The Year of Emperor Hirohito IV: 239
Empire of Rivellion: Capital city of Dyrrachion
Continent of Anastasia
Dyrrachion, the Divine City, capital of the most populous empire in Genoisia. It was an expansive city, with developed land stretching almost as far as the eye could see. Even in such a metropolis, two structures stood out far more than any of the others.
One was the Imperial Palace, the pride of Rivellion, a project that took nearly 100 years to complete and cleared a mountain’s worth of stone, steel, iron and gold. It stood tall, shaped like a sword, with its highest spires cutting through the clouds in the sky.
The other was the Holy Temple, a sprawling complex built on to an expansive floating island the rivaled the height of the Imperial Palace, with opulent amounts of gold inlays meant to reflect its glory to all who could lay their eyes upon it. 8,000 stairs floated in spirals up through the skies to reach its entrance, with shrines to each of the lesser deities interspersed along the route to the island, which housed the shrines to the great deities.
In a hidden chamber deep within the imperial capital of Rivellion, numerous mages were standing around a summoning circle. A dozen large mana crystals were placed on 8 points around the other circle and 4 points on the inner circle.
“Balgruf, Is the summoning spell ready yet?”
“Yes, my Emperor. Everything is ready.”
“Are you sure we can call a more competent hero with this? The idiot Ishtar sent us… He’s a decent man, but we cannot leave our fate with him. However, I don’t want to lose the grace of the church if this fails.”
“Don’t worry, my Emperor. We have checked over everything. We even used a powerful ritual to confirm the hero to summon beforehand. She can definitely save us. She was able to unite all the races in her world and defeated the Plague Demon Lord. They are perfectly safe and will be fine if we call her away.”
“Very well. Then in the name of Hirihito IV, Emperor of Rivellion, I command you to execute the hero summoning at once!”
(In unision) “Yes, my lord!”
At the stroke of midnight, the mages begin chanting the spell, and the circle alights with a fierce blue aura. The light shoots in to the sky, and opens a portal aligned with the full moon.
However… as soon as the portal opens, an aura of despair falls upon the city. Its gravity is far greater than anything they could have imagined. The sky itself appears to crack, as the blue aura of the portal bursts outward, inundated with scarlet and crimson colors.
“Balgruf, what is going on?! You said this was planned perfectly!”
“I don’t know! The spell was set to call the Heroine, it shouldn’t have targeted anything else! Quick, stop the summoning!”
Some of the mages desperately tried to end the ritual, fear clouding their eyes, while others stare at the portal in the sky, rooted in place by sheer terror. Only Balgruf and the Emperor manage to maintain their calm.
“Depth of spirit, our hearts call upon you, follow our commands, let the mana find peace and rest. Antimagic Field!”
Despite their attempts to settle the flow of magic, the ritual circle alights with crackles of lightning as the mana concentrations grow ever more firce.
A bright white light erupts at the portal. The dark aura flies far to the east and disappears. However, crashing in to the middle of the circle is the heroine, impaled through the heart by a sinister black blade.
As suddenly as it had begun, the world fell to calm again, and the portal slowly began to fade away.
Choking on blood, her last words “I… did it… I sa…ve… him…”
Emperor Hirihito looks at the Heroine’s lifeless body, then back at Balgruf.
While Balgruf was covered in a cold sweat, and his hands were shaking, he was still able to keep himself composed enough, at least when compared to the cries of terror of his fellow mages. He knew things had gone truly bad when even Emperor Hirihito, renowned for his extreme composure, had displayed a slight shaking in his hands, perhaps for the first time in his life.
It only showed itself for a moment, before Hirihito regained his composure. Although he couldn’t cover up a slight quiver in his voice, he did not hesitate to shout out commands to regain a semblance of control over the situation.
“This blade… I can tell at a glance it is extraordinarily powerful. Check to see if it is cursed and investigate what powers it has. If it is safe to use… we may have a weapon which can turn the tide of the war, and potentially mitigate this disaster. Do not fail me a second time. I need to speak with the captain of the Knight Order to investigate what happened with that ominous aura. MESSENGER! Come here now, we must send for the Saintess immediately. This… will be difficult, but this issue needs to be smoothed over with the church before it gets too far out of hand!”
With a swish of his cape, the Emperor turned and left the room, his internal turmoil only growing worse.
I only meant to help our people! How… how did it turn out like this?!
Balgruf stared for a moment, the dark aura from the blade felt almost as if it called to him, and the magecite that was blended into the blade started shining in various colors. It was… enthralling. He was so focused on the blade itself that he did not notice that the aura flowing from the blade glided off the skin of the fallen Heroine, who looked almost like an angel bound in Darkness. Balgruf started shouting orders to the surrounding mages, before unceremoniously pulling the blade from her body.
Almost as an afterthought, he waved for an attendant to remove the Heroine’s body and to send it for burial, as he hastily returned to his study, eyes alight with greed.
Across the city, streets that were usually empty by this hour filled with people, eyes turned upward and praying to their gods to deliver them from this ill omen. Others stayed at home, cowering in the deepest corners they could find, hiding from the scarlet light emanating from the now-red moon.
Kingdom of Luthas, Eastern Anastasia
Borders: Sea of Calimnon to the east and the Archipelago of the Feylands
Territory of Daemon King Grath to the north, separated by a large, dense woodland called the Hawthorne Wilderness
Empire or Rivellion to the West, separated by impassable mountains with one large valley access point in the middle.
The Seven Confederated City-States of Moraine to the south
Somewhere near the northern Village of Kurstwood:
A half dozen knights lead a small carriage with two horses down the road. A young, 8 year-old girl is riding inside with an older mage, who looks to be in his 60’s with a long white beard, and her bodyguard, who is wearing leather armor and a scruffy brown beard. He looks to be in his early 30’s. He is also the leader of the knights. The girl is wearing a dark purple dress, and has a small rapier strapped to her waist.
Her family crest is clearly visible on the right side of her chest, with a Red and Gold shield broken into four quadrants. Two of the quadrants have symbols of golden wyverns, while the other two have symbols of a lyre harp and a knight.
“Gregory, how much longer until we reach Kurstwood?” the girl asks.
“We are just a day out now, have patience lady Diane.” The knight Gregory responds.
The old man scoffs, “Hmph. No need to still play along Gregory. We both know why her father is sending an 8 year old on such a dangerous and understaffed investigation.”
Gregory chides back “Hal, that’s the point. She’s only 8. At least try to let her feel a little peace sometimes!”
Diane quickly protested “Hey, I’m still right here, you know! And… I already know. I already know. I don’t need things to be sugarcoated for me.”
Diane sits back in her carriage seat and looks back out the window, her azure eyes carrying a surprising weight for someone so young.
Gregory and Hal look at each other, and collectively sigh. They are feeling a little ashamed at bringing the issue up again. Succession disputes in noble houses are never a pretty thing, and they got placed on the losing end. Ever since Lady Diane was ranked incompatible with Magic, her father and both of her older brothers and sisters wanted her out of the family.
In this country, those with the most ability get the inheritance rights. However, the family is still required to support the non-inheriting members. Furthermore, back in a brighter period of the Kingdom, killing family members was outlawed and numerous protections were given to protect the lives of nobles from their cutthroat politics. Amongst Noble families, prestige meant everything. If a family were to refuse to support one of their children, the other families would use that as an opportunity to discredit their rivals and move up the social ladder.
However, having a child that was incompatible with magic created the exact same problems, as they were considered a stain on the Family’s honor. Even though removing them from the inheritance is a relatively easy maneuver, they would continue to sap the family funds and bring shame upon the family. Thus, great Noble families would strain to find any circumstance they could to remove such problems while maintaining the façade of supporting such incompetents.
In such an environment, Hal couldn’t help but smile a moment as he recalled being first rescued by Lady Diane. Compared to the other magic-less children of noble families, she had a fair amount of luck and a tenacious spirit that carried her through her Family’s plots to rid themselves of her.
A little over two years ago, Diane’s Father had found Hal’s aging and weakening magic to be unbefitting of a man in his station. Conjuring up the first excuse he could find, Duke Vermillion had Hal beaten and cast in to the streets. Injured and in the rain, no matter how strong he used to be, Hal knew he was going to die. But… he wanted to live! He spent his entire life trying to escape the limits of his birth, and only after a brief moment in the sun, he had been cast aside as a useless rag!
It was then that Diane found him… she was only four years old at the time, but she kept only a single servant, an old maid far past her years and at the end of her life. To think, that by that point in her life, she had already gotten out of a couple of bandit encounters. She barely made it out alive through luck or by the grace of good-hearted passersby. All the other servants she had before had abandoned or betrayed her.
Yet she was the only one to come to Hal while he was at his worst, bleeding in the pouring rain. She reached out her hand, and pulled him into her carriage, still able to cry at the plight of another. Amid the tears and her rudimentary speech, she demanded that I serve her loyally and to be a good man. That was it. The loneliness and fear and weakness of her life made Diane into the one halfway decent noble Hal had ever met.
It wasn’t long after that when Diane picked up Sir Gregory, then Tront, Garen, Frank and Sam. She found each of them at the lowest point in their lives, abandoned, driven out, injured and alone. Each time she refined her speech bit by bit, as she learned more and better words. As her motley crew grew larger and stronger, her Father began to send her on more and more dangerous missions. Even if his abilities had greatly waned from his peak, Hal was more than glad to use his years of experience to thwart the Duke. Despite her attitude, as far as Hal was concerned, this little girl had a heart of gold and was the best thing to come out of that family. He viewed her almost like the daughter he had dreamed of having.
However, this mission was, by far, the most vexing one yet.
Hal couldn’t help but scrunch his face in consternation.
Kurstwood. A small village at the edge of a dangerous wilderness, with travelers few and far between. Only traders leave there once every week to come and sell their goods in the ducal capital with a few adventurers who sell monster parts from their hunts. Those adventurers had reported that something had started to rile up the local monsters, and soon after, Kurstwood missed their delivery. This kind of investigation required much more than just us.
*clack clack* *clack clack* *thunk!*
The wheel jarring off a small rock stirs Diane from her silent staring contest with the forest, and she notices something… or rather, someone in the bushes.
Diane suddenly perks up with a shout,
“Hey, there is someone hurt in those thistle bushes over there!”
“What?!” Gregory exclaims. “Knights, quickly, alert positions!”
*clack clack* *clack clack*
*clank clank* *clank clank*
The distant sound of hooves and armor caused Dagon to stir in the prickly bush that had been his resting place for the past week. Compared to the intimidating form he held before, his body had shrunk in size and was coated from head to toe in dried blood and grime, not to mention the numerous deep wounds from his battle with the Heroine.
Finally some people! I think… I can hear a girl yelling… damn! How can I pull off a contract with this many people around? If I can’t bind my spirit here, I really will die… that spell is really nasty… it has been this long and I still haven’t regained my healing… at least I need to adjust my eyes to look more human…
“Alright men, ready up, the little lady is at it again! Someone clear the back of the carriage!” [Gregory]
“Haha, let’s see what speech she has prepared this time!” [Tront]
“Hey, this is no time for jokes, keep your eyes on the perimeter. I’ll be damned if we get caught by bandits again.” [Hal]
I can hear them debating… what are they going on about? A speech?
As the carriage pulls close to the roadside, Diane opened the door and began to speak. She was small enough that she could still stand even in the doorway of a carriage.
“I am Lady Diane of House Culaine, heir to the village of Kurstwood! If you swear absolute loyalty to me and always listen to me and promise to be my best friend forever and to never hurt me or anyone ever, I promise you we will help you!”
What the hell is this? Is this my penance? What kind of speech is this? This sounds like it can be used as the terms of a contract, but a contract is absolute. I can’t argue these terms if I want to live. The first time a Demon Lord will ever fall under a contract… and it is with an 8 year old child… still, it can’t be as bad as having something whispering in my brain all the time.
And… strange. I haven’t heard that voice since I arrived here. Was the connection broken?
Damnit! I don’t have the time to worry about that, especially since this is the risky part. In order to execute a binding contract, I have to use my true name. The guards will likely kill me at that point. Not that it matters. Here we go.
“Heh. Well then, Lady Diane, I, Sendrien Dagon, Demon Lord of Destruction, accept your terms and bind my soul to your oath.”
Sam immediately keels over in laughter “Hahahaha! Not even peasants take her seriously or believe who she is! Let’s just move ahead to Kurstwood, that guy not long for this world anyways.”
A smile breaks out on Gregory’s face.
“Pffft. Hahaha! Sam, did you forget? The reason all of us follow this audacious girl is that she picked up strays like us when we were at our worst. And last I remember, she gave you this exact same speech when we saved you from those back-alley thugs! You couldn’t have looked much better than this kid.”
“Hahhhh? W-well, that was then! And I didn’t make fun of her!”
The knights laugh while Sam, completely red-faced, storms off.
Strange. Is it because I am so weak right now? The contract feels like it was executed, but I see no signs of the seal. Seems I got lucky. Thankfully they can’t tell I am a demon. I get to live. In a new world. So new worlds are a thing. Does that mean… my whole plan was in vain? I killed off everything… and yet life goes on. Pain and suffering will continue. I’m… a failure. Seems I am getting what I deserve for failing. I also get the feeling something is definitely wrong with these people. Yup. A few screws loose if you ask me.
“Shut it, you guys! This is important! And you, enough of the demon play! Since you don’t want to tell me your name, your name is now Thistleman, since I found you in a thistle bush and you’re a guy! Gregory, pick him up. We are gonna treat him and take him with us.”
What the heck is with her logic? It has been so long… is this what it is like to deal with children? So unreasonable! And… shit. I have to accept it. AHHHHHHHHHH!
“I see…. Thistle… man…. Huh.”
Does this mean they think I am a peasant from Kurstwood? That… that’s the town that was burning when I first crashed here, right? Why the hell are they going there?!
As Gregory steps away to grab a cleaning rag, Dagon’s eyes close as he passes out. Other small adjustments begin to take hold of his body, imperceptible beneath the layers of blood and grime. His skin color turns to match that of Diane’s, and his eyes do not revert to their demon form. Even the signs of age on his skin regresses.
A small hand begins to wipe the blood and grime from his face, revealing the large gashes underneath along with the visage of a youthful boy.
To find such a thing caused the surrounding knights to react with shock!
“Hey! He is just a boy! How the hell did that kid survive with wounds like these? My god… what the hell happened to him?” [Tront]
“Hal, hurry with the recovery magic, will you! The young lady is crying for him, so at least give it a try! Damn old fogey!”[Gregory]
“You don’t think… all that blood was just his own?!? That’s insane!” [Garen]
“I’m coming, I’m coming, gah I can’t rush like the old days anymore…” [Hal]
As Hal started preparing his spell, a small chuckle escapes his lips.
“Ahhh… I just remembered a good word to describe our Lady Diane, I can’t really recall the foreigner who taught it to me… but I believe she is quite the Tsundere, eh? Haha!”