“You know, I’m going to start feeling envious if you two continue your loving gazes for much longer.”
Cornelius’s statement jerked me out of the heart-to-heart I was having with Saki.
“That’s not!-… whatever, I give up.” I started to object until I realized how tiresome it would be to argue, especially since it was just her normal teasing.
On the other hand, Saki, who was unaccustomed to the ‘Corny jokes’, looked away in embarrassment. I patted her on the shoulder, telling her to not mind it. With the other nobles now out of the room, I raised my voice.
“Ludmila, you’re spying somewhere, right? Bring the others.”
There was no verbal reply, but I could feel a slight shift in mana from afar. Though she had no proper excuse for attending the meeting, she was no doubt a significant ally on our side. For that reason, we had her secretly listening in on the conversation.
Not long afterward, the door opened. Ludmila, along with Chrys and Yi Long, walked up to us.
“Yosh, now that everyone’s here, I guess it’s time that we air out the secrets in our closets. It would do us no good in hiding them any longer. As I said, we have to trust in each other from now on.” Giving Saki and Chrys in particular a glance, they both nodded. They knew that I was referring to our past lives, ones that seemed to be more complicated than we had originally thought. If we wanted to prevent anyone from falling into darkness, then we had to know what lied in each other’s hearts. That was left to the small group present here, who we trusted.
And so, I started it off, divulging what I had learned about myself after the Chancellor forcefully pulled the memories of my previous incarnation that were locked before. My previous powers, my connection with Chrys who I had encountered before, and the betrayal that had led up to the world’s destruction – for the first time, the ones who I considered as friends had seen the true person known as Claude Evers.
I was worried after all was said that there would be renewed skepticism of my existence. However, I panicked over nothing.
“How interesting… another life as an Electi before this one. That’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
Lau had been an Electi for longer than he hadn’t, never once encountering any hints of an alternate life before arriving in this world. When asked about his past, Lau only noted that he had been a salesman who had overworked himself up to the point of his arrival. He inferred that he may have died from stress-induced sickness right before being summoned. And despite almost demonizing himself, he had managed to control his will enough to keep those negative feelings at bay. That was typical of the hardworking, straightforward nature of old man Lau.
One by one, the other Electi told of the past lives that they remembered.
Saki told us about how her dear friend and she were exploited by cretins, culminating in their deaths. During her story, I couldn’t help but feel enraged by the wicked boys. However, the coldness of her retaliation in response to it sent a shiver down my spine. I could almost feel an aura of yandere as she recounted those moments.
I looked over to Eryn, who also had a stiffness on her face, but for a different reason. We finally caught on that Saki had a preference for girls, and that had made Eryn recall their interactions.
“So that’s why she felt off…,” Eryn mumbled, almost inaudibly.
Shipping Eryn with Saki, that would certainly be quite the scene. Though I was strongly hostile to those making advances to her for obvious reasons, I couldn’t help but find this particular pairing to be humorous. Luckily, Eryn didn’t catch the slight smirk that was on my face.
‘Come to think of it, Cornelius and Eryn would be the same, wouldn’t it?’
Of course, I was still having trouble considering Cornelius to be female, as the thought of them together still gave me the desire to sock her in the face. That wouldn’t be gentlemanly of me though, so I resisted.
When it came to Ludmila, who had been very secretive about her previous life, we were expecting some big reason for it. However, she merely told us that she came from a hunting community of nomads who were expert trackers. She did recall that her last memories of her previous life involved running away from slavers, who were attempting to capture people to sell off. There was a possibility that she had also been killed in the process.
Lastly, the youngest of us gave her story. With an air of maturity that wasn’t present before, Chrys detailed the despair of her ruined village and how a goddess approached her, offering a second chance at life. As a result, she had become a summoned hero in a war-torn world, where her song provided a guiding light, but her abilities were underutilized and ill fit for the setting..
One particular detail drew our attention – that she had seen a ‘goddess’ reaching out to her. This point was reiterated across the table, but none of the others had a similar experience. And despite being in the same world as Chrys, I did not recall meeting one either.
At this point, I wondered if there were still more memories to unlock, or whether Chrys had just been a special case. It didn’t look like the things in common between me and the elf girl would be solved easily. In particular, I was curious how we had been the only ones starting out with maxed values in our respective stats, but that wasn’t important for now.
“How peculiar… so everyone that has been summoned here likely perished in their previous life?”
Cornelius’s statement made us blink. Certainly, that seemed to be the case. That hadn’t been an obvious detail until now.
“Sounds like there is some truth to the hidden dangers of Electi. This kingdom has always treated them as potential heroes, but perhaps, that is not quite so simple.” Pietro rubbed his chin stubble as he normally did when he pondered.
“Sanshiro has always been wary of untrained Electi. Our leaders knew about this from the beginning. But to imagine that those like us could devolve into such a wretched state.” Lau pounded his fist, a gesture used to calm his nerves.
Saki shrunk back into her seat, ashamed that she had been the one that had done so.
“Hey, you’re not at fault, Saki. It could’ve happened to me, you know. I was just fortunate to have heard Chrys’s soothing song.” I quickly defended her. I could sympathize with her position having nearly gone through it. Certainly, we had to keep our spirits up, so it wouldn’t be good to fall into a pit of self-loathing.
“Why does Chrys’s song work anyways?” Yi Long questioned. “I’ve heard her humming tunes before, and it’s never had any impact on me.”
“It’s a power that I recalled only recently, but the Goddess I met bestowed it to me. It was a token of bravery for never losing hope even as my world became ruined.”
I felt a bit gypped that I hadn’t met a goddess and gained some neat power, but then again, Chrys hadn’t been directly responsible for destroying a world. I still had trouble facing the reality of what I seemingly did. Perhaps, that subconsciously motivated me to do my best in this world. I certainly felt like I was much lazier in my original one.
“Then, we must be prepared to guard the young Miss Chrysanthemum against the demon,” Cornelius started to say.
“Me and Chrys, huh. Didn’t the prophecy from Lady Kaguya hint of something like this?” I eyed the ones who had been with me to hear about it.
“Without one or the other, towns will fall, and evils rise. Together, they shall walk into the flames of disaster, undaunted by catastrophe… is what I have written down.” Cornelius unexpectedly pulled out a small notebook; she had jotted it down after personally conversing with Lady Kaguya.
“Given that, it sounds like the two of you have to stick together, since the demon will undoubtedly be after both of you.” Lau rubbed his chin. “We shall do our best to guard you in the meantime.”
Lau’s words of assurance were as good as anyone could give, since he had once fought off the demon years ago. However, Pietro stepped forward suddenly with another topic of interest.
“Everyone, this would be the appropriate time to discuss this. I have examined the Chancellor’s deceased body and have noted some peculiarities that I wish to verify.”
The word ‘peculiarities’ piqued our interest. A cold sweat started to break out from me as I couldn’t imagine what he would find as such.
“For example, the body still possesses a core, despite the fact that I could detect the presence of one in the demon after it left the body. In fact, the Chancellor’s body itself showed no signs of fouling that is typically observed when one demonizes.”
Given that, there was only one other possibility.
“A medium that was taken over and forced to house a demonic core? There are rumors of that amongst the demon hunters but nothing ever confirmed. We were taught to aim for the cores, so studying them carefully has never been our forte.” Lau added his experiences which somewhat lined up to Pietro’s observations.
“But then, who was the Chancellor? Who was the man known as David Willingham?” Eryn interjected, the room seemingly filled with more questions than answers.
“Who knows? The dead cannot speak. The only one with those answers is the demon itself.”
Cornelius looked at everyone with an intense glare. We had gained a small amount of insight into the demon that currently possessed Katsys. With the knowledge that the demon’s core was separate from her own, there was a glimmer of hope that she could be saved.
“I know what you are thinking, Claude. I wouldn’t bank on that. For all we know, the core may be lodged in her vitals. Cutting it out could spell her death regardless.”
Cornelius’s words threw a tub of icy water on the fire that started building in me. Despite that, I didn’t want the fire to extinguish. I couldn’t forgive myself if I let it die so easily. For now, I could only grip my balled fist with the other hand tightly in resolve, my nails digging into the skin to remind myself of the painful truth.
My blade could cut anything if I truly willed it to. That much was known from the previous self that I was shown. However, the demon had hidden itself within someone that I couldn’t bear to cut. It had fully capitalized on the weakness in my heart and found the best way to drive me into despair.
“Then, let’s pray that it is not where it would put her life in danger.” Eryn fired back with a calm voice and reached out with her hand to calm me. I didn’t hesitate to confide in her strength once again. After all this time, she was one of the few that knew when I was truly shaken up. I could trust the sight of her back that led the charge and gave me an opportunity to strike.
“For now, we need a plan. A way to pin her down to carve the core out-“
Eryn’s statement was interrupted by a loud bang. A random guard bearing the Faulkner emblem charged into the room, gasping for breath. Before he could regain his calm, his message messily spilled out of his mouth.
“The Capital! The Capital!” He shouted, drawing upturned brows from us.
“Take a breath, my dear sir. Here, a drink.” Pietro, being the perfect image of a butler like he always was, pulled out a glass of water out of nowhere and extended it to the winded man.
After he downed the glass in one go, his words became clearer.
“The Capital… It is burning!”