Seeing that the ordeal was finally over, Cornelius and Katalina came forward. The two of them looked rather exhausted, taking short, gingerly steps as their arms hung weakly at their sides. It couldn’t have been easy expending so much mana to keep Eryn contained, but there was no other way for me to hit her otherwise.
The ice receded as the heat of the residual Fire magic melted it, the spells from both sides no longer being maintained anymore. Eryn’s legs eventually broke free, but as she took her first steps into freedom, she stumbled forward and crouched down.
“Hey, are you okay?” I called out to her, hoping that I hadn’t done anything wrong. It was not like I knew the side effects of a God possession.
“I, I’m cold, I suppose.” Eryn clutched her body for warmth, which was no doubt normal given that her state of dress was hardly more than the bikini armor that I originally gave her. Her modifications only included a few tacked-on pieces and a cool cape to go with it. Kneeling upon the residual ice doubtfully pushed away the cold.
“Then, we must move you somewhere warmer.” Cornelius nodded to Katalina, who pulled out a portal gun. “Perhaps, somewhere tropic for a bit of recovery?”
But before Katalina could adjust the dials for the proper coordinates, I held up my hand.
“Guys, I don’t think that’s it.”
My eyes were aflame with a white glow as I scanned Eryn’s body. That was when I saw it, her core was flickering, weak and struggling to stay lit. It seemed that the God of Life had been proactively keeping her alive since she died. Just enough for her core to be used.
But without the deity supplying the proverbial elixir, her body would complete its trek towards death.
“Heh, figures. I knew that the end would come anyways, no matter what I did.” Eryn laid back and looked up at us with a smile of acceptance. “At least, I can say goodbye properly this time.”
“What! No, I’m not going to give up that easily!”
Though she seemed resigned to her fate, I refused to simply quit. Not after I tried so hard to bring her back. The pain in my limbs reminded me how much I wanted her to stay.
“Come on! We have the strongest cast here! Taking down a god of all things! There must be something that we can do!”
I turned toward Cornelius and Katalina, the latter who stepped up and poured the highest-class potion into Eryn’s mouth. All the while, the inventor scanned her body with an examination doohickey. But Katalina’s look of worry never faded. Even she didn’t have a magic item that could counteract death.
“Her body isn’t injured, and even mana recovery isn’t having any effect. It’s her core. There’s no spark. Like a machine without ignition. Even if there is fuel, without a spark, the flame of life won’t burn.”
A spark… a spark…
That one thought echoed in my mind as I struggled for any kind of workaround. Any parallel in my otherworld knowledge that would serve as a solution for this issue. After a few moments, one thing came to mind.
Before the others could ask what I meant, I pressed my hand right on top of Eryn’s belly, over where the core was. I didn’t have time to explain. My entire focus was upon trying out this one idea.
Quickly, I grasped the weak signature of Eryn’s core, seeing the shape of its glow in my vision. It was truly on its last legs. With a firm grip on that sensation, I let my mana flow right at it. A flash of white light emitted from where I touched, all while the others gawked at the scene.
The mana signature in Eryn’s core started to pulsate erratically for a few moments before settling down, stronger than it was before. Just like how I could mitigate any inflicted damage and recover somewhat using my mana, I directed this technique upon Eryn’s core, hoping that it would bring renewed life to Eryn.
I knew in my heart the feeling of her power. Ever since I lost my connection with her, the sensation became more distinct, like losing a limb that I didn’t even know was there until it was gone.
That made me like a living pacemaker regulating a person’s heartbeat when it became weak; my mana was now supplying the needed energy to keep Eryn’s core running like before. I saw it slowly hum blue with activity, growing in strength until the core was once again full. The mana housed within her began to interact and cycle through her core again, restoring function to the rest of her body.
I explained to Katalina about that device from my world, her interest piquing at the very concept of it. As she drooled from the other possibilities, lost in her contemplation, Cornelius held out a hand to help Eryn up.
“Despite no longer being a Master/Electi pair, the two of you will nonetheless hold a special bond with each other. Remember that feeling, Eri. You are not alone. And not just Sir Claude, but the same goes for all of us. Your life is not completely your own because you are connected to all of us. We are here for you. You only need to reach out. Let the past go and embrace the future. Give in and be pleasantly surprised by outcomes that may seem impossible. After all, even I have returned.”
Eryn’s eyes met Cornelius’s, carrying the soft care that she always held for her dear friend. More than anything, Eryn needed to know that I wasn’t the only person on her side. That, through our experiences, people wanted to be with her, to support and guide her, just like how I had come to realize for myself.
I was all she had left in the previous world, but in this one, things were completely different. And even if my love for her wasn’t the same as my other incarnation, that was still fine. Even if dark clouds threatened to cast a shadowy fate, any one of us would come by with an umbrella to ward off the rain, a jacket to keep her warm, and some company to drive away the loneliness.
Eryn didn’t need one hero to save her. What she needed was a world to live in freely, complete with a cast of people that she would look forward to waking up to each morning.
“We will make you see, Eryn. That this world is worth living in. If we can drive a rogue god away from you, then we certainly have the power to make fate bend to our tastes,” I said, extending a hand toward her.
“You have my authority as the Queen of Sistina for that as well,” Katalina added, extending her hand out as well.
Eryn stared wide-eyed at us, before letting out a sigh in defeat. She had hoped to put an end to all the suffering through the silence of death, but she couldn’t deny that this outcome was sweeter.
‘After living for so long… what is one more lifetime?’ she thought as she accepted the outreached hands. ‘A peaceful end could come at any time…”
Eryn then smiled at me, a single thought dancing upon her lips.
“Then, take responsibility, Claude.”
“Eh? What do you mean by that?” I responded, pulling my hand back and recoiling.
Eryn placed her hands on her hips and went back to her mildly tsundere self, full of pride.
“You better make it up to me with interesting things, so I never have to look back on what’s been missed. That’s the least you can do for keeping me alive, isn’t it?”
“Sure. But be sure to tell me what you want to do. Not because of some obligation or because you feel like you need to do it. Tell me what you really want to do with your life now.”
We all smiled at her, waiting to see what she would say. After all, the god influencing her was no more. Even with it gone, the powers that she gained from turning into a demon remained. She was a powerful magic knight on the level of heroes, capable of doing just about anything that she wanted to.
There was only one factor that we overlooked…
“By the way, what happened to the Electi of Life and Electi of Mana’s powers? I don’t have them anymore. I checked and I seemed to have lost them.”
Eryn’s sudden question caused us all to freeze. I had simply assumed that they disappeared when the god was killed. That would have been the most practical answer. But then, everyone looked at me. Or rather, they stared…
“Um, Claude… are you sure that you’re okay? Shouldn’t you be close to passing out after reviving a dying person back to normal in your current state…”
I tilted my head in confusion at Katalina’s question. I didn’t feel ‘that’ tired. Though my injuries were painful enough that I wanted to crawl into bed, most of them were already starting to heal after I drank some high-class potions. This level of damage was far less than what happened when Saki unleashed her rage upon me.
“I believe what the Queen is referring to is your mana reserves,” Cornelius clarified. “You have been fighting nonstop, on par with the rest of us. But then, you were still able to inject a high density of pure, white mana into Eri for over five minutes. I can assure you that even my mana control cannot maintain such a constant flow for that duration.”
“Wait, five minutes? It didn’t feel that long…”
My voice trailed off as I thought back to how focused I was on restoring Eryn’s core. The thought that I would run myself dry hadn’t even registered during that entire time. The mana simply flowed out of me, continuously. Apparently, I had completely lost track of time while mesmerized by the bubbling blue glow settling into its own rhythm.
Despite that, I should have noticed myself growing more tired. But I didn’t, in the slightest. The reason for that started to become an itch that couldn’t be scratched. Or rather, scratching would reveal something that was sure to be an unavoidable pain that I wanted to delay for as long as possible.
“Ah!” Katalina let out, causing me to relent and open my status window.
My worries had been confirmed as I stopped myself from cursing. I didn’t even need to count the number of digits upon the first lines to realize the outcome. The string of 9s beside the values for HP and MP immediately told me that I now possessed those very powers.
“Well, that solves one question,” Cornelius quipped.
I wondered if I would shoulder similar burdens as Eryn did, but before it could be dwelled upon, the touch of Katalina’s hand upon my shoulder reminded me that it didn’t matter. What kind of hypocrite would I be to become depressed so easily, when I had just encouraged Eryn to live on?
I stared at the board of stats, noting that three of them had become maxed now. If anything, it left me rather uncomfortable with how unbalanced I now was. Since I could already cut down a god, bestowing infinite health and mana made me wonder what the point of it was.
‘I already beat the final boss, so-‘
I smacked myself quickly before I jinxed everything. Now was not the time to consider optional endgame possibilities.
“Let’s go home already. I’m sure everyone wants us to clean up the mess we left behind.”
I looked at Cornelius, Katalina, and Eryn. So much had changed since we were last together, and I was sure that we wouldn’t go back to how we were before. But life was all about change. I had learned to accept it, and Eryn was coming to terms with it as well.
With the fighting finally over, we would have plenty of time to work through it. I held that belief in my chest as I stepped through the fresh portal Katalina created. This world was ours. We would make the very best of it.
The others followed suit, Cornelius pushing Eryn through and Katalina bringing up the rear. The Queen took one last look at the now-empty domain of the Demon, promising herself that she would make Sistina a place where even those that lost their way could thrive.