Dantega:Volume 5 Chapter 3
“Finally, we can get out of here.” Allia said in an exasperated tone upon reading from a letter she holds in her hands.
Both she and Celestia are resting on a comfortable leather couch in the living room of an over-sized mansion.
“Is that the new order?”
Allia waves the piece of paper in her hand that was just delivered by the postman through the mail slot in the door.
“That's right. It says we're supposed to go all the way to the southern point of La'Juune.”
“Ughh... It snows down there, I hate cold weather.”
“Well at least we can start moving again, I need to shake these injuries off.”
Celestia agrees and adds, “Yeah, who would've thought that Edward guy would be such a monster? Those powers really are frightening, I've never had that much of a problem fighting anyone before that. I mean jeez, I actually got hurt!”
Celestia has her left arm in a sling and she is waving it around to prove her point. Allia, who has a gauze pad on her cheek that totally cramps her pretty face even more than her hair style, is also quite amazed at how difficult the battle was.
The battle between them lasted for hours and they had barely won with their limbs intact, but the end result worked in their favor. After the fight with Edward they decided to wait in the man's house for further orders. Living leisurely in such a mansion has its benefits, free food and expensive liquors were a great reward to treat themselves with, but in the end they are still soldiers, if there isn't any action they become uneasy.
“To think that there are more of them hanging around the world right now... I hope the others will be okay, especially King Noah since one of them is alone with him in the castle.” Allia said worriedly.
“I'm sure they'll be fine, we can't really afford to stress about them when we have another mission to head to. Our focus should be on ourselves.”
“Oh wow look at you, so serious.”
“Hee hee I have my moments every now n' then.”
Celestia stands to her feet and picks up her shield with her available arm, she heads toward the door and urges, “Come on let's go, we have more of these 'chess pieces' to knock out of the game.”
“Take off my clothes?” Lelaine asks in shock.
That wretched smile is still on Sturgess' face as he demands, “That's right, do it now.”
Knowing what he intends to do, her fear is piqued. If she denies him, it is likely she will be ripped to pieces by his strange power. But if she agrees, she could live through this and wait for a chance to get control of the country back.
This is when she asks herself, just what is the true cost of either decision?
On one hand, she'll die and her country will forever be doomed to be run by a man who committed a great betrayal. On the other hand, she herself would have committed a great betrayal, not to the country of Troy, but to herself and her beloved husband.
She is still clinging to the belief that he is alive and can walk through her door at any moment to embrace her in his arms, she wonders if she’d be able to accept his touch if she goes through with doing whatever it takes to survive.
This overbearing thought of guilt and disgust for herself overruns the fear of death, she'd rather die than be forced into Sturgess’s sick fantasy.
This makes the decision easy, she frowns and looks at him with so much hate it feels though her glare alone could start a fire.
Sturgess' face twitches abnormally upon hearing that.
“No??” He takes a few steps towards her and the pitch of his voice rises, “No!?”
He takes a large step forward and smacks her with the back of his hand, she flies back and lands on top of his bed. He leaps on top of her and with that frightening right hand he grips the girth of her neck, cutting off any kind of air to her lungs.
His eyes contort as he looks down on her blue face.
“No!? It’s always a no with you, isn’t it!?”
“It was no when the candidacy for me to be your husband was denied back when we were kids! It was no when I offered myself to help you bear your second child in case Zurvick was killed. And it's no now! Even when I can kill you with a snap of my finger, it is still a no!?”
As if he wants any kind of reaction from her, he loosens his grip on her neck to let her speak.
Lelaine gasps for air and keeps that strong scowl pointed in his direction when she answers, “It's always going to be no... I'd rather die than ever have to look at you again. You'd be better off killing me now, because I'll fight you until you are forced to kill me.”
She's saying this as an off hand threat in case Sturgess still wants to force himself on her, she has already come up with a dozen ideas that would make his attempt an extremely painful and unpleasant one.
Sturgess understands this and it enrages him, he postures up and sends a clenched fist directly down on her forehead.
The solid sound of a fist hitting a skull resonates through the room. The punch had so much force that they both bounced a couple feet in the air as a result of the springs in the mattress contracting and retracting so quickly under their weight.
Lelaine's vision becomes hazy but she refuses to let herself lose consciousness in fear of him doing something to her in her sleep. A steady pressure pulsates with each heartbeat on her forehead and she knows a large knot is quickly forming.
However, she can't be thinking of such a thing at this moment because the black smoke that she saw floating around him has returned. It spreads from the back of his clenched right fist and into both of his ears from behind his head.
It's only then that she realizes that the person she is dealing with is no longer human; this is a monster that has revealed its evil in the plain of day. He is a man possessed by a demon, and that demon decided to show itself by coming out of the back of Sturgess' hand.
It is in the form of a black snake with blood red eyes.
Lelaine instantly recognizes it as the snake from her dream that offered to bring her daughter back safely at the beginning of the war.
The snake slithers up to her face and begins to speak, “You can see now what power you had refused by rejecting me. You could have had your daughter back, and your husband would still be alive if only you had allowed me to help you.”
Perhaps still hazy from the punch, Lelaine is left speechless at such a spectacle, this more or less feels like reality has left the world around her.
“But now look at you, quite literally on your deathbed because of your stubbornness. A sad fate for such a proud woman.”
It looks like the snake’s presence is causing Sturgess some pain, he holds his wrist in discomfort above the hand that the snake is coming out of.
“Let me handle this snake.” he says as his face contorts.
“Then handle it by killing her, she plays no part in our glorious future.”
The snake begins to shrink back into the pentagram, its eyes looking directly into Lelaine's as though it is mocking her on its way back in.
That is, until Sturgess does something that catches both the snake and Lelaine by surprise.
“..?” The snake stares at him awaiting an answer.
“This woman... If I kill her, she wins, I won't let that happen.”
“Then have your fun with her and get rid of her. We don't have time to be wasting on---”
The snake recoils back in shock as Sturgess continues.
“Forcing myself onto her eliminates all the pleasure... I want her to have to beg for my mercy, I want her to beg for my touch!”
“You fool, that won't ever happen!”
“Of course it will! All she needs is a little persuasion!”
A sick and scheming smile forms on his face, it's the kind of smile that would be nightmare fodder for children. This twisted smile is cast down upon the helpless Lelaine; the worst of thoughts rolling through her head as she contemplates what he means by 'persuasion.'
The snake shouts angrily. “You’d dare defy me now!? I have given you everything you've ever wanted have I not!?”
“If I kill her now, then what you have given me is not enough!!”
Sturgess slams his left hand into the snake and it disappears into the pentagram. But the black smoke still continues to float around him as he grabs Lelaine by the arm. He pulls her up to her feet and forcefully leads her out of the room.
Outside in the hallways and all over the castle grounds, the fighting of the coup still continues, but it would seem that the side allied with the Queen is on its last leg. Just by judging how the military men around her don't even care to give her a second glance tells her so.
“...Where are you taking me?” she asks weakly.
“To a place that will break that resolve of yours.”
After walking through a hidden passageway and down a long flight of dimly lit stairs, they reach their destination, a dark and dank dungeon that wreaks of mold and rusted metal.
Sturgess opens up the only jail cell in the room and roughly throws her in, he slams the cell gate shut and declares, “You're going to stay in here until you beg me to take you out.”
Trying to feign strength despite her devastation, she resolutely replies, “You should have listened to that snake and killed me, I’m never going to let you beat me.”
“Hahahaha! You say that now but what will you say in a couple week's time when you haven't eaten anything for days? What will you say when your throat is so dry that you begin to choke on your tongue? What will you say when you haven't seen even a hint light for weeks? What will you say then, hah!??”
She can feel his spit land on her face from behind the bars, this man that she grew up with is so far gone that he’s become a complete stranger.
She gives him a look of pity and leans against the uncomfortable stone wall.
The ten by ten cell has a toilet area and a small hay area in the corner for a bed with a little ratty blanket over it. On the walls are the graffiti of men who were once held captive in this little cell before her. Most of them are just scribbles but some are the etchings of how many days or weeks they have spent until they abruptly stop, the sudden end of which almost certainly meant their deaths.
She takes a deep breath and tells herself she can handle the dimly lit and windowless room as long as it takes in order for her to prove him wrong. She looks at him in disgust and shouts, “Go die, you pathetic man.”
Sturgess takes her insult in stride and smiles menacingly, he turns away from her and begins to head up the stairs to head out of the secret door. But not before blowing out every lit candle on the way.
Lelaine hears the door opening and slamming shut, it is then that she realizes it is so dark in the cell that she can't even see her hands. The eerie quietness is occasionally broken by the sound of water dripping from the ceiling or the rats squealing as they squabble over bread crumbs left behind by former prisoners.
This place, and this moment, is the definition of solitary confinement; and unlike the fairy tales, there is no knight in shining armor coming to save this damsel in distress. Her knight had been declared dead just a week earlier.
These looming thoughts can't keep her down though, she lays down on the straw bed and says to herself,
“Hurry up and come home, Zurvick...”
Just saying his name fills her heart with hope.
Until the darkness becomes so all encompassing that she doesn't even know if her eyes are open or closed...
Until the overwhelming smell of death in this dungeon finally reaches her nose in that terrible silence.
Until the knot forming on her head pulsates in pain with each heartbeat, with her senses dulled in the darkness if feels as though the very pain in her head is taking on a the physical form of a monster eating her alive slowly.
The sensations of the dreadfully dark world she has been thrown into assault her; it causes her to experience something she had so successfully thwarted until this very moment.
It has been two weeks since the Ten Knights of La'Juune were sent out to numerous locations across the world in order to defeat the mysterious power holders Noah calls the 'Devil's Pawns'.
It has also been two weeks since Ash was taken in by Noah for reasons unbeknownst to her.
Ash has yet to find out that she has been living only a few doors down from a certain girl who would go to any lengths to kill her.
Confused about her extended stay, Ash finds herself becoming restless at her disposition. She had come here to see if she had the will to forgive Noah, but with each passing day she finds it more difficult to do so. He is cold and demeaning, and has an uncouth smug air about him that makes her frustrated by the mere sight of him.
Any conscious attempt to hide her disdain for him has been abandoned as she glares at the back of Noah's head like she is trying to make it explode. Noah feels this pressure squeezing the area between his ears and asks, “Is there something in my hair?”
“Nothing but your ego.” Ash huffs.
The two of them are walking along the green grass of the castle grounds, earlier on in the day, Noah woke her up to tell her that they'd be going out on a picnic for lunch. She doesn't know what the occasion is but she had no choice but to oblige due to the situation she is in.
Though the company is bad, the day itself is perfect. Puffy white clouds spot the clear blue sky and their shadows occasionally block the gentle rays of sunlight. From atop the castle grounds, the skyline of the magnificent city stretches for as far as the eye can see, framing the green of the grass with a golden hue.
“For such a nice day, you sure are in a bad mood. You haven't gotten used to me at all these past two weeks?”
“Hmph! You are intolerable. I'd be surprised if anybody could get used to you.”
Noah doesn't reply immediately and keeps on walking until he reaches a table resting directly in the center of a grassy field.
“Here we are, have a seat.”
He pulls out one of the chairs from under the table and gestures to her to sit.
She scowls at him and sits down forcefully as she folds her arms combatively, intentionally trying to make him feel uncomfortable.
“You look like a pouting child.” Noah said as he took his seat on the other side of the table.
He then gestures to one of the butlers standing nearby, and the man walks up and pours them both a glass of wine.
“Do you like to drink, Captain Alworth?”
Ash isn't a drinker at all, in fact, she has never even had a sip. But with it presented to her like this, she considers the offer and finds the thought of it appealing when the pleasant memories of Zurvick drinking the Queen's homemade liquor comes to mind. She’s reminded of how he indulged himself whenever he was stressed, or celebrating one his numerous small victories or stroke of fortune.
This makes her smile and grab the cup to take a sip.
“Bugguaahh!?” she yelps as she spits it out. “This stuff tastes terrible!”
“I don't think I've ever seen that much of a bad reaction to wine, I’m finding it hard not to laugh.”
“S-Shut up! It's not my fault I'm not used to alcohol!”
“Then why'd you drink it then?”
Ash stops herself from speaking by putting her hand over her mouth. She doesn't want to get overly comfortable with him so she decides to go back into her bad mood and lean back in the chair with her arms folded once more.
“You were about to say something weren’t you?” Noah asks while grabbing one of the sandwiches prepared on the table and taking a bite of it.
She hisses at him and turns her head away.
“Since I already have you here, I'm quite interested to find out why you have surrendered yourself to an enemy country...”
“Can't you guess?” she replies sarcastically as if implying that he is the all knowing King who should already have the answer.
It would seem that Noah didn't catch that and began to answer her question seriously.
“If I were to try and guess... I would assume it has something to do with the death of your King.”
She flinches and Noah continues.
“But it can't be as simple as you wanting to get revenge for your leader, to come after me personally means that... He takes a sip of his wine and comes to a conclusion, “You were with him the Night of the Ball, you know it was I who ordered him dead.”
Ash frowns and viciously slides the back of her hand across her side of the table, the wine and the food that were so elegantly prepared fly off and it makes quite the loud noise.
She then grabs a knife that was supposed to be used for cutting bread and lunges it toward Noah's throat as she jumps atop the now bare table. Noah doesn't even flinch as the knife gets closer and closer to him.
It's as though he knew it was going to stop.
Ash doesn't take the final step needed to exact her revenge and instead has stopped herself just a few inches away.
The butler who poured the wine likely has some kind of battle experience because he unhesitatingly pulled a dagger out of one of his pockets and is holding it to Ash's neck with a straight face.
In such an intense situation, the only one calm is Noah.
With his hand he gently pushes the butler away and orders him to stand down.
Noah is now staring directly into Ash's crimson eyes and ignores the vibrating knife being held shakily in her hands that's only an inch away from his throat.
In as cold of a way as possible he says to her, “Just being present in Tronoble that night isn’t enough to bring about this look in your eyes. The truth is, you are in love with him aren't you?”
Ash talks through her teeth as she replies, “That's right...”.
“Then I was correct in assuming that you wouldn't kill me.”
“If it was for a political reason, you wouldn't hesitate to slit my throat. But since you came here out of love for that man, you came to try to forgive me in his honor... Hmmm, you are much stronger than a certain girl I know who's going through somewhat of the same situation.”
“You know... I'm having a real hard time with this.” she says in a low voice, “King Zurvick... He was so much better of a man than you, I can't stand the fact that a person like you gets to live while he had to die! How is that fair!?”
With his index finger he pushes the knife away from him.
Tears are welling up in her eyes as she lets him move away the weapon that was so close to enacting her revenge.
“You're right, it isn't fair,” he replies.
“Then why!? Why can't I kill you!? Why can't I decide what I want to do and do it!? Why can you, who's such a rotten person, know yourself so well and I can't!?"
Ash is yelling out her insecurities without much thought put into what’s causing her to do so. She speaks from pure emotion, feeling like she has become a fence sitter since Zurvick had died. Not being able to decide what to do or what kind of person she really is has made her resent herself. Looking at somebody like Noah, who makes his decisions instantly and acts upon them with an almost inhuman level of confidence adds to her anger. She doesn't want to be just like him, but under certain circumstances like dealing with the aftermath of a death, why is it that he gives off the vibe that he can deal with it better than she can?
Is it because he is better than her?
Is it because she is weak minded?
Just what kind of person is Ash anyway?
What is there to live for now that her most important person is gone?
Just what is she supposed to do now?
Noah can sense those questions rolling through her mind as she fights back the decision to kill him.
What he knows that she doesn't, is that those questions all fall under one answer, and it is the most difficult one to find.
Noah stands to his feet and puts his hand on her shoulder. “I can only speak for my rotten self. Those questions you have for yourself can only be answered by you... whenever you manage to find it, you'll be fulfilled.”
“I-I can't do that on my own.” the stunned Ash said while zoning out on the knife in her hand.
“Then I'll help you.”
Ash quizzically looks up and stares at him.
“I won't be able to give you the answer that you need, but I can help you find it.”
Having the King of La'Juune offer his assistance to an enemy soldier sounds absurd to her, but he presses forward.
“I'm going to need your help with a person who is very important to me as well, so the least I can do is help you forgive me... Even if I have to take on your hate, I'll do anything I can.”
Noah begins to walk away, leaving her swirling in a dustbowl of her emotions.
Ash wants to ask why he’d do this, but she feels that whatever answer he gives would only add to her confusion. She drops the knife and stands to her feet, glaring at his back that she hates so much, and then out of nowhere she feels that it may not be so bad after all.
Once back inside the castle, the two of them reach Prince Luke's room and Noah opens the door for her. She walks in silently and then glares at him as if she wants to say something but can't find the words to do it.
“I'll have dinner sent to your room for you tonight.” Noah said with a faint smile.
He then shuts the door and the last thing he sees is the glow of concern in Ash's eyes, before the door completely shut he thought he heard her softly say, “Wait.”
He pauses for a moment, but at the end he thinks nothing of it. He takes the key to the keyhole to lock her in but at the last second, he decides that locking her up like a prisoner isn't needed since she isn't a threat.
Noah throws the key in his pocket and turns to walk away when...
“There you are.”
Looking at the source of the voice, he finds Rain standing there with a look of displeasure on her face.
“I'd really like it if you'd stop sneaking up on me like that.”
“I don't care what you like... You said you had something that you wanted to show me, so I want to see it.”
“Oh? Could it be that you are excited about something like that? It's not a wedding ring so don't get your hopes up.”
“Don’t be stupid.” she puffs, her cheeks slightly flushed. “why would I want something like that??”
“Hahahahah, I could get used to that look on your face, Rain. But seriously, I can't show you just yet, it's not ready.”
“Fine then, I'm not gonna beg you.”
Noah is trying to lead her away from Ash’s room in order to avoid disaster. He was actually planning on revealing her to Rain today, but feels that she isn't ready to drop her revenge just yet. The only reason he brought Ash to the castle in the first place was so he could introduce the two and have it somehow result in Rain abandoning the hate that has consumed her.
The two words of 'revenge' and 'forgive' seemingly circle around Noah and he can't help but feel surrounded by the pressure of them.
The two walk along the hallway in silence until Rain holds out her hand to him.
Noah looks at her hand and then to her face and asks, “What?”
“Hold my hand, you idiot. Don’t embarrass me and leave me hanging like this.”
“I thought we got through this phase already, your power is almost gone so I don't need to hold your hand anymore.”
Rain scowls at him, she turns her head away and asks, “What if I said that I just wanted you to do it?”
Noah is certain he had heard this somewhere before, and he is pretty sure she had taken these words out of his own mouth. With this in mind, he replies by returning the favor.
“Then I'd say you're full of shit.”
Rain begins to laugh, she tries to act like him in order to jab at him and in turn he ends up acting like her to give it right back. Since her stay here at the castle she has tried to wittingly one up him multiple times but has yet to do it even once.
But, she has a secret weapon, she is still an attractive girl, this alone can outdo any form of witty words.
She grabs his hand anyway and leans her head on his shoulder, she knows this got to him because his shoulders instantly tensed up.
She smiles and in a soft chuckle she says, “Think what you will.”
Noah is genuinely confused about what is going on, he has many thoughts running through his head. However, the thought of enjoying this peaceful and carefree moment with her, even if she is only teasing him, makes him genuinely happy.
“Hey...” Rain says softly.
“What is it?”
“You know... I remember you once told me that you must be a terrible person in order to be hated so much...”
Noah sighs as if anticipating an insult.
“What about it?”
“...That's not true.”
“You're not a bad person at all. In fact, I have grown to find you quite wonderful.”
“Are you kidding me?”
His normal sleepy expression lightens up in disbelief, he is waiting for her to say something sarcastic afterward but nothing happens. She instead says something that makes him feel like he stopped breathing for a moment.
He can't see her face, but if he could he would probably see her blushing.
Since the war started he has likely been the most hated man in the world, he has accepted that hate and was rewarded with loneliness. It was only confirmed that he is such a despicable person when the feelings of Ash and Rain were so negative towards him. It has gotten to the point where he has just given up on trying to change his image and has chosen to embrace it as a way of protecting himself.
Noah tries to fight back a smile but it isn't working, he is overcome with happiness.
Trying to do good things and being hated while doing so is enough to destroy the toughest of men. Having the person he is trying to do good by showing her appreciation for the first time is enough for him to feel like he has stumbled upon salvation.
“Thank you...” he replies shyly.
This is a moment that both of them have yet to experience, it feels like this could go on forever and they'd enjoy every second.
Thet joy comes to an abrupt halt when he hears a voice from behind him calling his name.
He recognizes this voice and turns around to see Ash running down the hallway towards him wanting to say something.
(Oh no...) he thinks to himself as a cold sweat falls down his temple. (I knew I should have locked that damn door!)
He feels his arm being squeezed tightly and looks toward Rain.
Her eyes are wide open and she is glaring at Ash with a broken look that screams agony. The person who killed her father is in the castle of La'Juune, the only living source of her hate is defenselessly running towards her.
Not caring how or why she is here, Rain steadily loses all control of which way her body moves.
Her right hand that was holding Noah's left begins to shake violently, the pressure of her hate sends shock-waves up his arm so severe he's forced to let go.
Shaking off the sudden surge of pain, he quickly grabs her shoulders and shouts,
“Rain! Don't look at her! Turn away!”
But Rain's eyes never leave their target, it's as though she is some kind of robot that has locked on to something it intends to fire heat seeking missiles at. Any kind of rational thought process Rain had just a split second earlier has been eliminated and replaced by the desire for one thing... Revenge.
Suddenly, out of the back of her right hand a black smoke comes rushing out, it zooms behind her back and begins forming what looks to be wings. Those wings flap and
The hallway behind her gets blown into bits.
Pieces of the wall are sent flying and the ground collapses to its lower levels. The wind sent all kinds of debris flying in a vortex through the hallway window and out of the castle like a vacuum.
The noise was so sudden that Ash fell to the ground. This black smoke and evil aura reminded her of Prince Dice of Eiyalazo. The same killing intent that flowed to her from him is felt tenfold from this girl she has never seen before.
“Rain!” Noah shouts, hoping desperately that his voice will reach her.
The delicate features of Rain’s feminine face became distorted like a plastic doll on fire. Her eyes turn from its transparent sky blue into two black pentagrams.
The sleeping hate that was thought to have been sealed has revealed itself darker than ever before.
“Damn it!” Noah shouts before rushing to Ash's side.
“W-Who the hell is that!?” Ash asks as Noah shields her with his body.
Trying to be as calm as possible he replies, “Rain Von Ronheim... You and King Zurvick are the ones that killed her father Ditreig.”
That name seemingly haunts Ash wherever she goes, the last time she heard that name Zurvick was killed; and now it shows up once again. The man she killed in a secret mission during a world war has brought her nothing but disaster.
How can such a man's death cause her world to change so much?
The answer is right in front of her, spewing the desire to kill under that terrible word called revenge.
Rain floats towards them and Noah takes nervous steps back, if he isn't careful they could both be blown away by one of those ferocious attacks. Thinking about how to get out of this situation is making his head spin, and to add to that, Rain opens her mouth and lets out a voice.
“What did you expect would happen if Rain saw the person who killed her father standing right in front of her?”
The voice exiting her mouth is not hers, it is a deep voice of a man that is filled with the overbearing pressure of evil.
“Who are you!?” Noah inquires.
Rain's mouth again moves and the voice replies, “I am the opponent you are playing this game of chess against.”
“Holy shit I'm tired!” Elise says in exhaustion as she and Jeffrey finally reach the Capital of Eiyalazo.
The two of them are traveling with a convoy of numerous knights and other higher up officials. Carriages are being pulled by large white horses that are wearing decorative saddles and robes, the carriage proudly displaying the Eiyalazonian flags and colors.
“Yeah that was a pain in the ass... But who would've thought that we'd be lucky enough to stumble upon this political convoy.” Jeffrey responds while picking at his ear, “To top it off it was the one holding the two people we were sent here to protect.”
Elise takes a look at the leading carriage where the King and Queen of Eiyalazo are.
“Lucky is an understatement, but then again it's easy to fool people like them when pretending to be a part of the Royal family. Especially ones they haven't even met in person.”
On their way to the Capital, they stopped in a city and found out that the King and Queen were in town on a campaign to boost public morale and raise funds for the war effort. In order to get close to them, they decided to do some snooping around to find out who the local members of the Royal family were. Once they found out that it was a husband and a wife, they decided to invade their home and take their place.
As brutal as that may sound, they didn’t end up killing the couple, instead they just tied them up for a while and dropped them off somewhere random in the middle of a forest.
Part of this political campaign involves meeting all the people in person supporting the war effort, the couple whose identity Jeffrey and Elise took were on that list. It couldn't have worked out any better really, these particular Royals have never met the King and Queen in person, so there is no way that they would suspect anything.
The two of them showed the campaign sympathy and asked to join them on their way back to the Capital to continue their support. They offered a great deal of money to spend a couple days at the castle and then go back home, to which the King and Queen happily agreed to.
As of right now, Jeffery's name is Harold Berman and Elise's name is Melissa Berman, both are distant relatives of the King.
Jeffrey is definitely taking this luck in stride, crowds of people in the streets welcome them back and he waves back at them politely as if he deserves to do so.
He then shows a somewhat sour face and says, “I still can't believe this is happening though... I mean the two leaders of one of the enemy countries are right in front of us, on any given day we'd do anything to kill them. But now we are to do anything in our power to protect them, the irony sure is a kick in the balls.”
Elise agrees and leans back in the seat of the open carriage as the view of the world's most massive castle becomes closer and closer. The convoy eventually reaches the front gate and crosses the suspension bridge over the moat.
At the very front of the castle grounds, a certain young man is waiting to greet them.
This young man is immediately recognized by Jeffrey, an uneasy feeling instantly reaches his stomach as this young man's face brings back memories of a monster.
He pokes at Elise's shoulder and gestures to her to look in the young man's direction.
“Although the King and Queen may no longer be our enemy... their son is.”
“Y-You can't be...” Noah struggles to speak out of his dried throat.
“It’s taken a lot of work over the last thousand years, but the great God Satan has made his triumphant return to Earth.”
“I knew it! I knew it was you!”
“I’ll have to admit that I am surprised, receiving an open challenge from a simple human child like this.”
As if finding courage in the fact that he was correct, Noah confidently smiles and demands, “Did you really think now one would be here to stop you? Let her go.”
“I don’t think you understand the position you’re in, what makes you think you can do anything to stop me?”
Rain takes her hand and points it out towards Ash and Noah.
An invisible wave of energy is sent flying towards them and it is ripping the hallway apart in its wake.
Ash knows that if they take a hit from this incoming wave, they would be turned into mincemeat; she shuts her eyes instinctively and shrinks away from it. But Noah again guards her, and with his left hand he takes the invisible energy into his hand as though it were a ball being tossed to him, and tosses it aside.
It smashes into the side of the wall and explodes in the adjacent room, ripping it to shreds.
He then takes Ash's hand and shouts, “Run!”
The two run as fast as they can whilst Rain flies in the air in haste.
“I still don't know what's going on here!” Ash yells while being dragged along.
“All you need to know is that girl is possessed by the Devil, and is trying to kill you.”
Ash easily believes him upon hearing that. She has been raised as a Catholic just like most Trojans are and the horror stories such as possessions are preached about occasionally in the pew. But once she reached a certain age she stopped taking such things to heart and drifted away from the religious beliefs of her upbringing. She still held those memories inside though, thus the reason she is able to comprehend what is going on if only just a little.
“Why is the Devil trying to kill me and not just that girl!?”
“Because that girl sold him her soul under the condition that you'd die. If he can't kill you, then the contract binding Rain's soul is nullified. On the other hand if he does kill you, Rain's soul is lost forever and he can have complete access to her body, the full power of Satan would be brought upon my country and it would likely be destroyed.”
Seeing how big of a deal her life is and how much her death would affect the world actually makes her extremely nervous.
“Then should I hide somewhere??”
“No, we're going to fight.”
The two were so deep in their conversation that before they knew it, they had entered the large and bare ballroom of the castle.
The ballroom here is at least three times bigger than the one in Tronoble; It has been used not only for balls, but even as a courtroom for popular criminal cases. For the most part however it is used for the King's speeches, especially during wartime. In fact, Noah had a speech here just a few days ago addressing some military commanders and their battalions about what to do now that the Knights were gone.
To get a proper grasp on how large the ballroom is, there were four battalions of three hundred people occupying it at the time.
The chairs they had once sat on have been removed and placed in storage so the only thing remaining is the bare smooth marble floor that seemingly stretches forever.
Rain follows them into the room and demolishes the door she had entered from with a flap of her now extremely large black wings. With the roof of the room being so high, she flies even further upwards as though she were a bird of prey stalking a rodent.
“You were able to stop my attack with your left hand… this power, tell me, how did you obtain it?”
“I'd rather have you answer my questions first.”
“Will this be an equivalent exchange?”
“If that’s what you want.”
“Then ask away.”
Noah takes a deep breath, although he feels like he has a trump card, he knows he is still dealing with a being that has been the source of mankind's dismay for thousands of years. To be confronted by such a being has him frightened, it takes all of his willpower not to show it when he asks,
“Where are they?”
“You mean the people whose absence started this war?”
Satan pauses, and this leaves time for Ash to grasp the topic of discussion. She pulls on Noah's sleeve and asks, “This guy knows where Princess Trojia is!?”
“Of course he does, I am under the firm belief that it was him who kidnapped them.”
“Hahahahahaha!” Satan laughs, causing them to look puzzled. He folds Rain's arms and declares, “It's funny how you are only a few steps away from the truth, yet so far from knowing it.”
“Then tell me the truth!”
“I can't say that I'm not involved in it in any way. But this war, and those disappearances are caused by my son Damien.”
“Yes, that son of mine never even told me what he was planning. To this day I still don't know his true intentions, but I'm not one to pass up an opportunity to take advantage of a situation like this. While he's dealing with 'him' over there in Purgatory, I'll take control of Earth.”
“So they’ve been sent to Purgatory... General Napoleon, my brothers, are they alright?”
A thin smile surfaces on Rain's face, it's as though Satan is taking sick pleasure in what he's about to say.
“Your middle brother Luke is dead.”
Ash, who has been just standing by feels a tight pressure in her chest upon hearing this, she has been staying in Luke's room after all. She understands the feeling of loss that comes with the death of a loved one.
Not even giving him time to soak it in, Satan demands, “Now tell me, how did you obtain the power in your left hand?”
Surprisingly, Noah only needs a deep breath to soak in the death of his brother before finding it within himself to answer calmly.
“It's an interesting story actually…” The tips of Noah’s lips rise. “Your son has made a big error... the man who gave me this power was abducted along with the rest. So in his absence, it is my job to fulfill his wish.”
“That's not good enough of an answer. This man, who is he?”
As if those words were a trigger, Noah rushes toward the sky bound Rain.
The look of Satan on Rain's face is that of confusion, and behind him he can feel the quizzical glare of Ash as well.
“In my hands, is the power to destroy you.”
“Tell me who the man is!”
Noah spreads his arms and shouts, “You’ll find out with this!”
He then slams his left hand into the ground and is catapulted up to her level.
Knocking away the shock of the situation, Satan swings Rain's right hand and sends a black beam screaming towards him.
“No, I’ll find out with this.” Satan said as his eyes rolled from Noah and onto Ash.
The beam makes an awkward bend to the right and is now heading directly toward the Trojan Captain.
Noah turns around mid flight and shouts, “Ash, get out of the way!!”
Ash quickly dives forward and the beam hits behind her, accelerating her dive by the explosion. She flies a good ten meters away and tumbles along the ground, she then takes a look and sees a massive crater behind her. No doubt she'd have been turned to dust if that thing hit her.
Noah can't stop his momentum and ends up grabbing Rain's shoulder with his left hand, and in that instant Satan becomes paralyzed.
“As long as Ash is still alive you are nothing but a shadow of your real self. In this state, you are weak.” Noah said as the two hang in the air.
“Don't underestimate Rain's hate, you pathetic human boy! This is more than enough to kill you!”
Rain grabs his throat and begins to choke him while black smoke swirls around her arm.
Even though he is struggling to breathe, Noah smiles and explains, “You know... There isn't anything that benefits God fully from the left hand.” While saying that, he pulls her closer so he can look into her pentagram eyes. “There were angels sitting at the front, at the back, and at the right of God's seat. But nothing on the left. Jesus cured illnesses, blessed people, and performed miracles with his 'right' hand. Even the Bible was written with the right hand…”
“My left hand has the power to deflect an evil like yours, it’s why Rain hasn’t been able to wreak havoc here in my castle this entire time.”
As if knowing what is going to happen, Rain's eyes grow large as Noah concludes.
“But in my right hand, I hold the power of the Son of God! I am no mere human, I have the power to destroy you!”
Noah takes his right hand and grabs the hand holding his neck, a sound like that of glass splintering and then breaking reverberates throughout the room.
As if being electrocuted, Rain's body jolts in many different directions as Satan screams at the top of his lungs.
“Urraaaagghhh!!! It can’t be! How is it that you have this ability!?!?”
The black smoke is sent into a frenzy and flows all over, Ash stares upwards in amazement as the gurgled screams become louder. Looking closely at Noah, she can see that there is blood flowing out of his mouth, ears, nose, and even his eyes.
The pain that Satan is going through answers the questions rolling through his mind while looking at Noah, it dawns on him that the person he is in this chess game with was given an advantage as well. He’s found himself in a game where his opponent can simply jump pieces on the board and attack his king piece without any interference.
He’s found himself competing in this sham of a game against an opponent on equal ground.
The luxury of having the power to dictate the game has been taken from him right at the first move on the chessboard.
“The man that you were talking about, it couldn't have been him!?!?”
Noah shows his blood stained teeth in an intense glare, revealing to Satan that it is exactly what he feared.
“I won’t let you survive this!” Satan yells. “You might think that you are no mere human, but your body tells me otherwise, you can’t take on Rain’s hate! It will eat you from the inside out and you will die!”
“I don't care if it kills me! You will never have her, even if it costs me my life! Now give her back!!”
The black smoke moves from its frenzied state and zooms into every opening on Noah’s face, his body writhed as the pain hits him in an avalanche.
He still musters up the strength to shout a word whose meaning only he and Satan would know.
The electric sounding noise reaching the ears pierces the air as evidence of the pain he must be feeling.
He lets out a ghastly yelp as blood falls from his body and splashes on the ground.
"Noah!!” Ash shouts.
But he doesn't respond, he simply twitches as the evil from Rain's hate rushes into his body like a poison.
Satan's voice begins to dissipate from Rain's mouth and he leaves Noah with final words.
“You have found yourself ahead in this game, but you won’t survive long enough to see it through.”
Rain's eyes shut and she drops her head, the wings that kept them afloat vanish and the two fall toward the hard marble floor.
With his last bit of consciousness, Noah wraps his arms around her and tilts his weight so he lands on the ground first to cushion her fall.
Knowing that a fall from that distance could be bad, Ash rushes to them as fast as she can to help them after they land. The sound of Noah's body smashing into the ground increases her leg speed, and when she reaches them, the damage has already been done.
They are both unconscious and she doesn't know who to tend to first, she pulls Rain off from atop him and holds Noah's head in her lap. In case he broke his neck in the fall, she tries to keep it as straight as possible.
She contemplates giving him CPR but when she feels him breathing without much restriction, she lightly taps him on the face and shouts his name, but no answer comes.
Came the voice of a girl who has just opened her blue eyes and is looking at her with an intense glare.
“W-Wait! This isn't what it looks like” Ash attempts to explain, gesturing with her hands to emphasize her point. “I'm not trying to hurt him!”
Unbeknownst to her, Rain was conscious during the whole ordeal, she was literally trapped in her own body as it was attempting to kill them both.
Throughout time, most possessions are just like this, otherwise the person wouldn't ever know that they were under the control of a demon in the first place.
Rain pushes Ash away from him and shouts, “Get away!”
Wrapping her arms around him, she begins to sob.
“Wake up Noah...”
He still doesn't answer.
“Wake up! I can’t depend on you if you leave me just like everyone else! You’re not allowed to make me a promise and just die like this, damn it!”
The tears fall rapidly down her face as she contemplates coping with another major loss.
What would be even worse for her is the fact that it would essentially be her fault.
The emotions of it all are just about to boil over when she feels the gentle touch of a hand wiping the tears from her eyes.
It is Noah, even with blood all over his face, he still manages to show her a smile.
“Don't worry... I have no intention of leaving you just yet.”
Rain is immediately overcome with relief, she almost can’t believe that her words actually reached him.
“Good...” She takes his hand and helps him wipe the tears off her cheek. “I’m not near ready for you to go.”
Noah gestures to Rain to sit him up and she does so.
Ash looks almost as happy as Rain to see that he is okay, and she takes a big sigh as if letting out the pressure that has been building up since this whole thing started.
He takes deep but short breaths when he addresses Ash, “I need you to listen to me...”
Sensing the seriousness of his tone, Ash replies in kind, “What is it?”
“Your role in this game is not here in La'Juune... you need to go back to Troy. Your Queen... Satan has control of someone very close to her... he needs to be stopped.”
“B-But what can I do? I can't fight something like that by myself.”
“I sent four of my Knights to the Capital of Troy specifically to fight him. They will help you.”
“Who will we be fighting?”
“General Sturgess, I'm sure you know of him.”
“Of course I do, that guy...”
Ash stands to her feet and addresses Rain.
“Your father Captain Ditreig, his dying words were warning King Zurvick about him... we were on our way back to the Capital for that very reason when Tronoble was attacked.”
“My father really did that?”
“That's right, he said he had a bad feeling about him for years... and that the only reason he gave him this information is because he felt they would always be friends, no matter what.”
Rain laughs out of her nose and looks away. “That's just like that buffoon..."
Hearing what his final words were, the familiar feeling of admiration for him returned; even disgraced and on death’s door, he remained the honorable person she had spent her whole life looking up to.
"To try to help the man who killed him... only my father would do something like that.”
“Please listen to me...” Ash said with a determined look on her face, she takes a deep breath and then bows as low as she can go. “I'm sorry! I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me one day, I truly never meant to hurt anybody!”
Rain reveals a strained smile and says something that would have never crossed her mind if it weren't for Noah.
“There's nothing to forgive... You were doing your job in a war you have no control over. I was foolish to ever bear hate towards you, my father would be ashamed of me...”
This puts both Noah and Ash in a state of disbelief, to be able to come to terms with the death of her dad so quickly after being so angry about it is amazing.
This is when Ash realizes that she ought to do the same, she gets ready to speak to Noah but he speaks before she can.
“Since we're on that topic, I must apologize too... I know I ordered the death of a great man, I wish I was smart enough to have found another way. I wish I had never made a decision that caused you and so many others so much pain, but I had to take on the burden of Rain’s hate if I wanted to find out what happened to our loved ones. I really am sorry.”
The words that Ash was about to speak were swiftly taken away with that.
All of that animosity that she held towards Noah since the Night of the Ball had built up to this point, only to be destroyed and replaced by a sense of appreciation for him.
She has learned that can do it after all, she can truly forgive Noah, the King of La’Juune for the great injustice of taking her one true love away from her.
Ash responds with a smile and heads for the exit of the ballroom.
With her back turned to them she says, “It's like Rain said... It's war.”
She turns around and raises her voice, “I couldn't protect the King, but I'd be damned if I let his wife be in harm's way without a fight. You said you would help me find the answer right? I know I'll get a better handle on myself once this whole mess is over, and perhaps then I can finally move on..."
She smiles and clenches her fists in determination.
"So let's end this war, together!”
“I see... Then go, Captain Alworth, protect everything that man stood for and find the answer for yourself.”
Ash smiles and begins to run off, but not before leaving him with some final words,
“You can call me Ash.”
Satan sits alone in the dark room with his chessboard laying in front of him.
He has an evil grin on his face when he speaks to himself, “As much as I wanted to use Rain to kill you, the raw evil that I fed to that girl now coursing through your veins should be more than enough to take care of that problem in due time.”
He rests his head on his knuckle, "And let's not forget about that friend of yours who gave you that bothersome right hand... I'll be sure to pay him a visit.”
Out of his wide grin a deep snicker starts to form, and it in turn grows into a loud laugh of confidence.
There isn't much for him to be confident about, he has just lost a crucial piece in Rain on his side of the chessboard.
Not to mention, the presence of his great enemy in Purgatory, and the power of his great enemy left with Noah on Earth is something he never could have foreseen happening.
To add on to that, Dice has yet to kill his parents.
To add on to both of these problems, Sturgess has defied his orders and left Lelaine alive.
All of those together, equals a game in which he is in the process of losing, and the chessboard before him shows him that as if mocking him.
Satan swings his hand and knocks the board off the table, chess pieces fly all over and the sound of the ivory pieces rolling along the ground eat at his ears. Before it was knocked down in anger, the board most certainly told him exactly what Noah had said earlier.
“Stupid London and Lennox. They shouldn't have left me alone so they could go find a hotel that's closest to the castle.” said Ebihara Seiri in a way befitting of her young age.
Standing behind her is Haas, and he is as stone faced as ever when he attempts to say,
The two of them are walking in the Capital city of Troy in a town plaza to go shopping for food that will last them for a couple of days. She and Haas, along with London and Lennox are the Knights in charge of assassinating General Sturgess. So as of now they are in the preparation stage after having just arrived in the city a few hours earlier.
“Yeah well you don't count as anybody, you might as well be my shadow.”
Her insult flew over Haas’s head and hit a woman who just happened to be walking by; the woman doesn't know what their conversation is about but those simple words sent chills down her spine as she went on her way.
Haas would love to give her some kind of witty reply, but sadly he is physically unable to do so. All he can do is accept it.
Seiri looks around the bustling town square and changes the subject. “Really though, it's like these people don't even care that their country has been taken over from under their noses. It's just like it never happened.”
This is the typical reaction of people who are put in this kind of situation.
Of course there are ones who vehemently disagree with a political upheaval like the one that had occurred just a couple weeks earlier. But for the most part, people will just go along with it in order to protect themselves and the lifestyles they live. To them, it's already done, no amount of protest would change the situation they’ve found themselves in, it’s much easier to mind their own business and blindly hope for the best.
“It never ceases to amaze me how Noah can predict these things though, I'm pretty sure he sent the four of us here specifically to end this revolution of sorts before the coup even started.”
This is in fact true, the others were paired in groups of two because they would only be fighting one enemy at a time. However, he sent four here because chances are they would be fighting whole battalions. He even gave them orders ahead of time to try to create a disturbance in the general population and form a rebellion so the people of Troy would be involved in winning the country back.
This way, no one would even know that it was La'Juune that actually saved them.
The thought of saving the people of Troy's pride in the process of completing this mission wasn't even overlooked in his plans.
“...Yes...” Haas agrees.
“Alright then, let's not let his efforts go to waste. We'll get this shopping done and start gathering people for a rebellion. Hehehehe, I see a lot of light shows in our near future!”
A man wearing a thick brown overcoat with its hood over his head walks into the Capital city of Troy.
He looks out in the distance and sees the beautiful white castle that seemingly floats into the sky like a cloud. A smile forms on his face as the cool breeze flows through his nose and he is overwhelmed with the feeling of nostalgia.
The two legs that have moved him along this long journey can finally relax. The shoulders that have been carrying a heavy luggage bag for countless miles drop in relief, and the tension in his bones seemingly disappear once freed from the effort of his trek.
He starts doing some ridiculous looking stretches in the middle of a town plaza which prompts hundreds of creeped out passersby to give him dejected looks. But this man doesn't care, he says the reason why when he stretches his arms upwards and declares,
After speaking in a voice that obviously hasn't had much action as of late, he starts to do an outstandingly disturbing form of a jumping jack. In the process of doing this he accidentally bumps into a little girl of about twelve.
“Kyah!” she yelps as she falls to the ground, dropping a duffle bag and having its contents roll all over the street.
“Ooh!? I'm so sorry! I wasn't looking where I was going!” he shouts in an overly apologetic manner.
The girl with long black hair has a cute pouting face as she picks up the contents of her bag; the man immediately tries to help her, but is taken aback when he notices she is hastily grabbing alcohol flasks.
The girl scours the area with her slightly teared violet eyes as if searching for someone, she finds him and grabs onto the pant-leg of black man who holds no emotion in his face.
She turns to the man in the brown coat and starts to sniffle adorably as she softly says, “P-Please forgive me... I don't want to make anybody mad because I just moved to the Capital.. You see... m-my parents died when I was little, me and Haas here escaped from the orphanage that mistreated us."
The man waves his hands to interrupt her.
“Wait wait wait wait! I'm 100% sure I've heard this story before!”
The little girl's face that was just so adorably cute, turns twisted in a way that resembles a delinquent that has just found out that the kid he has been stealing lunch money from had ratted him out.
“No no it's not like I don't believe you or anything! Look!”
The man takes off his hood and shows her his light brown hair and his dark green eyes.
His face is lodged somewhere in the back of her memory and it takes her a few seconds to fully recognize him.
“Oh? You're that guy!”
The man smiles and pulls her up to her feet when he says,
“I guess I never properly introduced myself back then... The name's Zurvick.”
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