When Ragna woke up, the first thing her eyes saw was a white wall.
What had happened?
She pressed her hand against her forehead. It felt like someone had stomped their boot into her skull. Not just her head. Her whole body felt like a jackhammer had galvanized it. Her memory was foggy.
Aura was...Skyfrost...And Sven…No...
She shook her head.
She never saw him die. He could be still alive, and she could find him. But first, she had to find out where she was.
She was lying in a surprisingly soft bed tucked into a corner. In the center of the room was – between two chairs – a black metal table. Through the window, sunrays gave her warmth. It seemed to be midday. So, at least half a day had passed. Outside was a grey field.
Wherever she was, it wasn’t a place she had been before.
Inspecting the wall in front of her revealed a creak that ran through its middle.
So, it’s a double sliding door.
Ragna stood up. She walked towards the door, and nothing happened.
She sighed. It would be too easy had this been an automatic door. She pushed against it with her hand, and when that didn’t work, rammed it with her shoulders. The door wouldn’t budge, and a shockwave ran through her skull. Ragna winced. She ground her teeth and pressed the ball of her hand against her forehead.
Fuck. Okay, lesson learned. Using force when having a concussion wasn’t the best idea.
Once the pain subsided, she knocked on the wall, asking to let her out. Even pressing her fingers into the creak would not force the two sides of the door open.
Was she in a prison cell? Had the enemy captured her?
Her eyes wandered through the room, trying to locate an object that could break her out.
Before she could turn any plan into motion, Ragna heard a click. The wall opened like a sliding door, and three people walked inside. The first was an older woman with a raven-black perm, wearing a brown fur coat. Furrows, folds, and creases drew through her square face like tree rings. Her sharp and weary grey eyes felt like the excerpts of a history book. Still, it couldn’t hide the beauty that age had been unable to snatch away.
The second person had a slender face. Perhaps her head and eyes were blurry from the impact of the explosion, but when Ragna looked at them, she had trouble discerning whether they were a man or a woman.
The person had long, blond eyelashes, hair every woman would kill for, and aquamarine eyes that completed the image of a delicate beauty. Yet, their black suit expressed professionalism and strength. From a visual perspective, they were another personification of the Valkyrie’s ideals. Despite the situation she was in, Ragna felt a modicum of admiration and envy rise inside her.
The last person wore a black suit as well. His hair was wild, spikey, and reddish-brown. With his trapeze-like face, he looked like a Rockstar or rugby player. Yet, this man exerted an aura that reminded her of a squirrel.
“I’m glad you are fine,” said the androgynous visitor in a deep voice that made it clear, he was a man. It was a sweet, sweet voice that vibrated in her brain. Were it not for her current predicament, Ragna would have trusted him immediately.
“Please take a seat.” He pointed towards a chair. Ragna followed his orders, and the female visitor took the seat opposite of her.
“Where am I?” she asked. “Am I in Vaix?”
“What the Hel are you talking about?” The eyes of the woman narrowed. Ragna could feel the mixture of bewilderment and disgust she had, piercing through her heart with the precision of needles. “You are in Midgard.”
Hearing her words, the mist of fatigue and numbness vanished. The faces in front of Ragna gained familiarity. Instead of a random amalgamation of attributes, her mind recognized the familiar patterns of expressions and linked them to the matching figures in her memory.
How could she have not recognized the captains of her kingdom? How hard did that explosion hit her head? But wait...If they were captains and she was in Midgard, then why was she in a prison cell?
“What's going on?”
She to stay calm. There had to be an explanation. Perhaps the hospital was too full because of the number of injured, and they had brought her to the nearest medical station. Yeah, that made sense. And Captain Fran and Graswald just wanted her recollection of the assault.
Ragna stared at the third person. He leaned against a wall and observed his fingernails, seemingly not caring about the events in front of him. Whoever that was, it wasn’t someone she had met before. That face didn’t match anyone she knew.
"That's what we would like to know," said Captain Graswald. "What happened last night?"
"I was in Princess Aurelia's chambers when an assassin tried to attack us."
"They used some Fylgja that controls gravity to defeat me, and then they poisoned Aurelia. The attacker was about to strike her with their sword when Sven arrived. He used his Fylgja "Vallhalla" to defend her."
"Valhalla? The ability to create light orbs?" Graswald asked.
"It...it transmutes Mana into explosions. Those orbs are bombs, basically. Sven sent one of those orbs at the assassin. I guess it must've either blasted them out of the window. Or well...You can imagine what happens when a bomb explodes in your face."
"Quite the cavalier attitude you have for something so revolting." Captain Fran scoffed. She didn't try to hide her disgust.
What was her problem? She was trying to help them.
Captain Graswald glanced at his colleague before his eyes returned to her. His tone lacked any emotions. Compared to Captain Fran's disgust and the squirrel man's disinterest, Ragna couldn't read his expression.
That was another charm point of Midgard's "golden boy" and contributed to his popularity. His fans could project whatever they wanted to think onto him. No wonder Aura chose him as her husband. He suited her in that regard. Not Ragna thought this trick would work on herself. She wasn't as gullible as the common folk.
"So, Sven caused the explosion in Princess Aurelia's chamber?" Graswald asked.
"It was the only way to protect her."
"And what happened afterwards? Please, continue."
Ragna nodded. "Sven told us that Vaix attacked us. There were many traitors among our ranks. We tried to bring Aurelia to my father when Skyfrost attacked us and tried to kill the princess."
"Vice-captain Skyfrost tried to kill Princess Aurelia?" Captain Graswald and Captain Fran looked at each other.
Ragna nodded again. "Now that I think about it, perhaps he poisoned her. After he tried to attack us, the poison took effect, and the princess collapsed. Skyfrost demanded that we give him the princess or he would kill us. Of course, we refused. Skyfrost attacked us, but we couldn't defeat him. Sven told me to run away to my father." Ragna gulped. Her hand started to tremble. "He trapped him and Skyfrost in some metal cage and turned his body into a bomb to take him out. I got caught in the blast and woke up here."
"Regarding this assassin," said Captain Fran. "What did he or she look like?"
"They wore a white hood and a bird mask. I couldn't get a good look."
"How did this assassin get into the chamber."
What the Hel was that condensing tone? Was she mocking or looking down on her? Who the Hel did she think she was?
"I'm not sure. All I heard was the guards' screams outside."
Captain Fran narrowed her eyes. "So, somehow, an intruder had managed to sneak into one of the securest chambers in the most well-guarded building in all of Aes, and no one noticed? Fine." She took a deep breath. "And when and how exactly did anyone administer the poison?"
Ragna gulped. Her fingers started to twitch, whishing to fold into a fist. It took all willpower to hold her body back. But, Twice, did that woman deserve a punch in the face.
She exhaled. "I'm not sure. Everything was chaotic, and the assassin's Fylgja made it worse."
"Okay. So, at what point could the assassin or Skyfrost come in contact with Princess Aurelia and administer the poison?"
"I...I don't know." Ragna's voice deepened and grew harsher. "Look, I'm telling you all I know. What is this? An interrogation?"
"Well, duh..." Captain Fran smirked.
“You are in jail for treason,” said Captain Graswald. “Together with other collaborators, you allied yourself with the kingdom of Vaix and allowed them entry into Gimli. Then during the afterparty, you got close to Princess Aurelia Adler, poisoned and tried to kidnap her in the chaos."
Ragna's eyes widened.
Treason? Was that a joke? No, the atmosphere was too tense for him to be making jokes. He was serious.
“I tried to protect the princess.” Ragna slammed her hands against the table and leaned forward.
“The report of Vice-captain Skyfrost says something different.”
Again, her eyes widened. “How can that be? I thought he was dead.”
“So, you confess,” Captain Fran said.
She had dug her own grave. Why had she worded it like that? How stupid could she be? Now they would never believe her.
“Skyfrost saw you and Cadet Erikson kidnapping the princess,” said Graswald. “And then, you set off an explosion. Were it not for his Lügenschmied, Skyfrost and Aurelia Adler would be dead.”
“He tried to kill us.”
“Well, obviously he did. You tried to kidnap the princess.” Captain Fran stood up and looked down on Ragna, towering over her.
“We? Skyfrost tried to kidnap Aura. He‘s the traitor."
"So, let us recap. A mysterious assassin somehow managed to sneak into the hall leading to Princess Aurelia's chambers without any cameras seeing them. And that's despite the attacker's Fylga supposedly being gravity-based. But what the cameras picked up was some light, which does match Cadet Erikson's Fylgja.
“Then, that invisible assailant somehow managed to administer poison into Princess Aurelia's body and threatened her life to such a degree that only an explosion could suffice. One that destroyed her chambers and could've killed the princess herself. But wait, there is more." Captain Fran smirked and started to walk around Ragna, circling her.
"Despite the nature of the attack, we couldn't find even a scrap of that assassin's body. Neither in the ruins of Princess Aurelia's chambers or outside where the assailant supposedly had fallen. An explosion would have left at least a few body parts, don't you agree? Then, suddenly, Vice-captain Skyfrost tried to poison her despite you having all the opportunities to do so. You tried to run away to "save" the princess, and Cadet Erikson told you to leave her behind and escape while he detonated a blast that easily could have killed Aurelia Adler. You might as well have confessed."
"What, no?" Ragna shouted. "You have to believe me. We tried to bring her to safety. Ask Aurelia, Sven, or my father.”
Of course. Ragna’s eyes grew brighter. Her father would clear everything up. They just had to call him, and she would be out.
“We were under orders from the head of security, Drake Griffin.”
“Funny that you mention them,” Captain Fran said.
The cold gaze of hers made it clear that she didn’t believe a word, wasn’t even trying to. In her mind, Ragna was guilty, and nothing could change that.
“The princess is in no state of answering right now. A lethal drug was injected into her body," said Graswald. “It's a miracle that she had survived. Vice-captain Griffin is missing since the assault. We can’t contact him and found several documents in his apartment that prove his allegiance with Vaix."