The attempted assault on the Faulkner domain and the destruction of Engelberg, both orchestrated by the Demon, had widespread consequences.
Including roughly a thousand soldiers and knights who were killed while invading Faulkner, a few hundred more left stationed in the capital city had also been slain. Many more than that were injured but had escaped with their lives. That was not counting the townspeople that were present in the capital.
The death of King Oswald, along with many of the lords that supported him, had left a gaping hole in the political structure of the kingdom. Sistina as it stood now was at its weakest point in many years.
However, it was still there, and that was the important thing. The ones who remained would have to rebuild, and it would take a bit of time, but hopefully, it would become even greater than it was before.
And that all started with a certain blue-haired, bespectacled girl taking up the crown and standing before the people.
“People of Sistina, I, Katalina Bastia de la Sistina, stand before you today in mourning. As many of you have heard, our kingdom had been deceived for some time by a demon toying with our people. As a result, many have been coerced to fight our own brethren, and has thus, led to the death of many.”
Katalina looked out upon the massive crowd of people collected in the fields around Faulkner. Rather than giving her address from the castle’s balcony of a ruined city, she thought that it would be best to stand in the open plains, at the same level as everyone.
The lords and their retainers from every region had shown up to see this event, the first address of Queen Katalina. And for those who couldn’t make the trip, her words and actions were being recorded by her invention, to be taken back to each respective region and played to the people.
“Many of you have been directly affected by this, through all the change and conflict that has occurred these past months. I, myself, have lost my brother Oswald, your previous King. But I ask all of you, please do not dwell on the past. But instead, what can we as those who remain do instead?
Some of you may know me as Katsys the Inventor, and through this experience, I have struggled many a time. But through each failure, each moment of regret and bitterness, I have grown from it. I have created wondrous things as a result. There is no progress without failure. And if you don’t take a leap of faith, undaunted by these stumbles, then nothing will come of it.
We will grow from this as well. We will learn from this tragedy. We will become ever stronger.”
Katalina paused for a moment to look upon the crowd, eyes fixated on her. Their eyes shone with the light of hope from her words.
“In the past, I was a sheltered princess, naively playing with ideas to help the kingdom but never acting outside of my given role. Blinded by tradition, I was afraid to take that leap of faith needed to prevent such a tragedy from happening. And truly, I regret not coming forth sooner. I am saddened to have been absent during this kingdom’s darkest time, when our people became divided.
However, I gained much in my time away. Through the efforts of many people, important things were gained. Alliances were forged. New opportunities arose. And I returned, a completely different person, ready to take on a new role – that as your Queen.
For those here, I extend a hand to you, with a commitment to use that which I’ve learned to create a stronger nation than ever before. I will take our previous failures and ensure that we head towards a brighter future.
That is why, I shall declare that I will be a Queen, not of Sistina, but for Sistina! For the people standing here! For the people across the kingdom! Let us rebuild and let us overcome!”
The crowds erupted in applause and cheers, encouraged by the positivity and forward-looking views of their new Queen. They could feel a sense of humbleness from her words coupled with a drive to make great changes, ones that kept the people in mind.
Katalina raised her hand to deafen the crowd once more.
“For that reason, I declare that we should start right in this spot.” Katalina pointed to the ground before her. “Our new capital, a new beginning, will start upon the ground you now stand. What use is a musky, old castle secluded away from the people? I will rule amongst the people, working side-by-side with everyone!”
The crowd gushed with excitement at her declaration that the capital would now rest next to the Faulkner city, home of the Valkyrie that many had already believed to be a symbol of change. Although the various lords were surprised by this, they couldn’t help but clap along as the excitement of the people spread to them.
However, not everyone had been enthusiastic by that announcement, particularly a certain lord who had just become a Marchioness for her efforts in leading the people during this harsh time and for defeating the Demon.
That was the first time Eryn Faulkner had heard of this decision, having received no prior notification of it. Her jaw dropped as she realized that her Queen had taken her challenge seriously. Their final assault against the remnants of evil beings scattered through the capital had cemented her trust with the Queen. From this closeness, she had undoubtedly taken this step to put them both on a similar level with Claude, as well as remain engaged closely with him. Eryn could just imagine her giggling in secret.
Aside from herself, many others who participated in the battle had been bestowed with larger domains or grander titles. It was a small step towards filling in the gap of the many lords that had perished.
Having finished her speech, Katalina stepped away from the spotlight and headed over to her.
“My, my, making her intentions so obvious now. I sense a bit of trouble brewing. But I would take this kind of trouble any day.”
Cornelius, who was standing beside Eryn, commented on the stiff expression that had become quite apparent after the Queen’s last statement.
“Shut it, Cornelius. It’s not like that…,” Eryn retorted, still stubborn to her own feelings.
Katalina smiled as she approached them, having caught Eryn’s look of panic.
“Oh, is that so, Marchioness Faulkner? Then, I’m free to pursue my own desires? In that case, maybe I should enlist the help of Duke Reichenstein, or rather, ‘Duchess Reichenstein’?”
Eryn and Cornelius stiffened at that latter quip. As Cornelius suspected, Eryn had never known about her friend’s true gender. When Katalina nonchalantly brought it up before, the atmosphere suddenly grew strange. Half of the room became uncomfortably hot, while the other side got frigid cold.
In particular, Eryn’s face grew extremely red as she thought back to how Cornelius had fawned over her all these years. Likely due to being sensitive to Saki’s feelings, the prospect of another girl looking at her with such eyes made her even more distressed. It wanted to make her tear her hair out.
On the other hand, the fact that Cornelius was female was still not widely known yet. She begged her Queen to give her some time to sort things out. Likely, many relationships between other lords and retainers would have to be smoothed out from the fallout. At least, she stood near the top of nobility, right next to a Queen that trusted her.
“Or rather… That is what I would say if I had the time. The kingdom must come first, after all.” Katalina gave a sigh as she acknowledged that her new role would make her ever so busy.
“At least, the transition of power happened smoothly. There was quite a fuss, especially behind closed doors when Oswald ascended the throne. Thankfully, the nobility had no qualms about your decision.” Cornelius winked, giving her full support.
“Still, I feel very guilty for allowing myself to be controlled. Even if it wasn’t directly my fault, the lives of many people were ended by my hand. I have to do something to make up for it.”
Luckily, very few people had known that the Demon possessed Katalina. Those that had were mainly her friends and nobility that supported her. With the Demon’s existence removed due to Claude’s new technique, which allowed him to strike a specific mana signature without harming anything else, there was no longer any worry.
Rather, the few people that initially objected to Katalina as their Queen were those who looked up to King Oswald for his military and fighting prowess. In response to that, an exhibition match was arranged between her and Roderick, who was one of the strongest in the kingdom.
Those who snickered at the thought of the gentle princess facing off against the Captain of the Royal Guards were in for a major surprise when Roderick was soon surrounded by blasts of ice, compliments of her dual wielding magic and portal guns. In less than a minute, he had been rendered immobile from literally being frozen to the ground.
Since that wasn’t enough to make him surrender, Katalina dropped some ‘non-lethal’ bombs on him, creating a fierce explosion that rocked the arena. After the dust settled, Katalina was seen lightly poking at the unconscious form of their ‘champion’. Afterward, they no longer doubted her abilities.
“Don’t worry. You have all of us to act as your support. It’s not your burden to bear alone. A certain someone hasn’t stopped helping out with things since then.” Cornelius smiled.
“Speaking of which, where is Claude anyway?” Katalina wondered.
Eryn gave a chuckle. “Doing what he does best. There is a banquet to celebrate your coronation, after all. Although… I think I just saw him in the crowd….”
As if on cue, Claude’s form popped in front of the gathering of people around them. Despite the special occasion, he was still in his normal outfit, likely because he had just left the kitchens.
“Yo, saw the speech. Couldn’t miss it for anything.”
Eryn smacked him lightly for his rudeness to her Majesty.
Much to the surprise of others, Claude had rejected a nobility title for his efforts. More than anyone, it seemed like he was the one Katalina owed the most to.
“Why would I bother managing some domain like lords do? I have better things to do with that time,” Claude said when given the option.
That was typical of Claude – always willing to help but balking at the attention to go with it. If Katalina was going to do something about it, now would be the time to do it. She was queen now. He wouldn’t have any choice in the matter, would he?
“Claude, I have something to give you. And you are not allowed to refuse it, okay?”
Hearing this, he shrank back nervously. Katalina could tell that he behaved a bit differently ever since her kiss. Perhaps, he had grown more conscious of her. She was happy that he felt such strong feelings, so that was enough for now.
However, that didn’t mean she would be satisfied moving forward.
She walked right up to Claude and stared at him straight in the eyes.
“You promised me that you would remain by my side as my knight, right? I can’t have you going back on your word.”
Katalina grabbed onto Claude’s shirt and drew him closer. She could see the tinge of red on his face as he tried to look away. Her lips approached close to his face, but at the last moment, they swept over to his left ear.
“Continue working hard for me, okay?”
Claude felt Katalina playing a bit with his breast pocket. As she pulled back, a residual feeling remained there. Looking down, he palmed the emblem that had been attached, weighing down the pocket slightly. The symbol of an angel descending from the heavens, the same one that was on coinage, glistened before his eyes. He had just been given the royal crest of Sistina.
“Congratulations, ‘Chancellor Evers’. Hm… now that I think about it. Your last name could be more regal sounding… Everman? Everartt? Everdell? What do you all think?”
“You are not changing my name, thank you!” Claude retorted.
“Oh, would you rather put on the mantle of the Chancellor instead?” Katalina pulled out the trenchcoat-like robe and large hat that David Willingham wore before.
“No hats! No creepy names! No funky wardrobe!” Claude shouted as he bolted away.
Katalina lightly pouted, but it was merely just for show. ‘No one would find it weird for her to act casually with her own Chancellor, now would they?’ She smiled at the retreating form of the weirdest Chancellor that Sistina would ever have.