After I trotted back to everyone, we accessed the aftermath of our battle. Though we had successfully defended the Faulkner domain from attack, things couldn’t be in a greater mess.
Sistina had lost its king, as well as a large chunk of its army. The Chancellor was also dead, and the demon that possessed him had now taken over the next in line, Princess Katalina.
The kingdom had yet to fill in the position of Duke, who stood closest to the throne due to his typical influence over the kingdom’s prosperity. If the princess reappeared, then the people would naturally flock to her leadership, ignorant to the demon that controlled her. And if she didn’t, then finding someone that could unify the citizens would be a daunting endeavor. The last thing that we needed was the various nobles, some of them relatives to the royal family, bickering and wasting precious time staking their claims to the throne.
Given that we were the only ones that saw what happened to Katsys, there would be many that would openly question our involvement in the situation. At best, we could convince those supporting Cornelius, who was a Marquis, and those allied with Eryn, who had become a symbol of resistance to my surprise.
More than anything, this battle that reunited us had brought forth a host of different questions, which would require much time to sort through. Eryn had been particularly shocked by how different I fared in battle, having the capacity to instantly disable a foe that she struggled with, and even, slaying the Chancellor.
“I figured out the nature of my skill and leveled it up,” was all I said, finding it too troublesome for now to give her the full story. Eryn flashed me an inquisitive glare suggesting that she’d let me off only until things were settled.
As for the other issues, namely involving the nature of Electi that we had discovered recently, we waited until everyone was healed up and had some time to mentally recover. Likely, the other lords present would need to be informed, if they were to understand the magnitude of the situation. With a somber air, we marched toward Faulkner as our temporary base.
Roughly an hour later, the key figures were gathered in an impromptu strategy room. The servants had pushed together several tables to make a giant one for everyone to sit around.
Eryn sat at the head, with me next to her. Cornelius, or rather Marquis Reichenstein, and the other lords of Sistina – Marquis Deggendorf, Earl Warrington, Viscount Cornwallis, and Viscount Lingonberle – were positioned close to us.
At the other end of the table, Saki was seated, a sullen expression on her face. Though she informed us that she had been controlled by the Chancellor, the lords were wary of her. Therefore, we had Pietro, Roderick, and Lau standing behind her, keeping a close watch. Having three powerful warriors alleviated the tension that was created when she entered the room.
Marquis Deggendorf, a bulky man with a stony gaze, eyed us after Pietro closed the door.
“So, we hear that the King has passed away. There were some rumors that the Princess was sighted too, but I do not see her here. Can you fill us into the events that transpired?”
Deggendorf had been in the back line, rolling boulders created from Earth magic, so he hadn’t seen how the King had fallen. His attention had been focused on stopping the ones who had filtered past the barrier, aiding the defenders in a more traditional manner due to his once occupation as a magic knight.
The other lords were not as gifted in magic, exemplifying the stereotype of a noble that had gained their title through efforts by their ancestors. However, the three men of smaller stature still had the basic proficiency in leading their own people, so they too had been in the back line, barking orders to their own men.
Of course, none of these lords had experienced the thrill of the levi-board, something that was thought of as a child’s toy, rather than an implement for battle. To my surprise, Eryn had formed an entire squad of levi-board magicians. Why couldn’t I have thought of that?
However, they had received bits and pieces of the final result from their subordinates. Saki’s demonic aura was also felt from far away, which explained the extra caution they exhibited when she entered the room, despite that presence being long gone.
Slowly, we detailed through the events of the battle, starting from Eryn’s duel with the King, the sudden entrance of our wagon, and how Ludmila and I had disabled Oswald.
“An Electi of Speed? That’s the first I’ve heard of her.” Earl Warrington raised a brow at that statement. He briefly played with his mustache, a quirk of his when something piqued his interest. The appearance of a new Electi was certainly something major to keep a secret.
“We discovered her during one of my missions, alone and Master-less. She is but a child, so we were hesitant to reveal her abilities. However, it is apparent that she has grown quite proficient now,” Eryn stated, in her defense. The Earl looked off to the side, his expression implied that he only half accepted that explanation. But his gaze softened when it was let known that Ludmila had been in the company of Princess Katalina until recently.
As we continued with our recollection, we confirmed that Princess Katalina had arrived with our party, even aiding in the battle. There was a collective look of disbelief as I detailed the abilities that she had gained during her absence from Sistina. Not surprisingly, they had a difficult time believing that the reserved, gentle Princess Katalina could immobilize the King’s soldiers with chantless magic shots, and that she could teleport herself and others across the field at will.
“If she has become that powerful, then where is her Highness? Why is she not here with us?”
This was the part that we all hesitated to answer. Cornelius broke the standstill for this one.
“The Princess was possessed by the Chancellor- no, a demon that had previously possessed Chancellor Willingham. After Sir Claude beheaded him, the demon escaped and took over her body instead.”
The sound of chairs scooted as the other lords stood up in shock. It seemed like we were bombarding them with one surprise after another. First, new Electi and a souped-up princess, then an involvement of demons. It seemed like a tale that one would only find in books.
“Please sit down, gentlemen. The details are understandably shocking, which is why we must approach this with care,” Cornelius coolly eyed them, in which they fell back into their seats.
Cornelius continued, detailing the grand scheme that the Chancellor had secretly held all this time – the desire to create other demons such as himself from those designated as Electi. That had involved influencing the Electi around him, namely Saki and myself, into a state of despair that would trigger the transformation.
When his efforts had failed on me, leading to his defeat at my hands, the demon had turned to his second choice – Saki. While we were busy dealing with her, the Demon had taken that opportunity to possess the Princess’s body.
“You mean to tell me that we have been flirting with disaster this entire time?” Viscount Lingonberle was the first to say. Electi were heralded as summoned heroes in Sistina. No mention of their propensity of being demons had ever been mentioned to the public.
“Our written history is fairly short,” Viscount Cornwallis injected. “Records of those instances have hardly been consolidated throughout the various regions. Perhaps, they do exist but are treated as myths and legends.”
Cornwallis, being a calm man by nature, had seen quite a bit in the 50+ years he had lived. That included the unification of Sistina by the previous king and the subtle shifts in politics over the years.
“Now that we know of Chancellor Willingham’s involvement, what is there to say that he did not go around seeking these records himself, and thus, hiding that knowledge from the public?”
There was a collective nod of understanding in the room. Having obtained such a role as Chancellor for himself, the Demon had the freedom to roam the lands of Sistina and access nearly anything in the name of the King. Likely, he had taken advantage of it to hammer out any conflicts.
“Then, what should we do about the puppet?” Deggendorf glanced over at the sullen girl who had been controlled by the Chancellor.
“Lock her up. We can’t have someone who nearly demonized roam around,” suggested Warrington. Their gazes all fell onto the girl. Saki nervously looked down to avoid them, believing that she had nowhere to run.
“Wouldn’t it be wise to take advantage of her abilities?”
“And what? Risk her demonizing again?”
“Demons cannot be allowed to exist! They are a sign of calamity! We should be ridding them from-”
“I oppose.” A dull clang interrupted the men who had started bickering.
I slammed the flat of my chef knife on the table surface, signifying my disapproval. Immediately, Eryn and Cornelius looked at me in panic. I knew full well that my actions were disrespectful of nobility, but I was not going to let things go down the wrong path. Instead, I stood up from my seat and looked at them with a calm but intense glare, my blunt action having drawn everyone’s attention.
“As we have learned, Electi have the likelihood of demonizing. And this ‘Demon’ has targeted them for that reason. But don’t forget, another demon existed not long ago, one that you all helped defeat. The son of the Madiswil family, a human rather than an Electi, was turned at that time. Thus, I think any being has the possibility of demonizing, but the question is, ‘To what extent?’
I have felt myself teeter on the edge of madness, coerced by the poisonous words from that Demon, the one who used to be Chancellor Willingham.
What I say at this point has no relation to my Master, Viscountess Faulkner.
As one who has felt a darkness similar to Miss Saki, I will defend the good that I know is within her. I left these lands as a mere servant of nobility, but now, I return as a summoned Electi, ready to take up my blade for what I believe in.
Is that not what you all have done as well? Have you not banded together under the banner of the Valkyrie to fight off a common enemy? Then, there is no greater enemy than the Demon. We must trust in ourselves even more than before.”
After I finished my piece, I scanned the room for their reactions. They were still gawking at me, which made a pit of nervousness develop in my stomach. Did I step out of line?
“The lad is right.” Lau stepped forward. “We must focus our efforts on the Demon. Having been trained as a demon hunter of Sanshiro, I can safely say that I detect no malicious mana emanating from Miss Saki here.”
The most intimidating of the nobles in the room, Marquis Deggendorf, unclenched his fists and sighed.
“All right. I get it. You have the support of the Deggendorf domain. I’ll send word to prepare my men.” The burly man stood up from his chair. He gave me a smile that seemed to applaud my moment of bravado. The other lords quickly followed along, offering their support as well.
I let out a sigh of relief. Looks like the talks had gone reasonably well. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pinch in my side.
“Thanks for stealing all of my thunder, ‘Mr. No Longer a Mere Servant’,” Eryn whispered to me. I smiled sheepishly back at her.
“My, my, taking the initiative now. How bold. I like that in a man.” Cornelius gave me a seductive wink, which earned her a look of disgust from me. She was still in guy form, so that didn’t make me the slightest bit happy.
As the lords moved to excuse themselves from the room, Saki walked over, still with her head bowed. I couldn’t really see the expression on her face, but I could tell that she was a bit relieved. Wondering what she was about to do, I was surprised when she pulled out a sheathed knife and presented it towards me.
I immediately started to panic as thoughts of hara-kiri entered my mind, but they were interrupted by her next words.
“I am yours. Do what you will with me.”
Saki’s eyes looked toward me with a determination to return the favor for saving her, not only from demonizing but also from the criticisms of others. What little about honor that I picked up from samurai anime and games scrolled through my mind, beckoning me to choose the right course of action.
Slowly, I picked up the knife from her hands. Frankly, having a cute girl offer her allegiance to me was pretty flattering, but I refused to be that kind of a shallow person. An idea struck me.
I slowly drew the knife from the sheath, making Saki recoil slightly in surprise.
“Saki the Destroyer, I see that you are chained by your past, one where you were unjustly toyed with by a demon. With my power as a Crit Electi, I hereby sever those chains that bind you.”
Drawing the knife through the air around Saki in a theatrical manner, I ‘cleaved’ the imaginary chains that bound her.
“With this, you are now a free person. May you have the freedom to strive for your own goals. And the strength to step forward unchained by anything.”
With a clink, I sheathed the knife again before presenting it back to Saki. She hesitantly reached out for it, but my smile urged her on. Finally, her hand wrapped around the object, bringing it to her chest. She nodded with tears in her eyes, giving me a smile of her own.
The moment of silence was all that was needed between us. No words could adequately express the bond that we had developed at this moment. It was not one as an Electi and Master. Nor was it something as simple as just friends.
We were two who recognized the darkness within us, and together, we became fellow allies in warding it off from each other.