"Are you okay?" Sven asked.
“I…I think I’m…” Aura’s face was pale, and beads of sweat formed on her palms. She reached out with her hand, and her body collapsed.
"Aura," screamed Ragna.
Sven put his fingers on her wrist. His eyes widened. "She is alive…T…Thank god.” He exhaled and looked towards Ragna. “The assassin must have poisoned her.”
“We have to bring her to a doctor.”
Ragna grimaced and peeked behind the debris, catching a glimpse of the new attacker. Vice-captain Skyfrost stepped inside the chamber. Above his palm floated three icicles.
What was he doing here, and why was he attacking us? Did that mean he had sided with Vaix? Or was he a traitor all along?
Again, Ragna couldn't feel any validation for the fact that her suspicions about Skyfrost had been right.
“Hand over the princess.” Skyfrost pointed the icicles at them. “This is my final warning. Comply, and perhaps, just perhaps, I will give a quick end to your pathetic lives.”
“Over my dead body.” Ignoring Sven’s attempts to hold her back, Ragna rushed towards Skyfrost.
The icicles flew at her, and Ragna swung her saber. “I’ll never let an alien like you touch the princess.” The blade hit all three constructs in one strike, crushing them to pieces.
Vice-captain or not, she had to protect Aura. Victory might be out of her reach, but with Sven here, they should be able to escape.
“Ahh, I love it when they say that.” Skyfrost smirked, revealing his teeth. “Lügenschmied.”
A jade black liquid covered Skyfrost’s right arm and morphed it into a sickle-like form. The transmuted arm blocked the thrusts of Ragna’s saber like metal.
“You think these weak attacks could hurt me?” The Vice-captain laughed. “Have you forgotten just how many years of experience I have compared to you rookies? I will shatter that hubris alongside your bones.”
A rune on Skyfrost’s clothes glowed. In the air, masses of ice materialized, molding itself through a sculptor's invisible hand into a cube, double as wide as Ragna’s head. The cube dropped.
As Skyfrost locked her into combat, there was no time for Ragna to escape. Metallic needles shot above Ragna’s head from the wall and pierced the ice.
An orb sped from Sven's body. The six-pointed cross on Skyfrost’s shirt glowed. A layer of ice enveloped the projectile, and its movement stopped. Cracks tore through the frozen orb, and like a grenade, it splintered.
The resistance on Ragna's saber vanished. She jumped and dodged the ice fragments.
Ragna scanned the room. All traces of Skyfrost had disappeared.
Was he gone? Should they escape?
Ragna’s eyes didn’t stop wandering through the ruined chamber. The situation didn’t feel right.
She heard noises coming from above. Ragna lifted her head and saw a brown falcon beating its wings in the air.
Was that Skyfrost?
She jumped and attacked, but the bird flew higher. It screamed and rushed towards Sven. He shot a salve of orbs from the palm of his hands.
The falcon took a sharp turn and dropped in a vertical line. The orbs missed their target and exploded in the air. Changing its trajectory, the falcon dove and transformed in mid-flight back into Skyfrost. Within seconds, the black liquid covered his widened arm and reformed it into a scythe. Ragna swung her saber. The two metals parried, and the impact pushed Skyfrost back. His balance faltered; he dashed a step backwards and regained his footing.
“Guess you two are not complete beginners.” Skyfrost sneered and pointed at Sven. “I gotta admit, your Fylgja – Valhalla, was its name. Right? The ability to transmute Mana to create explosions has potential. But against my Lügenschmied, it is useless. And as I will extinguish the light in your eyes, all the potential will forever be lost. But that is the way of life when enemies collide.”
Grinning, he stepped forward. “Though, to be honest, I’m going to enjoy that last pathetic death scream of you vermin. Wander restless through the realms of Hel, but do not curse your powerlessness. Curse that I, Rory Skyfrost, am just that good.”
“Don’t worry." Sven smiled too. "There is something that already deserves my curses.” Carved in his face was neither false hope nor a broken grin but an expression of sincerity.
“Besides, there is no purpose in cursing the dead.” Sven’s body started to glow. Every vein in his body gleamed in bright light, drawing a sickly pattern through his body.
“You…” Skyfrost rushed towards the princess, but a flying orb stopped him. Sven turned away.
“We can't defeat a Vice-captain. I will detain Skyfrost, so go to Drake. Now,“ he said to Ragna. “I’ve no idea who else has betrayed us. We have to assume that everyone else is a traitor. He is the only one we can trust.”
“Hey, wait. What are…?” Ragna reached out to him, but he pushed her away and erected a wall of metal-like thorns between them.
“I guess this is goodbye.” Sven chuckled and scratched his head. The thorns grew past him, concealing his face from her. “I wish I could have spent my future with you.”
“Stop,” Ragna screamed. She hit the thorns with her sword, but they did not waver. From the ground and the roof, walls rose and created a cage that enclosed Sven and Skyfrost. For the two of them, there was no escape.
“No, please.” Tears ran down Ragna’s cheeks. She hammered against the thorns, but to no avail. Yet, she wouldn't stop. She continued to scream and push against the wall. Again and again, she would try and fail.
“Nonononopleasepleashepleashstopstop”. Sobbing, Ragna fell on her knees. Liquid oozed out of every orifice, and drowning in her tears, her words deteriorated with every second until they had become noises, no one would understand.
"You're quite a rookie. If you had trained more, you could have maintained this cage even at a distance." Skyfrost chuckled, and he started to count with his fingers. "You know, it would take me less than two minutes to destroy this prison, less than one minute to catch that brat, and around half a minute to decapitate her. Or..." He wiggled his head like a pendulum. "I kill you. That would take me about one minute. No idea why you decided to become a lamp, but that cage will disappear alongside you."
"Yeah, sorry to disappoint you," said Sven. "Neither of us will have enough time."
Skyfrost’s eyes widened with panic as he attacked the walls. But it was useless. No matter how hard he hit them, the scythes didn't scratch the metal enough to destroy them. Not in time, and if he tried to kill Sven, he might detonate and reduce the two ashes. Skyfrost screamed, cursed, and tried to reason with Sven.
Sven’s ears did not hear a word, Skyfrost rambled. He erased every thought, every ounce of awareness for his surroundings. His entire mind flushed all but a single woman away.
Sven’s body was translucent like an evening star, and his skin nothing but a membrane exposing his organs.
“Sorry, this is me being selfish.” Sven sat down. His back leaned against the wall. Perhaps through the cage, their bodies could connect one last time. For one final moment, she could give him warmth. “I know my words will only burden you. Yet I can’t help but saying them.” Tears ran down his face, freezing to blots of ice before they hit the ground and shattered. “In my life, I didn’t achieve much. Even now, I will only be able to eliminate one enemy. There were so many dreams I had. Say, will my parents be proud? Will our parents be proud of me?”
Sven walked towards the center of the cage. He turned his face one more time towards Ragna, knowing that she will not see or hear him. “I wonder if I had asked you, would you say “yes”? Sadly, I won’t hear your answer.”
Sven smiled. Before his eyes, his parents spoke to him. Their words, he didn't understand, but they looked happy. Did he make them proud, and could he save Ragna? Will she have a future and be content? Did he do good?
They nodded and embraced him in their arms.
Sven closed his eyes. "Valhalla."
Light engulfed his body. It streamed out of the cage and swallowed the scenery in white.