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Don't Doubt Druella

Losenis Aug 16th, 2016 (edited) 3,480 Never
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  1. Three years after 'Do Lawyers come from Hell?' / http://pastebin.com/VzUxQ5fp
  2.  
  3. Don't Doubt Druella
  4.  
  5. ---
  6.  
  7. Both Monster and Order had been united in expression at what transpired in their presence. It didn't matter who anyone was; those of Druella's inner circle such as generals, advisors, and agents, or even a Lord Inquisitor of The Order with his face obscured behind his helmet. None could believe their eyes.
  8.  
  9. "Rey-rey, don't play with your food~" Joked Druella as, next to her, her fiancée playfully put a fork with food near her mouth.
  10.  
  11. Along the great table where dozens sat, all invited to a dinner by Druella herself, all remained petrified in disbelief at Druella's unexpected behavior. Whatever anyone had been doing till now, it had been cut short.
  12.  
  13. Lord Inquisitor Frigeridus fared no different, despite the contrast of a lone man of The Order sitting among those loyal to the daughter of the Demon Lord.
  14.  
  15. "Forgive me, I must go!" Said a succubus next to him, just as she stood up and ran out as quickly as she could. Such speed served to frighten him out of his immobility, having looked at her as soon as she said a word and, curiously, seeing her absolutely red-faced. The chair she had sat on tilted on one leg before landing the four on the ground once more, for she had nearly thrown it aside in the rush.
  16.  
  17. Once she closed the door behind her, he slowly turned his eyes to Druella again, only to see her opening her mouth eating from her fiancée's fork with a wide smile on her face. Immediately, Frigeridus choked on his own spit, covering his helmet where his mouth would be as he suppressed a cough.
  18.  
  19. 'I'll go insane at this pace', he thought to himself. Anxiety and stress settling in of such eldritch scenery, he glanced around only to find that nobody seemed to have reacted to the succubus' departure. Did they show sympathy for her, also wishing to leave? Or had they been shocked enough to remain unaware of anything else?
  20.  
  21. It mattered not. There it was, the chance.
  22.  
  23. "I'm going to need a minute." He said, standing up and turning to the door.
  24.  
  25. "Leaving so soon, inquisitor?" Asked Druella's fiancée.
  26.  
  27. In panic, he attempted to come up with anything to say back, lest raise suspicion.
  28.  
  29. "N-no, I just... I just need a minute, alright?" He said, forcing himself to walk rather than to make a mad dash for the door.
  30.  
  31. ---
  32.  
  33. The lounge room sofa seemed blissfully comfortable. Head resting on his hand and helmet hanging by the other, he couldn't help but let his thoughts run wild.
  34.  
  35. 'What happened in the dining room?', he asked himself over and over again. That sure wasn't the Druella he had heard about, and much less did her fiancée seem like the type of victim he'd think Druella would enslave.
  36.  
  37. Soon, a few steps drew his attention. There he saw her as she marched up to him, a blonde, straight-haired demon with one eye covered walked up to him.
  38.  
  39. "Louise," he greeted, "you never told me she was like... that."
  40.  
  41. "I never knew." Replied the demon, equal worry showing in her voice.
  42.  
  43. "Aren't you her direct subordinate? How is it that you didn't know?"
  44.  
  45. "I suppose it's because she never had a man before, so I couldn't figure out how she'd be with one. You saw how everyone else reacted. Well, they left the dining room now; I think they were in a hurry or something."
  46.  
  47. With a sigh, he moved his palm to his face, to soon rub his eyes. Yet a second later, his stomach began audibly rumbling.
  48.  
  49. "Didn't eat anything?" Asked Louise, bringing her hand to her mouth while controlling a smile.
  50.  
  51. "Like I'll eat anything from a Demon Realm." He answered in annoyance, before standing up and heading off to the kitchen with Louise soon following behind.
  52.  
  53. Once there, Frigeridus stepped through the open doorway, yet as soon as Louise stepped in, she immediately disappeared in a tiny cloud of smoke. Curious, Frigeridus took one step back and found her with back pressed against the wall in panic, hiding.
  54.  
  55. It didn't take him a second to find the cause with a quick glance inside, finding Druella's fiancée cleaning his hands on the sink, though with his back turned to him. The noises Frigeridus and Louise made served to draw his attention, turning his head to find them.
  56.  
  57. "Ah, inquisitor." He said, grabbing a towel and drying his hands as he turned to face him. "I didn't think I'd find you here."
  58.  
  59. Though silent for a moment, Frigeridus soon turned his head aside, enough to look at the doorway from the corner of his eyes.
  60.  
  61. "Louise. Stop hiding."
  62.  
  63. Reluctantly, Louise stepped into the kitchen. At the same time, Frigeridus turned his head back at him, but couldn't help but stare.
  64.  
  65. Now with greater detail, it only confused him further as to how this man could be Druella's fiancée. Well-shaven, well-mannered, and not too muscular, yet not a skeleton either. His relatively kind and courteous behavior gave away that he was not a trophy for Druella, a defeated hero beaten to a pulp and made a slave to her in body and mind. Not even his clothing revealed any high upbringing; as much as they were elegant, they looked specially-tailored for him only recently, potentially by the servants of this castle in preparation. Was it a giveaway that his last clothing was not up to par?
  66.  
  67. "I don't think we've properly introduced each other." Said Druella's fiancée, leaving the towel and extending his hand for a handshake. "I am Ron Reynolds."
  68.  
  69. Never in his life had he heard such name. A nobody in history, in his eyes. Certainly gave Frigeridus more cause for wonder.
  70.  
  71. "Frigeridus." He said, extending his own and shaking with Ron.
  72.  
  73. And then, his stomach rumbled.
  74.  
  75. "Starving?" Asked Ron, walking off to one corner of the kitchen.
  76.  
  77. "I don't trust anything that's been in a Demon Realm for over a day."
  78.  
  79. "I see. Still want to remain as you are?"
  80.  
  81. "Yes."
  82.  
  83. "You're in luck, then." He said, opening a cupboard to reveal a myriad of various ingredients. "These just came a couple hours ago from Welsple, so it should be alright for a human."
  84.  
  85. Curious, Frigeridus walked up to the cupboard and stared inside. Truly, it all seemed like what's common in Order territories. Vegetables, fruits, condiments, all of the mundane kind.
  86.  
  87. "...Why do they bring these things here?" Asked the inquisitor.
  88.  
  89. "They were for me."
  90.  
  91. "For you? Wait..." He asked, to then carefully inspect him with a stare. "You are... still a human?"
  92.  
  93. "That, I am. I told Druella that I wanted to stay like this a while longer, and she seemed alright with it."
  94.  
  95. Though Frigeridus grew a frown in confusion, he was not the only one; so too did Louise.
  96.  
  97. "So, are you gonna do anything with them?" Asked Ron, still holding the cupboard door open.
  98.  
  99. Frigeridus, as if snapping back to reality, quickly glanced at the ingredients, though fell silent.
  100.  
  101. "I have no idea how to cook anything with them." He said.
  102.  
  103. "You don't? How come?"
  104.  
  105. "The church cooks for me, or I just eat whatever I find. I barely know how to boil an egg."
  106.  
  107. Though he did not react at first, soon Ron brought his hand to his mouth in thought. His glance fell on Louise, who blinked blankly at the sudden attention.
  108.  
  109. "Louise is your wife, correct?" Asked Ron.
  110.  
  111. "Give it a wild guess how it happened." Replied Frigeridus.
  112.  
  113. "Why don't you order her to cook for you? I'm sure she knows how."
  114.  
  115. But he did not answer, instead he stared with the exact same expression as before, unable to change it in confusion. He glanced over at Louise, who seemed more surprised than anything.
  116.  
  117. "I'd rather not order anyone around." He said, turning back at Ron.
  118.  
  119. "Do it." Said Ron, growing a smile.
  120.  
  121. "Why 'order'?"
  122.  
  123. Ron nodded aside to one corner of the kitchen before marching off. Frigeridus followed, till the two remained facing the corner and themselves in private.
  124.  
  125. "Something the matter?" Asked Ron.
  126.  
  127. "What?" Said Frigeridus.
  128.  
  129. "Why don't you want to order her to cook for you?"
  130.  
  131. "I don't feel like ordering people."
  132.  
  133. "Ah, so it's nothing that can actually stop you."
  134.  
  135. "...What?"
  136.  
  137. At that moment, Ron dropped his arm behind Frigeridus' neck and moved him closer. His voice thereafter became quiet, like whispers.
  138.  
  139. "Tell me, what if Louise actually liked being ordered?" Asked Ron with a grin. "What would you do?"
  140.  
  141. "Eh..."
  142.  
  143. "Torn on the matter, are we?"
  144.  
  145. "Get to the point."
  146.  
  147. "Demons are not unlike humans yet still different, Frigeridus. She formed a contract with you. It's in her very instincts to do what you want. What makes you happy, will make her happy to carry out. Not to mention, I've found that demons absolutely adore cooking for their husbands. I'm sure Louise is no exception. Try it out."
  148.  
  149. Ron let go and took a step back, watching. Frigeridus, after a second of thinking, turned to Louise.
  150.  
  151. "Louise." He firmly called.
  152.  
  153. "E-eh...?" She answered, taken by surprise.
  154.  
  155. "Cook for me."
  156.  
  157. Silence.
  158.  
  159. "Yes!" She exclaimed out loud in joy, almost jumping in place with her eyes wide open and a smile from ear to ear, bringing her hands close to her chest in excitement before rushing to the cupboard. Frigeridus and Ron stepped aside letting her through, before seeing her rummage through and rush out with her arms full. With her excitement not dying a single bit, she then placed them on the counter and began preparing. For the inquisitor, God knowing what she was doing at all with his lack of culinary skills, felt not unlike watching a strange demonic ritual.
  160.  
  161. Frigeridus then glanced at Ron, quite surprised by the results of Ron's advice. Ron returned the glance, though with a grin that screamed 'I told you so'.
  162.  
  163. "So..." Said Frigeridus, returning his eyes to Louise's preparations just like Ron. "How exactly did you and Druella meet, if you don't mind me asking?"
  164.  
  165. "It wasn't special by any metric, I suppose. My father and I have a carpentry shop that one of Druella's Lord Generals frequented, though at the time I didn't even know the guy was anything but a random costumer like the others. I think..." He brought his finger to his chin, thinking. "I can't really recall since he said it as an off-handed remark, but one day he arrived accompanied by a girl saying that she 'wanted to go outside her home for once' or something similar." He then brought his hand down. "My father and the general ended up talking, while she and I were left doing nothing so we talked for a bit."
  166.  
  167. "Uh-huh..."
  168.  
  169. "Well, that sparked some interest between us I'm sure, since every time thereafter that the general visited, she was with him too."
  170.  
  171. "Right..."
  172.  
  173. "Eventually we started liking each other. Imagine my surprise when one day she suddenly said 'I'm Druella, the Demon Lord's daughter'."
  174.  
  175. "You didn't notice?"
  176.  
  177. "Notice what?"
  178.  
  179. "A lilim's appearance is quite noticeable, even if you've never seen one."
  180.  
  181. "Ah, that. No. She was always conservatively dressed, and the first few times she had a hood on. Later on she only took it off when we were alone. 'I don't want to cause a ruckus when people suddenly see me here', she used to say."
  182.  
  183. Unsure what to believe, the words left him silent.
  184.  
  185. "What about the Demon Lord?" Frigeridus couldn't help but ask. "Have you ever seen her?"
  186.  
  187. "No. At times Druella and I were anxious about what she'd think, back then. I suppose she's too busy all the time to show up, but she did send a letter recently with her approval."
  188.  
  189. More wood to the fire.
  190.  
  191. "Do you know her name?"
  192.  
  193. "Nope."
  194.  
  195. He couldn't do much but sneer behind his helmet, with a chance to know now gone.
  196.  
  197. "Ready~!" Said Louise, turning and presenting a big dish of steaming soup before leaving it on the table with a spoon beside it. Then, she stepped back and waited, full of expectation.
  198.  
  199. Frigeridus walked to the table and left his helmet, dragged off the chair, and sat down to grab the spoon. He dipped it into the soup, scooped out, and stared at it. His inner skepticism of monsters already rang warnings in his head, and though the smell felt blissful, the warnings did not subside. With a deep breath, he forced himself and brought it to his mouth.
  200.  
  201. Better than anything the church had ever given him, or anything he had made the pisspoor attempt of cooking himself. Even the flavor, as common as it was for what she used, had that blissful combination that seemed especially-cooked for his taste alone.
  202.  
  203. A glance aside, and she saw Louise waiting, staring, fidgeting her fingers impatiently.
  204.  
  205. She can have this one, he figured.
  206.  
  207. "It's very good." He said. "You cook nicely."
  208.  
  209. Louise began giggling uncontrollably, as much as she tried otherwise, raisin her hands to her blushing cheeks and looking aside.
  210.  
  211. "Well, it's been fun and all, but I'm supposed to be leaving already." Said Ron, slowly walking to the doorway. "Hope we see each other again."
  212.  
  213. "May I ask where to?"
  214.  
  215. "Lescatie, with Druella."
  216.  
  217. Frigeridus, with a spoonful of soup near his mouth, stopped without moving a muscle, staring aimlessly as he was while Ron left the room.
  218.  
  219. "...It was Druella that turned Lescatie into a Demon Realm, right?" He asked.
  220.  
  221. "Yes, why do you ask?"
  222.  
  223. A silent exhalation escaped through his nose, before he returned to eating his soup. Little by little, his dish got emptier and emptier, until it remained almost dry with his belly full.
  224.  
  225. "I better go back." He said as he stood up and walked out.
  226.  
  227. "So soon?" Asked Louise, following close.
  228.  
  229. "Yes." He bluntly said.
  230.  
  231. They walked through the hallway all the way back to the lounge room, though they soon met with the sight of two guests entering.
  232.  
  233. "Chari-chari!" Greeted Louise out loud, stepping forward towards them while Frigeridus stood in place.
  234.  
  235. "Lou-lou!" One of the two guests, a demon like Louise, greeted back as she walked up to Louise, while the other guest stood in place like Frigeridus.
  236.  
  237. Louise and the other demon hugged each other in an overly-friendly greeting. Striking Frigeridus' wonder, however, the man who had come with her seemed familiar. A man in armor, though that denoting the aesthetic of the demon army instead, as if he was an incubus counterpart to him. Surely, the man thought the same of Frigeridus, since he stared with the same expression of curiosity and confusion.
  238.  
  239. 'This place is getting to me.' Frigeridus thought to himself, rubbing his eyes and resuming his march, soon walking out of the door the two guests had left open.
  240.  
  241. ---
  242.  
  243. Woodland flanked the immediate vicinities of the road from Druella's castle. Despite already seeing it when he arrived, it still came as a surprise to see them as lush forests of green rather than the dark woods he had heard of. Little details like fruits and some plants gave away that the plant life belonged to the Demon Realm, a thought he could not shake off as much as he tried, condemning him to shift stares around him in fear of a monster suddenly pouncing out.
  244.  
  245. From under his clothes, he took his pendant and held the emblem with his fist close to his mouth. The emblem of The Order, a holy symbol that was as good protection as anything in the land of the unholy. Quietly, he recited a silent prayer to himself, never ceasing to walk.
  246.  
  247. 'Just a kilometer and I'm out', he told himself. A carriage would await him, and he could not blame the driver for not daring to enter a demon realm.
  248.  
  249. But he still felt furious at being left alone in such place.
  250.  
  251. A chill ran down his spine, making him stop in place and grab the handle of his sheathed sword in reflex. A strange sensation surrounded him, a great paranoia, not unlike that of being watched. To the left and to the right, staring revealed nothing, and when he turned to face back, still nothing could be seen. Just the empty road, and the silence of the woods.
  252.  
  253. "Louise?" He called.
  254.  
  255. But there was no response.
  256.  
  257. Demons and their teleportation, he figured. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it seemed as his paranoia had never failed him after meeting Louise. Whether it was her now, he could not guess. Perhaps someone else, but someone had to be around.
  258.  
  259. Once more he scanned the scenery, checking thoroughly the road back to Druella's castle. Nothing. Within the woods, just eerie silence. At the front once more, just the great distant road. Yet the paranoia remained.
  260.  
  261. Smoke beside him appeared in a puff, the size of a man, and an arm came out grabbing his arm in less than a second.
  262.  
  263. He could not figure out what happened before an immense pull took him, a pull so strong and quick it could almost dislocate his shoulder, sending him flying towards the woods before hitting a tree. He fell onto the ground and, just as he returned to his senses, shot a glance around.
  264.  
  265. Nothing in sight.
  266.  
  267. Quickly, he unsheathed his sword and stood up in stance, trying to figure out what had happened.
  268.  
  269. Then, a small cloud of smoke popped out to his right, with a hand reaching out as quickly as before, though he managed to step aside quickly enough to dodge it before it disappeared.
  270.  
  271. "You're quick." Said a voice from seemingly nowhere. "Gotten used to Louise's tricks already?"
  272.  
  273. It wasn't Louise's voice, he knew, yet it seemed too familiar at the same time.
  274.  
  275. The stench of smoke made its way through, along with a hint on Frigeridus' peripheral vision that gave away its location: behind him to the side.
  276.  
  277. Without a second to think, he swung his longsword its way, but with painful ease did the perpetrator stop it. There he saw her, the succubus from before that had run off red-faced from the dining table, able to block his swing with just two fingers. Such precision did she have, that the finger-ends of her gloves faced no damage whatsoever; not even a hint of dust on the red fiber that ran from the end of her fingers to her upper arms, and neither did wear nor tear show along her long, shiny strapless dress of the same color. The only clear cut was a mere slit to the side, part of her dress that gave view of her leg.
  278.  
  279. Even her expression, a soft and charming smile, made her look like she had not applied a single bit of effort in her actions. Calmly breathing in a slow manner without a hint of tiredness, and even her lengthy hair, black as night like her horns that curved back and downwards, kept its neatness.
  280.  
  281. And so, she disappeared again, letting go of the sword. At that instant, a pull with ferocious intensity on his back sent him right against the ground, head hitting the floor hard enough to cause a mild concussion. Without time to even take a breath, the succubus appeared in a cloud of smoke on top of him, pinning him down against the ground, though now with a dagger held in her hands.
  282.  
  283. A dagger she brought down upon him.
  284.  
  285. Barely in the nick of time was he able to grab her hands, preventing the dagger from digging into him, hovering over his chest a few centimeters away, though as much as he tried to push it away, he could not.
  286.  
  287. "Serves me right for trusting a bunch of monsters!" He muttered. "I suppose I won't know why a succubus is trying to actually kill me, no?!"
  288.  
  289. "You saw too much, darling." Said the succubus, softly and elegantly without a hint of effort, contrary to Frigeridus' desperate attempts. "I can't let you go back and tell everyone."
  290.  
  291. Her hands turned into smoke, disappearing and then reappearing just below his hands, bypassing entirely his strength. A loud gasp escaped from him as the dagger dug into his chest fully to the hilt, all in a mere split second.
  292.  
  293. The suddenness, the sensation, the paradoxical fact that it passed through the steel mail under his surcoat as if it did not exist, all left him wide-eyed. There was no blood. His chest felt pain, but the type of pain one would feel when a limb falls asleep and one tried to move it. Little by little it spread outwards. The strength in his arms escaped as the sensation reached them, leaving him unable to keep them up. In due time, his whole body was consumed by the numbness.
  294.  
  295. Leaving the dagger stuck in his chest, the succubus stood up.
  296.  
  297. "You're lucky that I don't like killing." She said, staring down at him. "Maybe some critter will find you and keep you from leaving."
  298.  
  299. And so, she disappeared in smoke.
  300.  
  301. Dead silence ensued.
  302.  
  303. He could not move his limbs as much as he tried. Not only was the pain of moving an asleep part of his body increasing, but his strength also seemed to fade. No doubt about it, he had been stabbed by Demon Realm Silver.
  304.  
  305. Noises around cut his thoughts short.
  306.  
  307. "Issat a lad the lass left...?" Said a whisper around.
  308.  
  309. "Bugger me, that's one fine hunk."
  310.  
  311. He saw them, high above on the trees. Hornets. Three of them, coming into view, all with their eyes locked on him.
  312.  
  313. One of them soon descended.
  314.  
  315. "Oi, watch out." Said one of those who remained high.
  316.  
  317. The one that descended glanced at the knife, and grew a wicked smile.
  318.  
  319. "Lad's alroit." She said, looking high at the others. "Git down 'ere."
  320.  
  321. His vision began weakening too much. His consciousness started fading. The knife had been leeching off his strength for too long.
  322.  
  323. "Oooooh," said one of the two hornets that now got down, "this lad ain't gonna be gettin' out of 'ere any time soo--"
  324.  
  325. The other hornet immediately put her hand on the former's mouth. "Shh. Be quiet, wanker."
  326.  
  327. The three stood silent, listening carefully.
  328.  
  329. "Shite, someone's coming!" She said, readying her wings.
  330.  
  331. "What about the lad?" Asked he first to descend.
  332.  
  333. "I don't bloody fink we're gon' carry him with all that fook'n armor for long, you dicey cunt! Leg it!"
  334.  
  335. And as quickly as they arrived, they flew off.
  336.  
  337. He tried turning his head to the road. The level of pain seemed unreal, as if his muscles were about to tear; he almost wanted to shout, assuming he was even able to in the first place, yet little by little he turned. He succeeded and remained panting, as the pain in his weakened state almost served to knock him out.
  338.  
  339. "Honey~!" Said a muffled voice from afar.
  340.  
  341. Louise?
  342.  
  343. Past the few trees in front of him, he saw her coming into view on the road. What she was here for, he did not understand, at least until he saw how she carried his helmet in her hands. Just as she passed the point of the road closest to where he was, she stopped and chuckled to herself.
  344.  
  345. "I know you're around here." She said. "I can sense you. Have you not learned from all these years?"
  346.  
  347. He wanted to shout, but words could not come out. 'Louise!' he tried on and on, but not even a breeze came out of his lungs.
  348.  
  349. "Want to play hard to get? Alright! I spy with my little eye..."
  350.  
  351. She turned her head and glanced in his general direction, scanning the scenery. Frigeridus could pinpoint the exact moment she spotted him with awful precision, for Louise's cheerful smile died and turned into an expression of horror and disbelief; the helmet she carried dropped to the ground, just as she began running towards him.
  352.  
  353. "Frigeridus!"
  354.  
  355. Yet, that's the last thing he saw before the knife leeched off too much energy for him to remain conscious.
  356.  
  357. ---
  358.  
  359. With her ear close to his mouth, a demon could notice Frigeridus' breathing, its rhythm, and its frequency.
  360.  
  361. "His breathing stabilized. Nothing to fear now." She said as she straightened up, speaking to the others in the room, still with her eyes on Frigeridus. Then, she reached for the knife lying on the night stand next to the bed in which Frigeridus lied on, and stared at it in wonder. "It was a good thing that you took it out as soon as you saw it, contrary to what one would do with a common knife. A couple more minutes in him, and he'd be asleep for hours if not days. This material isn't supposed to be left lodged in someone. As for the perpetrator... With this alone, we'll never know. It doesn't look like it belongs to anyone who came to the dinner. Brought in just to be discarded, I'd guess."
  362.  
  363. A loud sigh escaped Louise's mouth as she sat, holding Frigeridus' helmet on her lap. "I should've gone with him. Even if it still happened, I'd know who did this."
  364.  
  365. The demon sitting next to her extended her arm, hugging her in sympathy, with Louise soon leaning against her.
  366.  
  367. The one treating Frigeridus leaned forward over him, then gently started slapping his cheek.
  368.  
  369. "Hey, wake up."
  370.  
  371. By her actions, Frigeridus frowned with his eyes still closed, soon gritting his teeth in half-asleep annoyance before slowly opening his eyes. As soon as he saw the demon too close for comfort, his eyes shot wide open, heartbeat skyrocketed and, in pure reflex, threw his arm to fend off hers, though the demon quickly stepped back with a smirk.
  372.  
  373. "Easy there, boy." She said.
  374.  
  375. Frigeridus shot upright sitting and quickly looked around. He barely knew anyone, but soon his eyes met with Louise's, at which point he threw himself back against the bed with a sigh of relief. Then, as he remembered, he quickly tapped his chest.
  376.  
  377. "Looking for this?" Asked the demon, holding the dagger his way for him to see.
  378.  
  379. He took hold of it and brought it in front of his eyes. As he thought, the blade shined with an eerie reflective surface. Demon Realm Silver, no doubt, glinting strangely as he turned it.
  380.  
  381. "Looks like you remember being stabbed." Said the demon. "Remember by whom, though?"
  382.  
  383. The succubus. As much as going to the Demon Realm alone sounded extremely stupid to the point it'd only happen in a dream or a nightmare, it looked like it wasn't after all.
  384.  
  385. Still, paranoia forced its way through.
  386.  
  387. "No." He answered. "One moment I was walking down the road, and the next I had the dagger in my chest."
  388.  
  389. "Figured. Anyone here could run circles around the best of humans for days. Well, I'll leave you two in private. Louise almost lost her husband, imagine her worry."
  390.  
  391. The demon soon stepped off and left through the door. The other demon and her husband follow suit, and left Louise and Frigeridus on their own. Louise then stood up and walked over to sit down on Frigeridus' bed.
  392.  
  393. "Can you really not remember?" She asked.
  394.  
  395. "The succubus."
  396.  
  397. "...What?"
  398.  
  399. "That succubus that ran out when we were dining with Druella. She ambushed me and stomped me flat before leaving me for dead."
  400.  
  401. Louise did not answer. Instead, silent, her expression remained neutral as her head lowered down.
  402.  
  403. "Can't believe it, huh?" Said Frigeridus, still lying down and staring at the ceiling.
  404.  
  405. "I can, but only because it's you who is saying that. But... why didn't you say that earlier?"
  406.  
  407. "My word against hers."
  408.  
  409. "Right... Why would she do that, then?"
  410.  
  411. "I saw too much, apparently. She didn't want me to return knowing how Druella... behaved."
  412.  
  413. Louise raised her hand a placed it over her mouth, thinking.
  414.  
  415. "And now I'll have some succubus not resting till I'm dead or worse," he continued, "either to stop me from talking or out of vengeance for talking."
  416.  
  417. "Elder succubus. Her name's Cassandra." Said Louise.
  418.  
  419. "Even better! Bah..."
  420.  
  421. Louise stood up and threw the helmet she held at Frigeridus, who barely managed to catch it in time before sitting up.
  422.  
  423. "Get up, I have an idea." She said.
  424.  
  425. "What?"
  426.  
  427. "We're going to Lescatie."
  428.  
  429. Frigeridus remained immobile, stupefied, merely blinking in reaction.
  430.  
  431. "You want me to go to Lescatie." He said after a pause.
  432.  
  433. "Do you have a choice?"
  434.  
  435. "Why do you want me to go to that hellhole?"
  436.  
  437. "To you it may be a hellhole. Ron said he was going to Lescatie with Druella, isn't he? Cassandra disappeared ever since she stabbed you, too. For now, it's our only lead. Worst case scenario, we find nothing, but we'll still be able to figure out what's up with Druella."
  438.  
  439. "None of you knew she'd act like that?"
  440.  
  441. "Ehh..." She said, looking aside for a second. "All we had in our minds were assumptions. I never would have imagined that the one who turned Lescatie into a Demon Realm in the way she did would be so... romantic."
  442.  
  443. Frigeridus stood up, helmet in hand.
  444.  
  445. "Are we really going to stalk a couple around like some shitty romantic comedy novel written by the loneliest guy around?"
  446.  
  447. "Yes." She answered, crossing her arms with a smug smile.
  448.  
  449. "No, thanks. I just want to get the hell out of here."
  450.  
  451. Her smile turned into a frown as she put one hand on her waist. "I'm sure you've done much worse things as an inquisitor than stalking a bunch of people."
  452.  
  453. "It's not that."
  454.  
  455. "Lescatie, then? I saw how you reacted when Ron mentioned it. You willingly stepped into Druella's castle, so why is that Lescatie is suddenly off-limits?"
  456.  
  457. "You don't need to know that."
  458.  
  459. "Say it."
  460.  
  461. "No."
  462.  
  463. "Do it."
  464.  
  465. "No."
  466.  
  467. "Come on!"
  468.  
  469. With a rough sigh, Frigeridus brought his head back before returning it to stare at her.
  470.  
  471. "I had family in Lescatie." He answered. "A sister. That's it. I'd rather not go there at all if all there is to do is chasing clues we don't even know for sure exist. If it's about Druella, you can do that on your own."
  472.  
  473. An awful silence engulfed the room. Louise, uncomfortable, could not bring herself to look at him in the eyes in the pause that ensued.
  474.  
  475. "Promise me it'll be quick." He said.
  476.  
  477. "I promise." She said, bringing her eyes back at him.
  478.  
  479. Frigeridus spun the helmet and looked at it, staring at its eye openings before putting it on, then donning the white hood of his inquisitorial cloak.
  480.  
  481. "Handsome as ever, even with your face hidden." Said Louise with a smile. "I have two friends I can trust with this. Maybe you know them."
  482.  
  483. She turned and left through the door, with him follow behind. Much to his surprise, however, he found the demon and her husband outside, waiting; the demon with her hands together behind her and leaning against the wall, and her husband cross-armed in place.
  484.  
  485. "Still here?" Asked Louise.
  486.  
  487. "Like we'll abandon you like that." Chuckled the demon.
  488.  
  489. "I won't have to look for you, then. We're going to Lescatie. I'll explain on the way."
  490.  
  491. ---
  492.  
  493. "I can't picture Cassandra disobeying an order." Said the general as he, his demon wife, Frigeridus, and Louise marched on horse towards Lescatie. "I can picture her stabbing him to protect Druella's image, though. Can't imagine what's going on in her mind." Then, he glanced at Frigeridus, before subsequently turning his eyes to Louise. "Am I missing something, or is there something more I should know about this inquisitor?"
  494.  
  495. "You two met before." Answered Louise. "Think you can recognize each other?"
  496.  
  497. Both Frigeridus and the general stared at each other, dumbfounded.
  498.  
  499. "We... know each other?" Asked Frigeridus.
  500.  
  501. "M-hm." Said Louise.
  502.  
  503. Their eyes then shot wide open, just as they raised a hand and pointed at each other.
  504.  
  505. "Marius?!" Asked Frigeridus.
  506.  
  507. "Frigeridus?!" Asked Marius, the general.
  508.  
  509. At the sight, Marius' wife covered her mouth to suppress a giggle.
  510.  
  511. "How time flies!" Said Marius, lowering his hand, as did Frigeridus. "Now it's not so strange that Druella decided to invite an inquisitor to dinner."
  512.  
  513. "Lord Inquisitor." Corrected Frigeridus. "I can't say I'm glad to see you as a general of the demon army, however."
  514.  
  515. "Lord General." Corrected Marius.
  516.  
  517. But the two fell silent, dumbfounded once more.
  518.  
  519. "Why 'Lord'?" Asked the two at the same time.
  520.  
  521. "It's just to differentiate from the normal generals." Answered Marius with a chuckle. "Most monsters of great rank are so strong that they haven't learned much past charging head-first and hoping they win. I can't blame them, since it works most times. That's why they put human generals like I to a higher regard."
  522.  
  523. "Shit..." He said, soon turning head forward to the road, prompting Marius to do the same.
  524.  
  525. "What about your title?"
  526.  
  527. "The guys at The Order suddenly realized that they don't have a rank higher than inquisitor that isn't related to pushing pencils, so they decided to slap the prefix 'Lord' on it."
  528.  
  529. "Happy to see you getting promoted. How did it happen?"
  530.  
  531. "Louise hyperinflated my encounter with demons. The Order thought I had an inherent resistance against them, so they kicked me upstairs before throwing me off to Druella's castle when that invitation came through."
  532.  
  533. Marius laughed to himself, much to Frigeridus' annoyance.
  534.  
  535. "You were a great scribe." Frigeridus continued. "The Order had a list of potential acolytes. You were on that list. I'd have taught you how to be an inquisitor, but looks like fate spat on my face, since now you're a general of the Demon Lord's armies fighting against The Order."
  536.  
  537. "...What? The Demon Lord hasn't ordered any offensives since decades ago."
  538.  
  539. Frigeridus instantly snapped his head towards him.
  540.  
  541. "What? What about Lescatie, then? An entire nation turned into... whatever it's supposed to be now. You're gonna tell me it's not an offensive?"
  542.  
  543. "I don't know if the Demon Lord ordered it. Nobody knows. All we know is that before we even knew Druella had gone out, Lescatie turned into that. Nobody knows why Druella did it without telling the others, either."
  544.  
  545. "...Nobody knows?"
  546.  
  547. "I was as surprised as you are now. Maybe Cassandra knows, seeing as she's Druella's second in command, but... who knows."
  548.  
  549. "Then what are you even supposed to be doing as a Lord General if nothing has been ordered for so long, and our counter-attack to Lescatie didn't even need a demon army set against it to fail? Who are you fighting against?"
  550.  
  551. "Nothing. For now."
  552.  
  553. "For now...?"
  554.  
  555. "The Demon Lord has us all on high alert. She believes there's a threat out there about to rear its head soon. Nobody has gotten her to say anything more specific than that, but everyone's certain she's not talking about The Order. I was sent to keep things in check in Druella's lands, in fact."
  556.  
  557. In silence, Frigeridus lowered his head. 'Why did she turn Lescatie into what it is, then?' he couldn't help but ask himself. 'Just for fun? How come she turned Lescatie into a cesspool of degeneracy, yet acts like some sort of pure maiden with her fiancée?'
  558.  
  559. Not only did he not know, he also did not know whether he wanted to find out. Lescatie's capital, the city of the same name as the nation, lied in sight at last after the time-killing exchange of words. Anxiety befell him, and so grabbed his rosarius, brought it close to him, and recited a quiet prayer to himself.
  560.  
  561. ---
  562.  
  563. "Why are we here?" Asked Druella, sitting at a table by the window as she looked around, impatiently moving her feet back and forth. Ron sat opposite to her, though with a smug grin instead.
  564.  
  565. A radical difference in her attire could be seen, compared to how it was back in the castle. Now, most of her skin lied concealed behind long trousers and a hooded jacket. Beneath her hood, however, her horns pressed against the fabric, leaving an appearance of cat ears beneath the cloth.
  566.  
  567. "Don't play dumb." Said Ron. "I saw how you were almost hypnotized when we were walking past."
  568.  
  569. "Just because I stared doesn't mean I wanted to go in!"
  570.  
  571. "Your eyes said otherwise."
  572.  
  573. "I didn't say yes."
  574.  
  575. "You didn't say no either."
  576.  
  577. "Your order's here." Said a cheerful holstaur as she placed two glasses on the table, both full of cream-topped milkshakes.
  578.  
  579. Druella had fallen silent, staring at the one placed in front of her.
  580.  
  581. "Well, don't mind if I do!" Said Druella as she was about to move it closer to drink.
  582.  
  583. But Ron took it away. She could only look on in disbelief, heartbroken as he moved it aside away from her, but soon her expression turned into an annoyed frown.
  584.  
  585. "Alright, why?" She asked.
  586.  
  587. "You didn't say yes." He said, chuckling.
  588.  
  589. She grit her teeth, but instead of blowing up on him with all her fury, she instead grew a vengeful grin. Quickly, she took his milkshake and moved it closer, taking the straw from hers and putting it on his glass.
  590.  
  591. "Then I'm drinking from yours!" She said, soon leaning forward and starting to drink.
  592.  
  593. Much to her surprise, Ron too leaned forward and drank with her. Their eyes locked with each other right in front at a small distance, till they both grew a smile with a straw still in their mouths, and couldn't help but start laughing to themselves.
  594.  
  595. Their smiles turned to surprise as they found their hands touching without them knowing, but neither of them pulled away. Instead, as their smiles returned, their fingers slowly became entangled.
  596.  
  597. ---
  598.  
  599. On a bench outside, on the sidewalk opposite to the bar, the four of them sat. Frigeridus sat on one end with his helmet hanging by his fingers while he rested his head on the other, elbows resting on his knees, hunched over and looking down in boredom. Marius sat next to him, sunken back and staring at the sky while both his arms lied outstretched on the bench's rest. Next to Marius on the other half of the bench, his wife Charlotte and Louise stared near-hypnotized as they spied on Druella and Ron.
  600.  
  601. "They are... h-handholding!" Said Charlotte, covering her mouth with both hands. "This is too lewd..."
  602.  
  603. "Drinking from the same glass! How reckless!" Said Louise, blushing scarlet red.
  604.  
  605. With a loud, rough sigh, Marius brought his arms forward and stood up. "Gonna go for a drink," he told Frigeridus, "you in?"
  606.  
  607. "Get me out of here." Answered Frigeridus, standing up and putting on his helmet."
  608.  
  609. And so they marched off. Marius leading the way, after turning corner and corner, reached a small store such short distance away.
  610.  
  611. "Do they have anything that won't affect me?" Asked Frigeridus, as they both stopped at the front.
  612.  
  613. "They should." Said Marius. "Cider or mead, I think."
  614.  
  615. Marius then walked in, but Frigeridus stood outside with his attention elsewhere. Next to the store stood a greengrocery, with a great amount of its stock outside in plain view, all neatly arranged in crates. Heart-shaped pink fruits were what caught his attention the most, its color sticking out from everything else.
  616.  
  617. He remembered when those things were labeled as outright poison in Lescatie under The Order. Now, they were sold freely under the new management. 'How much has Lescatie changed?' he couldn't help but ask himself. If what he knew of Demon Realms was true for all types, it should get worse the further towards the center one went, but he was unable, or unwilling, to imagine as he looked off to the great castle in the distance that could barely be seen past the buildings.
  618.  
  619. "What are you doing here, Frigeridus...?"
  620.  
  621. Cassandra's voice. An awful chill ran down his spine. In panic, he turned around to see behind him, but there was nothing there. He narrowed his eyes as he scanned the scenery, aware of the way she ran circles around him back then in the woods, but as much as he tried, he found nothing.
  622.  
  623. But when he turned back to face the store, he found Cassandra smiling from ear to ear with a finger extended, now already touching the front of his helmet. Unable to react in time, he disappeared with her in smoke.
  624.  
  625. A little afterwards, Marius came out of the store with two bottles in hand. Surprised to not see Frigeridus, he looked around, until the realization struck him.
  626.  
  627. "Fuck."
  628.  
  629. ---
  630.  
  631. With longsword drawn and at the ready, Frigeridus stared on at Cassandra who sat on the edge of a building in front. Legs crossed and with a smile on her face, she returned the gaze with almost taunting demeanor.
  632.  
  633. "Not in Lescatie, nor even in Druella's castle, did the demonic energy affect you." She said. "Still a human through and through. Your rosarius works exceptionally well, I must say."
  634.  
  635. He quickly reached for his pendant that hung from his neck and lied on his surcoat, and tucked it into his clothes, as if hiding and protecting it. Yet, it only caused her to grin and lean forward.
  636.  
  637. "Afraid I'll take it from you?" She asked, before returning to her last posture. "It's courageous of you to come to Lescatie of all places after what happened. What brings you here?"
  638.  
  639. "Why did you try to get rid of me?"
  640.  
  641. "I already told you, darling. I can't have you spread word about Druella."
  642.  
  643. "Lot of loyalty for someone who disobeyed a direct order from her!"
  644.  
  645. Her smile disappeared as she stared unamused.
  646.  
  647. "You're here for Druella, then, aren't you?" He asked. "Can't be pure coincidence that you were the one that outright ran out blushing over your master."
  648.  
  649. A frown instantly formed, gritting her teeth. She became engulfed in smoke, making Frigeridus flinch over a potential teleport, but she reappeared in the exact same place, now standing instead.
  650.  
  651. "That degenerate is not my master!" Cassandra shouted.
  652.  
  653. Stupefaction befell him. 'Degenerate', he could barely believe hearing the word, much less from her of all people. He had been shocked so much, his grip on his longsword weakened, lowering the weapon a slight bit.
  654.  
  655. "Behaving like that in front of everyone... without even a tiny shred of shame!" She continued. "What obscenities will she bring with her in the coming years to our proud faction?! I can not- I will not allow this to continue!"
  656.  
  657. He was still unable to comprehend.
  658.  
  659. "What about Lescatie?" He asked, tone showing his deep confusion. "She alone turned this entire place into what it is. How does what she did in the castle compare to that?"
  660.  
  661. Cassandra said nothing. Just in silence, she looked at him, but soon began chuckling lightly, growing in intensity on and on until it turned into a mad laughing fit.
  662.  
  663. "I was the one who orchestrated Lescatie's fall! I was the one who turned all the heroes here into monsters! I spread the Demon Lord's promised world to the greatest nation in The Order, and made people fear Druella in all corners of the world!"
  664.  
  665. "It... wasn't Druella?"
  666.  
  667. "That lazy fool... She did nothing for Lord knows how long. In my infinite humility, I spread the rumors to have her something to go for, to give her incentive to do what people would fear her for! But not only did she do nothing, she didn't even hear said rumors. Always locked in her castle, till she found her fiancée... But this was the last straw. Who deserves to rule these lands in the name of our great Lord? That useless degenerate, or the one behind Lescatie?"
  668.  
  669. "So you're a traitor now?"
  670.  
  671. "Traitor?" She smiled. "No. I'm just taking out the trash."
  672.  
  673. And so, she disappeared in a puff of smoke. Frigeridus immediately gripped his sword tighter and shot stares around, but nothing happened. As much as he looked, there was nothing around, making him lower his sword ever so slightly.
  674.  
  675. Gone.
  676.  
  677. He took off his helmet and put it under his arm, then took hold of his sword with the hand of that very same arm to rub his face with his right hand. Soon, he lowered his palm, but kept it over his mouth as it passed through.
  678.  
  679. A simple thought crossed his mind. Whether due to negligence or disinterest, Druella's rule would still be comparatively better than Cassandra's, at least to him. He couldn't imagine how things would be if she took over, bringing him to look around once more, yet now inspecting the city itself rather than looking for her.
  680.  
  681. This part of the city, he remembered it even if he had last visited over half a decade ago. It's the complete opposite side he had arrived from with the others. He glanced north deep into the city, and there it was, the castle in the great distance. His shoulders dropped as he realized that, in order to take the shortest path back to the others, he'd need to cross the castle's immediate vicinity; the center of this Demon Realm.
  682.  
  683. He sheathed his sword and put on his helmet. 'Why the hell am I helping Druella...?' he couldn't help but wonder, before he started running.
  684.  
  685. ---
  686.  
  687. "And then, when he was bawling his eyes out over her death," said Druella through a chuckle, still in the bar with Ron now with two empty glasses on the table, "she just suddenly sat upright and said, 'Did you seriously forget that I'm a lich?'"
  688.  
  689. Both began laughing. Yet, as she laughed, Druella looked out the window, wondering.
  690.  
  691. "Wasn't there something we were supposed to do?" She asked.
  692.  
  693. Ron glanced out. The sky had changed hue, for it was afternoon already. A subtle hint of red tinted the surroundings, past the clouds that left a darker light.
  694.  
  695. "It's too late, but it wasn't really that important." He said. "Maybe tomorrow."
  696.  
  697. "Ah, so we can stay here for a little while longer, then...?" She said with a devious grin.
  698.  
  699. "We have been here for like two hours. What do you have planned?"
  700.  
  701. Instead of answering, she raised her hand as she looked aside to the holstaur waitress.
  702.  
  703. "Two specials!" She said.
  704.  
  705. "Right away!" Said the holstaur before rushing off.
  706.  
  707. "Specials?" Asked Ron.
  708.  
  709. "What, you don't know?" Said Druella.
  710.  
  711. What she got in return instead was a silent stare.
  712.  
  713. "You brought me to a place I know more about than you?" She asked with a grin that never wore off.
  714.  
  715. "You knew? Why didn't you tell me?"
  716.  
  717. "I wanted to see how this went. Regretting your choice already?"
  718.  
  719. At that moment, as if already having them prepared beforehand or having done so with insane speed, the holstaur returned with two glasses like the ones before. This time, however, Ron immediately noticed what differed as she put them on the table.
  720.  
  721. It was made out of Prisoner Fruit, with chunks inside and a diminute one on top of each like a cherry.
  722.  
  723. As much as he had heard of them, its effects were beyond him.
  724.  
  725. "We both drink," said Druella, "and whoever lasts longer gets to do anything with the other for a day. Seems fair, doesn't it?"
  726.  
  727. In silence and without smile, he started thinking, unwilling to drink it. Then, an idea came to mind, returning his smile and a chuckle.
  728.  
  729. "Ladies first, then." He said, gently pushing his glass aside and then placing his elbows on the table.
  730.  
  731. "Afraid, are we?"
  732.  
  733. "A lilim challenging a human? If I didn't know better, I'd say you're afraid of me standing a chance instead."
  734.  
  735. She playfully stuck her tongue out at him, before grabbing her glass and starting to drink.
  736.  
  737. ---
  738.  
  739. Frigeridus kept running on and on, but soon he slowed to a gait till he stopped in place, panting.
  740.  
  741. A single thought revolved his head from then on: Why am I doing this? He couldn't outrun a teleporting succubus, let alone do anything if he reached her. The purpose behind his actions evaded him. He raised his head to look at the sky, seeing that it was getting dark already. He did not even get through a quarter of the city, and the castle still remained in the distance. Whether the city was just that big, or Cassandra was playing tricks on him by teleporting him around without anyone noticing, he'd never know.
  742.  
  743. "Courageous and determined as ever, inquisitor!" Shouted Cassandra from afar. While unsheathing his longsword, he shot a glance at where the voice came from, soon finding her standing over a building close by. "Truly the pride of The Order!"
  744.  
  745. "Weren't you supposed to take out the trash or something?" He shouted back.
  746.  
  747. "But it's so cute seeing you helplessly trying to achieve anything!"
  748.  
  749. Deep annoyance befell him as he stared silent. Marius and the others better be doing something, he hoped.
  750.  
  751. "What, are you not gonna do anything anymore?" She asked.
  752.  
  753. "Didn't you imply it'd be useless?"
  754.  
  755. "You're no fun."
  756.  
  757. A pause followed, with neither of them reacting.
  758.  
  759. "I've been watching you ever since that banquet with Druella." She said. "The way you so valiantly fought against me in the forest... How you decided to come to Lescatie instead of running away... Such courage. The tales of great knights and heroes were not a lie, after all. So, I took a look at the contract between you and Louise... and found something."
  760.  
  761. "What did you find?"
  762.  
  763. She disappeared, though Frigeridus saw not where to. Suddenly, he felt her holding onto his shoulders and resting most of her weight as she leaned against him. Then, he heard her words, talking next to his head.
  764.  
  765. "Nowhere does it say someone else can't claim you for herself~"
  766.  
  767. He swung his longsword at her, yet harmlessly passed through the cloud of smoke she left behind. As the cloud dissipated, he found her a few steps ahead in the same direction.
  768.  
  769. "You should be honored that the next master of these lands has taken a liking to you."
  770.  
  771. "Consider suicide."
  772.  
  773. "Ah, want to play hard to get? It's like you already know what turns me on~"
  774.  
  775. And so she disappeared again.
  776.  
  777. A sudden pull from behind with ferocious strength sent him straight to the ground, this time with enough momentum backward to make him drift on his back a considerable distance before halting.
  778.  
  779. "We're going to do this over and over until you can't walk anymore!" Shouted Cassandra, though Frigeridus did not know from where. "Then, the real fun begins."
  780.  
  781. With haste, he stood back up with longsword held tight, looking at his surroundings. Like most other times, however, Cassandra was gone without a trace.
  782.  
  783. In the wind, he spotted something flying his way. Before caring about what it was, he dodged it. As it flew past him, he found what it had been. A tomato. He turned his head back to where it was thrown from, only to spot another object flying his way.
  784.  
  785. A brick.
  786.  
  787. He had seen it too late to do anything, and struck him in the face with its full force. Even though the helmet took part of the blow, it still sent him to the ground with an awful concussion, letting go of his sword. On the ground, his vision began blurring, and his head started pounding as his consciousness fled halfly.
  788.  
  789. But then, he heard steps slowly coming closer.
  790.  
  791. "Don't think getting knocked out is going to help you." Said Cassandra. "I'll just drag you away and wait for you to wake up~!"
  792.  
  793. Quickly, he turned chest-down. For a second, he didn't know what he was doing, where he was, or what his own name was, but the sense of impending doom made him look for what he felt was an extension of himself, namely his sword. Still, in a second he recalled all, and realized how bad the concussion had been. As much as his vision was unfocused, after fervent searching, he saw his sword a little distance away. He crawled as fast as he could towards it and reached to grab it.
  794.  
  795. But before he could take his sword, Cassandra teleported him somewhere else. Then, he started falling, for he had been sent to the top of a building, with everything from his waist up remaining past the edge. In panic, he threw his arms around till chance alone he grabbed onto the roof. However, the weight of his body falling turned out to be too much for his hands to cope, letting go with a scream.
  796.  
  797. He struck a pile of wooden crates, crushing a few until the small mountain swallowed him whole. The crates now over him rumbled as he made his way out, till one of his hands got out. With great effort, little by little he crawled out, crates falling off by his movements till his whole body remained out. But he did not stand up. Blank-minded and panting, he stayed on the ground.
  798.  
  799. Something on the ground caught his attention, something that wasn't there until now. Staring at it, soon he noticed another next to it. Then, another a little further away. Another close by, another far away, another to his left, another to his right. Droplets. It had started raining. And yet, despite the rain, he still did not move. His muscles screamed at him for rest, aching, burning. Bruises and the exhaustion of running had built up. No armor would fend off against blunt trauma.
  800.  
  801. Then, he took a deep breath. A quiet whimper escaped him as he slowly yet steadily moved, bringing himself up past the ever present chance of falling back down due to imbalance and pain. Just as he stood on his own two feet, he lost balance, tumbling off to the side till he struck the wall of the alley he had landed into, keeping himself up with the structure. With it as support, he walked forward to the end of the alley which connected to the street.
  802.  
  803. As he got to a few meters from the exit, he attempted to stand without the wall. He pushed away and kept still, recovering his balance, until he could stand on his own. Yet, as he took a step towards the street, he saw someone appearing from the corner of the alley running, stopping in front of him with a surprised expression. A kobold.
  804.  
  805. The inquisitor and the monster silently looked at each other, but before he could react, the kobold stepped forward, fearless, curious. Frigeridus took a step back, wondering, 'how come she's not running away from me?', but the kobold took yet another step, till she was face to face with him.
  806.  
  807. Then, she sniffed deeply.
  808.  
  809. A smile grew on her face from ear to ear, and her tail began wagging wildly. "Frigeridus!" She said, stepping forward and hugging him.
  810.  
  811. Startled, he broke off taking a step back.
  812.  
  813. "How do you know my name?! Who are you?!"
  814.  
  815. "You don't remember me?" Asked the kobold. "It wasn't that long ago... I think..."
  816.  
  817. "What?"
  818.  
  819. The kobold giggled, putting her hands together behind her and leaning forward.
  820.  
  821. "We're going to be here until I get you to say my name, alright?" She said.
  822.  
  823. His heartbeat skyrocketed as the realization struck him. He had wasted too much time recovering. Cassandra could be anywhere, and he's wasting yet more time with a stupid monster.
  824.  
  825. "I'll give you a hint, a big one." She continued. "Lau...?"
  826.  
  827. His eyes shot wide open, catatonic, as memories flooded him. That awful familiarity of hers that only now he noticed, that voice, that childish attitude, and how she somehow recognized him instantly.
  828.  
  829. "La... Laura...?" He asked.
  830.  
  831. "You remember me!" She cheered, stepping forward and hugging him. He did not react. "I knew it'd be impossible for you to forget about your little sister! Not in a million years!"
  832.  
  833. He could feel his strength fading out of his body, or what little he had left. He could not move. He could barely even blink properly.
  834.  
  835. How?
  836.  
  837. Why?
  838.  
  839. What happened?
  840.  
  841. "I missed you so much. It feels like an eternity passed." She said. "You promised you'd visit, long ago. It's way past the time you promised, but you still visited."
  842.  
  843. Barely mustering the willpower to turn his eyes, he saw her kobold ears moving every once in a while. Ears that weren't there last time he saw her. Ears that are not supposed to be there.
  844.  
  845. The kobold took a step back, rubbing her hand on her face. "Hah, am I really crying?" She asked with a chuckle. "Am I really that happy? I must be."
  846.  
  847. "Laura..." He asked, mind drifting off elsewhere.
  848.  
  849. "You have no idea how lonely I felt back then." She said, before she narrowed her eyes slightly and lowered her head, smile still present yet now bittersweet. "I felt really lonely, for some reason. I can't remember why. It was dreadful... two years ago, I think? I swear I think I was crying my eyes out, going crazy over wanting you here."
  850.  
  851. Two years ago. He remembered it.
  852.  
  853. When Lescatie fell.
  854.  
  855. When he was tasked by The Order to participate in the counter-attack to reclaim it.
  856.  
  857. Even of those who managed to escape, it still haunted him how he was the only one to not fully turn afterwards. A miserable failure where nothing was done, even past all those sacrifices.
  858.  
  859. And now, knowing that Laura had been crying her eyes out wanting him there. He could imagine her screams, heart-rending as they would be. Was it that? Did she forget? Were her memories replaced?
  860.  
  861. His chest began aching. His jaw started shaking. His breathing became erratic. His eyes itched, an ominous sign of tears about to come out.
  862.  
  863. "But that doesn't matter, let's not get sad now!" She continued, bringing her face high once more with an honest smile. "I have so many friends to introduce you to! I've even gotten married, while you were away." She brought her hand up to show her ring. "Shame that I couldn't find a way to invite you to the wedding..."
  864.  
  865. Footsteps came closer, till a weresheep arrived nearly falling over, panting.
  866.  
  867. "Don't suddenly run off like that...!" She ranted. "This rain is going to-"
  868.  
  869. Then, she noticed the inquisitor. Her eyes shot wide open in shock and fear.
  870.  
  871. "I-...Inquisitor!"
  872.  
  873. "What?" Laura could barely ask, before the weresheep grabbed her and dragged her off.
  874.  
  875. "Run! He'll kill you!"
  876.  
  877. "Wait! No!"
  878.  
  879. But it was no use. The weresheep did not stop running, and soon Laura escaped Frigeridus' sight.
  880.  
  881. A grim silence took over as he stood motionless. Only the droplets hitting the ground served to prevent a total silence, growing greater in intensity and frequency ever so slowly.
  882.  
  883. "Frigeridus~"
  884.  
  885. Cassandra. A chill ran down his spine as absolute fear took over. He had to run. He couldn't do a single damn thing. Instincts took over like a child afraid of the dark, and he ran, no matter where as long as he ran.
  886.  
  887. ---
  888.  
  889. The door of the inn opened leaving way for Ron to enter with Druella asleep in his arms. He made his way to the counter, where a kitsune sat behind.
  890.  
  891. "Do you have a free room?" He asked.
  892.  
  893. "Hard day?" Said the kitsune.
  894.  
  895. "Poor thing couldn't keep herself awake."
  896.  
  897. The kitsune snickered. "Room three upstairs should be unlocked. We'll deal with the paperwork later.
  898.  
  899. "Appreciated." He said, before walking off.
  900.  
  901. From there, he reached the staircase and made his way up into a hallway. He moved through, checking the rooms that had a number inscribed on them, till he found the one he was looking for. He gently pressed his foot against it, finding it just already open a bit to allow him to open it fully. Then, he walked in, and with his foot closed it behind him.
  902.  
  903. Where he stood, he looked at Druella as she slept, head resting against him, chest puffing out slightly with every breath. It was impossible for him to not smile.
  904.  
  905. But then, her eyes narrowed as she lightly grunted to herself, moving about.
  906.  
  907. "Did I wake you up?" He asked.
  908.  
  909. "Wha..." She asked, rubbing her eyes. "What happened?"
  910.  
  911. "You drank that prisoner fruit milkshake, got drunk, and fell asleep a minute later."
  912.  
  913. "I... I can't remember..."
  914.  
  915. "Well," he snickered, "now that you are awake..."
  916.  
  917. He attempted to leave her to stand on her own.
  918.  
  919. "You know..." She interrupted, for him to halt and keep her in his arms to listen. However, she said nothing else, just silence.
  920.  
  921. "What?" He asked.
  922.  
  923. "I... uh... forgot, I guess?"
  924.  
  925. "Alright." He said, before trying to let go once more.
  926.  
  927. "There is this one thing..." She interrupted once more, making him stop.
  928.  
  929. But, once again, only silence ensued.
  930.  
  931. At least, until Ron grew what amounted to a great shit-eating grin. This time, he feigned the attempt and, as he thought, he got a reaction.
  932.  
  933. "I just remembered." She said.
  934.  
  935. "What is it?" He asked, grin never disappearing.
  936.  
  937. But silence is what he got again.
  938.  
  939. "You like being princess carried, don't you?" He said.
  940.  
  941. Her eyes opened fully in an instant, flustered, blushing. "N-no! I just..." She tried explaining, but soon sighed with a smile, digging her head on his chest. "You got me. I didn't know until now."
  942.  
  943. "I'd love to keep carrying you, but I've been doing that for a fair while now. My arms will give in at any moment."
  944.  
  945. With a playful pout, she stepped onto the ground to stand on her own. Then, she walked further into the room, staring around to see where she woke up in.
  946.  
  947. "I'll carry you in your dress off the altar when we get married, if you want."
  948.  
  949. The words struck her fully, flinching in place by the shock with a quiet gasp, and even her tail twisted and turned till it formed a small heart, much against her will. Flustered, she turned to him.
  950.  
  951. "You can't just say that out loud all of a sudden!"
  952.  
  953. ---
  954.  
  955. Furious steps echoed in the night, splashing the water they stepped on that formed a layer on the streets with the ever-falling rain. Flashes of lightning illuminated the surroundings for mere split-seconds, followed by the sound of thunder drowning out all noise present for a moment.
  956.  
  957. On and on, Firgeridus ran, panting heavily and erratically. Yet, his run grew slower and slower, from a sprint, to a jog, to an exhausted gait, and finally to a halt. Afar, however, another set of steps continued, coming closer, till from a corner Cassandra appeared; her finger rested over her smiling cheek, and her other arm rested across her chest.
  958.  
  959. "How desperate must you be to think you can outrun me...?" She asked. Despite the rain, she did not seek shelter, remaining drenched; however, it did not affect her beauty one bit. In fact, it seemed to enhance it in a strange way. No wonder, if she was a succubus.
  960.  
  961. "Don't you have someone else to chase after?!" He muttered, voice wavering past the heavy panting.
  962.  
  963. In response, she chuckled as she lowered her head before raising it once more. "I saw Druella and her man book a night at an inn. They won't be leaving till tomorrow, so we'll have all this time for ourselves. The night is young, and we'll be here till sunrise~"
  964.  
  965. "Why me, then? You don't have a husband already? Or are you cheating on him?"
  966.  
  967. Her smile grew as much as it could. Frigeridus, startled, nearly stepped back.
  968.  
  969. "No." She answered. "Aren't you honored? You'll get to be the husband of the queen of these lands."
  970.  
  971. "Figured that you'd be so fucking disgusting that you'd remain alone for your entire life if you didn't force the first guy you saw."
  972.  
  973. The edge of her smile twitched as so did her eye. There, she disappeared, reappearing next to him and startling him enough to step back and stare at her, but she did nothing.
  974.  
  975. "I like your attitude." She said. "Determined even in the face of impossible odds. As much as I'd have loved to see you begging to me, this is so much better." She started slowly walking a circle around him. "Charlotte doesn't know what she has in front of her. You don't deserve a woman like that who follows her heart so blindly with this 'love' she would so eagerly talk about."
  976.  
  977. "What, you don't even have the excuse of loving me?" He asked, following her with his eyes.
  978.  
  979. But then, she stopped right in front of him. With impunity she extended her finger and reached below his chin, raising it slightly. In contempt, Frigeridus only stared.
  980.  
  981. "She's terribly young for a demon. She doesn't have the experience. She doesn't even know why she chases what she chases. If you asked her why she loved you, she'd have no answer. I, on the other hand, see your potential, your strength in both mind and body. I can make you every inch a king and have your potential be realized, and even if love is gone, we'll learn to love each other before the sun rises."
  982.  
  983. He shoved her arm away, yet it only caused her to tilt her head with an undying smile.
  984.  
  985. "I don't need your bribes." He said.
  986.  
  987. "It's not bribing, darling. Consider it a bonus if you're a good enough boy, since you don't have any options after all."
  988.  
  989. "I'd sooner stay with Louise."
  990.  
  991. "But has Louise stayed with you?"
  992.  
  993. "...What?"
  994.  
  995. "Think about it. Years on end, and yet she has done... what, nothing but pop around every now and then? Most of the time she's not even with you, even though you two are supposedly husband and wife. It's as if that contract is... meaningless to her. Just something to annoy you with."
  996.  
  997. Words did not come out of his mouth, even though his eyes kept their focus on her.
  998.  
  999. "She's not even here with you when you need her the most." She said, revealing her teeth with her smile. "Nobody is. You're alone. Alone in a stormy night, caught out in the rain... Hours on end have passed, and only your sister showed up."
  1000.  
  1001. He clenched his fist, but also lowered his head.
  1002.  
  1003. "What loving wife Louise turned out to be! Leaving her husband in abandonment throughout their marriage, and only appearing when she's bored!"
  1004.  
  1005. "I don't care about Louise."
  1006.  
  1007. "But..." Cassandra said, moving closer and slowly walking around him, "what good is a wife not present in her husband's darkest hour? Depressed, lonely, alone, near his breaking point, and abandoned by all. It pains me to see you like this, make no mistake. Never again will you be alone, never again will you be left with no help or hope, never again will you be in a situation like this, because I'll be a great loving wife who'll never let go even if asked to. Louise doesn't deserve you, she's blinded by her own feelings and inexperience, and look what that brought you! All I ask for..." She stopped next to him, caressing his shoulders and moving her head closer, "is a night together."
  1008.  
  1009. He threw his clenched fist her way, yet she disappeared before it could land. Without time wasted, he started running once more, but Cassandra's hysterical laughter now followed him.
  1010.  
  1011. "Run, boy! Run!" She shouted. "I won't be able to restrain myself for much longer! Ahahahaha!"
  1012.  
  1013. ---
  1014.  
  1015. A bolt of lightning flooded the room with light through every corner, followed a second later by the thunder that pierced the night, drowning out the rain's noise for a second.
  1016.  
  1017. As much as he tried, he could not sleep, resigned to the fact as he stared at the ceiling with the blanket up to his chest and both his hands resting behind his head. Even if he could block the flashes of light with the window's curtain and his eyes closed, nothing could be done about the noise.
  1018.  
  1019. His thoughts were interrupted just as he felt Druella moving. As he turned his eyes, he saw her turning towards him, lying in the same bed. Still, what he did not expect was finding her with her eyes open, awake.
  1020.  
  1021. "Can't sleep?" He asked.
  1022.  
  1023. "Neither can you."
  1024.  
  1025. He sat up, blanket falling to his waist, and rubbed his eyes. Afterwards, he sighed to himself and pulled the blanket away to stand up. "I'm gonna get a drink." He said, stepping onto the floor and standing up, all fully clothed because couples are not supposed to have any funny businesses before marriage.
  1026.  
  1027. "A drink this late at night?" She asked, sitting up.
  1028.  
  1029. "Well we're not gonna sleep anyway so, why not?"
  1030.  
  1031. And so, he left the room, closing the door behind him.
  1032.  
  1033. Alone with her thoughts, Druella looked on to the window, a dimly lit square in the room contrasting with the darkness within, for the clouds darkened the moonlight outside. However, in an instant a flash of light revealed everything in the room before reducing it all to darkness once more. Druella narrowed her eyes, anxious, preparing herself for the thundering noise, and a second later when it struck, she closed her eyes and lowered her head.
  1034.  
  1035. After opening her eyes again, she stared on expressionless into the nothingness. Soon she decided to do something, pulling the blanket aside, placing her feet on the ground, and standing up, but a shiver caught her by surprise.
  1036.  
  1037. Who would have thought it'd get so cold?
  1038.  
  1039. She grabbed the blanket from the bed and put it around her, as if it were a cloak, hood and all. Then she walked off to the window and, once there, slowly pulled the curtain aside to stare out. She could only see the dark silhouettes of the buildings contrasting against the dimly starry sky, for the crescent moon past the clouds could not hope to be an intense enough light source.
  1040.  
  1041. 'This is Lescatie.' She thought to herself.
  1042.  
  1043. Just then, a flash of lightning almost blinded her eyes, used to the darkness. For a fraction of a second, she saw everything clearly. Everything shared a white and blue coloration, and that which shined the most were the drenched surfaces of the buildings that reflected the light; each and every droplet hitting against the tiled tops of the houses, bouncing and breaking into a million smaller droplets that shined on like little stars, soon falling onto the streets where enough water had built up to give the impression of a sea moving. And then, the thunder from afar, almost silent, just a rumbling.
  1044.  
  1045. 'And that's just lightning.'
  1046.  
  1047. Silent, she could not get used to it.
  1048.  
  1049. 'There wasn't any lightning the last time I was here...'
  1050.  
  1051. But then, lightning struck once more. This time, so insanely close that the timespan between the flash and the noise nearly did not exist; a sharp, loud noise tore the night apart, violent and deafening. Such was her fright, that she gave out a loud scream as she stepped back, only to step on her blanket and trip, falling down to the floor just in front of the bed. Shaking and shivering, she rolled herself tighter within the blanket.
  1052.  
  1053. 'That's just lightning. That's just lightning. That's just lightning...'
  1054.  
  1055. ---
  1056.  
  1057. Frigeridus dropped to the floor sitting down, lying against the wall of an alley he found himself in. He then rested his arms in front of him with his head down, aching, exhausted.
  1058.  
  1059. How long did he run for? He couldn't feel his own legs.
  1060.  
  1061. Where is he? Where did he run to?
  1062.  
  1063. No matter how he looked at it, he was lost. Even without Cassandra teleporting him around, he'd still be lost. He didn't care enough to see where he was running, as long as he kept running.
  1064.  
  1065. But for what?
  1066.  
  1067. Cassandra is gone for now, but whether she has not yet found him, or if she knows very well where he is, staring at him from God knows where and enjoying his suffering, is up to anyone's guess. And if she really did not know, it'd only be a matter of time.
  1068.  
  1069. He raised his hands to his head, pulling back the hood and then taking off his helmet. With it now in his hands, he turned it till its eyes met with his.
  1070.  
  1071. Dented. Scraped. Worn out. How poetic. Like it was, he dropped it on the ground, leaving it to slowly roll away to the opposite side of the narrow alley till it struck the wall. At the same time, he brought back his head until he rested it against the wall, with the rain falling on his face.
  1072.  
  1073. "There is no hope for Man..." He whispered to himself, eyes closed.
  1074.  
  1075. There is no escape.
  1076.  
  1077. Everything will fall, no matter how hard they tried to stop it.
  1078.  
  1079. One of the greatest nations The Order had, the one he sent Laura to thinking she'd be safe, had fallen to a single succubus with pathetic ease.
  1080.  
  1081. No defense can withstand them. No offense can dent their numbers. Where can one hide? Nowhere.
  1082.  
  1083. A simple sword could be a Cursed Sword. A suit of armor could become Living Armor. Clothing itself could turn out to be Ittan-momen. Any woman could monsterize on her own through mere corruption... And the Demon Realms keep getting bigger and more numerous.
  1084.  
  1085. Their armies don't even kill, as if it were a sick joke. Their weapons, made out of that awful Demon Realm Silver he learned to hate, can syphon off energy, not even leaving a man with the luxury of death against them; and what luxury would death even be, if the undead are given life anew as monsters, and liches can bring someone back from the dead?
  1086.  
  1087. What hellishness awaits in the underworld too, if the Demon Lord has changed the overworld so greatly? Surely, it'd not remain intact.
  1088.  
  1089. "Not even death can save us... Mankind is doomed, without escape..."
  1090.  
  1091. And so, he fell silent, without a thought more in his mind, and only the feeling of the rain hitting his face keeping him blissfully occupied.
  1092.  
  1093. Did he really dream of fighting off the Demon Lord, so many years ago when he was a kid?
  1094.  
  1095. What a stupid dream. A simple elder succubus could mop the floor with him multiple times, even with the most grueling and painful training The Order had given him.
  1096.  
  1097. He supposed that's why a paladin is so low ranked. One starts being an inquisitor or something else in the higher ranks. After all, what use is a rank of a fighter if what one fights starts becoming impossible to beat so quickly? None can fight against monsters. The highest-ranked are left to hopelessly look for an answer that did not exist instead. People like him, inquisitors, spending their lives in what amounted to nothing but suffering, in both mind and body. Martyrs.
  1098.  
  1099. But what else could anyone do? What else could he do? Can't run, can't hide, can't fight, just the plaything of Gods, what else?
  1100.  
  1101. At least he delayed the inevitable for whatever poor soul would've suffered, had he not done his duty.
  1102.  
  1103. Past the rainfall's noise, he noticed a few steps. Cassandra? Hah, as if it mattered; he was stuck in Lescatie of all places, any monster finding him in his weakened state without his sword meant bad news. Despite resignation, in curiosity he opened his eyes slightly and glanced to the alley's entrance without moving his head.
  1104.  
  1105. He could not discern the silhouette, just that someone stood there under the rain, immobile. Soon, she began walking again ever so slowly towards him.
  1106.  
  1107. A lightning flash revealed her partly. The glint of something metallic, the outline of her ears and tail, and that familiar face and hair.
  1108.  
  1109. Laura? Was she carrying his sword? It sure seemed as she held it tightly against her with both her arms, till she stood right next to him.
  1110.  
  1111. "Frigeridus?" She asked. The voice was the final detail he needed.
  1112.  
  1113. "Laura..." He said, blank-minded.
  1114.  
  1115. Laura moved over to his side and sat down with him, silent, knowing not what to say, till she saw his helmet lying at the other side of the narrow alley. Its eyes pointed their way, and water ran down the dented surface in small streams, almost as if the helmet itself was crying.
  1116.  
  1117. "You... lost this." She said, extending the sword towards him.
  1118.  
  1119. "Keep it." He answered, not moving a muscle, staring forward aimlessly. "It's useless now."
  1120.  
  1121. Nothing she could do, and so she kept the sword close to her once more in silence, soon looking down. Then, she shifted her gaze to him once more.
  1122.  
  1123. "You didn't come to Lescatie to visit me, right?"
  1124.  
  1125. But he did not answer. He did not react. He did not even return the gaze, as if nothing had happened. That alone made her return her eyes to the ground in front of her.
  1126.  
  1127. "Something's wrong, isn't it?" She said. "Knowing you, you'd have started panicking and reassuring me. What is it, then?"
  1128.  
  1129. "It doesn't matter. None of this matters."
  1130.  
  1131. In every instance, she knew not what to do, what to say, how to react. The silence started paining her, but no other ideas came to her mind.
  1132.  
  1133. "You'll catch a cold." She said.
  1134.  
  1135. Laura heard something, quickly snapping her eyes to him. Slowly, with the sound of his hair ruffling against the wall, Frigeridus turned his head until he could see her from the corner of his half-closed eyes.
  1136.  
  1137. "Time ago, I wanted to save someone." He said. "I could not. I was too weak. That person is lost, now. It's been haunting me ever since."
  1138.  
  1139. "Is... Is that person truly lost? Can nothing be done?"
  1140.  
  1141. "Nothing."
  1142.  
  1143. "Who was responsible?"
  1144.  
  1145. "A person." He answered, turning his head forward once more.
  1146.  
  1147. Laura then took a deep breath, following suit and turning her head forward too. "Mother would hate hearing me say this... but you should seek out that person, and take revenge."
  1148.  
  1149. With an eyebrow raised, Frigeridus glanced her way.
  1150.  
  1151. "What?" Asked Laura.
  1152.  
  1153. "I didn't imagine I'd hear you suggesting vengeance."
  1154.  
  1155. "Were you not the one to immediately do that back then?" She chuckled. "Back when we were kids, when a boy hit me... A day later, you broke into his house and broke his legs."
  1156.  
  1157. He didn't know what was more impossible: beating Cassandra, or keeping himself from chuckling that very instance the way he did. Laura joined in for those few seconds, sharing a laugh to themselves, till silence took over once more.
  1158.  
  1159. "Your helmet, your sword, your dirtied clothes... Is that person the reason why you came here?"
  1160.  
  1161. "Yes."
  1162.  
  1163. "How's that going?"
  1164.  
  1165. "Miserably. I have no chances of winning."
  1166.  
  1167. "That's not the Frigeridus I remember."
  1168.  
  1169. Once more, he looked at her, expression revealing confusion.
  1170.  
  1171. "You never cared about winning or losing when getting back at someone." She continued. "Even back then when father asked you, 'what if you got caught?' when you broke into that boy's house, you said something."
  1172.  
  1173. "Said what?"
  1174.  
  1175. "Something. I'm sure you remember. Come on, say it with me. I..."
  1176.  
  1177. "...Don't care." Both Laura and Frigeridus then said in unison."
  1178.  
  1179. "Even if I'm not even able to land a mere scratch?" Continued Frigeridus.
  1180.  
  1181. "You keep fighting, even if out of spite. You're an inquisitor, aren't you? You fight out of hope, out of duty, or out of spite. What you did back then and your reasoning afterwards is what got The Order interested in you, after all."
  1182.  
  1183. A sigh escaped his mouth.
  1184.  
  1185. "What if that person enjoys seeing me hopelessly trying to do anything to no avail?" He asked.
  1186.  
  1187. "Doesn't matter." She answered. "It doesn't matter what that person thinks. It only matters what you think. You want to punch that person in the face, or at least make the attempt, instead of sitting here mourning yourself as a failure. I'm sure whoever's been with you all this time thinks the same."
  1188.  
  1189. "...Who?"
  1190.  
  1191. "Your rosarius alone wouldn't have done much to protect you." She said with a quiet laugh. "Someone else is protecting you. Someone else is syphoning off the demonic energy from this place that would have affected you. Someone wants you to stay and fight."
  1192.  
  1193. For once in hours, his eyes opened fully. His slow movements became quick and erratic as he desperately reached for his rosarius, till he held it in his hands, looking at it with so much focus. It shined a dim light, not enough to be seen in the dark but still noticeable to the trained eye. A warm, red light at the very center of The Order's silver emblem, where a small crystal was embedded.
  1194.  
  1195. "How do you know this?" He asked.
  1196.  
  1197. "I can sense it, you dummy~" She answered with a smile. Yet, now she stood up, standing with her chest puffed out in pride. "What will you do now, Inquisitor?" She asked, boasting for him.
  1198.  
  1199. But Frigeridus stared on, perplexed.
  1200.  
  1201. "I'll... be walking to my death..."
  1202.  
  1203. "If you care about consequences, you're in the wrong place."
  1204.  
  1205. But silent he remained; in thought, rather than confusion.
  1206.  
  1207. "That person took something from you." She said. "Someone from you."
  1208.  
  1209. "Yes." He answered.
  1210.  
  1211. "That someone is lost. Nothing can be done about it."
  1212.  
  1213. "Yes."
  1214.  
  1215. "You hate the one who did it."
  1216.  
  1217. "I do."
  1218.  
  1219. "You want to punch him in the face, to break his legs, hell it doesn't even matter what, you want to get revenge for it."
  1220.  
  1221. Him? Hah, she did not know... but after a pause, he answered.
  1222.  
  1223. "I want to punch him in the face, to break his legs, hell it doesn't even matter what, I want to get revenge for it."
  1224.  
  1225. And so, the hilt of his sword came to view right in front of him, as Laura held it by the blade towards him. He followed it with his eyes, till his eyes and Laura's met.
  1226.  
  1227. "They say the man who fears will suffer twice." She said, smiling with confidence. "Remember who you are, remember what you would do, and instead of dwelling over whether it'll work or not, go and fight with all your might. There shouldn't be any room for you to think of consequences."
  1228.  
  1229. Memories flooded into his mind, superimposed over Laura's reassuring expression. Memories he could not enjoy remembering. Cassandra's hysterical laughter that still pierced into his soul, and all that she had said.
  1230.  
  1231. 'I was the one who orchestrated Lescatie's fall! I was the one who turned all the heroes here into monsters! I spread the Demon Lord's promised world to the greatest nation in The Order, and made people fear Druella in all corners of the world!'
  1232.  
  1233. But rather than fear, it only evoked anger. The revenge Laura so eagerly encouraged him to seek. He clenched his fists and grit his teeth, and with just a second to collect his remaining strength, he stood up and grabbed the sword. And, as Laura let go, he stepped forward and hugged her with all his might, surprising her before she returned the embrace.
  1234.  
  1235. "Never thought you'd be the one to get me back on my feet in a situation like this, but... For some reason, deep down, I knew it'd be no one else than you."
  1236.  
  1237. "Sometimes we need reminders of everything that we are worth." She said, patting him on the back.
  1238.  
  1239. With that done, and both letting go of each other, Frigeridus walked off to where his helmet was. He picked it up and stared at its eyes before giving it a firm shake and staring once more. Despite the dents, despite the scrapes and its miserable state, no longer did a stream of water trickle down its eyes like tears in the rain. With a smile, he put it on, and then walked off with sword firmly in his grasp.
  1240.  
  1241. ---
  1242.  
  1243. Still to this moment, Druella rested within her blanket, sitting on the ground against the bed's side with the window within sight. At that very moment, the window became obscured, blocked instead by a steaming cup held in front of her. She followed the arm that held it until he found Ron extending it her way.
  1244.  
  1245. "What are you doing there?" He asked with a funny smile.
  1246.  
  1247. In silence, Druella took the cup. Far from asking more questions, Ron instead sat next to her, making space for himself till the two of them were covered under the same blanket, both holding their respective cups. At that moment, however, lightning struck, illuminating the room and sending vibrations they could feel. A detail did not escape him: Druella had flinched at that instant.
  1248.  
  1249. "Something about the storm?" He asked.
  1250.  
  1251. "There aren't storms back home." She answered. "This is the first time I'm in one."
  1252.  
  1253. "Never even been caught in one when going somewhere else? Like now?"
  1254.  
  1255. "Not even by chance."
  1256.  
  1257. When all had been said, they sat quiet, only hearing the rain that struck the ceiling. Certainly seemed like a calming assortment of an infinity of little drums, muffled by the building between the unpredictable bolts.
  1258.  
  1259. More unpredictable turned out to be Druella herself, who suddenly covered her mouth suppressing a laugh, much to Ron's confusion.
  1260.  
  1261. "Care to make me laugh too?" He said.
  1262.  
  1263. "Behold!" She boasted. "Druella, fourth daughter of the Demon Lord, Mistress of Lescatie, feared by each and every nation of The Order for some reason, and one of the most powerful beings in all of existence! And she's afraid of a tiny storm..."
  1264.  
  1265. And so they started laughing with each other, drowning out the noise of the rain. A lightning bolt cut her laughter short, unfortunately, as she flinched and pressed herself tighter against him. Ron just kept smiling at the turn of events.
  1266.  
  1267. "You're going to stick around until I get used to it, right?" She asked.
  1268.  
  1269. "I wouldn't have left you for a drink had I known earlier."
  1270.  
  1271. A pause.
  1272.  
  1273. "I guess we won't be sleeping tonight." He said.
  1274.  
  1275. "Who cares anymore?"
  1276.  
  1277. ---
  1278.  
  1279. For the blink of an eye, the street could be seen entirely with the light of a bolt. Cassandra playfully walked along the middle of the street, blissfully ignorant of the downpour that fell harder and harder.
  1280.  
  1281. "Frigeridus~ Come out and play~"
  1282.  
  1283. As she glanced around the corners of the buildings, she giggled to herself. She could very well sense his rosarius, even though he was hiding within an alley; he certainly liked them, it seemed. Has he not realized that she could just follow it to find him every time?
  1284.  
  1285. She grew a grin as an idea came to her mind. It floated in her mind, the idea to frighten him and see the reaction as she made her way to the corner. In due time, she got there, just a meter or two away from him yet both unable to see each other through the corner of the building.
  1286.  
  1287. "I see you~" She said in a soft, alluring tone.
  1288.  
  1289. A reaction was instant. She sensed how he started running, fast like a little bunny, turning another corner within the alley, and then tripping.
  1290.  
  1291. A smile in pity grew on her expression, noticing that he did not get up. Has he given up already? To find out, she disappeared, and soon reappeared where he fell.
  1292.  
  1293. "Darling~" She greeted.
  1294.  
  1295. But he was nowhere to be seen. She looked down, only to see the rosarius shining ever so slightly on the floor, but with no one holding it.
  1296.  
  1297. Noise behind her. She turned her head to see what is was, but at that very instant she caught sight of a sword's pommel swung her way. Immediately it struck, erasing her smile, and sent her stumbling back, making her lose sense of half her face. As she regained her balance and looked once more, she saw Frigeridus stepping forward, sword held by the blade, swinging the pommel once more at her.
  1298.  
  1299. Before it connected, she disappeared in smoke, but as she reappeared elsewhere, she was shot out of her cloud at great speeds, striking the ground and rolling down the street till she came to a stop, whimpering in pain.
  1300.  
  1301. "What... What happened...?" She asked herself as she stood up with extreme effort, grunt after grunt in pain and weakness. Was it because she can't focus that she can't teleport properly? The blow on her head no doubt left her half-conscious at best.
  1302.  
  1303. She did not have room for respite before she saw Frigeridus rushing her way, only noticing when he was already swinging once more. Almost falling back, she stepped back and dodged the blow, and immediately jumped and tackled him before turning them both into smoke.
  1304.  
  1305. At the other end of the teleport, the two were shot out just like Cassandra had thrown Frigeridus in the woods. Each flew their own directions, hitting the ground and rolling in pain. Upon coming to a halt, Cassandra was the first to stand up, seeing Frigeridus barely able to stand up looking for his sword, though he did not find it, nor did she know where it lied either.
  1306.  
  1307. Still weak due to the blow, she brought her hand to her cheek. Sudden pain forced her to jerk it away. As she looked at her hand, she found out that the wound she had taken had been bleeding, covering part of her hand in blood that soon washed off partly by the rain.
  1308.  
  1309. "You made me bleed, inquisitor..." She said, looking at him as he soon looked back at her. Then she took out a knife she kept hidden within the slit of her dress. "You should've told me you were into these things..." She grinned. "I thought I was the only one. I thought I'd need to hold myself back to the very end, even till sunrise!"
  1310.  
  1311. "I've had it up to here with your silver." He muttered.
  1312.  
  1313. "Silver? Oh darling... It's just mere steel I'll use with you."
  1314.  
  1315. Frigeridus charged forward without warning, even though he had no sword. It was only at that moment that Cassandra realized: Small blades and full body armor do not mix well.
  1316.  
  1317. She desperately dodged the first fist thrown her way, then the second, and the third. Gritting her teeth, she threw herself against him one more yet in a more elaborate way this time: greater focus was given on where her hands would land, namely with one pulling back his hood, and the other grabbing onto his helmet till she held it with her arm in a lock. Then, smoke.
  1318.  
  1319. Both were shot out elsewhere in their own directions, but Cassandra found herself with Frigeridus' helmet in her hands. She could barely believe it worked as she stood up, staring at it, before glancing at Frigeridus who stood up holding his head in pain with one hand.
  1320.  
  1321. "I thought I'd be alone for most of my days..." She said with glee, before throwing the helmet aside. "That even if I found a husband, he'd be unaware of my deepest desires, and would despise them if I did not hide them. Do you understand how much I'm cherishing this moment, Frigeridus? After years- no, decades of fearing that I'd either live alone or be with someone who liked me for I was not, you show up! You're like me, enjoying so much physical pain and seeking it despite wounds! I won't have to hide my desires anymore, and nor will you! Come, let's make this night the most memorable night we'll ever go through!"
  1322.  
  1323. Sadomasochism. Quite a rare trait for monsters, he thought. Really seemed like the first time he had met a truly sadomasochistic monster to the point of enjoying injury. But it mattered not, even if she seemed to enjoy what he was doing. Yet, Cassandra took stance, waving towards herself like an invitation, one he accepted as he put his fist ups and slowly advanced.
  1324.  
  1325. Just at a small enough distance, Cassandra lunged forward for his face with her knife. With his gauntlet, he deflected and threw a punch immediately thereafter, one she dodged with ease. While dodging, she reached for him, touching him with her hand on his chest and immediately disappearing, only for both to be shot out once more.
  1326.  
  1327. Landing face-up onto the ground, Frigeridus could not catch his breath before seeing Cassandra jumping on him after recovering. He greeted her instead with his foot, kicking her in the belly mid-jump and using her own momentum against her to throw her in the same direction she was going, past him. Immediately he stood up, only to see her throwing herself against him once more with open arms, a tactic he could only assume was a favorite of hers at this point, one he could not avoid.
  1328.  
  1329. Yet, upon impact, she did not disappear. Both instead fell down to the ground, splashing in the puddles that formed on the street. Without respite, she brought her knife held with both hands upon him, with him barely able to catch her arms in time to stop it and turn his head away from where it'd land. But it was not enough, for he let out a loud, painful grunt as the knife still cut a sizable wound on his cheek that now started bleeding. Soon, his blood mixed with Cassandra's, for a droplet from her still bleeding wound fell upon his face.
  1330.  
  1331. "Tonight, we'll be as one..." she said ecstatically, "not just in love, but in blood too!"
  1332.  
  1333. He could not break free, as much as he tried. The same situation as that back then in the woods haunted him like a sick joke. Her strength was just too much, even past all that happened, for what strength he applied in pushing her away merely left the knife hanging in place.
  1334.  
  1335. With all his might, he redirected his strength and pushed her aside, something she did not anticipate. It worked, having Cassandra stab the ground instead and, while she brought the knife back up for another go, he took the opportunity and thrusted his fist towards her.
  1336.  
  1337. For once, it struck, hitting her in the cheek, jerking her head aside as all the droplets of water that had built up on her flew off in recoil, shining like a million stars with the glint of lightning that kept on striking through the night. Letting go of the knife, she fell aside, freeing him from her weight and allowing him to quickly get up and crawl up to her, then pinning her down with his weight in the same manner.
  1338.  
  1339. "How-" She could only attempt to ask, before he interrupted her with a punch.
  1340.  
  1341. Helplessly, she tried blocking the next with her hand, but she could not stop the strike. Then, another, and another, and another. Her hands no longer attempted to block anymore, just stayed up as her consciousness faded from the steel-plated fists raining down upon her.
  1342.  
  1343. But she then disappeared in smoke, sending him off elsewhere into the ground with her.
  1344.  
  1345. He had to find her again. The opportunity could not pass. Her lack of focus allowed him a chance, for her teleportation no longer worked properly, but if she were to recover it'd all be for naught. Quickly he propped himself up with his elbows past the pain and glanced around, suspicious over her not having attempted yet another attack.
  1346.  
  1347. And so, a lightning flash revealed the cause of her inactivity; a little distance afar, he spotted her crawling away from him. An escape, no doubt.
  1348.  
  1349. He tried standing up, but almost tripped on himself, underestimating just how much strength had been drained off him through exhaustion. Seemed like the adrenaline rush that allowed him to run time ago wore off, legs burning and muscles aching leaving him unable to properly walk, let alone run in chase. He started walking with a slow, uneven gait towards her, barely quick enough to outpace her crawl, little by little reaching her.
  1350.  
  1351. Cassandra noticed him, turning her head to see him, having heard his steps.
  1352.  
  1353. "How..." She asked. "How can one fight against such hate...? Relentless...!"
  1354.  
  1355. She did not stop crawling away. Nor did he stop walking towards her. Both kept moving as quickly as they could, but soon Frigeridus caught up.
  1356.  
  1357. But, just as he reached her, she suddenly turned and swung his own once-lost sword against him, pommel flying his way. Too sudden of a surprise, and his weakness did not help, condemned to take the hit without being able to react in time. The pommel struck him on the side of the head, making his head swing aside with his body before standing still, immobile, until he fell to the ground more unconscious than conscious.
  1358.  
  1359. His vision was blurred. His body did not respond for those few seconds. His hearing, it barely picked up the noise of the rain. Seemed easier to figure out what worked properly than what didn't. Still, with what little he could see, he saw Cassandra's blurred silhouette standing up and towering over him. He could see the white of her teeth as she grinned, turning the sword and gripping the handle instead of the blade.
  1360.  
  1361. "I've noticed something, Frigeridus..." She muttered. "As much as I've been happy and joyful this far, I haven't... I haven't seen you share the feeling... I haven't even seen you smile once..."
  1362.  
  1363. His vision slowly began recovering, just at the time he saw her raising her sword towards him with both hands.
  1364.  
  1365. "Let's put a smile on that face...!"
  1366.  
  1367. Threat of death. Panic. Adrenaline rush kicked in full force, making pure instinct take over. With near lightning speed, he raised his hands as she lowered the blade on him, catching it. It cut through the leather of his gloves, for what plating protected the top of his hands did not exist on his palms, giving him the awfully sobering sensation of sharp pain with a scream he let out. Not after long, blood started dripping off.
  1368.  
  1369. Her grin never left. She brought one hand to the blade and, sadistically enough, started pushing downward.
  1370.  
  1371. "Give me your blood, and I'll give you mine in return!" She shouted. "No longer will ours be different from each other's!"
  1372.  
  1373. Her face seemed within reach. Frigeridus let go with one hand, causing the blade to lower down upon him and cut his cheek once more as he screamed, forming a disfigured X with his other wound that had begun bleeding profusely. Still, with his now free hand, he slowly reached for her head and finally grabbed it. She seemed too weak to fight back or even attempt to avoid it. He pushed back by the forehead, bending her neck back and preventing sight of him, till she let go of the blade and grabbed his arm to try breaking free. Now without so much strength applied on the sword, Frigeridus moved the blade aside to a relatively safe position and let go. Now with his other hand free, he collected all his strength remaining and threw it her way.
  1374.  
  1375. The plate of the gauntlet struck her head right where so many bruises had formed in the same place. It was enough to have her let go of the sword and stumble back, almost tripping, till she stood in place catatonic. A second later, her legs gave in, and she fell back to the ground with the audible splash of the puddles beneath her.
  1376.  
  1377. And did not get up.
  1378.  
  1379. The silence seemed deafening. 'Silence', as Frigeridus could define it, either way. The rain and the thunder kept on creating a cacophony, but now felt like mere ambient noise; a strange variation that seemed to give him the same calmness as birds chirping and a breeze hitting the leaves of a tree, after what happened. No more shouting. No more grunts nor screams. No more of his armor clanking against itself, nor of their steps echoing in the city.
  1380.  
  1381. Frigeridus slowly, without an impending sense of doom rushing him, turned and propped himself up with his arms. Carefully, he slowly yet steadily got on his own two feet, losing balance once or twice yet succeeding in the end, standing hunched over in exhaustion and pain before walking over with an erratic gait to Cassandra.
  1382.  
  1383. There he found her, still awake and conscious, but doing nothing save for staring off into the nothingness. Her eyes met his as she saw him coming to view, but nothing else did she do, only solemnly stare at him as he stared at her.
  1384.  
  1385. "I suppose we won't be doing anything else tonight..." She said with a soft, calm voice.
  1386.  
  1387. Frigeridus slowly shook his head.
  1388.  
  1389. "I see... That's a shame... I suppose I should be glad that we at least got to do something, together..."
  1390.  
  1391. A pause ensued, both on the verge of collapsing yet remaining awake, both showered by the downpour, yet standing or lying without a care in the world for those few seconds.
  1392.  
  1393. "This is for Laura." He said, before raising his foot and bringing it down with all his might upon her head, finally rendering her unconscious.
  1394.  
  1395. He took a step back and, after a moment, fell to his knees. He then looked at his palms. The leather on both had been cut, a straight line with blood still pouring out. The same type of pain he felt on his hands, he too felt it on his head, on his cheek, along with the sensation of blood over his skin and the cuts. He let his hands fall in front of him, between his thighs, no longer applying any strength on his muscles as he stared at the ground without aim, without thought, without feeling, just a void in his mind aided by his fleeting consciousness.
  1396.  
  1397. Slow, calm steps walked closer, till Frigeridus' peripheral view caught glimpse of a pair of legs standing ahead of him, beyond Cassandra's body. His neck was killing him, but still he slowly looked up, to find a third person with them.
  1398.  
  1399. A hooded figure, looking down at the unconscious elder succubus, wearing not a cloak but instead plain trousers and some sort of a hooded jacket, with her hands in her jacket's pockets.
  1400.  
  1401. Some traits stood out to him; that hood that hid horns underneath, that snow-white hair, and those red eyes below her hood that seemed to give off a dim brightness in the night.
  1402.  
  1403. "So here's where you've been all along." She said to Cassandra, caring not over not being heard. Then, her eyes found Frigeridus kneeling on the ground before she formed a smile. "You'll have to forgive me for not coming earlier. She's been hiding her power so as to make it impossible to track her, you see..."
  1404.  
  1405. "D... Druella...?"
  1406.  
  1407. With a chuckle, she shook her head as she lowered it before returning her eyes to him. "We look similar, don't we? I suppose that's what blood ties to do one."
  1408.  
  1409. "Who are you...?"
  1410.  
  1411. "I go by many names and titles, so I wouldn't know what to tell you. You'll have to guess, I suppose. Still, you did a great job, Lord Inquisitor. You've exceeded my expectations."
  1412.  
  1413. "What..."
  1414.  
  1415. Her smile ever-present, she raised her head and looked at the sky. Seemed like the downpour was easing down, for the clouds grew thinner and thinner as all they had within them fell to the earth. With the clouds no longer blocking the sky like a thick curtain, the glimpse of a few dim stars could be caught, along with the blurred sight of the crescent moon and its light. At least, no longer did anyone have to rely on flashes of light to see past ten meters.
  1416.  
  1417. "Not knowing will eat you inside out, won't it?" She said, soon bringing her head down to him once more. "I suppose you've earned the right to know, now that it's over."
  1418.  
  1419. "Know what...? What's going on...?"
  1420.  
  1421. "You think it was pure coincidence that all of a sudden you were given an invitation to come to a dinner with Druella and the others? Would you believe me if I told you that I told Druella to send one to The Order? Looks like your wife jumped out and suggested her to invite you of all people. I am not surprised. Your loving wife has even gone so far as to syphon off the demonic energy surrounding you back in Druella's realm, and even here as we speak, keeping you as human as you've ever been."
  1422.  
  1423. With a pause, she then turned her head to Cassandra.
  1424.  
  1425. "Someone carried out the fall of Lescatie without neither mine nor Druella's approval. I wanted to root out whoever was responsible."
  1426.  
  1427. "I don't understand..." He said, throat killing him. "Lescatie... You didn't want it to happen...?"
  1428.  
  1429. "It'd be painfully counter-productive."
  1430.  
  1431. "Druella's approval, but also yours... Who are you...? Why are you here...?"
  1432.  
  1433. Instead of answering, she slowly stepped forward to him, then crouched down before gently taking his hand. He could not do anything even if he wished to; all his strength had been depleted. She then turned the palm up and looked at the wound, and then her eyes turned to his cheek.
  1434.  
  1435. "You must've fought bravely." She said. "You weren't supposed to come out victorious."
  1436.  
  1437. With the opportunity of seeing her closer, he noticed something. It wasn't Druella; even though the outfit was similar, it did not match. Even some subtle characteristics of her face and eyes differed. Even her demeanor struck him as different, calm and alluring, gentle yet imposing at the same time; that smile of hers, though it gave off an aura of easiness and warmth, it also seemed like a smile of impunity and confidence in one's strength.
  1438.  
  1439. "You're... You're not..."
  1440.  
  1441. "I'm not...?" She asked.
  1442.  
  1443. "You're not the Demon Lord... Are you...?"
  1444.  
  1445. "Looks like you found me." She answered, soon letting go of his hand and standing back up.
  1446.  
  1447. Other than staring blankly, Frigeridus could not do anything else. An illusion, he though. Did he lose? Did that blow to the head knock him out, and this is merely a dream like those one gets before dying? Certainly seemed so. Demon Lord personally visiting him after defeating an elder succubus? What a joke.
  1448.  
  1449. "In order to root out the one who acted on her own accord," she said, turning her head to Cassandra once more, "I had to lure her out. That's why you were brought here. A Lord Inquisitor would sooner or later find something about Druella and her fiancée that the culprit wouldn't want him to get out knowing, and would act. At that moment, I'd find out who it was."
  1450.  
  1451. "You knew Druella would behave like that...?"
  1452.  
  1453. "Like mother, like daughter, isn't that right?"
  1454.  
  1455. "You... behaved the same with your husband, then...?"
  1456.  
  1457. "You're asking one too many questions, there. Seems you're not an inquisitor just for show. Moving on, seeing as Cassandra appeared completely against the idea of leaving Lescatie as it was before, she'd have no doubt been the one with the most reasons to despise you and act against orders, despite Druella herself telling her to not even lay a finger on you, an already married man too. You defeating her for me, however... wasn't within the realm of expectations."
  1458.  
  1459. "What would have happened to me...?"
  1460.  
  1461. "I don't know, but it'd be painfully easy for me to figure out who suddenly has a Lord Inquisitor as her unwilling partner."
  1462.  
  1463. Frigeridus, after a second of nothingness, lowered his head. "You're not the Demon Lord." He muttered. "You're someone else... Some other lilim pretending, maybe. The Demon Lord wouldn't be against turning Lescatie into... whatever it turned into."
  1464.  
  1465. Curious, she stepped up to him and lowered herself, till both their heads remained at the same level. "Is that what you've been told of me?" She asked, before bringing her hand to his chin and slowly raising his head for him to see her. That smile never left, he saw. "Make no mistake. I want to see the world loving each other as one, just as those realms under my influence do. Just like those in Lescatie do right now. I love mankind, and want nothing less than love to be returned to them... but not when it makes people kill each other, or actively seek bloodshed with one another."
  1466.  
  1467. "...What?"
  1468.  
  1469. "Lescatie, despite turning into what I wanted it to be, only worsened things in the big picture. It painted my side as invaders, as savages that cared not for anything but violent expansion, or whatever else The Order talks about. I don't blame them. In fact, I'd be worried if they didn't seek to right that wrong. My subjects aren't all the same either, so some are just as they described like Cassandra, but the event as a whole only incited more calls for blood. I don't want to see humans hating, killing, spilling their blood like you have with the succubus."
  1470.  
  1471. "Then how...? If that's not how you wanted it to happen, what was your plan...?"
  1472.  
  1473. "They'll come to me of their own accord. It'd be mutually beneficial for both our sides, in fact. Those you despise, the hedonists, the undisciplined, the vagabonds and defeatists, they'd come to my side and leave yours, while the disciplined, puritans, and all manners of people who would join The Order and their factions for what they are regardless of monsters, would go to yours. None will be stuck with who they dislike, and all will find a land they belong to, a land they can say 'I belong here'. And... even if Cassandra had not carried out her insubordination, the invitation to you would've still gone though."
  1474.  
  1475. "The invitation...? If not to lure her out, what was it for...?"
  1476.  
  1477. "It was a start. Apart from Cassandra, it was to at least build some sort of relations between our sides. We're not supposed to be enemies, we're supposed to be great allies who help each other out while keeping a distance. There are frightening things out there that both of us have to be wary of, Lord Inquisitor. The Chaos Gods are an ever growing threat; mindflayers and shoggoths, as few as they are, are a dead giveaway that there is a way for them to get here. A proper invasion might just be a matter of time. Believe me, neither The Order nor I want to be stuck in a war with each other the moment they arrive."
  1478.  
  1479. She slowly let go, allowing Frigeridus to look on with his head high where she raised it, and then stood up to walk back to Cassandra's body.
  1480.  
  1481. "Such wounds... Such injuries..." She said, looking at her. "They may be more than the worst I'd have done to her. I suppose that whereas my side shines in terms of love, yours does so in hatred. No wonder your armies are so disciplined and determined even as they walk to their own doom, whereas mine are just a ragtag bunch of monsters who are in it to get a potential husband or a human girl to be the mentor of, if you remove the dullahans... You humans may be unable to do much against monsters, but you're still determined to kill, whereas my side created the silver you so much despise to keep everyone alive. Wouldn't that be testament enough that we're better off working together, making up for each other's weaknesses...?"
  1482.  
  1483. Then, she raised her head and sighed aloud.
  1484.  
  1485. "Who knows. You, a Lord Inquisitor, and Louise, a Demon... Maybe that pairing could somehow be used to build better relations." She said, soon lowering herself to pick up Cassandra and carry her on her shoulder. Yet, before taking a step, she turned to see him from the corner of her eyes. "Oh, and, between you and me... We never met, alright?"
  1486.  
  1487. "You... used me like a pawn...?"
  1488.  
  1489. Her smile grew slightly bigger as she winked and brought a finger in front of her mouth in sign of silence.
  1490.  
  1491. "All's fair in love and war."
  1492.  
  1493. And so, she walked off. Frigeridus stared on as she moved further and further away little by little, but his vision blurred more and more by the second, along with the pounding in his head. Soon enough, the blurring became too much to see her, at which point he found himself falling aside to the ground.
  1494.  
  1495. ---
  1496.  
  1497. With what little awareness his fleeting consciousness left him in those few seconds, he felt something accompanied by a noise. Every time he felt movement, so did the noise follow.
  1498.  
  1499. He was being moved, dragged across the ground, but to where, and by whom, he knew not. He could not even open his eyes, as what little strength he had could not hope to match the weight of his eyelids sealed shut.
  1500.  
  1501. Had it all been an illusion? Meeting the Demon Lord... Yeah right, as if. Was Cassandra the one dragging him? It certainly seemed so. Even in the illusion, he had not even gotten the opportunity to finish her off; she was merely unconscious, after all. The Demon Lord also said some things he had been hoping to hear, so would it not be logical that it was a faint dream tailored to his desires? So many words he wanted to hear, words he had been dying to hear, to at least pretend the world wasn't condemned without even respite in the form of death. And now, instead of dying, he was stuck with Cassandra.
  1502.  
  1503. 'Give me respite. Give me death.' He said in his own mind. 'Let it all end already. Save me from a lifetime of misery and suffering with no escape. That's the only thing I ask of you, oh God almighty. I implore you, let me die alone in the rain in this cursed, forsaken city.'
  1504.  
  1505. ---
  1506.  
  1507. Louise quickly dragged him off the street to a sidewalk, where a little roofed segment gave them both shelter from the rain. He propped him up till he was sitting, then, after she sat against the wall, she sat him against her in front. She moved the hair that stuck on his face aside, revealing the grievous wounds he suffered on the side of his head and cheek; despite the mixture of blood and rainwater, such a high concentration of blood revealed that not only were they still bleeding, but were recent too. Seeing blood on the ground near his hands, she gently grabbed them and turned to look at his palms, narrowing her eyes in pain as she found yet more injuries on him.
  1508.  
  1509. "I knew it..." She muttered. "I knew you'd not be safe... but not even with Marius?"
  1510.  
  1511. She put her ear near his mouth, to find that he still breathed at a good enough rate, despite slower than normal. With a sigh of relief, she lied back against the wall.
  1512.  
  1513. But her eyes soon shot wide open, before desperately searching by pressing her hand on various parts of his chest.
  1514.  
  1515. "The rosarius!" She whispered to herself. "It's gone!"
  1516.  
  1517. Her search turned into an inspection of him, checking his head for any signs of what she feared.
  1518.  
  1519. "He didn't turn into an incubus, did he?!" She whispered. "He's not turning, right?!"
  1520.  
  1521. But she could neither find nor sense any signs. So too did it seem like he was knocked out in the same manner a human would, with no sudden physical resistances acting if he had turned. In the same manner as before, she sighed in relief and lied back against the wall.
  1522.  
  1523. "He must stay a human..." She said to herself. "None can deny it from him if he wants to stay like that... Not even I."
  1524.  
  1525. Despite expecting silence, past the rain she heard muffled splashing on the street. Turning her head, she found that it was the steps of someone coming closer, someone she did not recognize. A kobold, though holding a sword in one hand, and a helmet under the other arm upside down, filled to the brim with something.
  1526.  
  1527. The kobold did not pass by, but instead walked up to her, at which moment Louise realized: The helmet and the sword were Frigeridus', the kobold holding them with a cheeky grin.
  1528.  
  1529. "Aren't... Aren't those Frigeridus'?" Louise asked.
  1530.  
  1531. "That, they are." Said the kobold, leaving the helmet and the sword next to Louise. She took off the cloth covering the top of the helmet from the rain, revealing bandages and a little tinted glass bottle, with the rosarius neatly on top. "You better treat his wounds quickly, before they get infected."
  1532.  
  1533. "...Demon Lord bless you!" She exclaimed wide-eyed, reaching for the bottle and the bandages. Her suspicion that it was disinfectant proved to be true after taking off the cork that sealed it and smelling it. With no time to waste, she started cleaning Frigeridus' wounds. "Who might you be?"
  1534.  
  1535. "His errand dog now, I suppose." Answered the kobold. "I see he ended up meeting someone who had their knickers in a twist."
  1536.  
  1537. "Yes, unfortunately. He might've lost... but at least he's still here with us."
  1538.  
  1539. "Lost?" Snickered the kobold. "I may not have been there to see the fight, but I know he won it before it even started."
  1540.  
  1541. Confused, Louise glanced at her, then at Frigeridus, wondering what made her think that way.
  1542.  
  1543. "I'd love to stay," said the kobold, "but I have to go. Say, can you do me a simple favor?"
  1544.  
  1545. "Anything for what you brought."
  1546.  
  1547. "When he wakes up, tell him, 'They say the man who fears will suffer twice. The fear has surely died'. He'll know what I mean."
  1548.  
  1549. Too confused to answer if she had been given the opportunity to do so in the first place, she couldn't do much but watch as the kobold marched off, not even letting her say a goodbye.
  1550.  
  1551. Alone in silence, just with him by her side, she continued to clean his wounds to the best of her abilities.
  1552.  
  1553. But then, he twitched, startling her enough to move her arms away. A second later, he hunched forward and started violently coughing his lungs out. Awake, no doubt.
  1554.  
  1555. "For how long have you been face-down on the streets full of water?" She asked with a relieved smile.
  1556.  
  1557. After his coughing fit ended, he remained hunched forward, head down.
  1558.  
  1559. "Louise...?" He asked.
  1560.  
  1561. "Lean back against me. You'll just be in pain that way."
  1562.  
  1563. Though quiet for a second, Frigeridus then let himself go towards her. Louise couldn't help but feel a certain warmth within her, feeling his weight on her, even if it was out of exhaustion and pain. Once more, she tried cleaning his wounds, but Frigeridus flinched with a sharp, instant cry at the touch of the disinfectant, shooting a stare at her. Yet, he realized what she was going, looking forward once more and enduring the pain brought by the disinfectant.
  1564.  
  1565. "What happened...?" He asked.
  1566.  
  1567. "I found you lying on the ground in the middle of the street, wounded. I dragged you off here to at least not have the rain fall on you. Somehow Cassandra managed to hide herself; none of us could figure out where you were."
  1568.  
  1569. "'Us'?"
  1570.  
  1571. "Ever since you disappeared, we never rested a single second trying to find you. They'll come across us sooner or later and pick us up. We'll just have to wait."
  1572.  
  1573. "Ever since I disappeared...?"
  1574.  
  1575. "M-hm."
  1576.  
  1577. Cassandra's words then echoed in his head.
  1578.  
  1579. 'She's not even here with you when you need her the most. Nobody is. You're alone. Alone in a stormy night, caught out in the rain...'
  1580.  
  1581. Hah, what a liar Cassandra turned out to be...
  1582.  
  1583. "Someone passed by and left these bandages," said Louise, "and the rest of your stuff, too."
  1584.  
  1585. "Who...?"
  1586.  
  1587. "I don't know. She didn't even say her name before leaving. She told me to tell you, 'They say the man who fears will suffer twice. The fear has surely died'."
  1588.  
  1589. Silence, but soon Frigeridus lowered his head. Then followed an audible chuckle, quickly growing to a laughter that went on and on, much to Louise's confusion. With a loud sigh, he finished his laugh, and so Louise continued to tend his wounds.
  1590.  
  1591. "Is Cassandra still out there?" She asked.
  1592.  
  1593. But he soon remembered. The illusion; or had it been an illusion? If it was not...
  1594.  
  1595. "I don't know what to believe." She continued. "You were unconscious and wounded, but... you were still alone out there on the street where I found you, so she didn't decide to drag you with her Lord knows where."
  1596.  
  1597. The Demon Lord's words resonated within him.
  1598.  
  1599. 'Oh, and, between you and me... We never met, alright?'
  1600.  
  1601. "She's gone for good. Don't worry about her." He said.
  1602.  
  1603. As much as she wished to ask, she thought to herself that, if it was him of all people that said that, and he said nothing else, then surely asking further would not do anything.
  1604.  
  1605. "...Well alright, then." She said after a pause. "Grit your teeth."
  1606.  
  1607. "What--"
  1608.  
  1609. A cloth with disinfectant upon the disfigured X on his cheek made him screen with pain.
  1610.  
  1611. "...Told you." She said, suppressing a laugh. "Marius and Charlotte were extremely worried."
  1612.  
  1613. "Who is Charlotte?"
  1614.  
  1615. "Marius' wife."
  1616.  
  1617. "...I never found it easy to remember names."
  1618.  
  1619. "And yet you remembered mine since the very first time we talked~"
  1620.  
  1621. "That was different and you know it."
  1622.  
  1623. Yet another flinch once she applied more disinfectant to such a sizable wound.
  1624.  
  1625. "Say..." She wondered.
  1626.  
  1627. "Hm?"
  1628.  
  1629. "I've seen Marius and Charlotte growing closer ever since they got together. They really look happy, like the husband and wife they are. They never go without the other beside them for long. Will... will we ever be together like them...?"
  1630.  
  1631. 'What loving wife Louise turned out to be! Leaving her husband in abandonment throughout their marriage, and only appearing when she's bored!'
  1632.  
  1633. 'What good is a wife not present in her husband's darkest hour? Depressed, lonely, alone, near his breaking point, and abandoned by all.'
  1634.  
  1635. 'Your rosarius alone wouldn't have done much to protect you. Someone else is protecting you. Someone else is syphoning off the demonic energy from this place that would have affected you. Someone wants you to stay and fight.'
  1636.  
  1637. 'Your loving wife has even gone so far as to syphon off the demonic energy surrounding you back in Druella's realm, and even here as we speak, keeping you as human as you've ever been.'
  1638.  
  1639. "...I don't know." He answered.
  1640.  
  1641. Louise smiled from ear to ear, almost tearing up, as for once has he not immediately said 'No'. The urge to just hug him as tightly as she could almost overpowered her, hands shaking ever so slightly despite him not noticing, but through immense willpower did she keep her composure.
  1642.  
  1643. Still, she finished with his cheek.
  1644.  
  1645. "Now for the hands." She said.
  1646.  
  1647. Frigeridus lifted his gauntlet her way. "I can't take it off the way I am."
  1648.  
  1649. So helpless, so humble, so absolutely adorable Louise thought to herself. Her desire to lock him in a hug grew ever stronger, but had to control herself. She helped him take off his gauntlet till his palm remained free, then put his palm over hers, and with her other began treating.
  1650.  
  1651. His hand flinched, almost clenching into a fist in pain, but he opened it once more, enduring as she continued.
  1652.  
  1653. Only after a while did she notice how their fingers had begun intertwining, one hand over the other. Her mind, predictably, started wandering about; 'can this be considered holding hands?'
  1654.  
  1655. "The other." She said, finishing. Frigeridus lifted his other gauntlet, she took it off, and started treating once more.
  1656.  
  1657. Just like before, but now seeing it clearly, her fingers started intertwining. As bad as she felt for taking advantage of the situation, she knew very well she was now taking longer on the treatment on purpose.
  1658.  
  1659. Violent galloping could be heard a great distance afar, coming closer every second as the horseshoes smashed against the stone road . Within a short time, Louise could see with her eyes three horses running down the street towards them. Frigeridus could only turn his eyes to see.
  1660.  
  1661. She raised the hand she did not hold Frigeridus' with, waving it for the horsemen to see, till the three arrived. Three knights, stopping in front of them.
  1662.  
  1663. "Send word to the Lord General! Quickly!" The one in front ordered, before one of the other two turned and galloped off. The two that remained then dismounted and took off their helmets before saluting Louise and Frigeridus with a clenched fist to their chest.
  1664.  
  1665. Dullahans, Frigeridus realized. That display alone showed the discipline the rest of the demon army did not have, not even a fraction. Still, he could not comprehend what they were doing here. Surely, only Marius, Charlotte, Louise, and him were in the city that he could count on.
  1666.  
  1667. "Is the Lord Inqusitor safe?" Asked the dullahan at the front. "Do you require assistance?"
  1668.  
  1669. "No, we're good." Answered Louise. "Now that you found us, what do we do?"
  1670.  
  1671. "The Lord General ordered to send word to him and wait for reinforcements. Then, we leave."
  1672.  
  1673. "Think you can walk?" She asked Frigeridus.
  1674.  
  1675. "I feel like dying." He answered.
  1676.  
  1677. With a snicker, she nodded at the dullahans, who immediately stepped forward and aided her in getting Frigeridus up to his feet. "We better get you up to leave as soon as the others get here." Louise said till, once done, she and one of the dullahans remained with one of Frigeridus' arms behind their necks each. The remaining dullahan walked over and grabbed Frigeridus' sword, helmet, and rosarius.
  1678.  
  1679. More violent galloping echoed down the street, this time like a stampede. They all turned their heads, and saw over a dozen knights rushing towards them, till they arrived and surrounded them.
  1680.  
  1681. "Frigeridus!" Called someone, maybe the only voice that was that of a man. There he was as he appeared on his horse past the others, arriving to Frigeridus' side, Marius himself with Charlotte beside him on another horse. "Thought we lost you for good, there!" He exclaimed with a joyous smile. "Cassandra wouldn't make the mistake of leaving you for dead twice."
  1682.  
  1683. "You won't have to worry about her anymore." He muttered, still in pain. "Where did all these dullahans come from, anyway...?"
  1684.  
  1685. "I got the entire Seventh Army running around the entire city looking for you. Well, the dullahans, at least."
  1686.  
  1687. "You... You got an entire army here...?!"
  1688.  
  1689. "What else would a Lord General do?" He snickered. "Come on. We're going back north. I stopped liking this place as soon as you disappeared." He said, before turning his head back. "Where's his horse?! Hurry!"
  1690.  
  1691. From the same direction Marius appeared, a dullahan moved forward on her horse, leading another without a rider by the reins and stopping right in front of Frigeridus. There it was, the exact same horse he had arrived to Lescatie with.
  1692.  
  1693. "Send word to the other groups!" Marius ordered. "We're leaving for Druella's castle!"
  1694.  
  1695. ---
  1696.  
  1697. Few days later...
  1698.  
  1699. Finally, he returned to Welsple, what became the main nation of The Order after Lescatie's fall years ago. Frigeridus walked through the halls of what became their main headquarters, with his helmet under his arm. He reached a door guarded by two knights, one on each side, who opened it for him before he walked in.
  1700.  
  1701. In the room stood a tall man with his hands together behind him, with a red cape and a crown of laurels over his blond hair, standing by the window and looking at the soldiers below practicing their drills. Upon hearing the door closing, he turned his head and, upon finding Frigeridus, grew a smile and turned fully, revealing his ornamental armor decorated with the emblems and heraldry of The Order.
  1702.  
  1703. "Grand Master." Greeted Frigeridus as he saluted.
  1704.  
  1705. "Lord Inquisitor. Good to see you are safe and sound, apart from your new scars."
  1706.  
  1707. "I've finished my task as requested."
  1708.  
  1709. "Have you found anything while you were in their realm? Anything you deem interesting?"
  1710.  
  1711. "They've been... awfully normal, sire. Normal like us, apart from a few here and there."
  1712.  
  1713. "Normal?"
  1714.  
  1715. "The invitation to a dinner wasn't a euphemism. It was that, a dinner. Other events popped up, and some monsters turned violent, but nothing seemed out of place. Main difference was that it seemed like a gathering of close friends in terms of formality."
  1716.  
  1717. "I see... How has your rosarius worked, then? It should have worked if you're still with us in one piece, but do you have anything to add?"
  1718.  
  1719. The memory struck him, as if he relived it. Louise had been the one to potect him, and Laura had already said that the rosarius alone would have not worked, but he could not tell that to the Grand Master. No doubt that if he told him that it worked, some poor sod would be sent into a demon realm with one, thinking he'd be safe.
  1720.  
  1721. "I don't trust it, sire. It worked somewhat, but there have been many places where I had to stay only momentarily, lest risk it getting overloaded; some places, I couldn't even access out of fear that it'd outright break. I strongly believe that it was pure luck that it lasted as long as it did without breaking."
  1722.  
  1723. The Grand Master sighed lowering his head, before raising it again. "It's a start, I suppose. At least it does something in the first place. If you ever find anything on the matter, tell our scribes. The sooner we find a way to step into a Demon Realm without consequences, the sooner we'll be able to gather our forces and retake Lescatie. Who knows, maybe we'll finally start pushing the monsters back for once."
  1724.  
  1725. He then turned back, stepping towards the window and looking out once more.
  1726.  
  1727. "I know you remember all too well how our last attempt ended, Lord Inquisitor." He continued. "In the case we find some way to retake it safely... would you wish to take part in the assault?"
  1728.  
  1729. For a moment, Frigeridus stood silent, collecting his thoughts.
  1730.  
  1731. "If it is required of me, I will do my duty."
  1732.  
  1733. "The Order expects that every man will do his duty. You may leave."
  1734.  
  1735. "Sire." He saluted, before turning and leaving through the door the knights opened for him.
  1736.  
  1737. Outside, a squire running up to him, just a small boy, caught his attention.
  1738.  
  1739. "Lord Inquisitor, a letter has arrived for you." He greeted, extending said letter to him.
  1740.  
  1741. Frigeridus grabbed it, yet before he could thank him, the boy ran off. He opened the letter and, as he decided to walk off, he began reading.
  1742.  
  1743. 'Hey, darling.' It started. He couldn't hide a smile; the penmanship and the blunt start made it painfully obvious that it was Louise. 'What everyone feared the worst ended up happening. The Demon Lord got involved and caught Cassandra. That order to not harm you must've been extremely important if she herself stepped in. I haven't heard anything else apart from that, and nor have the others, but we all think we won't be hearing about Cassandra anymore. Better that way, that succubus gave me chills.'
  1744.  
  1745. He quietly laughed to himself.
  1746.  
  1747. 'I hope you're doing alright.' The letter continued. 'It gave me a fright to see you without your rosarius, and I know how badly you want to stay a full, pure human. I suppose you must've figured out by now that I've been shielding you, even though I wanted to keep it a secret; none of us knew it'd all go so badly for you, though. But, hey, people liked you. They want to see you again. The dinner, and hearing that you went with us to Lescatie really gave them a good impression; they want to get to know you. That, and because I always put a good word about you. We all miss you already, and I think Marius misses you the most now that he knows you're out there still doing fine and remembering him. You won't have to worry about people making advances on you either, word got out that Cassandra attacked you, and now everyone thinks you beat her up. I don't think it matters whether that's true or not, since none will lay a finger on you either way. Not least because you're already married to me~'
  1748.  
  1749. Annoying as ever, he thought as he snickered with a smile to that last sentence.
  1750.  
  1751. "You never change, huh..." He whispered to himself.
  1752.  
  1753. 'Marius thinks it'll be inevitable that The Order and the Demon Army will face each other in the future, but says that, should you two ever meet on the field, you two could try making up an excuse to have both armies withdraw. That, or end it in a stalemate. He doesn't want to fight you, but he's still a Lord General, and you're still a Lord Inquisitor. Apart from that, though, he can't wait to meet you again, same as everyone else here. I'm the one who can't wait to see you the most. Be safe, and see you soon. Love, Louise."
  1754.  
  1755. 'What did I get myself into...?' He thought to himself, his smile never leaving, at least until he continued reading.
  1756.  
  1757. His smile disappeared, and he stopped in place. The letter continued, yet not with Louise's writing. Not even with proper writing; it wasn't ink, instead it was as if the letters had been carved into the paper itself through some indescribable manner. Burnt? Carved in the most literal sense? Some sort of magical writing? He couldn't make sense of it, but that seemed the best description of it for him.
  1758.  
  1759. 'Lord Inquisitor Frigeridus.' It said. 'I had to intercept this letter, since personally sending you one would draw more attention than I'd be comfortable with. Plans are going ahead without issue. Cassandra is with me, and I'm keeping a close eye on her, but I'm more intrigued than anything; it's extremely rare to see a sadomasochist of such degree among my subjects. I can count with both hands how many times I've seen someone with blood fetishism mixed with the aforementioned sadomasochism. Currently, I am studying what surrounds her desires, but that's now what I wish to tell you.
  1760.  
  1761. Nobody yet knows Cassandra has caused Lescatie. Word has not gotten out, and even if it did, nobody would believe it. I can not predict what would happen if everyone suddenly knew and accepted it, but I seem to have the benefit of time, so I am left able to think of some way to let the information out in the most efficient way possible. It's going to take time, but I'm confident that Lescatie being caused by a rogue agent rather than the explicit intent of one of my daughters might ease down tensions. That alone won't do anything, however. Remember who you are and your position in The Order, and your life with Louise. Expect in the near future to be needed to improve relations between The Order and us, but not soon. I fear it may not be soon enough. I pray that the Chaos Gods have not been given enough time to plan a full invasion. Regards, D.L..'
  1762.  
  1763. As he lowered the letter and leaned his head back to stare high, he let out a loud, rough sigh of agony.
  1764.  
  1765. ---
  1766.  
  1767. Two years earlier...
  1768.  
  1769. Lescatie. A Demon Realm in birth, turned barely a month ago. Frigeridus walked through its streets, rubbing his eyes in anxiety and exasperation as he held his helmet in hand. Around him through the street, close to a hundred and twenty men remained, sitting or standing, gathered in small groups, some having started a little campfire at the very middle of the road. Shaken, unnerved, empty-gazed, all seemed to behave the same.
  1770.  
  1771. The rest of the army, once over ten times their number, now lied lost within the city, never to be seen again in the same way.
  1772.  
  1773. He arrived to a group trying to keep warm around a fire, where the highest-ranked officer he could see rested. A mere company captain, and beside him, a monster slayer from the east, sitting amongst a few knights.
  1774.  
  1775. "Where's the general?" Asked Frigeridus.
  1776.  
  1777. "I can tell you where he isn't, Inquisitor. With us." Answered the captain.
  1778.  
  1779. "The lieutenants? Anyone else?"
  1780.  
  1781. "The monsters ambushed his group while we were scattered." Said a knight. "None got out. The monsters weren't stupid, it seems."
  1782.  
  1783. He did not say a word, but neither did anyone else in his silence, leaving only the crackling of the fire to make noise.
  1784.  
  1785. "Nobody has any idea what to do now, right?" Asked Frigeridus.
  1786.  
  1787. All gave varying responses, but all shared the same meaning: No.
  1788.  
  1789. "A few men from my company saw various monster groups converging on us." Said the captain. "They'll be here soon. They're probably surrounding us as we speak."
  1790.  
  1791. "How many?"
  1792.  
  1793. "Does it matter?"
  1794.  
  1795. Frigeridus took a deep breath, before looking aside. There it lied on the distance, the castle of Lescatie. They had not even gotten close before losing everything.
  1796.  
  1797. "Do you want to get out of here?" Asked Frigeridus.
  1798.  
  1799. "Everyone does." Said the captain.
  1800.  
  1801. "Spread the word. I'm taking command. We're gonna make a push to the east and break through to escape. Have everyone ready to leave."
  1802.  
  1803. "As you say, Inquisitor." He jeered as he stood up. "Better than being left alone with our thoughts, I suppose..." He nodded to the other knights, who spread out to relay the new orders.
  1804.  
  1805. Then, Frigeridus noticed the monster slayer standing up and walking up to him.
  1806.  
  1807. "You are in command, now?" She asked.
  1808.  
  1809. He did not understand the purpose of the question. Was it a challenge?
  1810.  
  1811. "I am." He firmly said.
  1812.  
  1813. She saluted. "Requesting permission to make a push for the center of the city on my own."
  1814.  
  1815. He frowned, perplexed. "Elaborate."
  1816.  
  1817. "I may be able to get to the center and do something. Whatever turned this place into a Demon Realm must still be in the castle. Maybe it's not. Worst case scenario, I'll still be a good enough distraction to allow you and the others to escape."
  1818.  
  1819. "You will not survive the attempt."
  1820.  
  1821. "I know."
  1822.  
  1823. "What about our group? We're going to need everyone to break through, including you."
  1824.  
  1825. "It's the only chance we have to turn this miserable failure around."
  1826.  
  1827. After a pause, he took a deep breath and extended his hand. She then extended hers, uniting in a firm handshake and not letting go.
  1828.  
  1829. "They say the man who fears will suffer twice." He said. "God be with you."
  1830.  
  1831. They let go, and the monster slayer walked off. Frigeridus stared on, seeing her marching alone towards the castle in the distance, aware he'll never see her again, just like those the damned city claimed.
  1832.  
  1833. "I have organized the remaining men." Said the captain upon returning.
  1834.  
  1835. "How many do we have?"
  1836.  
  1837. "A hundred and fourteen in total. Forty spearmen, twelve knights, and the rest crossbowmen."
  1838.  
  1839. "Have half the spearmen accompany the knights at the vanguard, and the rest at the rear guard. Archers in the middle. Anything that moves and doesn't have our heraldry, they shoot."
  1840.  
  1841. "Sir." The captain acknowledged, leaving once more to arrange the men.
  1842.  
  1843. The monster slayer had disappeared from sight. Now or never. Turning and marching to his men, he shouted, "We are leaving! Now!"
  1844.  
  1845. And so they all formed.
  1846.  
  1847. Yet, despite believing the monsters had not reached them, unbeknownst to them, two figured watched from afar on top of a building, looking intently as the formation began moving eastward.
  1848.  
  1849. "They still don't know they'll all turn into incubi, do they?" Said a lilim, Druella herself, staring with one palm on her cheek and the other under her elbow. "I suppose that's what they get for stepping into a Demon Realm. Dumb Order..."
  1850.  
  1851. "One won't." Said the blonde demon next to her.
  1852.  
  1853. "Hm? Who?"
  1854.  
  1855. "My husband is among them. He'll stay human."
  1856.  
  1857. "Your husband is here, huh...? Who is he? I can't tell this far."
  1858.  
  1859. "The one taking command." She said in a soft tone, yet unable to hide her humble boast. "He wants to stay a human. As his loving wife, I can only comply with his desires, can't I?"
  1860.  
  1861. "Ah... No, I don't get it. Why doesn't he want to become an incubus?"
  1862.  
  1863. "It doesn't matter why. He doesn't want to, and I want to help him stay a human."
  1864.  
  1865. Druella then put her finger over her mouth in thought, with a keen expression, attempting to make sense of her words.
  1866.  
  1867. "Who knows?" Said the demon as she turned her gaze to Druella with a smile. "Maybe one day you'll find a man you love so much, that you'll listen to his desires without caring if they make sense or not."
  1868.  
  1869. Little by little, as imagination ran wild, Druella grew a smile as she blushed, soon bringing both her hands to her cheeks, giggling erratically while looking aside. "O-oh... my..."
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