Not long after the Queen of Sistina arrived in Fort Valga, a message via Magic Pigeon chirped as it circled around her. Surprised that someone was using an outdated method of contacting her, a sudden worry struck her.
If she was being contacted in such a way, then something must have happened to Claude and Cornelius, who possessed long-range communicators. With everything that happened recently, she didn’t have the time to make more and encrypt them with personal mana signatures, which was an important measure to keep her indispensable tools out of the wrong hands.
The message itself was very brief, detailing the passing of the Duchess in battle and the demonification of the Chancellor. However, those two lines hit Katalina so hard that her air of royalty fell apart as she rushed out the room.
Before anyone else could react to stop her, the blur of a small girl zoomed out also, kicking up a wind. Ludmila, as it was her duty to protect the Queen, chased after her, seeing Katalina glide away on her personal levi-board before disappearing into a portal. Unlike the normal ones, hers had a handlebar that helped with balance; she simply didn’t have the time to gain proficiency in the skill.
Obvious of where the Queen was going, Ludmila simply had to dash out of the fort and north. Within minutes, her immense speed had caught up to Katalina’s series of portals.
Katalina suddenly felt her board weighed down, the shorter bodyguard having hopped onto it.
“I drive,” Ludmila said bluntly.
Realizing that they would get there even faster if she focused on portal-making, she let Ludmila take over. Immediately, a burst of speed overtook the board as Katalina looked toward the horizon, shooting portals as far as possible.
What normally took an army several days to march north took less than an hour for the two of them. This was the fastest form of travel in existence, aside from instant teleportation devices.
In fact, Katalina had purposefully set out for the battlefield because she had finally completed a prototype of one. She left it to Jayce to set up the device in her stead.
‘How could this happen so soon?’ she wondered, as he seemed stable the last time she saw him. And there had been no other signs that he was anything but his normal self.
Lady Kaguya, the Oracle of Sanshiro, had given her much advice on the demonification process. As it was linked heavily to one’s mental state, Katalina tried her best to comfort Claude and give him the attention that he needed. Gentle expressions of love and tenderness to heal the heart was what she could offer when he was in her presence. A person to give him her full support seemed like the best trick to keep the darkness at bay.
However, something bad had undoubtedly happened that was outside of her expectations. She had overlooked the condition of the Master, whose core was connected with her Electi. The death of Cornelius had no doubt brought Eryn into a state of grief, and those feelings likely transferred over to Claude.
‘How could our advantage have overturned so abruptly? There’s just too little information!’
Katalina’s mind whirred, trying to find some understanding of the situation, but her worries plagued her. She couldn’t bear to lose Claude too. She had only just come to terms with her feelings, stepping forward to convince him that she wouldn’t lose to Eryn on that point.
However, she couldn’t be the fiery, courageous girl that Claude saw in Eryn. She couldn’t draw his attention with such confidence or dance in sync with Claude upon the battlefield. As the kingdom’s most important person, all Katalina could do was create things for him and greet him with open arms whenever he returned, far from the dangers.
As she finally saw the shrouded form of Claude, smashed into the wall by Saki to keep him pinned down, Katalina decided right away that her role remained the same. She ignored the pleas of caution from her people. This was something she had to do.
She grabbed her Magic Gun and encased the two of them in ice. Even with Claude flailing weakly in resistance and his eyes flaring with a purple glow, she wanted to believe – to believe that her knight, her love, would come back to her if she gave him her all.
And he did. He fell limply into her arms after she showed her affection for all to see. Cradling his battered body, they returned to Fort Valga. But even after getting the best healers to reverse the physical damage to his body, the miasma continued to flow heavily from his core. Only with Katalina’s embrace did some measure of calm come from him.
But that was relative to the disaster that he would invoke otherwise. The tortuous strain on his face as he fought off the darkness indicated that he was barely holding on, even with the charm around his neck. His transformation was more advanced and arduous than Saki’s was. Surely, Claude was struggling to maintain himself but slowly losing in the process.
The battle in the City of Lodz had taken a tremendous toll on Sistina. The death of Cornelius von Reichenstein, the kingdom’s commander, had rippled through the ranks. Their two combat-oriented Electi were both in critical condition due to being pitted against each other. And entire platoons that had been stationed in the city had been wiped out.
With some of the most powerful combatants out of commission, the new threat of Purnesia’s weapons pressed against them. With the one remaining Electi having an intense trauma against them, there were few options left. Purnesia had drawn them in and done a decisive blow while they had been lulled into a sense of confidence. And now, the City of Lodz was only barely being held onto by the combined might of high-level magic knights and soldiers that could handle the attacks. Even Roderick and Gadwin had been deployed there in hopes of regaining their footing.
With no one else to turn to, Katalina contacted Lady Kaguya about what to do about Claude’s condition. After explaining what she learned about Claude’s state to her, Katalina squeezed his hand as he laid in bed next to her.
A voice that sounded hesitant came out of the device.
“Unfortunately, their bonds have become too strong. A close bond means that the feelings that they each have are heavier and deeper. Good becomes great, and bad becomes worse. Light embraces with greater warmth, while the darkness rots the heart and drowns the soul even faster. No person is devoid of either one, but I fear that the latter may have taken over.”
“Can nothing be done? Claude and Eryn love each other! They would face whatever darkness together for each other’s sake! Even I… can see that very well… How could such a pair so compatible be penalized for wanting to fight against disaster together?! What are Electi anyways?!”
Tears erupted from Katalina’s eyes. The bond of an Electi and Master was strong, much more so than that of travel companions and trusted friends. She had always been jealous of Eryn for summoning Claude. Despite that, she was given permission to chase after him. To love him dearly and be with him.
But for this to happen… it was so unfair. There was no way she could deny the feelings Claude and Eryn possessed for each other. Katalina was willing to accept them. Putting herself forward so that she wouldn’t be left behind was all she could ask for.
“You must keep her away for now. The farther the two are apart, the less the effects will take hold. In the meantime, there is one ritual that can be done to save him… but the question is whether you are up to the task.”
Lady Kaguya’s words piqued her curiosity. “Wh- What do you mean by that? Up for what?”
As the Oracle detailed her of the procedure, Katalina’s face grew bright red. Her body got fidgety, and she let go of the hand she was holding as trembling erupted across her body.
“Th-That’s not fair to Eryn…,” Katalina mumbled.
“That is up to you. You care for him, do you not? There’s no need to be bashful… unless you plan to go further?” A light chuckle sounded in the background.
Taking a few deep breaths, Katalina calmed down. She nodded in confirmation despite no one being there to see it. With some concrete direction to move forward, she thanked Lady Kaguya and turned off the device.
Later that day, Katalina was notified that Jayce had completed the setup. The instant teleportation device that Katalina had created to connect Fort Valga with the Capital was ready. With a nod, she had some people carry the still unconscious Claude back home, with her following behind.
After Cornelius died, I felt something inside me wedge open. A burst of sorrow stabbed into the pit of my stomach, and the feeling of darkness enveloped me all at once. I had little time to prepare before I lost sense of myself.
All I could see was the dim glow of purple signatures mixed with blue hovering before me. Like a mosquito that I needed to bat away, I felt compelled to swing at it. Feeling some power leave me as I swung, some of those lights were blown away.
But a single one remained. That one ran away like the coward it was.
Like a stubborn flame that refused to be blown out, it wouldn’t extinguish no matter how much I waved at it. It made me annoyed. It made me angry. For some reason, I felt the intense urge to squash it. But being unable to think, my body seemed to move on its own, clawing through everything to reach it.
More flames, smaller in signature, joined in. Every time one appeared, a strong feeling compelled me to snuff it out. Unlike the stubborn one that kept running away, these fell instantly.
And after some time, I finally caught up to it. The mixed flame quivered like it knew that its time was up. In my vision, I could see nothing but dots of lights around. I never questioned why they were there. All I knew was that I had to smother this one. With one final strike, I watched as it disappeared.
What then? With the target of my anger taken out, I stood there, unsure of what else to do.
Random blue lights then circled around me. But unless they approached, I had no reason to act. They were simply lights after all. Shining in the background like gems.
But then, one flew towards me, taking me by surprise. All I could do was swing my arms around, wondering what it wanted from me. However, it whizzed around and dodged my attacks, like a nimble fly that wouldn’t stay still.
And then, it suddenly stood before me. A slight pain in the gut was followed by the touch of something familiar, almost comforting. Instinctively, my body moved to feel more of it, almost recalling why I was here.
But then… I saw it.
Purple, hidden within. The same purple that disgusted me. It hovered teasingly before me, richer than before like it was now mocking me with its fullness. That was when a thought flashed through my mind.
‘Purple was the color of demons. I had to get rid of the demon. I had to kill the purple, my enemy.’
As soon as I attacked this one. another joined in, smashing me into the wall behind. It slammed its attacks into me over and over, but I could hardly feel anything. I could keep going.
‘I had to fight it! I had to fight back! I couldn’t let the demon win!’
Even if it meant that I had to use everything, I wouldn’t back down. I had to win, because… because…
‘Because of what?’ my mind wondered suddenly. I had no answer for that.
When another light drifted into my view and a light sensation of cold enveloped me, my body instinctively halted.
Bright blue, warm as the sun, approached. It felt comforting and gentle. It reminded me of better times. And as I stared ahead, I could feel something within me die down. That hair, the same color as the glowing light, broke through my murky vision. Instantly, I knew who it belonged to – the lovely Queen who would do anything for me.
I collapsed forward into a pitch black but feeling safe in her arms. I could cry about all my failures, and she would only nod and smile. As she had known all about failure, and still, she toiled, she fought, and she persisted. She was the one to push me forward with her infinite wisdom.
After some time, my eyes opened again. My vision slowly came to focus on an unfamiliar, lavish room. The sheets under me felt silky, something that I had not touched in some time. But then, I realized that there was something else pressed against me.
Something warm and smooth. I moved my hands and tried to shift my body, only to feel that it held me tighter, holding me in place. Patting around, I felt something long and smooth, until it ended in a distinct shape. A hand, attached to an arm – was what came to mind.
A slight breeze was felt upon the nape of my neck, and soft hair, definitely not long enough to be my own, tickled the area. It was then that I noticed something pressed against my back, like pillows but a bit sticky and firm.
A shiver ran down my spine as the summation of these parts finally registered into a guess as to the whole. With a sudden alarm ringing in my head, I felt around and noticed that I was naked in the bed.
And if skin was pressing upon skin…
I gulped as I slowly tilted my body around.
Blue hair shone in the dim glow of early sunlight. The sheets lightly covered her bottom half, but only skin above that.
I nearly let out a shriek as I finally understood that Katalina and I were naked in bed.