A/N: First thanks again to Jameyofthemegacosmos for his edits, improvements and proofreading the chapter.
Anyway I do apologize for the delay of this chapter's release. It was a combination of my personal tragedy on my end (a close relative has died from cancer), which will hinder my writing for a bit, my assistant busy and both of us needing to research a dozen different things for this chapter.
Before proceeding with this chapter a few things I must note.
Due to some translation updates I have changed Lucian's name to Luciana and Olivier's name to Olivie to match the most update on the corrected translations for their names.
And there was a mix up in the age orders of Francisca's sisters such as Palatine being the youngest and Swanson being the oldest. Has been corrected.
Next I do feel there is something about the harem for Lelouch I must address given a few of the reviews I have seen.
Don't expect the harem to form anytime soon because a lot of work is needed, especially because besides this is Lelouch we are dealing with there is the fact he is not eager for a relationship given both his goals being prioritized over it and the fact he has been traumatized because of the incident with the Matangos and the rape attempt on him.
Such obstacles will have be cleared first and one girl at a time will have to be added.
So that's where the harem set up for Lelouch stands right now.
One last thing I do apologize for Ropurotto's "appearance", but that is how she and her sabbath dress, I avoided any further details. I felt a tad uneasy about it, but if anyone else doesn't feel comfortable about it then I apologize since that is just how she and members of her sabbath dress.
With those out of the way let's move on.
Pursuits of the Heart
A week later, Lelouch walked inside the Hub Between Realms, wearing his armor minus his helmet. Luciana followed close behind, but instead of her usual attire, she had armor and traveling equipment, much like Lelouch's. All of which were appropriate for their destination.
"Are you ready, Luciana?" Lelouch asked.
"I am," Luciana replied, wearing new armor and clothing. "I am glad I asked the brothers in advance to make this for me. I am a bit surprised they didn't want any kind of payment for the armor."
"In hindsight, it was a good idea," Lelouch complimented the idea. "They enjoy creating armor and weapons more than anything. Their reward is that someone puts them to good use. Nonetheless, they made it exactly as you wanted it, right?"
"Yes, they did," Luciana answered as she looked down at herself to examine her new armor.
Luciana's new attire provided by the brothers was similar in style to her previous outfit. However, there were some apparent differences. The most obvious was the dark undersuit that not only was a layer of light and flexible armor, but it had enchantments and a design taken from modern Britannian pilot suits that regulated body temperature. It would ensure the wearer was comfortable in any environment while resilient against slashing weapons fire, toxins, and gunfire. The bodysuit even had armored plates at crucial points of the wearer's body without compromising their agility while protecting vital areas.
Lelouch wore a similar suit under his Zero armor, which was essential because of the long periods when he would wear it.
Luciana's white long sleeve top had a more durable and tear-resistant hood with enchantments to protect against environmental hazards and harmful magic. To compensate for the lack of armor, she had a chain mail shirt underneath made of Mithril. The light-as-leather metal, when used to fashion armor like chain mail, was immensely durable that could withstand swords and even spears. The only downside was how rare the metal was, but fortunately, there was a mine rich with it.
However, according to Havi, it was the only mine left on Earth to have Mithril, which was another reason Agharta prospered as one of the three great cities.
Her loincloth didn't change much, but she now had silver armored greaves made out of Mithril. Infused with the same magic that greatly enhances speed and agility, Luciana could jump higher than any human could.
Covering Luciana's hands were black gloves, which were part of silver gauntlets with the top of her hands and fingers protected by a plate of armor. They gave more power to her punches that shattered stone, but she preferred it to grip swords that matched her fighting style. Lastly, she wore a belt with a few small pouches and one bigger one on the back.
She also had a faceless helmet at Lelouch's recommendation, which had a clean metallic face with two wings on the side of the head, and covered the back and around the neck.
"I have to say," Luciana remarked, examining her new armor. "I can see how you've could've worn armor like this almost all the time. It's surprisingly very comfortable to wear."
"I know," Lelouch agreed. "Those three are undoubtedly the very best when it comes to armor and weapons."
"And you say this armor and its enchantments will make Muspelheim more bearable?"
"Yes, but it's also essential to even explore Muspelheim," Lelouch nodded as he warned Luciana. "The scorching heat and ash in the air make it almost impossible for anything to survive there. Without these enchantments, we wouldn't last a minute in such extreme conditions."
"It wasn't always like that, right?"
"No," Lelouch shook his head as they approached the console. "Although it wasn't as lush as Earth or Midgard, Muspelheim was a world full of mountains, grassy plains, and some oceans. However, it was extraordinarily rich in resources, which they traded to cities like Agartha and others, allowing the planet to prosper through the trade of its rare and plentiful ores."
"Until Ragnarök, I am guessing?"
Lelouch nodded in confirmation as he inserted his Realm Travel Key into the console. Using the dial below, the former prince turned the tile until a red glowing rune for what became the Realm of Fire in Norse Mythology appeared.
"During Ragnarök, the ruler of this world, the Fire Giant Surtr fought against the dark armies unleashed by Kalika. He was instrumental in the war, having held back the Goddess's allies long enough to evacuate Asgard. Then, he used his mighty sword to lay the entire city to waste along with a chunk of her army."
"I can't imagine the enemy would've taken well to such losses," Luciana commented as energy began to surge from the pedestal and channel through the chamber.
"No, they didn't," Lelouch answered before adopting a more solemn expression. "Realizing Surtr was a serious threat, Kalika had her followers mount a full-scale attack on Muspelheim. The Fire Giants and the people living on Muspelheim fought valiantly. Tragically, many of the gods who sided with Kalika were involved in the battle, so they became outmatched. Knowing the battle was lost, Surtr rallied the Fire Giants to make their last stand while they held back Kalika's armies so that families and non-combatants could escape. Furthermore, Surtr was channeling all of his power into his sword while joined by hundreds of his Fire Giant kin."
"What happened?" Luciana said, both serious and concerned at the same time. She had a feeling where this story was heading, but she suspected there was more to it.
"Surtr forced Kalika to commit more of her allies and armies than she planned, hoping to bleed her. The Fire Giants knew they couldn't win, and their days became numbered, but they were determined to give the others a fighting chance. They held out until they drew more of Kalika's armies and allies to Muspelheim, and then Surtr unleashed his sword driving it into the ground. Not only did the shockwave from the release of energy wipe out everyone near Surtr and his followers who poured all they had into his sword, but the surge of energy reached the core of Muspelheim, setting off a cataclysmic chain reaction. Volcanos across the planet violently erupted with rivers of lava sweeping across the lands while ash blackened the skies."
"Oh my god," Luciana muttered in utter shock. "He destroyed his own world to wipe out Kalika's armies?"
"I know that sounds extreme, but look at it from Surtr's perspective. Kalika surrounded him with very few options of escape. Even if he did, she and her followers would have access to his world's resources that would've doomed the other realms. So he made a choice, not an easy one, but he and the Fire Giants made the ultimate sacrifice. Their actions delivered a crippling blow to her, allowing the gods and goddesses who opposed her a chance to regroup, fight back, and ultimately win the war against her."
"But not everyone walked away from it unscathed," Luciana remarked, saddened by the loss of Surtr and his race.
"No, they didn't, the price of victory was still very high. Yet imagine what might've happened had Surtr not make his sacrifice."
Lelouch left Luciana in stunned silence. She tried to think of how things could've been different, but no matter how hard she tried, she could not. It was indeed for the best.
Meanwhile, as Lelouch and Luciana were talking about their destination, the process finished, and they had arrived. However, as Luciana followed Lelouch out of the chamber, the young woman had a question that came to mind.
"Hold on, if Surtr wiped out everything, then how did this place survive then?"
"Surtr managed to shield this place using his body to ensure everyone could escape," Lelouch answered before gesturing for Luciana to put her helmet on. "This hub is what allows us to move between Muspelheim and Earth, but only a select few structures managed to survive through pure luck."
Lelouch activated an air-tight seal while the same happened for Luciana upon donning her helmet. Luciana then felt the enchantments activate as her suit and helmet sealed themselves. However, she was still able to view the world as usual.
So this is how he saw things from his helmet.
Walking down a hallway for a few minutes, Lelouch reached a pair of double doors with a glowing red gem in the center. Lelouch tapped the crystal causing the doors to open before a stream of hot air surged into the corridor.
Under the mask, Luciana's jaw dropped as she got her first look at Muspelheim, or rather what remained of it. For as far as the eye could see, Luciana saw fiery volcanos in the distance releasing columns of ash and dust into the sky while rivers of lava flowed unendingly. With wide eyes, Luciana looked around for any lingering signs of the civilization near the hub. No matter how far she looked, she couldn't see any sign of where a city should've been standing save for some brick walls dotted near their location. The hub itself was the only evidence of where a city once stood.
It's one thing to be told how much a war between the Gods devastated worlds. But to see the aftermath of one, Luciana was at a complete loss of words. A wave of emotions ranging from surprise and horror to curiosity raged within her.
"Luciana," Lelouch called, bringing Luciana out of her thoughts.
"Come on, unless you want to spend all days in this heat?" Lelouch cautioned as he gestured for Luciana to follow him. "The sooner we finish, the better."
"Right, sorry about that," Luciana apologized before running to catch up.
"If we're lucky if we find something rare. It will make for a perfect component to forge the new sword you want."
"Right, I am coming!"
The purpose of their trip to Muspelheim was to gather more ore to complete new armaments for Olivie and the rest. Luciana, in particular, wanted a new sword to replace the ordinary one she had. Furthermore, any ores they gather from Muspelheim, having been radiated by the powers Surtr unleashed, was potent in their own right useful for creating weapons and armor of exceptionally high quality.
Yet for Luciana, the armor made her the only other person besides Lelouch who could walk around Muspelheim. It was a way to pay back the brothers following her own time spent in the capsule once Wilmarina finished.
Meanwhile, back in Agharta, Wilmarina approached the workshop where the Draven brothers worked. Instead of her usual attire, she changed in favor of simple black pants, her boots, and a white shirt with short sleeves. She saw Brokkr, Eitri, and Sindri working the forge together, so Wilmarina chose not to disturb them for the time being. However, Wilmarina decided to examine some of the various weapons they had forged interested in finding a replacement for her sword, All for You.
Every weapon was an exceptional work of art in her eyes, but a pair of twin black swords caught her eye.
Taking hold of one of the blades, Wilmarina raised it to inspect the twin weapons. They were exceptionally crafted, possessing gold runes engraved upon them, especially near the edges. The hilts composed of gold with a dragon's head engraved upon the guard. There was a red jewel on the pommels, yet the weight marveled the Hero the most.
This sword is almost light as a feather, Wilmarina thought as a look of wonder appeared on her face. The blade began glowing red faintly, which only intrigued her further.
"Like what you see?"
Wilmarina nearly jumped out of her skin in surprise. She had been so focused on the weapon that she failed to notice one of the dwarves approaching her. She turned around to find Sindri standing behind her.
"I-I'm sorry," Wilmarina apologized, putting the sword back.
"Don't apologize," Sindri said, shaking his head. "We rather see our weapons used than gather dust. So why not you use those if you like them?"
"Really?" Wilmarina asked as she blinked in surprise. "I-I couldn't, but I…"
"Nonsense," Sindri said, interrupting her with a wave of his left index finger. "If there is a weapon you want to use, then don't hesitate to ask. As I said, we rather see people use them then let them collect dust."
"O-Okay," Wilmarina said, realizing she couldn't win the argument, and she wanted to use the swords to replace her current blade. However, that led to the young woman asking a question. "By the way, why didn't Lelouch use these swords?"
Sindri sighed before answering.
"You see, I guess Lelouch preferred the other weapon we made for him, believing it was more versatile and gave him more practical uses outside of a fight as well. Both were made from the same materials more or less, just a different design, though the swords were technically more powerful because more fragments were part of its creation."
"Fragments of what?" Wilmarina asked, her expression was one of curiosity.
"Fragments of the Sword of Surtr, Levantine. It was only appropriate we thought that twin blades forged from its fragments had the same name."
"The Sword of Surtr?" Wilmarina asked, having never heard of the sword before.
"Right, I should tell you the tale of Surtr the Brave and how his sword shattered," Sindri said before he began explaining about Surtr's history and the downfall of Muspelheim.
Havi walked down a flight of stairs where he entered a long corridor with empty jail cells on the left. There was only one cell near the end of the row that held its sole prisoner. He approached and observed the lone occupant near the end of the hall.
Inside was Kirsch with her coat removed, doing push-ups on the ground. The sweat visible on her clothing, arms, and forehead indicated she had been doing them for a while. However, upon realizing Havi was present, she stopped to face him as she got to her feet.
"I suppose given the way they raised you, keeping her body in shape is essential for you,"
Kirsch was silent as she met Havi's gaze.
"Anyway, I assume that you are looking to get out of here," Havi went on. He paused for a moment to get the girl's attention. "And that you're still looking for Zero."
Kirsch remained silent.
"Your mission has been rendered moot. You realize the Kingdom of Lescatie is no more."
"Zero is my mission," Kirsch replied, getting gaps of air after she finished. "As long as I execute my mission, Lescatie lives."
"You won't be finding Zero where you are. In fact, for now, he doesn't exist."
"But," Kirsch began. "He is my mission. Lescatie must live."
"Poor child, you do not realize Lescatie has fallen," Havi said with an expression that was full of pity. "Even if you were successful, you have no place to return to."
"Am I wrong?"
"Priest Noscrim warned me," the assassin girl said. "Should I fail, everything will be at stake. The world will fall."
"And what do you mean, the world will fall?" Havi inquired, fearing the news she'd bring.
"Master tasked me to hunt down twelve targets," Kirsch answered. "The first one is Zero."
Twelve, could that mean-
Havi suffered a realization. Twelve was a significant number to him, and Kirsch and her master were known for thorough intelligence gathering. Even so, to think that she learned such information was something alarming to him.
"And who would these other members be?" The man wanted to be sure.
"Targets are unknown," Kirsch responded. "Unable to give you information."
"Then you must be hiding something. Any clues to the other targets?"
"No, no information."
Havi could only sigh. Kirsch's words sounded sincere. She still believed that Lescatie is the same way it was before, but she had no reason to lie. There was no point in interrogating her any further.
This incident may be more severe and complicated than I thought, Havi admitted to himself as he feared the implications. Fate is a cruel mistress, indeed.
"Then let us see your master," Havi said as he conjured mirror fragments. "I would like to ask him about his information."
The fragments then formed a mirror before Kirsch and Havi could gaze into it. However, the mirror's vision was cloudy, which led to Havi realizing something.
"Priest Noscrim is dead."
"No," Kirsch said, but her expression was the opposite of her tone of voice.
Havi could see a mixture of panic and uncertainty from the woman who showed flashes of anger. Her superior has fallen. Kirsch's breathing became more elevated, trying to regain her composure, but the loss and confusion only grew until she became at odds with herself.
That was when Havi decided to step in again. At this rate, she will continue with her mission, which will neither be acceptable for Lelouch nor herself.
"If I may, I offer you a proposal to consider."
Later that day, back in Muspelheim, Lelouch and Luciana rested within a cave. Lelouch had drawn a staff with a glowing crystal on top to create a temporary safe zone where the two could remove their helmets. Lelouch even brought out some stools to sit on after stabbing the stake-like base into the ground. The two laid their enchanted pickaxes next to their seats as they began drinking from the waterskins they brought.
"So let me get this straight," Luciana asked as Lelouch took a drink. "You came here before you were fourteen to gather ore and materials for your weapons?"
Lelouch nodded. Luciana looked at Lelouch with an expression that was a mix of shock and worry.
"That's insane! How could anyone let someone that young go to a hellish place like this!?"
"I was willing to do what it took to gain an edge," Lelouch answered, but he didn't dismiss Luciana's reasoning. A fourteen-year-old coming to Muspelheim to mine ore was insane, so Luciana's reaction was understandable. "Besides, the ore we have gathered will be useful. You even found more fragments of Surtr's blade."
"Yes," Luciana glanced towards the ore in the large bag on the back of her waist. "I saw how impressive your ability to carry your weapons in your cape was, but these pouches are something else."
"They can hold almost anything you can fit into them," Lelouch said with a hint of pride in his expression.
The two had been working together, gathering ebony ore for the creation of more armor and weapons, but Luciana was lucky. Discovering a piece of Surtr's Sword was rare, but finding an impressively large chunk was noteworthy.
"You even said the brothers could forge that piece into a powerful sword for me," Luciana said with anticipation in her voice. "I'll be sure to give it to them when we get back."
As Lelouch began drinking from his waterskin again, a question came back to Luciana's mind.
"So if you don't mind me asking. Is there anyone you are seeing?"
"What do you mean?" Lelouch inquired with a slightly confused expression on his face as he put away his waterskin.
"Are you dating anyone? Do you have a girlfriend?" Luciana asked, clearly curious. "You know about me, Wilmarina, and Elt. Therefore, I was curious about you if you don't mind me asking."
"No one right now," Lelouch answered without hesitation.
"Really?" Luciana asked genuinely surprised at the lack of romantic interest Lelouch had. "I thought you and Koyoi were close, or you were close with Olivie?"
"I can easily see why people would get that idea," Lelouch smiled while folding his arms under his chest. "While Olivie and I have also been terrific friends, I couldn't exactly reveal my identity at the time, considering the potential complications that could arise."
"I can't imagine there would've been much," Luciana commented before taking a drink from her waterskin.
"Not in your world, no. But as I go out traveling to different worlds, I will attract some attention, which inevitably inhibits my ability to create proper relationships."
"But that sounds sad though, given everything you have been through."
"I don't have the same mindset and views as the Order and their Chief God when it comes to love. I don't wish to become a pawn of her, just like what happened to Lescatie. However, I cannot distract myself with such things, not with the enemies I'm about to face."
"It's about Britannia," Luciana assumed. "I read about it in the history books you brought. To think that such a powerful empire exists...no, that you would be born and raised in such a place."
"I'm not surprised," Lelouch took another drink. "Considering how I cover my face, you can guess how important I am."
"Then tell me," Luciana demanded his attention. "What about that story you gave back in the orphanage?"
"I'm not dumb enough to think what you told us was insignificant. The one who challenged the Empire's greatest knight to a duel and became Empress? She was someone famous or very close to you, wasn't she?"
"You are right," Lelouch closed his eyes before admitting the truth. "She was my mother, known as Lady Marianne the Flash."
"Your mother was the knight you told in the story?" Luciana said, clearly surprised by the revelation.
"Every bit of that story I told was true, all except for the ending," Lelouch explained, which led to Luciana feeling worried when she saw the sad expression on Lelouch's face. "My mother rose through the ranks, becoming a Knight of the Round by the time she was eighteen."
"Knight of the Round, you mean the twelve knights who answer only to the Emperor," Luciana recalled that bit of history she read about Britannia. "They're composed the greatest warriors in the entire Empire."
"That's right," Lelouch replied with a nod. "She was the Knight of Two, so she was only second to Bismarck Wildstein, the Knight of One, also known as the mightiest knight in the Empire."
"He was the man she fought?"
"It was quite the fight. No one questioned Marianne's position as the Knight of Two, but I suppose people did when the Emperor took her as a consort."
Luciana's face paled as a terrible thought came to mind using Lelouch's expression to confirm it.
"Your mother got killed, didn't she?"
"Assassinated," Lelouch corrected. "My sister Nunnally survived, but her legs were damaged, leaving her crippled. The trauma of being held by our mother shielding her robbed her of her sight."
Luciana put her hands over her mouth to suppress a surprised gasp, but after a moment of silence, Luciana asked.
"Were the ones responsible caught?"
"No," Lelouch replied bitterly. "When I confronted my father, the Emperor, he dismissed the entire incident as nothing. He never even visited Nunnally after what happened."
"How could he do that!?" Luciana reacted to the Emperor's disinterest with horror.
"He said that we were long dead to him, not even worth remaining alive. For that reason, he cast us out as political hostages, mere bargaining tools for other countries." Lelouch answered, and Luciana could see the anger in Lelouch's eyes, a wave of rage being barely restrained. "As if that wasn't bad enough, we were abandoned in a foreign land when he declared war upon it, left to die for his benefit so he could better justify the invasion."
"How could," Luciana said, but she was unable to finish that sentence. Luciana remained speechless. The horror of what Lelouch went through was written all over her face.
"I know," Lelouch already read her mind. "In that sense, Britannia is just as bad as the old Lescatie, if not worse."
"If you say it that way," Luciana had to put up a straight face to give some kind of chuckle. "Now, I understand how you managed to thrive in a place like that."
"I know," Lelouch chuckled in turn. "But I would be lying if I didn't say it was hard dealing with those snakes."
"I can only imagine," Luciana almost laughed. "I am glad I didn't have to."
From that conversation, Luciana now had a better understanding of Lelouch. At the same time, having heard the full story about his mother, she understood why Lelouch was concerned for her. He was worried, given the politics of Lescatie and the treatment of its Heroes. Had Luciana somehow succeeded in her goal of surpassing Wilmarina, she could've been assassinated or ended up as a new playing piece for the kingdom's politics.
But you know, although it's strange, I think you and Elt are similar.
Lelouch and Elt couldn't be any different when comparing their personalities and background. On the other hand, they both had experienced losing everything in one way or another, and they managed to recover and forge ahead on paths of their own.
And not to mention both of them seem to be clueless when it comes to when women noticing them.
The young woman sighed in her mind, wondering if winning Elt's heart would still be possible despite him becoming an Incubus. Luciana knew a healthy relationship was no longer viable, and several lovers surrounded him, yet her heart yearned for him. She still loved Elt, but Luciana understood getting the boy she loved back was unlikely. Unless there was a way for Elt to regain his humanity, she didn't know what to do.
In the meantime, Luciana glanced at Lelouch before a thought came to mind. She wondered if she should tell Lelouch he had Koyoi and Olivie both eyeing him in a romantic light.
Nah, he'll figure it out, Luciana remarked with an internal laugh. Eventually.
Back in Lescatie, deep inside one of the rooms of the castle. The sisters of the Roper Queen had gathered in their new forms granted to them by Druella. As the new Queen, Francisca handled some of the day-to-day matters of the newly converted demonic kingdom. But her sisters knew that in reality, Druella held all power. Even now, they assumed Francisca was in the throne room having sex with her lover and the so-called new king of the nation alongside his other wives and concubines.
"This is unbearable," Isobella Mistel Lescatie remarked as she shook her body. However, she was feeling hotter in her private places than anywhere else.
Among the Monster forms, she could've ended up with Isobella had her arms transformed into wings with thick feathers covering her lower torso, her neck and head intermingled with hair, and her lower legs. Her new feathers matched the color of her hair. Isobella's eyes had also changed as well, but her clothing had black leggings and a white dress shirt with a red bow.
Isobella transformed into an Owl Mage, a Monster Girl that is part of the Harpy family. Unlike some members of the harpy family, Owl Mages possessed high intelligence and were natural spellcasters due to all of the energy stored in their feathers. Their fluffy feathers added more bulk, but at the same time, their magical power was far more considerable.
"I can't stand these feathers," Isobella continued displeased with her current form, trying to circle herself with her new limbs.
"At least you still have legs, sister," Swanson commented as she slowly approached her.
Swanson, the older of the three, had her legs replaced with a white serpentine lower body with white shimmering scales. Her skin had become paler while her hair had streaks of white within it. She wore white robes identical to the ones she had worn in the past but modified to accommodate her serpentine lower body.
Swanson had become a Shirohebi, a member of the Lamia Family known in the Zipangu Region. A warm and devoted monster girl, but she can be jealous at times.
"I still don't quite understand this form I have," Palatine Mistel Lescatie as she was leaning against a wall.
Palatine possessed the lower body of a lion, eagle's wings on her back with her arms possessing the claws of one. The warrior of the sisters became a Griffon, a beastman type of monster girl that once guarded the ancient treasures of the Gods. Griffons were aggressive and ferocious by nature, which oddly fit with Palatine's personality.
"None of us had much of a choice what we became," Swanson pointed out.
"If it's any consolation, at least those priests and senators aren't controlling the kingdom anymore," Palatine pointed out.
"Yes, I remember what father used to be like in his youth," Swanson remarked as all three sisters knew about their father's early life.
Castor Bistoa Lescatie, in his youth, was an idealistic man upon becoming king. Unfortunately, as good and noble, his intentions were and being reasonably intelligent, Castor was too gullible and sincere. He was ill-prepared to deal with the corrupt members of the nobility and the Church. Castor couldn't resist the influence and demands of the Church and quickly became reduced to a puppet king on the throne. Overtime, Castor lost his enthusiasm and self-confidence, and soon the people regarded him as a senile king whose tried and exhausted appearance made him appear older than he was.
The only one who supported Castor and tried to help him the most was his wife, Franchia Reinel Lescatie. Franchia was born of a family with strong ties to the headquarters of the Church, so their marriage was a purely political one. However, Franchia was genuinely in love with her husband, and she tried tirelessly to take care of her husband as his struggles against the kingdom's corruption took its toll on him. In turn, her efforts to support her husband affected her as well.
Even we became pawns in the political games of the Church and nobles, Palatine recalled.
But as the kingdom fell, Castor chose to stand with his daughters to the very end. Some of the sparks he had in his youth returned to him. No one was sure what might've happened to his daughters, but it was more than likely a political marriage would've been forced on them at some point.
"Anyway," Swanson decided to change the subject as she folded both arms around her waist. "What news of the remnants of the Order of the Chief Goddess?"
"I haven't heard much," Palatine shrugged her shoulders. "All I know is a few nobles, and low ranking priests who managed to escape are among the resistance. Beyond that, Eristia Vitral is the only heroine among them and the last one who hasn't joined our side."
"What about those who escaped with Zero?" Isobella inquired, moving her arms a bit.
"I don't know, but I am surprised he managed to fend off a daughter of the Demon Lord considering how we fared against Druella," Palatine commented, recalling what she had heard about the confrontation between Zero and Druella.
"Zero must've been much stronger than we thought," Isobella said, raising a wing to point at Palatine. "Remember when we faced him?"
"Yes," Palatine said as she remembered last month how she and Isobella faced Zero in a sparring match. "I remember that all too well."
It had been midday when Palatine first saw Zero, the mysterious black-armored mercenary employed by Priest Noscrim with an accumulated reputation. Intrigued and wishing to test her skills against him, her father and the priest arranged for Zero to face her in a sparring match. Castor agreed, mostly wanting to ensure his daughters would be ready for whatever challenges awaited them as they walked the path of Heroes.
The sparring match occurred in the castle's training yard.
"Your Majesty, it's a pleasure to meet you," Lelouch greeted the king with a polite bow.
"Thank you for coming, Zero," King Castor offered kindly. "Your reputation proceeds you, and Priest Noscrim has spoken highly of your capabilities,"
"You both are too kind, I am grateful for the compliments," Lelouch said politely, but as Lelouch gazed at the tired king with an expression of pity hidden under his mask. Although he didn't know the details, he could see the weariness and recognized the king as a mere puppet.
"Now Zero, we have summoned you here for a special purpose," Priest Noscrim began to explain before gesturing to Palatine. "First, we shall carry out introductions. This fellow woman is Princess Palatine Mistel Lescatie, her sister, Isobella Mistel Lescatie, and her twin Swanson Mistel Lescatie."
"The daughters of King Castor," Lelouch said as he respectfully bowed to the princesses. "I am honored to make your acquittances."
"We have heard much about you as well, so we thank you for coming today." Palatine replied as she eyed her foe.
Lelouch noticed this and soon began glancing at the training field.
"I see, so you wish for me to challenge her?"
"Very perceptive, and yes, you are correct. However," Priest Noscrim answered before explaining. "You will also face Princess Isobella as well."
"Two against one," Lelouch asked, which Priest Noscrim confirmed with a nod.
"Given what you are capable of, I worry it would make the fight too easy."
"I see, so I assume the fight will go on until my opponents are unable to fight back or I disarm them?"
"Correct," King Castor answered. "I wish to fully test my daughters to see if they prepared themselves for what lays ahead of them."
"I understand," Lelouch replied, although he was surprised by the sudden set up of this sparring match he kept his cool.
"Very well," Lelouch said, drawing his sword from his cape.
"I look forward to crossing blades with you," Palatine said, clearly eager to test her skills against Lelouch.
"I had heard by the time you were thirteen you were defeating more experienced knights in sparring matches," Lelouch said both to confirm her skill level while offering a compliment.
"Thank you, but I hope you'll live up to expectations and I'll make sure to live up to those you have of me," the youngest of the three sisters took a stance,
Fighting these two might be troublesome, but I can't exactly say no, Lelouch thought.
Two against one was difficult alone, but Lelouch was more than aware of how skilled with a blade Palatine was. Isobella was also a powerful mage in her own right. Lelouch began contemplating plans and tactics he could use in the battle to prevail. It might look bad for him if he were to lose.
I'll have to play defensively for now and see if I can create an opening.
Stepping onto the training yard with his sword ready, Lelouch stood a safe distance away from two princesses as Palatine stood in front of her younger sister. A tense moment of silence passed between them before Castor raised a hand.
During the wait, Lelouch had been quietly whispering a spell, and he unleashed it the moment Castor gave the word to begin.
Tall pillars of chilling ice erupted from the ground surrounding Lelouch, causing Palatine to pause her attack while cautiously looking for a way through. Isobella chanted a spell before releasing a stream of fire against the pillars of ice; however, he began grinning under his mask.
Perfect, Lelouch thought as the stream of fire reacted to the pillars of ice.
"Flow once more and revert from your frozen state," Lelouch chanted a spell that turned the pillars being struck by Isobella's fire into water. The black knight quickly followed up with another one. "Blanket the training field with fog to hide me from my enemies."
The sudden transition from ice to water combined with Lelouch's spell blanketed the training field in a thick fog blinding Palatine and Isobella.
Palatine backed away to defend her sister. Unknown to them, vines began slithering along the ground, seeking them out. Lelouch was using the conjured vines to not only determine the location of the sisters, but he was using them to either distract to grab hold of one of them at the first opportunity.
The elder of the sisters noticed the living vines before using her swords to slash them, but just before Isobella could cast a spell to clear away the fog, a dozen conjured vines grabbed her legs before dragging her away.
"EEEEEKKKK!" Isobella screamed as she got dragged away from her sister.
"ISOBELLA!" Palatine shouted in rage as chased after her sister, but more conjured vines and a wall of ice blocked her path.
Meanwhile, the warrior could hear a grunt along with a flash of light seen behind the wall. Palatine tried to get around desperately, and upon seeing what seemed to be a figure, she let out a battle cry to attack. Unfortunately, what she thought was Zero was one of the remaining ice pillars, but as the fog began to clear, Lelouch appeared behind Palatine poised to attack her with his sword. Palatine realized the danger in time before side-stepping Lelouch strike before deflecting his attack with her sword.
Angered that her sister got harmed, Palatine went into a berserker's rage. But instead of fighting more offensively, Lelouch fought a defensive battle. The black knight was content with parrying as Palatine continued to attack him furiously. Some onlookers wondered if the vengeful Princess cornered Zero, but Priest Noscrim recognized what was happening.
I see now, the priest recognized with a slight grin at Zero's devious and pragmatic mindset. Zero is letting the Princess exhaust herself fighting him, waiting for the moment to strike once she has tried herself out.
The fight lasted for a full five minutes, but soon it became clear Palatine had worn herself down from her furious and rage driven attacks. At the same time, Lelouch had been backing away to lure Palatine into a trap where dozens of conjured vines laid on the ground suddenly sprang to life once Lelouch pushed back her latest attack. Palatine was left wide open, and the tendrils seized her limbs tightly. Now that he bound his opponent in place, Lelouch used a smooth sword swing to knock her sword from her hand, disarming her.
To cement his victory, Lelouch held his sword to Palatine's neck as the Princess furiously fought against the binds holding her down.
"It's my victory," Zero said calmly before lowering his sword.
The result of the battle stunned the king. The black knight bested his strongest daughter in such a natural fashion.
Palatine's cheeks were red with a mixture of anger and embarrassment, but Lelouch didn't release his hold on her yet.
"You cheated," Palatine snapped back, clearly cradling a bruised pride. "You didn't fight honorably!"
"Will the monsters you will face fight honorably?" Lelouch asked, stunning Palatine and Castor. "I have encountered many monsters on my travels, and I have seen my fair share willing to use deceit and traps to ensnare people. True, there are warrior-like ones among them, but never expect a monster to fight fair and even playing field. When your humanity is on the line, you must prepare yourself to win by any means necessary."
With a hand gesture, the vines Lelouch conjured vanished, releasing Palatine.
"Furthermore, you allowed your anger to cloud your better judgment, which can be fatal in a fight against a competent and cunning foe," Lelouch explained. "Caring and wishing to protect your sister is a commendable desire to be sure, but keep your emotions in check. Otherwise, you'll allow the enemy to seize control of the fight from you."
Meanwhile, Swanson knelt to Isobella, using a healing spell to help her to regain consciousness.
"Ugh, Sister," Isobella opened her eyes and fully regained consciousness. "What happened?"
"I am afraid you and Palatine lost," Swanson answered.
"Princess Isobella, I would respectfully suggest you become more mindful of your surroundings," Lelouch cautioned upon noticing Isobella being helped to her feet by Swanson. "You all have the potential to become formidable, but you have weaknesses that you must overcome. Otherwise, you'll lose."
"Wise words Zero," Priest Noscrim offered in agreement.
"And we didn't learn the lessons he imposed on us," Isobella remarked, recalling the end of that duel.
"No, we didn't," Palatine sighed as she leaned against a wall. The youngest among them words were reluctant, but no one could deny it.
"The fact that he was able to not only fight a Lilim on equal footing but escape her," Swanson remarked, clearly impressed with Zero's feat.
"Any word on Zero since he escaped?" Palatine asked, clearly curious but prompting Isobella to shake her head.
"It seems Druella is just as eager to locate him as we are," the former priestess caught her tail, making a slow slithering.
Ever since the sisters became monsters, their desires ignited, and there was one man of their interest. As humans, they were simply curious about Zero, given both the mystery surrounding him and his potent magical abilities and skills with a blade. It was innocent curiosity the sisters had towards the man, but one thing that intrigued them.
Zero didn't know it, but the duel had a second purpose.
I couldn't believe what I had found, Swanson remarked. Yet there was no question about it. Zero possessed the Blessing of Kings.
The Blessing of the Kings was similar to that of Heroes but with one noteworthy difference. Only those with royal blood could possess it. However, there was an issue about what royal family Zero belonged to, which was extraordinarily rare in itself.
The Blessing of the King grants those who possess it the same benefits as the Blessings reserved for heroes. Swanson commented internally. However, it also gives those higher magical power and is a sign of great destiny for the possessor.
Swanson used her connection to the Chief God to investigate Zero, who soon made the discovery.
But even more shocking was the fact she did not give Zero the Blessing of the King. That brought an important question, if the Chief God did not bless him, then who did?
The discovery was shocking, but both her father and Priest Noscrim urged them to keep quiet about their discovery for now. But ever since they transformed, it fueled the curiosity of the sisters, who wanted to know who Zero was. Their interest turned into something that mixed with their new monster instincts.
Each of them grew to yearn for Zero and wished to make him their husband.
Innocent curiosity has transformed into desire.
Back on the island, Lelouch and Luciana finally returned from Muspelheim. Upon dropping off all of the ore they collected, Luciana presented her fragment of Surtr's sword to the brothers at their workshop.
"Now that is a good-sized fragment," Brokkr complimented.
"So, could you make me a sword with it?" Luciana asked eagerly.
Sindri approached to examined the fragment, "I think it could be one of our best works yet. We used smaller fragments to craft Lelouch's chain whip you have seen him used."
"Really," Luciana asked, which made her eager to see what the finished sword would be.
"Certainly, we'll get started after we finish Wilmarina's new armor she asked for," Sindri said, gesturing to a wooden mannequin that held the complete components of Wilmarina's new armor.
Like Luciana and Zero's new armor, Wilmarina's would have the same black undersuit, but she would wear chainmail made of Mithril over it for added protection. The chainmail would cover her upper torso, arms, and her upper legs, but thanks to being light as a feather, she wouldn't notice it. Wilmarina's forearm bracers were be replaced with armored ones, but with attached gloves that would cover her hands, but they also have metal on the top of the hands and fingers to strength punches. The chest would have a dark blue tunic made with enchantments weaved into it to provide a series of different protection enhancements.
However, the forearm bracers and gloves had enchantments to increase Wilmarina's strength, which she could increase further briefly through the application of magic into them. Her leather belt had pouches like Luciana's, but it featured a red cape like her original yet trimmed with gold. The tunic opened below the waist parting at the side, allowing some of the chain mail dangling down like a skirt that covered her thighs and protected her upper legs. The feet of the mannequin had armored boots, which had the same speed and agility enchantments as Lelouch's armor.
The only part of the armor seemingly incomplete was the breastplate and the helmet.
"You guys get a lot done very quickly," Luciana commented, finding herself very impressed once again by how much work the brothers could accomplish in a short time.
"We don't mind," Brokkr said with a dismissive wave. "It keeps us busy, and we love making weapons and armor. After hers, we'll be making new armor and weapons for your friends next."
"Right," Lelouch said before deciding to ask. "That said, do you know where Wilmarina is?"
Deep with the demonic realms, countless monsters generated mass amounts of activity. At the pinnacle of it all, the Royal Makai established itself, which housed the most massive fortress and city in Midgard. Not even those made by the Order states compared to it. It had the usual black trees, glowing plants, perpetual night, and blood-red moon that characterized other lands of its type. The amount demonic mana was also so thick that it highly aroused all monsters within and sapped away the humanity of even veteran heroes.
Usually, despite the effects on non-monster species, the Royal Makai was a bustling city where trade and tourism flourished. However, this was a rare occasion with a lot of activity for another reason, the fall of Lescatie. But it wasn't just the fall of the second-largest Order that made it very eventful. It was the announcement made by Lilith and Druella in response to what happened.
Within Lilith's castle, the Demon Lord was meeting with her daughter Druella, but this time, Lilith had her daughters and guests attending this meeting. Just like how her castle was oversized, mostly composed of bedrooms for the Lilim and their husbands, the throne room was equally significant, complete with a large red carpet that went to the staircase, black pillars, and rows of seats to the sides.
Seated near Lilith was a Baphomet with peach-colored skin and light brown fur matching her hair with purple eyes wearing black and purple bikini armor with a red and dark green cape. Upon her back was a scythe as big as herself. It had a pink and red blade with a yellow and red orb at the center. She also had goat-skulls around her horns as a decoration.
"All Sabbath leaders have arrived," The Baphomet said, bowing politely to Lilith.
"Well done, Bapho-Chan," Lilith said, thanking her right-hand girl.
Bapho-Chan's real name wasn't known, but what was known was that she was the oldest and most powerful among her kind. Bapho-Chan serves as the supreme commander of the Demon Lord's armies and oversees the other Sabbaths through the Baphomet Council of Elders, who approves them. Much of Bapho-Chan's history was a mystery to such that even some questioned if the Baphomet they were seeing was the real one.
Kuroferuru and her twin sister were among those to arrive along with Runya Runya. The sleepy Baphomet appeared to be drinking a potent canteen filled with espresso shots, or something akin to it to help Runya Runya stay awake. In the company of Kuroferuru, however, was Lucella, who quietly followed behind her superior.
Soon the other Sabbath leaders arrived.
"Will there be games at this meeting?" a young Baphomet asked Bapho-Chan.
The Baphomet asking the question wore more youthful attire consisting of black shorts with purple tights with hearts upon them. She also wore a black tank-top with a heart on it with a white coat with frills around it. She had a tan complexion, light green eyes, short white hair around her black horns, and brown fur.
"I am sorry to say no, Momonika," Bapho-Chan answered regretfully.
Momonika, known as the Lovely Goat of the Playground, was the leader and founder of the Playground Sabbath. Unlike other Sabbaths, this organization did not conduct any kind of magical research but instead focused on having fun and living like children. However, they did create playground equipment for monster children to play on while the Baphomet offered her line of clothes for them.
Despite her childish nature, Momonika was a gifted prodigy in magic, which led to many feeling disappointed when she chose a different path.
The next leader to arrive offered a watermelon being hauled by a small wagon to Bapho-Chan.
"Hello Bapho-Sama, I have watermelon for you," the kind-hearted Baphomet offered.
Looking the part of a simple villager and farmer with her attire, the Baphomet wore blue pants with suspenders and a white shirt. She had her long blonde hair tied into long braided pigtails, a fair skin complexion, purple eyes, and white fur with brown horns. Most unusual on a Baphomet was her considerable bosom for someone of her size, which was an effect of the produce her village grew.
"Uh, thank you, Marune," Bapho-Chan said before gesturing for a guard to take the guard away. "I'll be sure to enjoy it later."
Marune, known as the goat-horned village girl, was the founder and leader of the Farming Sabbath. Their goal was to grow high-quality produce and animal products using magic. Afterward, they would ship and distribute it all through their Sabbath's distribution network.
Suddenly, a Baphomet howled before running by Bapho-Chan.
"Ropurotto, do not run in the throne room!" The leading Baphomet snapped.
Ropurotto was an unusual Baphomet since she wore no clothes at all other than a collar, panties, and a tag. She instead had fur and hair with different shades of pink on her feet and arms. She looked less like a goat and more like a beast with paws for her hands and feet; the only characteristic she had typical for a Baphomet was her short black horns.
Such a form was fitting for her Beast Sabbath's field of theiromancy, a type of magic for imbuing oneself with the power of a beast and making things look cute. All of her members were beastly both in physical appearance and nature. While looking cute and young, they were supposed to also be sexual like many other monsters.
The last to arrive was the leader and founder of the Medical Sabbath and the founder of pharmacomancy. She wore a white uniform under an oversized lab coat she wore. The Baphomet had long black hair styled into two long thin pigtails with pale green eyes and a fair skin complexion with pale lavender fur.
"Welcome to the meeting, and thank you for coming, Dr. Greilia Little," Bapho-Chan greeted politely.
"Thank you, Bapho-Sama," Greilia offered respectfully before locating her seat.
Besides the leaders of the Sabbath, the others arriving at the Demon Lord's castle was the two rulers of Demon Land Nations. One was Dionola, the Empress of Dragonia in the company of Great Songstress Difina, the ruler of the seven islands of Count Alf. However, they were not alone as they each brought a small group of others with them.
"Who would have thought that Zero would be working with the Order?" Accompanying the Queen of the Dragons was Alto-Eris. As a part-time tour guide, she had noticed a slight increase in new immigrants to their country. Many were from the former Theocracy and talked about the black knight sending them there, which puzzled the girl. "I heard the stories, but still, the fact he was in Lescatie all this time continues to startle me."
"His actions intrigue me as well, as does our other accomplice," Dionola turned to Marietta, who hesitantly requested to join them. "His tragic encounter in Sadia must have alienated more than I thought."
"The question here is why," the Dragon Knight wondered as she came across Difina's group.
"I don't know, but maybe we'll find out together."
Within Difina's group were the other Divas representing the seven islands. Levin is the most noticeable not just with her recent rise of fame but also the uneasy aura she gave off in her mana. Lilynanna, Meivia, and Arial seemed to be aware of her mental state, which is why they were the closest to her.
"You don't have to be that fucking protective of me," the Thunderbird gave her grievances.
"You're not fooling us," Eustine replied nearby. "We know how you long for Zero, as do we."
"We all have an idea," Meivia lamented, remembering the incident when the black knight left the island. "Why Zero would be in an anti-monster state all this time."
"Tch," Levin clicked her tongue, wanting to spit at the other Diva, despite speaking with regret in her voice.
"It's alright," Lilynanna supported the Diva as they continued to follow the ruler of the islands along with Asura Mythra and Fulafel. "That's why we're joining this meeting. If all else, maybe we can understand him more."
As the Divas and Dragons went to their seats, one other guest arrived on the scene, who was only noticed by now caffeine-heavy Baphomet.
"M-M-M-Miss Spherica," Runya Runya motormouthed as she noticed a familiar face appear before the other Sabbath leaders.
"Why, hello again, Ms. Runya Runya," Next to arrive was Saphirette Spherica, who followed behind the group before a guard showed her to her seat, made explicitly for Dark Matter beings. "It appears that we see each other a lot more often than normal."
"And you sure are more energetic than normal today," the Dark Matter girl chuckled and teased. "Has something happened?"
"Ms. Runya just had a drink to help her stay awake," Greilia addressed. "I will have to watch her health for the next few hours to ensure she returns to her normal self."
"Of course, I could fill her in later should she suddenly fall asleep again," Saphirette offered. "I'm already acting as a stand-in for the Wandering Scholar, after all."
When the leader of Polove received Lilith's invitation to the meeting, the Wandering Scholar was in the middle of visiting her for his next publication. Since he was not planning on heading to the Royal Makai anytime just yet, Saphirette volunteered to represent him in exchange for a few more ads in offering herself. Her elementals stayed behind to watch the green Demon Realm at the same time.
"Besides," the Dark Matter woman admitted, recalling a certain black knight from many years ago. "After hearing about Zero's recent exploits, I just had to see everything for myself."
Saphirette then faced Druella, who was among those in attendance sitting near her mother. However, she was not the only one.
Standing near his wife was a man in his early twenties with short brown hair, dark green eyes, and a fair skin complexion wearing black plate armor trimmed with gold and a cape. He wore matching pants and boots with a sword sheathed on his waist.
His name was Yuusha, the husband of Lilith and the greatest hero humanity knew before he married Lilith.
The said Demon Lord then rose from her throne upon seeing everyone take their seats.
"Thank you all for coming," Lilith greeted everyone. "I am delighted to see that everyone here has attended."
"Indeed, it has," the Fallen Hero lamented as he viewed all of the participants. The most notable ones were those among his daughters. "It's been a long time since we had such a gathering. I forgot when it was that we had all of our leaders and daughters brought together here."
Besides Druella, the daughters of the Demon Lord like Mari and the Queen of Hearts were also present. However, they were seated off to the side so they could observe the meeting. Many members of the Fallen Faith were in the audience as well.
"Come on," a voice said, causing Lilith to notice some late arrivals.
One of them was Elt, and he was in the company of both Sasha and Francisca, with the latter trying to hurry.
"I am hurrying," Francisca said, winded by the journey. Thanks to the portal network established, travel between even the newest Demon Realms was easy. However, a trip to the actual castle from the closest hub was still a hassle. "It seems this new body isn't very fast when it comes to running."
"Ah," Lilith paused to see the new arrivals. "You must be the new Queen of Lescatie."
"Of course, I am, Your Majesty," the Roper Queen bowed to the ruler of all monsters. "It is an honor to meet you."
"As it is to me," Lilith returned the greeting. "I heard from my daughter about what happened during your childhood. It is a shame that you had to go through that while you were still human."
"P-Please, Your Majesty," Francisca's face reddened. "I do not wish to talk about it. It's all in the past now."
"I understand," the Demon Lord sighed before going to her other guests. "Nonetheless, I am grateful to see you joining us."
"We're honored, Your Majesty," Elt thanked Lilith in place of his lover. "However, it is a shame that we couldn't bring everyone we wanted."
While the new King and Queen of Lescatie were invited to participate, the former was disappointed that he was unable to bring the once closest to him. Furthermore, Druella did not give him the reason why the Fallen Hero of Lescatie could not come, which added more to his frustration. However, she did not seem to like it either, and after everything the Lilim did for him and all of Lescatie, he did not dare to question it.
"Indeed," Lilith also regretted as she turned to her daughter by her side. "But we do have our reasons, at least not like those of the Chief God."
"We understand well," the new convert of the Fallen Faith spoke up. "I am happy to be part of the new faith. With your power, I can now see the truth and bring it to the rest of the world."
"Very well then," Lilith then looked up to the audience above. "You are free to join the rest of the faith if you wished."
"I shall do that, Your Majesty," Sasha knelt before joining with her audience. Although it was not as elegant or proficient as other winged creatures like Dragons and Succubi, her short wings were able to provide flight, something most convenient to massive multi-leveled structures like the Demon Lord's castle.
Elt and Francisca followed their new in-law with them to get their seats. With their presence around, Druella signaled her mother to begin the meeting.
"Now I have summoned you all here to discuss recent events at Lescatie, and Zero," Lilith explained as she looked at the gusts from the other monster states. "Most of you called her today had met Zero at least once. Just about everyone here already heard of what transpired in the Kingdom of Lescatie, including how Zero faced my daughter and escaped. But recently, we have learned some interesting things about him."
The Demon Lord then signaled Shirokuto, who brought out a Projecting Mirror. The mirror was a magical item that transferred a recollection of scenes. They can capture single images, but more advanced techniques could record entire videos from the perspective of the user. Furthermore, with the use of Transference Magic, two-way communication from anywhere in Midgard was possible. Of course, only those with the knowledge and capacity for such advanced techniques could cast it.
The Projecting Mirrors also allowed the monsters to share the information with others, though a common one was showing off them having intercourse with their husbands. While Statues of Wisdom were useful in storing knowledge, hence Shirokuto's request for one, it was only available to those capable of interfacing with them. Therefore, the mirrors helped those like Shirokuto's underlings to publicize their discoveries better.
"Now," Lilith announced as Shirokuto began chanting her magic and thoughts into the mirror. "We shall show you everything we discovered before drawing from my daughter's memories."
"Somehow, I expected to find you here."
Lelouch surprised Wilmarina, who had been alone standing on the rooftop of a ruined structure within the city of Agartha. Ever since she has the process completed, she wanted to be alone in her thoughts. After seeing all of the weapons created by the brothers, she had wandered the ruined city. Currently, the young woman had been sitting alone on a broken stone slab, gazing out at the ocean. Yet somehow, Lelouch managed to find her there.
"I guess we haven't spoken in length for a while," Wilmarina responded to Lelouch's appearance more calmly.
"No, we haven't," Lelouch approached her with both hands behind his back.
Before seeking out Wilmarina, the former prince had been mindful to remove his helmet, deciding to speak to her without his mask.
"So shall I call you, Your Majesty?" Wilmarina offered jokingly. "Of all the people I thought could be under that mask, an actual prince was the last thing I expected."
"So, you got that far in your reading up on history?" Lelouch merely sighed before joining her on the stone slab, sitting beside her. "I am a former prince, so I reject whatever royal titles I had. Besides, I want nothing to do with the royal family."
"For everything that happened to you, your mother, and your sister," Wilmarina asked with a saddened expression, which Lelouch replied with a nod. "Those stories you told me, they were based on your experiences, including the one you told the orphans."
"Olivie told you about that?" Lelouch asked, which led to Wilmarina nodded in response.
"It all makes sense now why you hid your identity, even though the Empire you came from is on a different world."
"True, but there are signs that had me concerned if there were other ways onto my world," Lelouch said before explaining. "Did you know my world has legends about vampires, werewolves, and other monsters seen in your world? They are very different from the ones we know, but I have wondered if they were from my world, or they were monsters who had somehow crossed over from your world?"
"Koyoi told me that. You said that they even worship a few monsters as deities, as humanity's protectors."
"Yeah, well, there many religions out there who see monsters in a more positive light. Some even are classified as such just by following a certain religion like witches. And many would rather go to help and defend humans when they were in peril, even if they got themselves hurt in the process."
"The way your world treats monsters sure sounds much different from mine," Wilmarina admitted with an uneasy smile. "I doubt those legends would've held back in our world."
"Maybe," Lelouch looked away. "But nothing changes the fact that monsters exist, and there's a problem with them that we have to solve, without acting indiscriminately against them."
"What do you mean?" Wilmarina asked, eyeing Lelouch with a bit of confusion.
"Don't think I don't realize what you have in mind. You plan on going back to reclaim Elt and defeat Druella once you have your new weapons and armor, don't you?" Lelouch said sternly. "As one with a grudge against Britannia and its Emperor for seven years, I know what to look for."
Wilmarina froze for the moment. She didn't know how he knew about it. But then, she recalled her conversation with him during the campaign at Moonin Valley, when he told her the first time.
"Havi told me as well, about how you wish to improve your armor and weaponry," Lelouch folded his arms. "Considering what happened in our fight against Druella and what you know about my weaponry, it's only natural that you want to get stronger."
"And is there something wrong with that?" Wilmarina lowered an eyelid at him.
"No," Lelouch bluntly said before adding. "I also know how it feels. Now that you're no longer part of the Order as their strongest Hero and your father's puppet, you think you got nothing to lose. But that's the real problem."
"Why would that be a problem?" Wilmarina demanded more of a straight answer for what he implied.
"A whole lot of reasons, but to summarize it all, you haven't thought it through," Lelouch insisted. "First question, where do you think you'll start once you get back to your world?"
"Well," Wilmarina stuttered. "The old house where you lived. That's the closest place to Lescatie, isn't it?"
"You're wrong," Lelouch said with complete honesty. "When Lescatie fell, I ensured that the house self-destructed before the monsters could get to it. And even if the doorway was still around, that only presents another problem; you'll be facing monsters from the start.
Wilmarina was about to speak up before she caught herself. It was the start of Lelouch driving the point across.
"You'll be facing monsters on your way to Elt, attracting everyone's attention. The key to victory is to be discreet, especially if you're wielding the only weapons effective against them, which is a secret all by itself that Lilith and her cohorts should be getting their hands on. The Heroes may also not like your return. Rather, they appreciate what the monsters have done for them, considering the circumstances comparable to yours."
The former leader of the Order of the Ice Flower tried to say something in protest, but the words wouldn't come out.
"Then, there are your friends and all those others who have become your Elt's wives by now. Forget about being able to overpower them, even with their new strength. Will you be able to kill them, let alone try to save them? How about the other members of the Holy Ice Flower who are still here?"
Those words brought her the attention of Luciana, who peeked behind the corner. Koyoi and Primera were also beside her but for different reasons. Unknown to the pair, Luciana, Koyoi, and Primera had followed Lelouch to observe his talk with Wilmarina, having suspected what the discussion would involve.
I had a feeling it would come to this, Luciana thought. Thanks for intervening, Lelouch.
"I just," Wilmarina pounding her fists onto her legs as her head hung low. Tears then began streaming from her eyes. "You can't expect me to forget about them! Or Elt! I am finally free to live my own life, and yet I lost the one I wanted to spend it with, so-"
"So, you want to not only take him back, but you want retribution, don't you?" Lelouch said, causing Wilmarina to look up at him with tears still in her eyes. "But because of what happened, once you take Elt back, he won't be the same."
No matter how much he might change, Elt would never abandon those he has taken as his wife. He was never the type to leave his friends, given how he followed after Wilmarina by joining the military.
Luciana sadly looked away. The young woman looked down at the ground and acknowledged that even if they could get Elt, he would never be the same again. Furthermore, as an Incubus, they would just end up joining Druella's faction, which seeks to do to the rest of the world like what they did to Lescatie.
I know how much it hurts Wilmarina, but you know as I do, there is no getting Elt back. Luciana thought to herself, remembering the words she would have offered to Wilmarina. The boy we loved is gone.
But Luciana realized that her rival for Elt must have come to the same conclusion.
"I'm sure that Luciana here has thought of the same idea."
Lelouch turned to the startled knight, who had Koyoi and Primera staring at her. The blonde girl wondered precisely how they were spotted, but did not doubt that they weren't discreet about it.
Wilmarina looked up at the sky as more tears rolled down her cheeks.
Even if I was successful in reaching Elt, what then? If I brought him back, he would refuse to be away from his new wives and would try to have me join his harem.
The young woman could not even handle some of those who had joined. It wasn't that Wilmarina disliked them, but the fact Elt was willing to bed children deeply disturbed her. Wilmarina knew Elt would never have engaged in anything like that, but he was now corrupted and beyond saving.
Or rather, it would be a pointless endeavor. There was still Druella, and even Lelouch couldn't harm her.
"You know the truth, attempting to go back to save Elt or achieve revenge would be doomed to fail," Lelouch said at last. "And when I mentioned the other Knights we have, I don't mean just those who are human or half-human," he turned to Primera who shriveled with a red face. "No doubt they'll hate to see you on an impossible mission of which you'll never return. It's about others you may hurt, too."
Wilmarina looked over her shoulder at Koyoi, Primera, and Luciana.
"In case Koyoi and the others didn't tell you, there's a Umi Osho on this island. Unlike the monsters we fought, they're harmless and would never try to attack anyone."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Well, you should have already known by now, since you heard about me years before joining the Order," Lelouch reviewed. "When I first stepped on this world, my first step of business was to explore the monster realms. Mizuko was the first, but I managed to make other friends along the way, far more than I may have liked."
"Would you like to know that I once developed relations with the rulers of two monster realms?"
"Really?" Wilmarina faced Lelouch in stunned disbelief. "How did you manage that?"
"It's a long story, but what I am trying to say is that if you want to get back at Druella, I might have a way," Lelouch suggested. "I have no intention of letting her do what she wants and force people against their wills to be monsters. Do you?"
Wilmarina looked at Lelouch before nodding her head.
"I lost Elt because of her. If I can't get him back, then I want to even the score at the very least. I want people to live their own lives and have the freedom once denied to them, like me."
"I think we can work together to change our worlds for the better if you are interested," Lelouch said, offering his hand. "As you know, I have beef with a mortal enemy of my own."
"Your father," Wilmarina recalled. "The Emperor of Britannia, which you said could beat even the Demon Lord."
"An exaggeration, if you call it," Lelouch admitted. "But the Empire is a lot more competent and dangerous than the Order of the Chief God, and I would rather have them stopped than be able to take over your world, too."
Wilmarina was not exactly sure of that. But considering the options, it was better than continuing with her futile plan to go back.
"At least it will allow us to regain our strength," Lelouch offered. "And we'll able to find new allies who'll have against our enemies as much as we do."
"At least until Druella gets here," the Hero admitted that she had pessimism. "I bet even her mother would want to pursue you."
"We'll have to face her and her daughter eventually. But when we do, we'll have an army of our own at our backs that can match her."
"Then, we can finally do what no one else can. Change the world, both Midgard and Earth, for everyone's sake."
Wilmarina eyed Lelouch's hand before accepting it. If there was anything the two had in common, besides being a position of Royalty, they had lived a lie for way too long. But now, they can finally do what they could not do before, both save and avenge those they all held dear to them. The feeling was mutual within the trio who watched them; while Primera sighed once more, Koyoi showed red cheeks, and Luciana chuckled. Things were about to get more interesting from there.
The meeting continued the leadership became intrigued by the revelations. Shirokuto just went over the details regarding the materials Zero left behind. The first was the corpse of Zero's elemental, which already sparked thoughts among several participants in the meeting.
"An elemental that has not yet transformed," Saphirette smirked. Naturally, elementals were very vulnerable to the corruption of demonic mana as the four under her command could attest. Seeing a genderless one and like the monsters of old was not something he expected. "Who would ever think those still existed?"
"I never knew that such materials existed," the normally-sleepy Baphomet admitted. "It is no wonder he managed to fight Lady Druella."
"Yes," the Dark Matter admitted. "But that can't be the only reason he was able to fight her."
Up in the audience, the trio thought more about those who escaped from Lescatie. Unknown to everyone, Druella and her two Baphomets informed Lilith and Shirokuto not to mention anything about Wilmarina. The fact Elt and the others were around would mean any mention of her would cause an uproar. Yet, they were safe enough to share about the other members who escaped, particularly the one who about the dummies left behind within the prison and Paula's mansion.
"So that's what happened to the others," Elt commented, although he had heard details about what happened. "That's pretty sneaky of Zero to leave behind a fake corpse of Alameria and Paula."
"I am glad Alameria survived, but," Sasha commented, but her sentence trailed off.
"Your friend is quite impressive," Francisca commented. "I would like to meet him."
Elt suddenly chuckled much to the Roper Queen's confusion.
"What is it?"
"I don't why," the new King admitted. "But for some reason, I think Zero would think the same way."
As Shirokuto's introduction to the tools left behind ended, the mirror showed an image of the doorway within Zero's old home.
"We know Zero comes from another world, and we have evidence to prove it, thanks to this door," Lilith explained before an image of the key Druella saw appeared in the mirror. "Furthermore, we know Zero needs to use this key to open it."
That door, Lilynanna thought.
Little did anyone know they had seen such a door recently. After trying to question Mizuko about the key she had, the two could not get more out of her, because they knew threatening or causing a Umi Osho leads to other monsters reacting violently or the Sea God cursing them. However, Levin and Lilyanna knew Mizuko had a connection to Zero, so they followed her by tailing her from the air.
They followed Mizuko from Sadia to the Island of Mira, where Mizuko entered a mansion located on the island. When Mizuko did not emerge, the two had managed to break into the mansion. The pair had found the villa scarcely furnished, but in the basement, they had found a door just like the one Lilith had shown them.
That confirmed to the two Divas that Mizuko had a clear connection to Zero.
While they contemplated the mystery of the Umi Osho, another thought then came to mind.
"Hold on a minute," Francisca stepped in. "Exactly how did Zero this manage to pull this off?"
That was a question on the Roper Queen's mind. Granted, she only heard about Zero recently due to sheltered life when she was still human.
"I have to agree with the new Roper Queen," Saphirette added. "Considering the nature of Druella and her Sabbath, these tools should already be corrupted now. So why aren't they already?"
"We are aware of that ourselves," Kuroferuru admitted while turning to Lucella. "Zero is not like any other Heroes, and it's not just because he has no real devotion to the Chief God."
"My dear goats speak the truth," Druella admitted. "As you all know, I fought Zero during my invasion of Lescatie, yet against all the odds, he managed to defy and slip away from me."
"So it is true," Levin stepped from her seat. "He really did fight you!"
"B-But that's impossible," Sasha was also shocked.
"Actually, not necessarily," Dionola stepped in. "Zero's immunity to our mana is not a new case as we can attest."
"For those who do not know, one of our dishes was about igniting one's lust," Alto-Eris shared. "However, he managed to eat an entire thing and not feel anything. We all saw it ourselves."
As the Dragon Knight explained, Marietta blushed as she recalled the black knight defending her that day.
"I also heard that he even the song of a Siren," Mari said out from the audience, turning to the Divas. "My apologies back there, as I didn't know that would end up that way."
The Divas then came to realize what happened. They remained silent, but the nearby Divas saw that the Thunderbird among them was not convinced. Her lack of regret in her voice did not help matters.
"Huh, I never thought such a thing would happen," Yuusha turned to his wife. "I thought that the mana you gave to everyone could turn anyone's mana into itself."
"Indeed, yet he manages to resist it," Lilith said with worry in her voice. "My daughter even states that when fighting her, he was the only one who never got tired."
"And based on that information, I concluded that even I found unimaginable," Shirokuto announced. "Zero's mana is not like spirit mana. It is more like our own, with the ability to convert more of itself. Except instead of promoting monsterization, it prevents that and that of those around him. For the lack of a better description, his mana is not corruption, but of purification."
Shirokuto's hypothesis caused an uproar among the audience. Even those who were not paying attention like Momonika and Ropurotto jumped over that statement, realizing what that meant.
"The ability to purify demonic mana?" The leader of the Library Sabbath seemed to wake up from such news. Even she never realized such a thing was possible.
"It would make sense," Kuroferuru, of all the Baphomets, ended up supporting her sister. "There is no other explanation as to how Zero has these kinds of powers."
"True enough," Druella admitted herself. "However, I believe it's even more than just that."
"And that would be?" Lilith had a bad feeling what her daughter insisted, already shaken by the fact someone would resist her power.
"I believe it would be better if I shared the whole exchange that I had with Zero back then."
"If that makes things easier," the Demon Lord insisted. "Please show us everything."
By then, Druella channeled her own power into the Projecting Mirror. For a Lilim, sharing all of her memories was not hard, and it was not long before she finished. By the time she finished, the mirror already projected her battle against Zero for everyone to see, start when the black knight had blocked her attack.
"I guess you are never the type to lower his guard."
"Of course, but I am not surprised you are still pursuing us,"
"Yes, so it seems. Answer me this Zero; why do you oppose me? You are different from those with the Order."
"Even if I told you, you'll never understand."
"Is it because of the so-called Empire you seek to overthrow?"
Mumbling began in the crowd, which similar to the half-elf's confusion within Druella's memories. Only Levin, Lilynanna, and Mari had the faintest clue of what Empire she discussed. While they did not have any idea, the representatives from Dragonia raised some eyebrows. On the other hand, most of the Baphomets, Saphirette, and those from Lescatie had no idea.
"I suppose I said too much then."
"And yet with everything we've learned about you and that giant you summoned to fight me, you are not of this world, are you? And it appears that you brought others to your home, didn't you? Your real home."
"Leave my goals and my origins out of this. This enemy is far beyond your comprehension, which makes the Order look like chumps. Not even the Gods- No, even your mother won't be able to put them down."
More mumbling began in the crowd, with some members being more vocal. The Demon Lord had her fears confirmed with her husband even more unnerved.
"Someone stronger than Mother?" Dionola was just surprised as most of those in the audience. She recalled her conflict with Lilith, which resulted in the Queen of the Dragons, causing a lot of damage to her own home. Granted, Lilith did nothing more than deflect or avoid her attacks, but to think there'd be something out there as strong as her.
Sasha herself felt scared for the first time since her conversion. Elt wanted to calm her down, but hearing that someone could overthrow the Gods did not sit well with him either.
On the other hand, Mari remained skeptical, as did Druella. But there was still the fact Zero managed to resist their mana, which further piqued her interest.
"Really?" Druella asked, clearly intrigued. "So why did you deem us unfit to be allies? We may avoid killing humans, but as regrettable as it is to admit it, we have killed in self-defense when left with no choice."
"No, it wasn't just that. Although I did fear that a competent general of the Empire would take advantage of that."
"What was it then?"
"The chief problem is their overindulgence in sexual pleasures."
That recalled some bad memories for Levin Dil and the nearby Divas with the Thunderbird once again glaring at the tenth princess in the above audience. Sasha also raised some eyebrows to her conviction.
"Don't mistake me for someone who believes in the Order's views on the matter. I do approve and encourage how some monster states like Dragonia creating situations where monster girls and men can meet and build proper relationships together. I do take issue with them simply taking a man and forcing him against his will, and people like you who take away the choices of others by turning them into a monster."
"They do complain and plead for me to stop, but they always thank me afterward."
"After their minds and bodies have been completely transformed. It's one thing if they chose to become monsters, but I do not approve of anyone who forces it. Even if you claim it for their benefit, forcing and even seducing what you believe to be good onto others is no different from an evil act."
Francisca felt the same feeling of insult as Druella, but Levin and the other Divas seemed to agree. Lilith did not feel right with the man's words, believing this was a misunderstanding as she turned to her daughter.
"I believe in giving people the right to choose their own path in life, and the world I want is one where kindness extends to everyone, even strangers."
Sasha heard a gasp from her husband as if he found some realization.
"What is it, dear?" the Dark Priest inquired.
"Those words," Elt answered. "It almost sounds like something he'd say when he talked about Franny."
"Zero talked about me?" Franny turned to her husband.
"He did. I don't know why, but it almost sounded like he cared about you."
"Oh, really? And why would he do that?"
"I don't know," Elt admitted, knowing how little people cared about Francisca when she was human. "Maybe he has someone similar? Someone close to him like a family?"
While the new Queen of Lescatie hummed in the background, the representatives of Dragonia came to a realization.
"So, that's what it is," Alto-Eris spoke first.
"I know," Dionola knew what the Dragon Knight was going to say. "It's like the Great Dragai Empire all over again."
While the Red Dragon was uneasy about Zero becoming an enemy of the monster, there was one thing that she burned with passion inside her. It was the same thing she felt when the man Dell rose against the nation that once ruled Dragonia as if history started to repeat itself.
"I wonder if this is fate," Dionola remarked that also prompted Marietta to blush as the exchange continued.
"Then I suppose besides methods, our goals are the same. My mother shall create a world without suffering or pain."
"Then what value would things like happiness and love have if we do not feel the pain to further their value and meaning? It is also what gives people an identity. It makes me what I am now; don't take my scars from me."
Lilith's eyes turned into glares. But this time, it was not at Zero, but rather at Druella, who felt her mother's aura becoming more hostile.
However, she also noticed something uneasy about Yuusha.
"What is it, my husband?"
"Zero," the Fallen Hero answered, not wanting to lie. "For some reason, he sounds a lot like something I would say."
"Why would you feel that, my dear?" Lilith asked, worried about his state.
"I-I don't know," Yuusha shook his head. "I just feel that way."
Before Lilith could inquire further, the exchange continued.
"Even when sexual desire is within everyone? Even those who have yet to become monsters are sexual by their own right. They just have yet to realize it thanks to the machinations of the Order."
Those two words gave another shock to those in the room.
"You're mistaken, Druella. Life and love are both more than just seeking a soulmate to live with for the rest of their lives. And it is more diverse than just between a man and a woman."
The monsters remained confused about what Zero talked about, though Mari and Saphirette had some sort of idea.
"More diverse than between a man and a woman?" Saphirette wondered. She already felt nervous about such a powerful enemy have such resentment towards the monsters' culture, though she guessed that was inevitable considering how he was from another world. But the idea that other kinds of relationships besides the classic heterosexual ones caught her interest.
Mari had about the same idea as to what he meant. Specifically, it was about her encounter with some monsters interacting with each other. Besides harems and threesomes, there were also Honey Bees that collected nectar from the Alraune plants and their Liliraune counterparts. However, neither of them were deep relationships as a man's spirit energy was more important to them.
The memories ended as Zero then declared in his memories.
"It is way too early for me to be anyone's lover just yet. I will destroy the Empire and create this new world myself, and then I'll retire with such ideas in mind."
"I see. It's a shame, really. For a moment, I thought we'd reach an understanding, but I see that it's not possible."
"Maybe if you understood people better. But until then, we are enemies, especially of your kind."
By then, the memories ended with the audience left with a mixture of emotions and responses. Lilith had to release her energy to quiet everyone down.
"I know that you all have your thoughts about this," the Demon Lord assured. "However, one thing is for certain…that we have inadvertently made a powerful enemy out of Zero. While he has no ties to the Order, it doesn't change the fact that he seeks to wage war on us."
"But Your Majesty," Bapho-chan turned to her superior. "What about this Empire that he mentioned? Could it be that they're just as powerful as Zero?"
"I disagree," Shirokuto objected. "Those words sound like he was desperate. While the Empire he speaks of does indeed sound dangerous, it sounds like he's making them bigger than they really are."
"I would not argue with that," Lilith sided with the White Goat. "Nonetheless, it's clear that there's an enemy out there who is much stronger than the Order. And that excludes what the mysteries lay behind Zero."
The audience fell silent before Lilith continued.
"I will not ask much from any of you. I do not wish to force anyone to do an incredibly difficult task. However, I will take note of anything that involves the other world, including more about these doorways to the other world. I entrust that you would do well to lead the efforts, Shirokuto?"
"Of course, Your Majesty," the white Baphomet bowed to the Demon Lord.
"As for you, my daughter," Lilith shifted her attention to Druella, changing to a sterner and more scornful look. "We need to talk when this is all over."
Upon hearing those words, Mari felt a little amused about what awaits her older sister.
How amusing. The daughter who Mother entrusted takes over the second most powerful nation of the Order, and this is her reward?
While the tenth princess of the Demon Lord contemplated what awaited the leader of the Radical Faction, others shared the same sentiment as the Demon Lord. The most notable one was Levin Dil, who gazed at the Lilim.
By her side, Lilynanna feared what the Thunderbird was about to do. However, she also feared what would happen if they told anyone about their discovery, mostly because of Druella.
We are not telling anyone what we found.
While she hated to admit it, the Siren decided to keep the investigation to themselves. For everyone's sake, this was something that even Lilith should not know.
A/N: Whew another surprisingly big chapter done, and now all parties have been brought up to speed on Zero with some unexpected revelations uncovered by Francisca's sisters. As for their possibility of any of Francisca's sisters actually becoming members of Lelouch's harem, and the limit is twelve max if I can manage it otherwise seven is the minimum, will be dependent on reader reception to the idea.
As mentioned at the beginning I am expecting the formation of the harem will take a very long time, so everyone will have a fair chance to win their place in the harem.
Now I know some are eager to see Lelouch and party visit Earth together, but I expect maybe one chapter and a half-more should be enough to ensure the group has had more than sufficient time to prepare for Earth. I not only wanted to get the ball rolling on their new weapons and armor, but I wanted to ensure they had a believable amount of time for Lelouch to help prepare them for Earth to avoid any kind of crippling culture shock.
And we'll have more details about the meeting in the following chapter when Lilith speaks with not only Druella, but those close to her regarding some things she kept out of the meeting.
Also a lot of ideas for this chapter was inspired by God of War, Lord of the Rings, and Starcraft II (take a guess at which part) and a bit of Skyrim here and there.
Due to a lack of info on Lilith's husband we based the Fallen Hero off of Yuusha from Maoyuu Maou Yuusha.
Furthermore Levin and Lilynanna now know they have an active door that leads to Earth on their hands, and they are keeping quiet about it. But how long before Mizuko uses it again through?
That's it for the chapter, and the poll on my profile page has concluded for the time being with Vermut keeping her dragon transformation. I do have another one, but I'll wait until the posting of the next chapter to post that one. But for now I got something else.
Thanks in advance for your reviews and feedback, its greatly appreciated.