Special thanks for Angel Wraith, who read the draft of this chapter and provided feedback.

DISCLAIMER: This chapter ISN'T edited by my editor Ace-Triad as he got sick last week and is still recovering. So for anyone who can't stand SPAG mistakes, wait for (possible) future edited update. For everyone else, carry on.

UPDATE: This chapter is updated to edited version now.


As Farkas flashes past the downed Shield Hero, making anyone on his path dodge away, Raphtalia screams at Firo. "Firo! With me!"

"Who made you the boss!?" The bird blows hot air out of her beak, but she follows behind Raphtalia nonetheless.

The princess briefly wonders how Raphtalia managed to bring Farkas back to his senses. Then she realized it: the raccoon child didn't. The werewolf is still stuck in whatever illusion Uncle Aldrecht put him in, but Raphtalia managed to figure out how to ride, and guide him around like a steed.

Raphtalia's charge with Farkas and Firo would bring the Shield Hero's companions, and the remnant of the church expedition a few precious minutes to regroup, but it'll do little to change the overall tide of battle with Coach Zellus still standing. Not to mention, Uncle Aldrecht still hasn't seemed fit to act himself yet.

The princess lets her eyes wander away, and tries to find the artifact that's supposed to unlock anyone's full potential.

She isn't in any real danger, aside from her untreated leg wound getting an infection and making her stay in bed for a few days. Uncle Aldrecht knows how much her bratty younger sister and herself meant to her father. But if she does nothing, everyone other than the Shield Hero and herself would be killed… and her true identity will be revealed. Not only will it undo all her effort so far after the hero summoning, she would have no chance to start over with the all heroes knowing her a liar.

The princess focuses on her swordsmanship coach again, who is still simply standing over his exhausted foes rather than finishing them off. Despite his talk, he has never been someone who would ruthlessly stomp out opponents weaker than he himself. It's either due to his cocky personality, or because he genuinely wants those weaker than him to grow stronger and provide him a better challenge to push himself.

"Leave my lady alone." The words themselves aren't speaking with much emotion, yet cold fury burns underneath. Mein looks over, and sees Lucatiel charging at her former coach. The undead knight's former foe either vanquished by herself, or Firo's rampage. The princess doesn't know, or particularly care since all her attention was focused on Zellus.

Chapter 66: UNLIMITED POWER

"A member of the Silver Hand this time, is it? Hope you fare better, compared to the wet behind the ear kiddies." Coach Zellus snorts at Lucatiel's bravado. The vice-captain holds his wooden sword over head in a power stance, a rather obvious feint to have the undead knight guard's up.

Lucatiel takes his bait, readying her sword sideways above for an overhead guard. Just as she's about to close in, Zellus pulls his sword down, slightly too early for an overhead chop to connect with a target, but repositions his sword just enough to turn it into a forward thrust. Too late for Lucatiel to react for a parry or guard.

The undead knight speeds up, running straight into Coach Zellus' sword and letting it pierce through her. She throws away her great sword, and holds the vice-captain of royal guards inside her arms as she rams both of them down on the ground. Effectively locking Coach Zellus' weapon with her body, and pinning him under her with her arms. "What the? You aren't very chivalrous for a knight, are you?"

"I'm a knight no more." Lucatiel doesn't let up against Zellus' struggle. Her body stays perfectly still in the way only an undead could, as she effectively acts as a half-living shackle on the vice-captain. "I'm my lady's sword, and shield."

Coach Zellus might have been a great warrior, and one of this world's greatest swordsmen. But lacking a knight's holy fire, what is normally a fatal wound to a mortal is merely an inconvenience to an undead.

Lucatiel clearly knows this, being a veteran paladin specialized in fighting against undeads. So she used her own knowledge and Coach Zellus' lack thereof to take him out of the fight. At least for the time being.

Which means… It's time for herself to go for the win as well.

"Huh, even the boss can get taken down by a cheap- ARGH!" Lugo lets out a pained cry as Mein pulls out her hidden dagger, slices his hand and rolls away.

The princess wishes she can get as far from the convict, and as fast as possible. But a wave of renewed pain from her leg makes her lose balance and falls on the floor. The stunt she just pulled… it definitely tore up her wound even more. There's no way she can put any weight on her hurt leg now.

Mein briefly wonders if she's going to pass out through the excruciating agony. It would certainly make the experience, and the loss more bearable if she's not conscious to go through it. But then, the idea of losing all she's been working for hits her mind.

She didn't willingly give up her pampered life as a princess, throw Father's plan in his face, got permanently scarred and among other things just to give everything up with barely a whimper. Trying to struggle might have made her eventual loss hurt harder, but she's going to TRY her damndest to not lose.

Because she is the first born of her father the Wise King, and Hero of the Wand, and her mother the Red Queen of glorious Melromarc. She will not simply roll over and give up her birthright without a fight. Even if the ones she ends up fighting against are her family.

"You are being a very naughty girl, little princess." Mein turns her head back, and sees Lugo slowly working towards her. A small trail of red blood dripping down from his cut right hand. The bandit's already cruel looking face further contorted with pain and rage. The man looks more like a hungry predator, ready to pounce on its prey than Farkas.

"You leave her alone! BrigaannnddDD~!" A voice that's quickly becoming more familiar rings in Mein's ears. Richard charges through her prone form and into her field of vision, the pointy spearhead of his halberd pointing straight at Lugo.

"What's this? A baby templar, eager to die?" Lugo laughs at Richard's effort as he slaps both the halberd, and the man holding it away like an afterthought.

Lugo made the same mistake as Coach Zellus. Behind Richard, obscured from his vision, Kyubey jumps right over Richard at Lugo, ready to strike at the unprepared former bandit with his rapier.

Aside from their acute hearing that can be honed strong enough to replace their sights, the rabbit people of Ivalice are also well known for their strong legs. Kyubey himself hasn't yet shown much of his people's acrobatic prowess in their journey, possibly due to his deformed arm messing with his balance.

Either their handicapped rabbit man finally mastered his own body to try some more advanced movement, or he's also giving everything he has in this life or death battle. It's always hard to tell with Kyubey, considering his lack of emotion.

"Above me?" Lugo's shown surprisingly fast reaction despite his unsavory origin. The bandit quickly pulls his arm above his head, into a crossguard. "It's useless!"

But Lugo didn't manage to catch Kyubey's blade with his arm, or hand. Instead of a downward thrust, Kyubey flips over completely, and kicks off Lugo's arm with his feet. Further flips himself over behind Lugo's back as he pushes his rapier into the convict's back and out of the chest.

"...Damn…you…" With a few final words of regret, the convict drops down on the ground dead.

The princess turned adventurer doesn't have time to savor the death of her tormentor, or even check the condition of Richard and Kyubey. She turns her head around, desperately trying to seek out the Orb of Power in the dim catacomb among shifting and falling bodies. She manages to catch a glimpse of reflection in the far corner. Could be the artifact she's looking for, or anything else. But without much else to go on, she forces her body to push herself up, and hobbles towards its direction, doing her best to avoid the fight still going on around the room.

"You are NEXT!" Firo's screech makes Mein look back, despite the princess knowing she focuses on finding and getting the Orb of Power rather than looking at the battle raging around her. About half a room away from her, both Firo and Farkas, guided by Raphtalia, are charging right towards Uncle Aldrecht.

Probably more Raphtalia's idea than Firo's. Considering that dumb bird's mental capacity stops at blindly attack anyone she doesn't like, Uncle Aldrecht really didn't do much to draw Firo's ire towards himself.

With a simple squeeze of Aldrecht's right hand, a thin veil mist of vapor around his assailant quickly condenses into a giant glob of water. Raphtalia managed to leap away from Farkas' head before she's captured. Firo and Farkas didn't.

Even as Firo lets out bubbles of air out of her beak, the aggressive and not particularly bright bird still flails and kicks her legs, trying to get at Uncle Aldrecht while she's arrested by his [Hydro Sphere] spell.

"Moda, stop my disciple before she hurts herself more." Uncle Aldrecht's tired voice sounded more frustrated with the situation than anything else. The seasoned battle mage is clearly aware of Mein's action. He squeezes his hand even harder, and Firo begins letting out a new wave of even more bubbles.

It seems either her hobbling around the room is too obvious, or Kyubey drew too much attention with his air movement when he killed Lugo. Either way, Uncle Aldrecht has his attention on her.

The princess in disguise turns her head around, trying her best to get away before anyone catches her up again and holds her hostage. She doesn't make it far before the young man with pointy, porcupine like hair stands before her.

"Don't make this hard." There is a sense of underline annoyance from Moda as he narrows his eyes at Mein. But compared to Lugo's gleeful arrogance at holding power over her, as if this brigand is actually concerned for her wellbeing.

"Aren't you chivalrous for a convict? I didn't think a child killer cared." The princess really should mock a convicted criminal, especially with her current condition. But with how fast things are going down the gutter, she's beyond caring at this point. She might be in a bad position, but she's still the first princess of this nation! She'll be damned if she cowers at a former bandit's condescension.

The young rogue actually looks away from her, as if he felt any shame at what happened from before. But even with his eyes turned, Mein can still feel Moda is tracing her movement from the corner of his eyes. There is no mistake, this former convict may not hold her down in a vice grip like the last one, but he is still fully intent at keeping her down as Uncle Aldrecht commands.

A few fletching-less bolts fly towards Moda, forcing the young man to dodge away from Mein's path. For the brief second, the princess wonders how Kyubey loses his usual accuracy. Did the rabbit man still recover from jumping around Lugo, and crashing on the floor?

A quick glance from the corner of her eyes gave the princess her answer: The one holding Kyubey's mini-crossbow isn't the rabbit man himself, but Raphtalia kneeling on the ground. The girl might be unskilled with the weapon, but it's still evidently easier to aim than the sling she got from Whiterun County. "Run away from him, Big Sister Mein! GO! I'll take care of him!"

Well, she didn't need to be told twice. The princess turned adventurer turns away from the rogue blocking her way, and limps towards the little glitter on the ground where she thinks House Seaetto's artifact lies forgotten on the ground.

Behind Mein, a loud boom rumbles in the catacomb. She feels some moisture splashed on her back. The commission is followed by a menacing voice that's increasingly more familiar to the princess in disguise. "Firo KILLS YOU!"

It sounds like Firo managed to rupture Uncle Aldrecht's [Hydro Sphere], which unfortunately means Farkas is also free… and still trapped in Uncle Aldrecht's illusion spell this time, without Raphtalia over his shoulder guiding him towards the enemies. Hopefully, he won't cause damage to his allies. At least Firo should keep Uncle Aldrecht busy a little longer.

More sound of heavy wind blowing and slamming against the wall, coupled with people letting out yelp of surprise and pain. The princess doesn't have time to look back at them, or spare them much thought. Focusing her gaze and mind on the little glitter in the distance, and putting as little pressure on her wounded leg is about the only thing keeping her conscious as she hobbles and limps her way towards the far edge of the large ceremonial chamber.

Someone makes a grab at her from behind, tipping her balance and sends her tumble onto the floor once again. With the expected, but no less severe pain drilling at her hurt thigh. For a brief second, the princess' vision is blurred out by tears involuntarily filling her eyes. As they clear up, Mein manages to make out the form of two people wrestling on the ground.

Raphtalia has taken her adult form again as she struggles against Moda to keep the rogue from reaching Mein herself. The convict turned free fighter is clearly more experienced at battling in close quarters, as his movements are much cleaner and purposeful compared to Raphtalia's erratic flailing. After a few back and forths, Moda manages to lock his arms around Raphtalia's neck.

For a brief few seconds, Mein forgets her goal to reach Eclair's family relic. Her mind is briefly taken over by the fear of Moda snapping Raphtalia's neck like the raccoon dog child did to Bitch Lord's former subordinate back in Flute. Thankfully, the rogue is only trying to make Raphtalia pass out as he only tightens his hold, rather than twist Raphtalia's neck with a single swift motion.

The princess doesn't know what's going on in the rogue's head, but she imagines he would feel some sense of regret as Raphtalia's adult body disappears in a puff of smoke, and a fluffy raccoon dog flies out of Moda's grasp. The man lets out a loud yell of surprise, as Raphtalia in her animal form starts to scratch and snarl at his face.

"STAND STILL! Let Firo hit YOU!" Mein throws a quick glance over towards the direction of Firo's frustrated screech. She sees five images of Uncle Aldrecht, all blurred out and waving in a circle as Firo uselessly tries to kick him. As for Farkas, a pile of dark fur on the ground, lying very still tells the princess the werewolf's current condition. Although it once again begs the question if he is simply out, or dead.

At least the wolf man isn't going around rampaging and hurting her allies.

"My apologies, little one. I should have treated you with a little more… finesse." As Firo wastes her time attacking the duplicated illusionary image of the battle mage, a sixth Uncle Aldrecht slowly walks out of thin air, like someone rising out the surface of water. A few trails of water shoots out of his fingers, wrapping around Firo's limps and her neck, completely restrict her like the earlier [Hydro Sphere], yet leaves her no chance to build up an attack to instantly rupture it from within. "A naughty child requires a more delicate touch."

It seems like the gluttonous devil bird has truly met her match. Pity the Shield Hero rejected Uncle Aldrecht's alliance, he could have done much to discipline the damn bird. Oh well, if he kills it, she won't consider it a loss.

The princess turns around, and extends her arms towards the artifact in the distance. With the pain on her leg still burning, she can't even decide if she wants to right herself and try to hobble, or if she should simply crawl. Then, she feels something hit her on the side. Not physical, as it's more of a feeling, like breaking the water's surface when you are drowning, or having cold water cover over a burn.

Mein turns her eyes to the side again, and sees Naofumi still sprawled on the floor. His face half covered by his own blood and vomit after he's disabled by Menlo's punch. But one of his hands is pointing at her, clearly using whatever strength he gathered so far to cast a healing spell, or miracle at her.

Naofumi's healing saved her just in time. Moda manages to finally grab Raphtalia's tiny body and tosses her away. The rogue makes another grab at Mein, who thanks to the Shield Hero is no longer helpless to avoid even the untrained grasp of playground children. The princess manages to roll away from the convict at the last second as his fingers brush against her cloak and upright herself. With the Orb of Power already within her sight, she makes a break at it with Moda pursuing her right at her heels.

Mein closes the last few steps between herself and the artifact, as surely as each stomp her feet clicks on the floor. She can feel the rogue behind her gaining distance. But then she hears the sound of two bodies colliding together, and no one is directly pursuing her anymore.

With only a few steps left, the princess jumps towards the Orb of Power with her arms extended out. She manages to grab it with both hands, and then…

The rock buried within the crystal seems to glitter for a short moment, and EVERYTHING goes white.


"Rimuru Tempest and his followers are dead." Big Sister Hinata's voice is emotionless, as if she's casually talking about the weather. Yet, I can feel the underline despair permeating in the room. "Jura Tempest Federation is no more."

"So, this is the end…" By contrast, Big Brother Yuuki sounds almost relieved. I suppose in a way, knowing your doom approaches, and there is nothing you can do to avoid it gives everyone more comfort than the uncertainty of having whatever slim chance at making it through. "We'll have to resort to our contingency plan now."

"Don't keep me waiting." Big Sister Hinata's polyhedron flashes into existence in front of the space before her eyes. It slowly spins, twisting, and reconstructing itself till it takes the rough shape of a sword. "I hate to kill all the Wavespawn for you."

"Wouldn't dream of it." Big Brother Yuuki chuckles even as big sister Hinata turns to leave our tent. He turns to look at me, his eyes still as warm as the first time we met, despite the hopeless situation we are in. Big Brother Yuuki holds his hands out, his blocks fly out of his cloth and begin dancing above his open palms. "Bear with me _-Chan, this… will probably hurt you."

I grab his wrist before he has a chance to start the ritual, but not because I'm afraid of the pain. Yes, it will hurt a lot, more so than everything I already went through in this world, and most things from my previous life, but I do not fear pain. Not any more. Especially when I fear the alternative much more.

To become completely consumed by the Legion, or twisted into something so horrible, I would no longer even remember what I was before? That's something that truly scares me.

Yet, I can't help but wonder if I, alone, is something in this world that deserves another chance. Especially when I never earned this second chance to begin with, and I have wasted just like my first life. "Maybe we should get Big Sister Hinata, or maybe we should send you to the next world. You are both more experienced than me, you'll do better to prepare the next world for the arrival of the Legion."

"We went through this, _-Chan." Big brother Yuuki shakes his head, more exasperated at me having my cold feet than the prospect than the futile last stand he'll make against the Legion with big sister Hinata and whatever remaining fighters of this world. "It has to be you. You still have something to live for, remember? You have to go back home, to the people waiting for you."

There… There will be no one waiting for me back home. I made sure of that, because of my own stupidity. The story I told you about myself was a lie from the start… because I know you, big sister Hinata and big brother Rimuru would pity me, and protect me.

Oh… Mother. What will you think of me if you can see me now? I… I have become the exact opposite of how you taught me.

"Live for all of us. _-Chan. And remember, whatever next world you wake up in, warn them of the imminent arrival of…" Big brother Yuuki's blocks glow in emerald color, they begin spinning around me, as I feel myself being compressed, slowly into my WEAPON. I tried to open my mouth, to say something to big brother Yuuki before we parted forever. Perhaps to tell him the truth, or to beg for his forgiveness. But already, the world around me goes dark and I can no longer feel my limbs, or make a sound.

I'm sorry. Mo-

"The Burning Legion."


The princess falls on her knees hard. Her head spinning, her limbs numb. She feels like she's been dropped a few floors down. Her mind feels muddled, and confused at the unexplainable things she experienced a moment back. Almost as if she's stepped into the metaphorical shoe of someone else for a brief moment.

But at the same time, she is filled with a sense of pure euphoria.

The closest comparison she can make to the endless joy she's currently experiencing was around the end of their battle against the giant Life Root outside of Balafon. Except that's not a fitting comparison either.

Back when she managed to tap into her hyper focus, she could feel the movement of mana around her as clear as her own. Yet at the same time, she herself was still almost empty. Like a thirsty man drowning at the sea.

Right now, she is filled to the brim with magic. Every fiber of her being is super charged by magic, enough to ignore her damaged heart. She feels like she can have a man, or a monster in front of her spontaneously combust with nothing but a flick of her finger.

Now, she can truly understand why generations of House Seaetto had kept this artifact to themselves despite their adhesion to chivalry and honor. Because in this world, nothing could truly beat the feeling of…

UNLIMITED POWER!

Is this how a Hero feels with their Legendary Weapon? Power, unmatched by other fighters even if the others have decades of experience, and power ahead of the Heroes?

She no longer has to play the part of a whispering schemer, working behind a Hero of her choosing. As if she's an evil villainess in those trashy romance novels she loved to read so much to escape her dreary reality. She can step into the daylight, and fully realizes her own ambition with her own power! Take her rightful place as a strong queen who rules the nation with an iron fist. Someone who is worthy to stand besides Queen Evangeline, like her mother.

Mein can feel the corner of her mouth crook upwards as she slowly rises up from her crouching position. This is what she was meant to be from the start, no need to play nice with others, and use underhanded manipulation, or dirty tricks to get what she wanted! Only the pure power to do whatever she wanted.

The magic that's filling her lifts her feets up into the air as she looks down at everyone in the ceremonial chamber. Her silent smirk slowly turns into a soft chuckle. With this Power, she can take on anything! Not even her mother can deny her birthright anymore!

Three more bandits turned free fighters managed to get close to the Shield Hero, now that Firo is occupied in her tug of war with Uncle Aldrecht.

That won't do. Nobody besides herself gets to touch Her Naofumi. Because the Shield Hero belongs only to her.

With a simple crook of her right index finger, the empowered princess flicks some of her unfathomable power at the free fighters. Almost instantly, they turn into screaming and waving torches roughly in the shape of men. Their dying wails now music to the all powerful princess' ears.

The Shield Hero slowly rises his head to look at her. His boyish face was still stained by the bile and blood he vomited up. But she can clearly see the fear of her Naofumi from his dilated eyes, hang open mouth, and trembling form. It's as if he is afraid that she'll set him aflame next.

A baseless fear, of course! She might have been exponentially more powerful than she was before. But a true queen doesn't rule alone, she still needs him to rule besides her over her subjects after all.

The three burning convicts fall on the ground, their bodies burnt into dark clumps of charcoal. Around the same time, Firo also crushes on the ground like a bag of potatoes. The bird finally lost her struggle with Uncle Aldrecht.

The elderly battle mage turns his body around, his attention now solely on her. Uncle Aldrecht pauses for a brief moment, and then takes half a step back before he manages to steady himself. Her mentor's face is still a careful constructed mask of neutrality, but she can find a certain grimness to it. It's almost as if he is taken aback at the greatness his pupil finally managed to achieve.

"What have you done to yourself, foolish disciple?" Uncle Aldrecht's voice is soft like a murmur, yet the first princess can hear every syllable. Almost as clear as if he spoke these words right in front of her.

"I grew proactive." The princess murmurs in a hushed whisper, more to herself than to any other. But from how Uncle Aldrecht's frown seems to deepen, she gets the feeling her mentor heard her anyway. "I would have never regained my birthright if I followed your teaching fully, so I took what's rightfully mine."

The princess moves her right arm back, and then pushes forward, sending a sphere of white hot fire as thick as dragon's blood towards her mentor. Not quite at the destructive level of the [Super Nova] she dropped on Life Root together with Iris. But then, that was a communion spell that either required a strong team of mages, or a few mages of the strongest bloodlines to cast. This was simply something she flicked off her finger without chanting.

As for her mentor's well being, she's not terribly worried. She showed what she wanted to do well in advance. Uncle Aldrecht… should have more than enough time to dodge out of the way if he wants to. It'll be enough of a show of strength to force him back.

"Foolish, foolish disciple…" Uncle Aldrecht slowly shakes his head with disapproval. How can he put her down at a moment like this? She is aware that Uncle Aldrecht will always be loyal to father first and foremost, and his fondness towards her is extended from his devotion to father. But she's still his disciple! He should be happy with the power she has achieved!

The old battle mage holds two fingers on his right hand upwards in front of his face even as the condensed fireball approaches him. For a brief second, Mein wonders if her aging mentor has gone senile, and is trying to put up some kind of magical barrier in front of him.

Surely, someone as knowledgeable about magical theories and application would know the futility of such action. For a barrier to work, it needs to have a stronger fortitude backed up by stronger power compared to the attack it's defending against. Or else it'll simply be smashed through like a brittle egg shell. And as strong as Uncle Aldrecht is, being an upper prestige level Battle Mage, there's no way he can match her unlimited power thanks to Eclair's family artifact.

It would not even matter if he tries to use the opposite element to defend against her. A tidal wave can put out a burning house, but nothing will happen if you simply throw a tea cup of water over it.

The air between them seems to wave for a moment, like the ripples forming on a pond when something breaks through the serene surface. And then… the fireball she launched at him simply flickers out of existence. As easily as the weak ember on top of a candle gets blown out by a storm.

WHAT!?

"...have you already forgotten the very first lesson I ever taught you?" Uncle Aldrecht's hand lowers down from his face. His face stern with disapproval, like when she gets a very simple question she should know wrong.

Why couldn't he, WHY COULDN'T HE UNDERSTAND! To take father's side over hers, she can understand. But to continuously be dismissive of her, like a child who needs discipline? She might have looked back at those past memories in fondness, but she herself has already grown past that stage!

"You underestimate my POWER!" The princess grits her teeth and pulls both her arms back this time. She summons every drop of power Eclair's family artifact granted her, and pushes them out of her hands. This time, instead of a single flickering fireball, two torrents of white flame shoot out of her hands and flow towards her teacher, making the dim underground chamber brighter than the day.

Facing her magical onslaught, not even Uncle Aldrecht can keep his calm composure. His cloak bellows as he bends his knees, both of his arms extend out and waves with a circular motion. Two vortexes of water forms in front of himself, blocking as much as redirecting her fire away from him. It won't be enough.

The princess can hear the sizzling sound of water boiling as soon as her fire makes contact with Uncle Aldrecht's water shields. Large cloud of steam blocks her vision, but she's not worried about her teacher slipping away underneath its guise.

Her overwhelming attack backed with her new found power leaves Uncle Aldrecht little room to maneuver or subvert her with clever tactics. He has no choice but to defend himself with all the power he has or risk certain death. She has truly forced her teacher into a corner in terms of magical duel: A battle of attrition between two mages' magical power.

And hers is unlimited.

"Stop it, MEIN! PLEASE!" Even as the princess pushes the old battle mage back, she can hear the Shield Hero begs her to stop for some reason. She looks to the side, and sees Raphtalia holding the Shield Hero up as he calls out to her, begging her to stop. "You are MAD! You'll kill EVERYONE if you don't stop!"

How could HER Naofumi accuse her of such? Can't he see that she isn't trying to kill her former magical teacher, one of the few people who had always been kind and supportive of her, because she enjoys it? She HAS to do this, or else everyone besides the two of them will die!

"We are five levels deep underground!" Naofumi coughs furiously, he almost slips off Raphtalia's shoulders. "You are going to burn all the air out and suffocate us all!"

Oh.

Well, she still needs to beat Uncle Aldrecht before anything else! She'll just have to put more power behind her attack, and force a quick victory before they run out of air!

With that thought, Mein renews her effort and pushes her magic even harder. Her fire grows brighter, to the point she's forced to squint and shield her eyes.

She doesn't need her sight in a straight up attrition battle like this. All she has to do is to keep pumping her magic out, until she no longer feels any resistance over the other side. So that's what the princess did, even as her breath grows more and more rugged and she can no longer hear any sound.

And then… she crushes on the ground once again, unable to breathe just like when she pushed her heart too much during the fight against the ancient thunder lizard. Her flame also flickers out of existence with her magic flow being cut out. Briefly, the princess wonders if her heart is giving away again, but her throat is still heaving, trying to draw in air that no longer exists around her. This is different from the last time, when her body gives out and she can't even control herself.

Her eyes open, and perceives Uncle Aldrecht standing over her. His previously immaculate hair and cloth both singed by fire, drenched by water. His breath is also more labored from before, but he is still managing to hold himself up high.

Mein opens her mouth, but no sound comes out. She belatedly realizes the air around her once again seems to ripple, almost as if she's looking through water.

Of course, this was how Uncle Aldrecht stopped her first attack. He used air magic, and drained the breathable air from an area. Of the four prime elements, fire is the most destructive as it consumes everything. But fire can't exist, if there is nothing left to consume.

"You've been quite a handful, my disciple." Uncle Aldrecht stops for a moment, his voice more horse than she is used to. "Will you cease your tantrum now, or do I have to make you sleep like your pet bird?"

How could he… HOW COULD HE!? Even after all that, he's still treating her like a child!

She lost her ability to summon fire, and she's about to pass out. But she still has her new found power! If there's not enough air… she'll just have to open a path for it!

With a soundless scream, she throws her arms toward heaven, unleashing all her power in its purest form, trying to burst through the air prison Uncle Aldrecht constructed around her… and tunneling a path right through the marble slabs and dirt towards the surface.

"You FOOL!" For the first time in her life, Uncle Aldrecht's voice has lost all its collected composure and turned into a scream. It's accompanied by rumbling earth, and falling dirt. "You'd rather bury us all than concede defeat?!"

What have I done?

The princess opens her eyes wide. A chunk of granite falls right towards her head, as everyone still alive and conscious lets out panicked cries all over her. She closes her eyes, finally accepting what's happening.

And this time, she has no one to blame other than herself.

A familiar voice lets out a pained grunt right besides her, followed by a more distant screech of 'Brother Jaune!' released by Nikos. Did Jaune hurt himself protecting her from the piece of fallen marble? That sentimental fool… they'll all die from the cave-in she caused. The catacomb is five levels deep, there's no way they can run out before they are buried under earth and rubble.

And then… the sound of a mountain collapsing around her stopped. There is only the labored and pained voice of Uncle Aldrecht, speaking through great effort. "Foolish, foolish disciple… How dare you, even forget… the first lesson… I ever taught… you?"

"A mage's power is only ever as great as their control." Mein opens her eyes, as she speaks the first ever magical lesson she learnt from Uncle Aldrecht together with him.

The first thing she sees is Jaune, his shield arm hanging limb, obviously broken, with Nikos hovering over him. The princess turns her head and sees her teacher, standing not too far away from her, his arms outstretched. Above him, a glittering layer of blue light holding up the ceiling broke, even as dirt, and smaller chunks of marble and rock gradually broke down and fell onto the ceremonial chamber floor.

"Shield Hero… people call us old timer heroes of the Great War. But we aren't heroes, only people who can't let our demons go." Her teacher turns his head towards the Shield Hero. "You do things right. Don't tear things down, build them up."

"I'll keep it in mind." Naofumi speaks between chugging a bottle of healing potion Raphtalia hands him. He has to take multiple breaks, nearly throwing the content back up several times judging by how he has to press a hand over his chest. The Shield Hero gives Raphtalia a light push near the end, able to hold himself upright with his own strength. "Get Firo. We have to go."

Raphtalia nods her head, and quickly runs over to Firo's slumped form. She bends down near the bird's head, seemingly whispering something. Not long after, the giant bird turns into her small child-like body in a puff of smoke. Raphtalia in her adult body easily carries Firo with her arms.

"Go." With one last word, Uncle Aldrecht closes his eyes. Seemingly shutting the rest of the world around him to concentrate on holding up the broken catacomb. Buying as much time for everyone else to escape.

Mein tries to move her legs, but she ends up falling down again. All her power has left her, after her final push broke down the ceiling. Coach Zellus managed to catch her before her body crushes against the hard, rock floor. "I got you there, kid."

Her fencing coach slumps her over his shoulder, and she sees him holding the body of an unconscious, but still alive Xepan in his other arm. Around her, the survivors of their battle wordlessly walk out of the ceremonial chamber regardless of their faction, leaving Uncle Aldrecht to die by himself.

I'm sorry, Uncle Aldrecht… You were right, you were right. In the end, I was truly a foolish disciple when I threw away all the lessons you taught me, as soon as I gained a miniscule bit of power.

The princess closes her eyes, too exhausted in body, mind and spirit. She loses count of time once again, as they make their way back up the catacomb back to the old Boletaria castle. Eventually, she hears the loud voice of Gaston. "What happened down- WOW!"

The rumbling of earth and shaking of ground happens all around them once again. That must mean… Uncle Aldrecht is dead. And it's all her fault for losing her mind over the temporary power she gained from that accursed orb.

"No time to explain! Got to go!" Coach Zellus throws her onto the back of a saddle. She opens her eyes, and sees everyone mounting either a raptor, or a filorial around her. There are enough mounts to go around with the extra ones that Uncle Aldrecht brought with him.

They fly down the palace, and then the mountain fortress as ground sinks, pillars fall, walls crumble, and ceilings collapse all over them. If the history books are to be believed, Boletaria Castle was built over multiple decades around its first rulers.

The fortress sitting on Griffin's Back mountain range has since stood the test of time over millennia, protecting multiple different southern dynasties from the beastman incursions over from the north, and lived through countless Waves of Catastrophe.

Yet, all it took to have everything collapse is less than a single day, by one princess drunk on her newfound and fleeting power.

The ground finally stopped shaking when they arrived at the field where they battled against the three undead knights, and the hordes of undead. It practically feels like an age ago, even if it only happened a day ago. The princess slowly slips down from the raptor she's uncomfortably sprawled on and takes a look behind her. Most of the old Boletaria Castle is rubble over a sinkhole, where only small sections of unconnected wall to a once mighty citadel remains.

The princess steals a quick glance underneath her hood at Eclair. She has to turn her head away immediately, seeing how the last living Seatto motionlessly stares at her ancestral home reduced to nothing. Just one more thing she irreversibly broke throughout her life. Just like her old nanny, burnt to ash. Mein, neck twisted at an unnatural angle. And now… Uncle Aldrecht, buried deep under earth and rubble, not even leaving a body for her to mourn.

"He… must truly believe what he was preaching." The princess can barely register the distraught voice of Jaune. "He may be misguided, but in the end he's truly- ARGH!"

"Silence is the better part of the valor now, Jaune. Shut up." Richard pulls back the elbow he stuck in Jaune's guts. This time, not even Nikos chastises the commoner turned templar.

"Well, well well. Would you look at that? I knew leaving the Shield Demon here was a mistake, but I never thought he would bring down one of our most important fortresses." An arrogant voice makes the princess in disguise turn her head.

Down the road, a group of troops riding raptors arrive under the Three Heroes' Church's golden triangle over white banner. At the front rides the Consevatie ponce, smirking with glee. The idiot no doubt thinking the collapsed Boletaria Castle proves whatever argument he deluded himself into believing.

Besides him rides a shaven man, not in typical white priestly robes but a red dress coat. His large forehead makes his eyes look extra beady. Combined with a meaty cheek and hooked nose, the man gives the impression of a bull hound favored by powerful, ancient Hibernia families to guard their homes.

The first princess doesn't know Thaddeus Campbell well, aside from seeing him in the palace a couple of times, passing urgent messages to Pope Balmus. She knew he was a high ranking inquisitor working for the Three Heroes' Church, and that was about it. It appears that the man is quite attached to his inquisitor status, if he's still wearing his old uniform as opposed to donning a more regal looking priestly robe when he's charged with overseeing whatever's happening in the ruin of Port Harp.

"Brother Jaune." Overseer Campbell ignores the pointless spatter of Consevatie and addresses Jaune directly, smart man. "Brother Siegmar informed us that Brother Captain Leeroy fell in his line of duty. What of his relic arms, Grant and Sanctus?"

"Overseer Campbell." Jaune works forward, his hurt arm still hanging useless by his side, not yet having the time to have it treated yet. "Sanctus was being kept safe… and used as needed against the undead by Brother Richard."

The peasant turned templar takes the shield off his back, and hands it to Overseer Campbell with both arms. Another church knight leaves the group, and takes it off Richard's hand.

"As for Grant, it was too heavy for us to carry. So the Shield Hero offered to kept it safe inside his shield-"

"See, SEE! I told you the Arc boy has consorted with the enemy!" The Consevatie ponce practically jumps on his saddle before Jaune even finishes his sentence, or for Campbell, their superior to respond. "We should take them out now! Before they plot whatever else!"

"You will do no such thing, savage Mon-Keigh." A much calmer, and dare she say, cultured voice carries itself over, seemingly from the otherside of the now ruined castle, yet clear enough for everyone to hear. Even if Mein was not educated by the best teachers Melromarc has available, she can still guess that magic was involved.

The princess, and many others turn their collective heads toward the direction where the voice seems to come from. Another group of warriors slowly make their way out of the line of trees. They wear armors gilded with gold, under helmets decorated with stylized wings.

One warrior at the front holds up their banner, and a rectangular shaped, earthy colored flag with a scarlet border flaps against the wind. A golden phoenix spreads its wings serving as their emblem.

"Our rightful king shall not be harmed any further." At the head of this new war party stands a tall, young looking man with long flowing golden hair, and almost equally long eyebrows. He is dressed in a well tailored, and decorated vermillion battle robe, more fitting for courtly events than battlefield. "I, Kael'thas Sunstrider, Prince of the Phoenix House, solemnly swear on the honor of my ancestors, and my clan. The enemies of the Shield Hero shall be my enemies."


End Note:

Well, we are back to my own vaguely 'people throw named attack at each other' Digimon fighting scenes.

Malty in this chapter gets a chance to act out a bit more like her canon self (and indulges her inner Palpatine for a bit)... and pretty much have to live through the negative consequence immediately.

And Aldrecht exist stage right with an earthquake. Hopefully, I managed to execute my intention of writing a villain as a real character who has their own demons and flaws, and not just mustache twirling plot device.

Guest review time.

To Eigenlicht:

Thank you very much for your review, and I'm sorry you had to wait extra long for two chapters you didn't enjoy. Once again, thank you for actually leaving your critique than silently drop this story like most people would.

Personally, I actually agree with you opinion on highly choreographed fighting scene in a novel, that's part of the reason why I don't write my own fighting scene with meticulously described choreograph aside from I'm simply not competent enough to actually write them. But the feedback my chief editor and I received from the Eclair vs Weiss fight was generally positive, so I asked Ace-Triad if he's interested in writing another fighting scene involved with Zellus, because I want to sell the idea of Zellus being one of this world's most skilled swordsman and feel like myself aren't up to snuff.

That being said, I still should have been more proactive to oversaw the scope of this fight than simply told Ace-Triad 'you have the floor, go nuts' (my actual words to him). So yeah, the last two chapters (one, really. I had to cut it into two because I'm not sadistic enough to have someone read a chapter that's mostly highly choreographed battle scene that's about 18k long) took too long to come out is solely my own fault.

To Lily:

MGR references, YOS! Because I think the music from that game is awesome.

And yes, Zellus bust out singing in the middle of the fight IS cringy, but that's why I think it fits his character so perfectly. He's so (over) confident in himself, he doesn't care about things like himself looking goofy to others and just want to do whatever his own whim carries himself.

To Scotch:

Like Eigenlicht, thank you very much for your review and make your critique known to us than silently drop this story. And just like him, sorry my decisions made this chapter unenjoyable to you.

The switching POV part is once again, entirely my own fault. Since I was the one who was doing the 'post production' after Ace-Triad wrote his draft, and I didn't do a good job fixing all the perspectives that's not told from Malty's. In my own defense, I was pretty worn out after four weeks and was more in the mindset of 'I have to get this chapter(s) out', than focused on doing the best job post producing them. But still, I didn't do my best job, so that's no excuse.

To Standing here:

Nice song reference for your guest review name, by the way. It's also going to (eventually) be used in this story as a reference. Although I'm probably going to go with 'It has to be this way', since that's the name most people associate with the song.

:)

So, yeah. I already answered critique about the choreographed fight, and hopefully the beginning of this chapter explained how Raphtalia managed to get Farkas to fight against Aldrecht's men: She didn't snap him out of the illusion, she just used her different body sizes to get on him, and rode him like a steed.

Hope you aren't too disappointed with this answer.

Well, there needs to be a MGR2, because I think Raiden got too unfairly hated by Metal Gear fandom. Would definitely have been better if Platinum got to do MGR2, than Babylon's Fall.

To Guest(s):

As explained to other guest reviews, the past two chapters were supposed to be a single chapter... wrapped up in about 10K words max (that include the section I wrote myself at the start before the whole Zellus fight begin).

I made the mistake of saying 'you have the floor now, go nuts', instead of telling Ace-Triad 'have fun, but wrap this fight in less than 10k words' like I should. So yeah... when I came back to the file, I realize it's already over 12k long... and once all the scenes are finished it bloated up to 18k... Yeah, I'm not shoving the whole wall of text out like that.

Thanks for the terminology correction. Although I'm probably still going to have people say short sword from time to time. I think it makes sense there's an official term used by 'sophisticated people', and someone who just say some slang.