Water mixed with mud scattered in every step I took.
“Haaah…” I breathe out as I stood in the cold evening while the downpour incessantly continues.
Before I was the girl who I used to be, on the ground begging, similar to an abandoned orphan dying on the streets, dirty, tattered, and weak.
“Please… Help me…” The girl cried to every person that passed by stretching her small arms hoping for someone to reach out. “I-I’ll give you anything… Everything I have… So please…”
Her tears long dried, masked by the raindrops, bearing the eyes of a person who lost hope in the world. Unfortunately, none approached to lend a helping hand.
“Ahaha… I defended myself, but I ended up forsaking the help of others. Ahahaha.” I muttered in a low tone.
Rumors quickly spread through the surroundings, as the mysterious event was witnessed by the nearby audience.
“I’m not that different from what I used to be, do I?” I said as I approached another cleric of the church, spreading hate of the so-called child of the demons while I held the rapier drenched in water and blood.
“Demon huh… I guess I’m not that far off,” I muttered as I approached with neither hesitation nor haste. ”I’ll play the part for you.”
There was no need for me to use any magic, nor do I need to execute stances. I simply stab in the chest, slit their neck, or cut their heads off completely. It was anticlimactic, but every single time I swung the rapier another body falls to the ground. Surprised faces, blood spilling and mixing with rain, citizens screaming and fleeing, and abandoned stalls painted the surroundings. Nothing remained other than the droplets pouring from the sky.
Soon a thin woman, bandaged on her right shoulder, sweating profusely, and with bags under her eyes, approached limping. She clasped the girl’s outstretched hand and spoke.
“Your Highness, It’s okay, I’m still here.” She spoke softly and gently as if a mother found her missing child.
A glint of hope returned to the girl’s eyes as she saw the woman.
“Erina,” The girl returned a smile. “Erina, you’re okay…”
“Yes, I’m okay. So please stand, your Highness. You need to take shelter.” She said as she used her left arm to try and prop the girl up.
“I’m sorry… I-I can’t, I’m too weak...” The girl said after falling down on her knees, caught by Erina’s bosom. “They took everything... The money and food are gone. I… Only have my body left…”
“Your Highness, speak not those words. You’re a princess, a child; you’d bring shame to the kingdom.” She said in a stern manner. “Worse, you’ll become a slave with your status as a trophy. Your mother and father-”
“But what could I give? I have nothing left…” She cried. “My title is nothing but a fancy name. I’m just a worthless trophy…”
“Your Highness…” Erina frowned as she embraced the girl with her left hand.
“Erina, I don’t want to return…” She said as she buried her face deep into Erina’s chest. “I want to go back to the forest. I’ll do anything, anything, Even if I have to offer my body, as long as I could bury and honor them. It doesn’t matter if their bodies are rotting or if there are only ashes left. They can take my life, my body, but in exchange, I want to see them one last time...”
“Ahaha… Erina, weren’t I naïve? I’m pathetic. I could have prevented this…” The girl spoke loathing. “If only I have practiced the sword, studied magic, helped Mother and Father, and learned to doubt, but instead, I ate sweets, drank tea, played around, and achieved nothing. I’m useless. I’m unworthy of being called a princess.”
“Your Highness, you made people smile with your bright attitude.” She said as she strokes the girl’s hair. “Everyone hoped that’d you’d continue being yourself and become a mother envied by everyone someday.”
“But it’s useless… I’ve probably lost it.” The girl said sniffling. “And who’d want a useless princess? A Noble who wants my blood? A man who’d use my authority? Someone who’d lust over a child? A pervert who’d make me a prostitute? Someone who’d treat me as a slave? Erina… I’ve had enough. I… Can no longer dream. I need to face reality… I need to stop being naïve… I need to throw away who I was, but it’s too late…”
“…” Erina listened silently.
“Aha, ahahaha, ahah… Uhu… Uhuhuu…” Then she cried continuously with a muffled voice. “Erina! Erina. Erina…”
I stood there silently, blankly watching the whole scene from a different view.
How long has it been, since I’ve lost it…
After traversing the unusually quiet town, they reached the Lord's mansion. The mansion's gates were open, at the side of the walkway were bodies littered left and right.
As soon as Erina saw this, she took the girl’s hands and turned around to flee, but to her despair, thirteen black figures appeared one by one. From the roof, beside the trees, and from the corners.
“Erina…” The girl looked up to Erina and squeezed her hand tightly.
“Your Highness, I’ll protect you even at the cost of my life,” Erina answered as she firmly grasped her hand.
“No, this should be my job.” A man from behind spoke. “Erina, please lead her Highness into the mansion. The residents may be dead, but it’s safer inside.”
The man sporting red hair and brown eyes stood with one arm exposed, armor chipped, blood dripping from the head, bruises and cuts, and a sword in one hand.
Erina nodded and rushed inside dragging the girl.
“Gust! P-please return!” The girl shouted before she disappeared into the mansion.
Gust, the last Knight of Grandfather’s guards returned a smile.
“I wish I could, your Highness.” Then he stood ready with his sword. “I really hope that I could see our child being born, but I’ll leave our child to your care, Erina. I hope she grows like her Highness.”
He showed a lonely smile that made my thoughts resurface.
This… I never knew… But Erina never told me that she was pregnant… And she… Never gave birth to a child…
I thought astonished of the fact.
Did her child die during her pregnancy? Then, in that case, it was during this time?! Then the reason why Erina wanted me to have a child so that she could take care of it is due to her longing for her lost child?! That… I always thought that she was just teasing me… I… Was insensitive all this time… How would I face her when I return…
Then I looked towards Gust, prepared to offer his life.
“I’m sorry Gust. This is my fault…” I spoke as I gripped the handle of the rapier. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry your child ended up dying before it was born. I’m sorry…”
No matter what I said and no matter how close I spoke, Gust never heard me, nor did he see me.
I guess it’s useless…
“Haah… I’ll be fighting alongside you, Gust. It’d be a great honor for the child you saved.” I said as I pointed the rapier forward. “I won’t let the life you offered be wasted.”
“What!?” He reacted as soon as I finished speaking. “T-that hair. That face. Is that… you, your Highness?”
Both the Assassins and I were startled with the unexpected occurrence.
“Wait, you can see me?” I said wide eyed.
“Y-yes, you suddenly appeared, but you… Are you really? You look older than you are.” He replied with disbelief painted over his face. “Is this real?”
“I… don’t know…” I answered as I shook my head. “I don’t even know why am I here, or how did I get here.”
“That…” He grunted.
“Gust, we don’t have the time to talk about it, but I want you to know, I lived and I grew old enough to be called an adult and that is all thanks to everyone’s efforts, so this time please let me fight by your side.”
“Haha. Knowing that her Highness lived, I can finally burn out this last light of mine with ease.” He said smiling. “Although I’m doubtful, I’ll believe your words for now. Show me how much you’ve grown, your Highness.”
“I’d be glad to, Gust,” I said as I finally showed a slight smile once more.
But I’m sorry that your child was lost.
Both Gust and I prepared our own stances. The assassins were kind enough to wait for us, probably thinking that there’s no escape.
“I’ll make you regret that you showed me kindness,” I muttered.
As soon as I finished speaking four assassins started sprinting with their daggers held with a backhand. They’ve split their formation into twos and passed both Gust and me from the side.
Gust ignored the two assassins that passed us and sprinted towards the one on the right.
“I’ve had enough of your tricks.” He said as he brandished his sword.
On the other hand, I sprinted forward.
“Illusion magic with only dark affinity, quite a poor choice,” I muttered as I drew the dagger with my left.
“This is how you create illusions!” I shouted as I poured mana on the dagger.
I have the crystal threads for extra mana so I can go all out!
My image blurred, divided into three, and each drew the rapier close and dagger at the side. The assassin before me was startled while another three moved to assist. As the three assassins approached, their number increased to nine.
“I already told you it’s a poor choice,” I muttered as I threw the dagger towards the first assassin and drew a shard from my pocket and flung it to the ground.
The sound of the dagger deflected echoed followed by a blinding flash of light emitted from the broken shard. During that time, I stepped aside and ducked to avoid the incoming slash. While rising, I thrust the rapier and quickly removed it after it pierced the assassin’s chest.
Immediately, the two images I made that circled around the first moved towards the three remaining assassins. I followed after I picked up the dagger. Each assassin moved to intercept after the light vanished while confirming their illusion was lost.
I drew another shard after I threw the dagger a second time, but this time, the images followed. One assassin stopped in his tracks to dodge the incoming daggers. I poured mana into the shard and tossed it to the second assassin immediately, while I along with the images moved towards the third.
The first assassin dodged the incoming daggers. The second, wary of the shard, dodged instead, but at that moment, the shard exploded. It was a shard embedded with an incomplete magic circle. In return, the second lie unconscious.
While the events occurred, I glanced at Gust taking down one assassin and subsequently taking on five.
That’s an elite knight for you, but he wouldn’t last, not without support. I need to hurry.
I and the images traded positions as we approached the third. On the other hand, the third threw one of his daggers and unfortunately passed through one of the images.
Afterward, he drew another dagger and prepared to throw, but this time, I used body reinforcement to increase my speed. He immediately changed his grip and moved.
As soon as I was in range, I made the images do a diagonal slash on each side, but unfortunately, the assassin took on the slash and brandished his dagger towards me and delivered a diagonal slash.
“I’m not that naïve anymore!” I shouted as I ducked and moved forward past him and activated the fireball shard on my left. A fireball appeared in front of the assassin that made him squint for a moment. I swept his legs with a roundhouse as I turned. Then I delivered a thrust from his back as he fell.
As soon as I drew the rapier, daggers flew from the remaining three unengaged assassins.
“Agh!” Wretched by the dagger stuck beside my stomach, I cried. In addition, the images vanished along with the unfortunate hit. “Haaah… This is bad…”
In contrast, I expressed a slight smile.
“Haah… It’s warm.” I muttered as I placed my left arm over my bleeding stomach after the dagger fell to the ground. “But not yet. Not here.”
It isn’t too deep thanks to the Wyvern leather…
After the three confirmed the hit, they proceeded to enter the mansion. On the other hand, Gust had already taken down two out of the five assassins on his side.
“Your Highness!” He shouted as he saw the assassins enter the mansion’s premises while fending off the other three.
I won’t let you!
I, on the other hand, moved towards the mansion, but the first assassin, holding the dagger I threw, came running towards me. He poured mana into the dagger in order to activate the magic I recently used to create illusions. Immediately, his image blurred and divided into three.
“Fool.” I smiled at the action he took.
I calmly walked towards him while holding my side. Soon, the assassin lost his balance, dropped the dagger, images vanished, and was forced to kneel while holding his head.
“Pouring in mana with dark affinity into a magic that requires light and dark, you never learn do you?” I spoke as I swung the rapier slitting his neck open.
I picked up the fallen dagger, sheathed it, approached the unconscious assassin, and stabbed him in the chest.
“Gust! I’ll be going inside!” I shouted as I ran through the gate.
“Leave this to me! Go and save her Highness!” He replied as he received another cut from another assassin while taking another one down.
“Cough!” I coughed blood while moving. “Haha. Of course, poison, how could I forget? If only the potion didn’t break recently…”
The poison started to take effect. My heartbeat gradually slowed, my skin started to pale, my footsteps became heavy, and the feeling on my stomach numbed.
This is nothing! Move!
I forcefully used reinforcement magic to increase my pace.
[That’s it Amelia, more, do it more.] Blinded by anxiety, panic, and haste, I dismissed the message from Celes. During that time, I didn’t notice it, the growth.
Little by little, a light feeling emerged deep within my chest, it was warm and comfortable. Soon, my pace quickened despite the heavy weight burdening my body. My hair fluttered and displayed a subtle glow under the gentle moonlight.
This feeling… what is this?
Having no time to contemplate, I dismissed the thought as I entered the main entrance of the mansion. What welcomed me were furniture littered on the ground and the dead bodies of servants.
They are truly disgusting.
Included among the bodies was the Lord’s daughter who was about my age five years ago.
Relying on my memory, I moved towards the stairs leading to the second floor, aiming for the library, but before I reached it, two assassins appeared, one on top of the stairs and the other at the opposite side of the hall. Both of them immediately engaged. The one on top threw a dagger and slid down the railings; while the other sprinted after he released his own.
I side stepped to dodge the first and swatted the second with the rapier, but still, a dagger bit on my left shoulder.
I didn’t expect him to throw his last.
“Haah…” I breathed heavily as my left arm went limp. “I still have life left in me!”
I shouted as I stepped forward, lowered my body, and delivered a slash powered by reinforcement. The rapier overpowered and directed the dagger then bit into the assassin’s shoulder and stuck itself just before the center of the chest. Followed by the successful slash was my body rolling on the floor after receiving a kick.
“Cough!” I coughed another fit of blood as my body hit the nearby table.
The assassin approached after picking up a dagger, raised his hand, and delivered a stab on my stomach.
A searing pain wretched my whole body, but I bit my lip till it bled to prevent myself from screaming while I drew the dagger from my side and stabbed the assassin by the neck. Then, the assassin’s body fell on top of me and slightly pushed the dagger deeper.
I gritted my teeth tightly and closed my eyes to endure the agonizing pain. After enduring, I pushed the dead body aside, reached for the table’s leg, and propped myself against it.
“Haaahhh… Haaahhh…” I breathe slowly and deeply.
I held the dagger’s hilt and prepared myself for another round of a never ending pain.
It’s miracle I’m still alive despite all this… Really… what am I made of?
I thought before I pulled the dagger out of my stomach, followed by a deep crimson blood.
Ahh… look at all this blood go.
During this time, my sense of pain started to numb, my body felt colder and colder, and my eyelids started to get heavy.
I can’t… There’s one more…
I forced my body to stand with the help of reinforcement then drew the dagger stuck on the assassin’s neck, and retrieved the rapier. I slowly climbed the stairs while supporting my body with my right arm. Blood dripped in every step I took slowly chipping away what’s left of me.
At the hallway towards the library, I accidentally passed by a mirror and saw my image, an image I never imagined to be possible. It portrayed my image drenched in blood and a silver hair with a dim glow. But what made it look impossible was the horn, no, the antler, a single antler at the right side of my head. The antler was not ordinary; it looked similar to what Celes had, a tree branch without the pink petals continuously growing.
I stared at my own image for a few seconds until I heard the sound of books dropping on the floor.
I dismissed the thought and hastened my pace towards the library. When I arrived, the shelves leaned on each other while the books piled on the floor. On one end was Erina passing through the opening between the shelves while the assassin waited on top of the shelf.
The assassin jumped down after she revealed herself from the opening.
“Above!” I shouted as I drew the rapier while moving.
Erina, startled by my shout, looked to my direction instead.
No! Not here!
“Y-your High-” Wide eyed, she ignored my advice, and in return, she was stabbed, stabbed on her stomach.
I rushed ahead without a care for my well-being. Unusually, everything seemed slow while my movements stayed the same. Without minding the details I took each step as if they lasted more than a few seconds.
As soon I entered within range, I thrust the rapier and slammed my body as it pierced the assassin’s body. When everything returned to normal, Erina was looking at me with eyes of disbelief as she lay on the floor with a dagger stuck.
“Erina.” I reached out to her as I lay on top of the assassin. “I’m sorry…”
Tears dropped from my eye as I continued repeating those words.
When she reached out to my hand, I felt at ease.
“I don’t understand what’s happening, but it’s fine your Highness.”
“But, but… Your baby…”
“Knowing that you are concerned is good enough for me, but from now on, please let me treat you as my daughter.” She smiled sincerely despite the sadness within her eyes.
“Yes. Yes. No matter what happens, you’d always be my second mother.” I returned a genuine smile that I’ve always kept within myself.
Slowly, my eyelids closed, I tried to keep it open, but the cold and heavy feeling was too much for me.
Erina’s voice was drowned as I sank deep into the abyss.
[You can rest now Amelia.] Celes’s sweet voiced echoed as I entered my deep slumber.