastard. Doing the same thing to you as he did to me and Jiro. We need to contain that miasma somehow,” Lau added, having experienced it himself.
However, the two of them then heard a sweet melody drift through the air. Turning around, they saw the young girl from before singing a soothing song with her eyes closed. As the notes registered in my ears, the miasma appeared to dissipate from my core, once again showing that the melody had the power to cleanse the darkness.
Pietro and Lau were shocked by how quickly my mana returned to normal, allowing for me to stand up without any issues.
Chrys’s singing voice seemed to hold a measure of divinity, like she had been blessed by the Gods. How else would something like that have such a great impact on me? After she completed her verse, she opened her eyes. The sight of her peaceful expression among the battlefield caused my heart to stop a bit. Just like in my previous incarnation, it had a profound effect on me.
“Now that this fight is over with, tell me Chrys. Why does your song hold such power?” I waited anxiously for her answer. If it had the power to calm the miasma within me, could it do the same for the currently raging Saki?
“Before I was summoned… I recall meeting a Goddess. She told me that my song was important. That it harmonized with the mana within people. That the good within people would be drawn to it.”
“The good in people?”
“Yes, I was given a blessing. A way to search for good-natured people to join me. That is why I knew you were kind when I first met you, Claude. I could feel the mana of good within you.”
I thought back and recalled a few times that she would be lightly humming a tune. It seemed like a childish gesture, but to think that it had a secret purpose… That was a peculiar way to find allies, but I couldn’t really judge. However, Chrys had encountered a Goddess before being summoned to another world. Had something similar happened to me as well?
Yet, I couldn’t recall anything of the sort. Perhaps, I would remember more as time went on. After all, Chrys had suddenly awoken to her memories not long ago. And mine were forced out of me by the Chancellor. Shaking my head, I realized that this wasn’t important now. Rather, we had another person to save.
“Chrys, do you think your song can reach another?” I pointed my thumb over to the obvious target.
“Perhaps. As long as she retains some goodness in her heart-“
Her statement was cut off as we felt an ominous presence behind us once again. All of us turned back towards the body of the Chancellor with a sudden prickly feeling that things hadn’t been finished.
A dark murky form crawled out from the decapitated body of the Chancellor like a scene from a horror movie. The thing was almost entirely made of miasma with a core briefly shining from within the darkness.
“Sir Claude, you didn’t strike the core?!” Lau said in a panic.
“Wait, was I supposed to?!”
“A demon’s will does not follow the norms of the living. One must strike at the source of the darkness.” Pietro was already prepared to fire off another round of his signature skill.
However, the demon had already prepared a spell, having plenty of time to ready it while we had left it for dead. This time, a raging inferno erupted with it at the epicenter, sending a huge wave of flame outwards that charred everything it touched.
Lau stepped in front of us and generated a massive mana shield, while Pietro fired off a giant wave of mana that aimed to cancel out the fiery wall in front of us. I surrounded myself with as much mana as possible and hugged Chrys against my chest, before making a dash away. However, I had barely taken a few steps before the stinging heat of the wall crashed against my back and sent me flying.
I rolled on top of the charred grass, surprised that my clothing hadn’t caught fire from the result. On the other hand, the shopkeeper where I bought my outfit had mentioned that it was made with special fibers and dragon scales that beefed up protection from the magical elements. I inwardly sighed in relief that I hadn’t skimped on choosing the fancy attire.
However, I noticed that I had let go of the girl that was in my arms. Apparently, the shockwave had tossed her from my grasp. Quickly scanning the surrounding area, I located her a few meters away from where I had ended up. Although she was unconscious, she didn’t appear burned by the attack. Her robe had been of similar quality as well. Despite that, the surprise attack had been more powerful than all the ones before it. I bit my lip at my naivety in letting the demon charge up something like this.
“Sooooo. That is the cauuuuse!” An eerie voice boomed from behind me. “That giiiiirl! A wretched tool of divinity sent here to dash my aspirations!” Slowly, the voice went from distorted to sounding more human. Was he recovering from the fatal injury that I gave him?
I readied my knife, thinking that I’d just have to cut him down properly this time. As Pietro, Lau and I rushed forward, the dark form suddenly leapt from the Chancellor’s body and raced away, beckoning us to follow. As we dashed after it, I couldn’t help but think that it was trying to buy some time. But from what?
It didn’t take long before we realized what his true aim had been. So focused were we on its movements, that we were slow to notice that Saki had suddenly abandoned her fight against the others and started racing straight for the unconscious Chrys.
Saki’s arm was raised as her sights honed onto crushing the one who could drive the darkness away, thereby sealing any hopes for her recovery. I heard the demon laugh with glee as it was obvious that he had somehow put her up to the task, likely through mind control.
Though I pivoted and moved to protect her, the distance between us was too much. Saki’s demonic speed quickly closed the gap between herself and the target. Suddenly, a portal appeared in front of Chrys with Katsys stepping out.
She fired bolt after bolt of magic from her gun at the demonizing girl, but those were promptly batted away like annoying pests. With her other hand, she fired a portal that lacked any connection, which served as a shield of mana when no exit was defined. Once again, Saki crashed straight into it and shattered it, undaunted by the obstacle in her way. The resulting burst of mana as the shield exploded sent both Katsys and Chrys rolling backwards.
She abandoned her assault and scooped up the unconscious girl before making new portals to create some distance. As she was about to dive into it, her body crashed into something solid instead. She was surprised to find that the connecting portal had been suddenly cancelled.
While everyone’s eyes were drawn by Saki’s charge, the demon had sent a bolt of magic that destroyed where the exit would’ve been. Unfortunately, Katsys had timed her retreat poorly, not leaving herself enough time to create another set of portals to escape.
She watched in horror as Saki dove at her, ready to obliterate both the princess and the young elven girl.
“DAMN IT ALL!!!” A loud masculine cry sounded in the air as another form dove right in front of Katsys, blocking Saki from reaching her.
The back of a gleaming set of armor, once worn by her father for many years, now faced her. Her eyes widened as she realized that only her brother would be wearing such a thing at this time.
“Shut up, Sister! Always the one needing to be protected! How unfair! Why do people gather around you?! Why are you the one they all want?!”
Oswald’s Durandal shook as he was barely holding back Saki’s claw of miasma. Saki took a swipe with her other hand, catching him in the side. Immediately, the armor crumpled from the blow. A trail of blood started seeping from between the cracks.
Even with the strongest weapon and armor in the kingdom, it had been no match for the likes of a demonizing Electi who specialized in attack power. The force of Saki’s attacks would have crushed any other man that simply defended like Oswald had been doing. Gaining points in defense from being her Master had bridged the gap just enough.
“What are you waiting for?! Get yourself away! NOW!” He wailed at his stunned elder sister, prompting her to tighten her grip on the portal gun. Tears rolled down the side of her face as she fired and dashed away with Chrys in her arms.
Turning back towards Saki, his summoned Electi, he held a bit of regret in his eyes. If he hadn’t blindly trusted in the Chancellor, none of this would’ve happened.
His jealousy towards his family.
His failed attempts at reining in power.
His poor choices that turned his subjects against him.
He had been the biggest fool for following the Chancellor, never knowing of his grand schemes. All he had desired was a place for himself, one that he could call his own. And now, he no longer deserved any of that.
“I’ll right my mistakes!”
He pushed Saki’s hand back and slashed at her, before coughing out blood due to the injuries already upon him. Still, he refused to let his struggles bring him down.
“I won’t be betrayed again!”
He weathered several strikes from Saki. The fierce pounding from each impact was enough to break a few bones in the process.
“I will… I will… be… King…”
As Oswald’s sword stabbed lightly into Saki’s stomach, she countered with a stab of her own, right into the chest of Sistina’s King. Her hand easily pierced right through the royal armor, and her fingertips were now poking out his back. This time, it was not a blow that one could shrug off with willpower.
Oswald’s eyes started to fade as his body limped forward. His mouth mumbled a few barely audible words. Only in his mind did that statement clearly ring.
“Maybe then… I’ll become… great… like you, Sister…”
As her younger brother, he had always been aware of the things that she secretly did. If she had the slightest bit of motivation and support to push her talents forward, then she would have undoubtedly won the favor of their people.
Having been told constantly that he would be king someday, Oswald felt that his position was endangered, even though he knew that she had no desire to take his place. Willingham had made him believe that his sister did not possess the character to rule the kingdom, and thus, Oswald rejected those that curried her favor.
That was until he saw her return as a changed person. No longer was she a girl that hid in the shadows tinkering with her toys. He watched as she bravely fought with the other magicians against his transformed Electi, using her inventions to her advantage. Her ingenuity was put on display as she stood her ground amongst other strong combatants and supported them in coordinated attacks.
This glimpse at her potential had revitalized Oswald’s eyes. Of all people, she had been the one to never abandon him, even when he had casually turned a blind eye to her. Seeing her heal him and forgive him for his mistakes, Oswald felt that he had lived a lie. Perhaps, they could’ve ruled the kingdom as siblings if he had not been egged on by the Chancellor. That was why he had regained a burst of spirit, determined to protect her.
Military might and technology, embracing both for a better kingdom that would exceed that of his father’s legacy.
“Yes… would’ve… been… nice…”
With his last breath, the whispers of an alternative tomorrow flashed across his mind. The King closed his eyes. Never would he see that come into fruition.
That would be a path that Katalina would have to tread on her own from now on.