‘How unfair this world is,’ Eryn thought as she swung her sword mindlessly forward, cleaving another soldier with his gun aimed at her.
She stared blankly as the blade tore effortlessly through the man’s torso before she flung a Fire spell with her other hand. Within moments, flames swept around in a semicircle, turning the several men in its path into cinders.
Eryn could no longer hold back. The enemies had weaponry that was far too powerful to approach steadily. Few of their soldiers could weather hits from the gunfire without being blown back or outright killed.
Because of that, Purnesia’s army roared back with the din of gunfire. Hundreds of soldiers formed a line which rained instant death upon any who was in its path. It swallowed up any resistance by Sistina’s troops as they took back the City of Lodz.
The few that were strong enough, like Eryn, were trying to hold them back. Diving back into the cover of a still-intact wall, her task was to take down as many of them as she could. Using her polished abilities and her tough magic barrier, she could safely zip across the city ruins.
Yet, she had to conserve her mana usage. There were no easy ways to replenish it here. Recovery potions that restore mana seemed to degrade quickly in this desolate region. There was no choice but to retreat once her exhaustion reached its limit.
Because of that, she saved her spells for large clusters of enemies. Favoring her sword skills and the protection of her wind barrier, she could dash into a small group and slay them before they had the chance to fire more than one shot each. Still, the impact of a bullet against her barrier felt heavy.
‘This is not something that Violet or the others can handle,’ Eryn thought. Her subordinates, save for her favorite student, weren’t even half her level. They couldn’t shrug off dozens of shots like she could. Their barriers weren’t layered well enough, causing them to unnecessarily burn through mana.
Plus, they didn’t have this special ability that she recently acquired.
Eryn’s eyes flared up as she dashed toward the next group of Purnesians nearby. Purple lines dotted across their bodies, and the shots that fired from the guns were illuminated with a glow. This enhanced vision allowed her to maneuver between the barrage as she made a beeline toward them.
She swung her sword, aiming for the lines that stretched across the person’s torso. As soon as it hit, the blade tore through the linen and flesh that was in its path. The body suddenly burst in half like a doll ripping from the seams, startling the other men with the immense power displayed. In their fear, they could only gawk at the platinum-haired maiden as she mercilessly brought her sword down upon them.
A beautiful maiden that brought death – her rumored nickname as the Valkyrie certainly was undeniable to them. However, the purple flames that burst from her eyes gave her an inhuman aura, like that of a deity.
This had been a gift from Claude, Eryn believed. As part of the close bond they had developed, the skills that he used were now bestowed upon her. She could finally see the world that he fought in, and why he was able to strike with such debilitating blows.
As the remainder of the enemies were torn to shreds, Eryn ducked back into cover.
“How fragile everything really is….” Eryn’s whispers floated in the air. There was no one around to hear her, but somehow it felt like she had to say it.
As she looked down at her own body, perhaps those words pointed to herself as well. How could one not think that when everything was so full of cracks?
Her mind drifted back to the fractured relationship that had resulted after the last battle in this city. Thoughts of that made her arm hurt, where Claude had sliced it off. Even though it had fully healed with recovery magic, a dull pain lingered whenever she thought of that moment, when he had rejected her in favor of Katalina.
That moment felt like a betrayal of trust. She felt lost of what to do. She had nothing against the sweet girl that clung to Claude, but staying there any longer would cause her to hate Katalina.
Hate her for doing the things that she could not. For loving him despite his feelings for another. And for making her way into his heart. Slowly. Gradually. Pushing aside the loyalty to his Master.
Eryn knew though that it was her own fault. For hesitating on her own feelings and keeping him at arm’s length. For placing her other desires above Claude and not making herself clear. If she could have redone things, then she would have. But she had wasted those opportunities, so she had to suck it up and fight harder to win him back.
How naïve her thoughts were…
As she passed by the room where Katalina was treating Claude the night after the battle, she heard the voice of Sanshiro’s Oracle. As Eryn spied with curiosity of how Claude could be restored to normal, her teeth clenched, and a fury gradually built up within her.
Apparently, part of the reason that Claude almost demonized was due to her. Their bonds had become too strong, and as such, any struggle that she faced was felt and magnified by Claude.
Her decision to tear through the enemy quickly, regardless of the carnage that was committed, had not aligned with Claude’s morals. Her sorrow of losing her closest friend and the despair that she secretly harbored of losing others were fully felt by Claude, who was easily discouraged.
Even facing their own struggles together was no good anymore as simply being close to him was driving him into a wall. Their love for each other was nothing compared to the abyss that lay ahead, waiting to swallow them both. And Claude was already one foot into it.
The world had never meant for them to be together.
Eryn couldn’t understand it. Why was there a system to bring together a Master and Electi pair who were compatible, only to make them suffer the stronger their bond became? Though they found strength in each other, that was only marching to their mutual doom unless they maintained some distance from each other.
‘How much crueler could this world be?’
She could no longer bear it anymore when Katalina was told of what had to be done to rid Claude of the miasma. Seeing her rival draw even closer to him while she had to make space – her body turned tail and ran. Back to the battlefield. Alone.
She had no choice. Her teeth clenched, and hidden tears flooded her soul. But on the outside, she had to remain calm and undaunted to her followers. She had a battalion to lead, now that Cornelius was gone. She had to shoulder through and fight in place for those that couldn’t.
Only then, would it be possible to find a way to be with Claude.
What she needed was a world without enemies. Without dangers and threats. A world where the powers of a Master and Electi were unnecessary. And for that to happen, she had to first get rid of the opponents before her.
Even if she had to do it alone…
Staring out at an empty city square, she looked around, hearing no signs of enemies behind her. The sounds of battle were growing faint. Perhaps, the enemy was starting to give up as they couldn’t pick off Sistina’s strongest fighters. The city provided a lot of cover that gave just enough of a breather to give Eryn the chance to pick off her less skilled opponents.
Just then, a familiar man crossed her view. The bald head and fancy uniform stood out from the others, along with the small firearm that was drawn. In fact, he now had two of them, dualwielding as he scanned the area for enemies.
The man in question was Major Golabki, who Eryn had fought before. Apparently, he had survived their initial duel that had sent him crashing into the capital’s outer wall. Somehow, she could tell. He was directing the entire charge forward. He was the commanding officer here.
Her next target set, she dashed forward, but she had merely leapt out of hiding before the man turned his head and aimed his pistol at her. Golabki had keen enough senses to detect her, but unfortunately, the others around him could not.
“Blazing Fire – Turn my enemies into ashes with your hellfire! Pit of Inferno!”
The ground before her melted as an intense heat sprung up around the group of gunmen. Columns of fire burst from beneath, engulfing them as they spewed forth. One man touched by it was blackened instantly, his body holding no protection against a flame that was hot enough to sear all the moisture from his skin and cook his insides. It was unfortunate that the common Purnesian soldier had so little mana to blunt its raw power.
But Eryn couldn’t be bothered by that. She watched as Golabki nimbly dodged away, letting loose several shots from his firearms. They pounded on Eryn’s barrier, but considerably less than gunfire from the standard gun.
Her eye skill revealed the difference – mana directly flowed from Golabki to his weapon, whereas the guns from the common soldier possessed mana that was different from its wielder. Golabki was not using the secret weapons that made the Purnesian Army so fearsome.
Despite knowing this, that didn’t make him any less fearsome. What he lacked in raw power was bolstered by skill and accuracy. Even as Eryn dodged away, the bullets continued to shower upon her. Golabki was certainly an expert marksman who could lead his shot while predicting her movements. And that drained her barrier far faster than the powerful shots of an unskilled shooter that could easily be dodged.
As Eryn danced around looking for an opening, Golabki remained calm, biding his time for a moment of weakness. He hadn’t fought hundreds of convicts stronger than him without learning how to read his opponent. Now that he had two pistols, he didn’t have to worry about reload time; he could fire one or the other constantly without any breaks. His quick reflexes and acute vision allowed him to keep track of the powerful knight in front of him.
However, Eryn was no normal fighter. Even if those Golabki fought were skilled combatants, hardly any of them used mana-enhanced abilities. Suddenly, he heard a cry.
“Flash of Strength!”
The woman before her blipped out of his vision. It was nearly unthinkable for someone like him to lose track of his target, but all he could manage to do was follow a blur that crossed past his sight. Even if he had the reflexes to trace her movement, his body lagged behind. His eyes widened as her sword suddenly appeared before his chest.
Sparks flew. Golabki gritted his teeth and held his stance firm.
In the nick of time, the side of his left gun whipped in front of the blade, stopping it from slicing him in half. However, the unbelievable strength that this slim girl possessed was uncanny. If he hadn’t tasted it for himself the first time around, his guard would have been slack enough for him to be sawed in half.
But now, he was holding back the strike with everything he had. That still wasn’t enough. The weight of it was twice as heavy as before. Even blocking with both pistols didn’t help as they seemingly shattered before the blade caught him once again.
He knew he was done for. The blade sank into his abdomen, his eyes wide as it cut in. It was like the sensation of a cannonball skimming the surface of his belly. Even if the blow itself was shallow, the power it emitted sent shockwaves that tore back the flesh and burned away his vitality. The unbearable pain of nearly being ripped in half made him surrender.
Once again, he had failed. To the same person. Golabki had never lost a duel that was winnable, where his opponent had weaknesses to exploit. He thought he could win, as his current opponent had been fighting all this time. However, the sudden burst of power had been outside of his expectations.
Not only Electi, but their Masters had proven themselves to be monsters at times also. That was the warning one of his subordinates had given him earlier. He had apparently witnessed the fight between Cielbasa and the Electi of Attack, Saki the Destroyer. The knight before him was known as the Valkyrie, who had made a name for herself alongside the other Electi.
As he slumped to the ground, the broken remains of his pistols slid from his grip. His arms fell limp at his sides. All he could do was continue to look up, at the face that would end his life. If her eyes had not been drowning in sorrow, even as purple flames engulfed them in rage, he would think how majestic of an end it would be.
Eryn stared at her downed foe. This time, she would end it properly, so that she could move on and eliminate the rest. Coldly, mercilessly, with her emotions cut off – she stopped caring what she was doing. All she needed was to eliminate them.
She let out a deep breath and placed a hand over her stomach, using that to channel her mana. Slowly, her enhanced state brought on by ‘Flash of Strength’ died down. With the ability to read mana so acutely, she could use it to deactivate her skill properly before it seized up her mana gates.
Eryn scanned around for other mana signatures, not wanting anyone to interrupt her. These last moments of mercy left Golabki in awe as he wondered whether anything he had done mattered.
Soon enough, the Valkyrie brought up her sword for one final strike. But before she could bring it down, a loud bang sounded nearby.
Eryn, surprised that she had somehow missed someone, clutched her chest, where she felt blood gushing upon her hand.
‘Why? How?’ her mind blared as the bullet had managed to break through her wind barrier and pierce a hole right through her heart.
‘Can I not even fight to save my love? Am I that worthless against this world’s fate?’
Eryn’s mind flashed with thoughts of Claude as she turned toward the shooter. What she saw made her despair. She couldn’t believe her eyes. Soon, the flames of her eyes died down, and her vision became hollow. Her knees fell to the ground with a clunk. The clang of her sword echoed across the ruins.
‘Ah, this world is so cruel. Truly, everything has gone against me….’
As tears leaked from the corners of her eyes, Eryn took her last breath cursing at the world. The world that had taken away her parents… her freedom… her uncle… her best friend… her lover… and now, her own life.
‘Even a thousand lives wouldn’t be enough… to escape from… this…,’ she mouthed silently, her voice no longer working.
She stared up at the man who shot her, hoping to take his image to the afterlife. She would remember to haunt him if she had a chance to do so. If anyone, this was the one person she couldn’t forgive. Unable to sputter out her last thoughts, her eyes lost all light before her body collapsed into the man’s arms.
“Welcome home,” the mysterious man simply said, cradling her body with a look of amusement.
All this time, Golabki stared at them in a daze, but he was hardly in the condition to think clearly.
“You… what are…”
Before he could finish, Golabki passed out. Days later, he found himself awakening in an infirmary tent, the sole person that could tell of the events that led up to the Valkyrie’s presumed death. But one look outside revealed that hardly anyone cared about that at the moment.