He finally succeeded. The Enchantress' essence was finally his. He can finally begin the distillation process.
Plague Knight extended his small arms upwards, holding the incomplete potion high enough for the last of the essence to resonate with the others. Colors exploded from the containment, a fantasia for the eyes as the essences surrounded the enchantress', colliding elegantly until they finally merged into the fabled elixir he and Mona took years to perfect.
Everything he has done has led up to this moment of triumph as the potion slowly descended into the knight's green, sweaty hands.
He could hear his heart pounding in his ears as he watched the colors inside change rapidly. It was perfect. Now, he can finally be strong, powerful enough to confess what had hidden away for so long. So agonizingly long. He could not help but smile as he imagined his rose-tinted future; a future where he and Mona are loved ones, betrothed, doing what they do best; becoming the best alchemists the world has ever seen.
It was perfect. Everything will be perfect!
His thoughts of the grandeur were interrupted however when the feeble knight heard metal on metal and footsteps rush his way. It was Black Knight.
"No! Stop your assault!" Black Knight pleaded. "Look! I've brought someone!"
After he said those words, Mona graciously rushed inside. Plague Knight's eyes immediately focused on his blue-haired maiden, his heart softening as she ran past Black Knight and only stopped when she was a few feet away from him.
"Plague Knight! Come to your senses…" She begged. "You don't need to go through with this!"
Mona's statement confused the green knight. After everything they've done, she wanted him to just stop? No, no he was doing this for her. He is going to use this potion to become someone worthy of her love. He has to. He has to.
"Mona! You don't understand!" Plague Knight said. "I was too weak to say it before, but now I can show you I'm good enough!"
Mona shook her head. "Black Knight told me everything." She took a few steps closer. "You don't need a potion to win me over. You already have!"
Almost immediately, it felt as if Plague Knight's heart had stopped. He couldn't believe what he had just heard. Mona loves him the way he is? Small, weak, pathetic him? And yet the sweet smile she gave him was all the proof he needed. Tears started to well up in the green knight's eyes, though none were able to bear witness when it was hidden behind his mask. It felt all the weight of the world was lifted off of his shoulders. He felt lighter than air.
His eyes widened when he realized when he was actually being lifted off the floor by the potion that was now starting to destabilize.
"Wh-what?" Plague Knight stuttered, his hands feeling as if they were glued to the glass as he tried to let go of the potion. "I…but it's too late, I already defeated the Enchantress and began the final distillation!"
Black Knight cursed himself. The Enchantress wasn't here anymore! He needed to find her before it's too late! "I must go after her!" He went to run back to the tower entrance when he stopped himself and pointed at the two alchemists. "You two—touch nothing until I return."
Mona raised a brow when the Black Knight disappeared into the corridor—as if things weren't already falling apart as it is.
The essences were going out of control, colors flying in and out of the potion as it pulsed vehemently as if it was about to explode at any moment.
And Plague Knight was helpless to stop it.
"Where is all this…power coming from?" He yelled. "This wasn't in our notes!"
Mona had to shield her eyes as the potion grew brighter and brighter, threatening to blind the female alchemist. "The essences are reacting unpredictably!" Then suddenly, the potion burst. The essences escaped in a calliope of colors before reversing their course, aiming directly at the exhausted, plague knight. She ran to him. "Watch out!"
But it was too late. The colors zeroed in on him and when Mona tried to shield him, both instantly met with black.
Mona awoke to find herself on the ground, alive but weak. It felt like something ran her over with a carriage. She felt lightheaded and her knees felt weak, but she was able to get back onto her feet. It took a minute for her eyes to finally focus before she could finally absorb the area around her. But what caught her eye the most was the black mist surrounding her colleague in front of her.
He was standing there, his head and shoulders drooped, his hands twitching. The black mist completely covered him, only show his silhouette.
Mona took a step forward. "Plague Knight?"
He didn't move nor respond to her.
She took her chances and moved closer until she was only an inch away. She knelt down until she was eye level and reached a hand out towards him. "Plaguey?"
When her fingertips were about to the brush the top of his head, the mist vanished into the air as colors ascended from the plague knight's form colliding once more to form the ultimate potion. Mona jumped back in surprise as Plague Knight reached up and grabbed the potion from the air, as if he hasn't fallen under a trance just mere seconds ago.
Mona took a deep breath. "You did it! The reaction has stabilized!" She had no idea how he did it or why he was surrounded by such a thick layer of dark mist, but she was just happy he was okay. "…wow…there it is…the ultimate potion…" She looked from the blue potion to Plague Knight. "Well…are you going to drink it now?"
Plague Knight held the potion down to eye level as he gazed into the swirling bottle. "Heh. I…" Unbeknownst to Mona, what Plague Knight had seen—what he had fought—terrified the alchemist. He didn't know what it was; his shadow, his desires, his obsession? But whatever it was, it made the Plague Knight think twice about the "Ultimate Potion" that was in his hands.
Besides, he already got what we wanted.
"I don't…think I need it anymore, Mona." He finally said, putting the bottle away inside his cloak pocket.
Mona smiled. "But we-"
Mona was interrupted by the tower suddenly shaking. A large explosion could be heard above them, coming from somewhere higher in the tower. Chunks of the walls and floor have started breaking and falling from above. Debris littered the floor as the two alchemists were forced onto their knees when balance seemed to be impossible with how ravenous the earthquake was.
A large boulder fell a few feet away from Mona, causing the stone floor to splinter, the cracks spreading as more large rocks started to fall and break into the floor.
"Mona!" Plague Knight called out as he slowly crawled towards her. He hobbled as fast as he could, but his large sleeves kept getting in the way. Even so he was determined to get to Mona to give whatever little protection he had from the chaos.
But he was too focused on her to see a large piece of debris heading straight for him.
Her adrenaline kicking in, she sprinted to him as the world seemed to slow down. Her long strides helped her keep balance as she narrowed the distance. Plague Knight noticed and immediately stood to his feet in hopes to embrace the rushing beauty coming his way. Instead he was shoved away just as a large chunk of the tower made contact Mona; hitting directly on the head.
Plague Knight watched in horror as his love went rigid and her unconscious body fell forward and collapsed onto the floor, hard.
He ran to her and did his best to cradle her head in his lap. Blood started to drip down the side of her face from a small gash the rock had left behind. Panicking, Plague Knight tried to arouse her by gently slapping one side of her cheek, but there was no response. He grabbed a spare health potion and lifted her head, pouring a little of the substance into her mouth in hopes she would ingest it, but it wouldn't go down.
He didn't know what else he could do.
Bigger rocks started to fall from above, the ground becoming more and more unstable as the cracks grew bigger and were ready to break. If he didn't do something soon, they would both surely die.
But what can he do? There's only so much a bomb can do in this situation without making it worse, he is too weak to carry Mona, the rocks have closed the only entrance long ago…
…he can't do anything.
Tears spilled down Plague Knight's cheeks. His chest felt like he was being squeezed until all the air was out of his lungs. His hands wouldn't stop shaking. His beak crinkled into a scowl as he wished he wasn't such a weakling, none of this would have happened.
He wished he was strong enough to save them.
He wished he was-
Plague Knight's eyes widened. He dug into his cloak pocket and pulled out the Ultimate Potion, it's blue light illuminating the two alchemists. He stared hard into the swirling vortex inside the bottle.
He can use this. He can use this to make himself capable of saving Mona.
The thought of that thing he had faced crawled in the back of his mind. But he can't be scared now, he can't afford to. Not when Mona's life is at stake. If he has to face that shadow of himself again to save Mona, he'll gladly do it. He would do anything to save her!
He uncorked the top and pulled out his straw and placed it in the potion. He squinted and looked into the bottle, butterflies fluttering in his stomach as he slowly raised the tip of the straw to his beak.
In a swift motion he drank all it.
He placed the empty bottle on the ground and repositioned himself, so he was by Mona's side. For the first time Plague Knight prayed that this potion would work, after everything they've been through it has to work.
But he didn't have to wait long, the effects were almost immediate.
Everywhere; his head, his back, his legs, his hands…Pain. So much pain. He tried to scream but no sound came out. He could feel the bones break and reposition, his muscles tearing and reshaping, his veins and nerves on fire. He could feel himself grow bigger, his fingers growing razor sharp, his plague doctor mask breaking to reveal an identical but larger beak, yet oddly enough it seemed like his clothes was growing with him.
But the worst of it all was his back. Something erupted from his back, tearing his flesh and adding a huge weight as it seemed to stretch and grow until it overshadowed his already large body.
Then the pain stopped. Plague Knight immediately collapsed to the ground, taking large gulps of air as he tried to steady himself. His mind was in tatters from the trauma, yet strangely he had never felt more…alive. He could feel the power flowing through him, a strength he had never once carried.
Between feeling scared or determined, he didn't know how to feel.
His inner turmoil however made him feel something flap.
He slowly turned his head to find a pair of large wings gracing his back. He gave them a test flap and let out a yelp when they responded—a yelp that was much deeper and gravelly than expected.
A light went off in his head. He could fly them out of here.
He didn't hesitate.
When he reached down to grab Mona he was taken aback by how…small she was. But he didn't have time to wrap it around his head when the tower began to crumble, large pieces falling, revealing the outside world as the floor began to collapse.
Plague Knight quickly grabbed Mona and held her close to him as he ran to the opening that broke open in front of them. He jumped out and the ground was replaced with air.
Gravity took hold. They started to fall. Adrenaline kicking in, Plague Knight opened his wings. Flap, flap, flap, flap, please flap! He scolded himself as he continued to fall.
It was not graceful, but he was slowing their descent until they were finally at a standstill. His flapping was very unsteady, but he was starting to get the hang of it—though he was sure if Mona was conscious right now she would probably be feeling pretty nauseous.
A large boulder barely skimmed him, reminding the knight that they weren't quite out of danger just yet. He lost his focus for a moment before composing himself to lurch forward and fly towards the Explodatorium for the care Mona desperately needs.
He needed to work on his landing.
He didn't want to go through the front entrance, he didn't need to deal with his minions right now—especially given the circumstances. Instead he opted for the balcony that connected to his room. In his mind he figured he would try to ease himself onto the balcony and squeeze through the door, instead he ended up crashing into his room when he quickly realized he didn't know how to slow down.
Luckily, he was able to protect Mona from the impact and some of the broken and wood and stone that fell on him. It hurt but the pain was surprisingly dull. He felt much worse from hitting his pinkie toe on a table leg.
He was able to get up and move the debris off of him without compromising his hold on Mona. He carefully shuffled over to his bed, removed the covers and slid her underneath, pulling the sheets up to her chest before tucking her in.
He sighed. It felt like a large weight was lifted off his shoulders. They weren't in danger anymore, they were out of that crumbling tower and back at the Explodatorium, they were safe. But now, Mona needs medical treatment.
Although Plague Knight resembled a plague doctor, he was, in fact, not a doctor and had very little to know about medical science. Luckily—or unluckily—he has hurt himself through experimentation enough to know how to at least do some basic treatment.
He pulled out a small first aid kit from underneath his bed and placed it on a side table. He opened it to reveal many bandages, a small bottle of pure alcohol, and a needle with complimentary thread.
First things first, gotta disinfect the cut. He told himself as he grabbed a small cloth and poured some of the alcohol onto it. He carefully placed the cloth over the gash. Mona exhaled through clench teeth in response.
Plague Knight's heart skipped a beat. "Mona?"
Plague Knight clasped his hands over his beak. Was that his voice? It couldn't be, it sounded so wrong. It sounded too deep, too gravelly, too…
Then there was a pounding on the door.
"Boss? Boss is that you?" A muffled voice asked.
"Was that explosion you, Boss?" Another asked.
Plague Knight panicked, his wings puffing in response.
"Maybe it's an intruder?"
"Should we open the door?"
"NO!" Plague Knight lurched forward and slammed his body against the door. Realizing what he had just done, he's lucky that the door is still standing.
"What was that?!"
"That can't be the boss!"
"It has to be an intruder!"
"That voice is too scary to be our Boss!"
Plague Knight's blood ran cold. His voice…was too scary? His attention went to the bathroom across from him, his reflection showing what he had feared most.
It was…that thing. He was that thing.
No, no….no, no, no…
He was a monster.
No no no no no no no no…
Tears swelled in his eyes.
His heart stopped.
He slowly turned his head to see Mona sitting up, looking at him, her eyes half focused; the cloth on her wound sliding off and onto the sheets.
No, she couldn't see him like this. She cannot see him like this.
"Open the door!"
"Open the door!"
Mona rubbed her eyes and she gave one long look at Plague Knight, her eye finally focusing. Her expression fell. "Plague…Knight?"
Tears streamed down his face.
In a broken voice he said, "I'm sorry…" Before rushing out through the hole in the wall he had carelessly made.
It all happened so fast; Mona barely had enough time to register what she was looking at—Plague Knight but…bigger? With wings? Before he rushed out of a hole in the wall? The minute his figure jumped out, Mona flung the sheets off of her and staggered to the wreckage in time to see Plague Knight fly away and disappear into a forest nearby.
She called out to him but to no avail. He didn't come back.
The door to Plague Knight's room burst open. A small flock of his minions rushed in, bombs at the ready when they stopped in their tracks to only see Mona gazing out through a large hole in the wall.
"Where did the intruder go?" One said.
"Did it flee? Did it get scared of us?" Another said, puffing out his chest.
"Hey isn't that the Boss' partner?"
They didn't get an answer to their burning questions when Mona rushed past the confused birds and out of the door. Her head pulsed as she tried to remember the layout of the Explodatorium. She still hasn't fully recovered from her head injury yet, but she knew she didn't have the time for that, she needed to act fast.
She needed to find Plague Knight.
She needs to know what happened.
A stray potion hit the female alchemist as she rounded a turn, leaving a small burn mark on her right arm. She hissed as she held her arm close to her, examining it only to find a small red mark—nothing too serious, but she needed to take care of it soon before it left a scar. The culprit gawked at the wounded alchemist and sheepishly yelled a "sorry" before running flapping away before.
A scowl graced her features. No wonder Plague Knight doesn't care much about his minions. She thought to herself as she continued down the corridor. These guys are accident prone!
When she finally reached the exit, she was blinded by the sun. She paused for a moment to shield herself from the bright light before running off towards the direction she last saw Plague Knight heading.
She ran, jogging down a small trail as her lungs burned and her head continued to throb. She was not the athletic type, and she was getting more of her dues when her brain felt like it was going to explode as it is.
When she felt she was deep enough in the forest, she called out for him. There was no response, but that didn't deter her from stopping. She slowed her pace to a fast walk as she continued down the small trail. The cover from the trees provided a nice shade for the exhausted alchemist as she trudged onward until she arrived to a small opening.
She moved a few of the shrubs lightly obscuring the end of the trail and entered to find a clearing with a small pond reflecting the beautiful, blue sky.
Her eyes fell on a lone figure at the edge of the pond and she felt her chest lighten.
It was Plague Knight.
He was hunched over, it looked like he was looking at his reflection in the pond. It didn't seem like he was aware Mona was there yet. She slowly walked over, her hand subconsciously grabbing the burned mark on her arm, it still stung but that was the least of her worries right now.
Closing the gap, she got a better look at him. His new wings were the first thing she caught, it easily towered her and him. It looked like he still wore his trademark cloak, but other than that she couldn't discern anything else when his back faced her.
Even when she was only a few feet behind him, Plague Knight still didn't register that she was there, it was only when she appeared by his side, her reflection looking up at him that he finally did.
"Plague Knight?" She softly called out.
The said alchemist jumped and let out a deep squeal before accidentally diving rear-first into the shallow pond. The water splashed and soaked the bottom Mona's skirt. Her smile widened as a small chuckle escaped her lips. Nothing hasn't changed, the poor, green knight still gets easily startled when he gets so absorbed in something; Mona had to admit it was one of the cutest things about him.
Plague Knight looked at her in shock. "M-Mona?"
Hearing his deeper voice again was like a slap to the face. Mona's eyes widened, surprised by the voice as well but her smile never faded. She never imagined she would hear such a low pitch from the green alchemist.
Plague Knight was reminded of his predicament and immediately used his wings cover himself, not wanting to see his lovely Mona see what he had turned into.
Mona's smile fell. "Plague Knight?"
His wings bristled. "M-Mona…I…"
She carefully swathed through the shallow pond to reach the self-conscious alchemist. She reached out and carefully touched one of his wings, feeling the soft feather on the tip of her fingers. He flinched and she reluctantly moved her hand away.
"Mona…I…I don't want you to see me…like this."
"Plague, what are you talking about?" She answered softly.
"I'm…I-I'm…" His voice became broken, holding back a sob. "I'm a monster."
"You're not a monster, Plaguey." Mona assured as she subtly looked for the opening in his wings. "Just because you had a growth spurt doesn't mean you're a monster."
When she found it, she opened his wings to see Plague Knight looking down at her with teary eyes. She smiled up at him. "I told you already…you already won me over." She closed the gap and embraced him. His breathing hitched, his arms held out awkwardly before finally returning the hug and wrapping them around Mona. He leaned into her, careful not to put all his weight on her, and basked in this moment.
He has waited for this moment for such a long time…
…it was everything he had hoped for.
It was worth the wait.
They stayed like that for a long time until Plague Knight was the first to break it off, instead opting to her hold her little hands in his. "You're not…scared of me?"
Mona blinked in surprise until a smirk deviously crossed her lips. "Scared of you? Plague Knight you are anything but scary."
"Yes really." She did her best to squeeze his large hands with hers in affirmation. "I love you, Plaguey. I'm afraid whatever excuse you try to give to make me think you're not worthy isn't going to work; So sorry to say…your stuck with me."
Plague Knight's couldn't help but snort from the cringey retort, his beak widening into a big smile. "Hee Hee Hee. Oh Mona…you always know just what to say to cheer me up…"
Mona smiled. "I've had a lot of practice…you want to get out of this pond? My feet are getting cold."
Plague Knight's eyes widened as his wings fluffed up in embarrassment. "O-oh uh…y-yeah! Hee hee! We should get out of the water…"
Still holding his hand tightly, Mona led him out of the water and back over to the grassy edge. She coaxed him to sit down next to her as she poured out the water in her boots and allowed it to sit to dry. Plague Knight sheepishly watched, feeling bad that he made her walk into the pond—at least it was shallow.
Afterwards, the two gazed out at the pond, marveling the shimmer of light reflecting off the water. They don't usually get to slow down and take a moment to take in their surroundings, alchemy is a tedious study and it can be hard to take a break in something you're very invested in. Even so, their results always ended being something even greater than shimmery water.
Mona was the first to break the silence. "So I take it you drank the Ultimate Potion?"
"Was it right after I…uh-"
Mona paused for a moment before leaning against Plague Knight. "Thank you." She whispered.
He didn't respond, instead he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer to him. She welcomed the embrace and leaned into the touch.
"I love you Mona." He angled his beak to lightly nuzzle the top of her head.
The minute he paused, Mona reached up and grabbed his beak before he could have a chance to move away. Plague Knight froze and gave her a flustered look. Mona gave him a playful smile before pulling him close until her nose booped his. "I love you more."
She closed the gap and gave him a small kiss on his beak. His cheeks burned bright red as his wings started to mildly flap in unconstrained excitement. Mona couldn't help but watch in amusement as Plague Knight got pouty when he finally noticed the playful smile stretched into a smirk
"You're so adorable." She chided.
"I'm not adorable!" He retorted, puffing his wings out.
She laughed at the cute display of anger. Her laughter was cut short however when she felt two hands lift her up into the air. "P-Plague!"
"Who's cute and adorable now?!" He mocked as he effortlessly held her up in the air like a child.
Mona started to laugh again. "N-no put me down!"
Plague Knight gave her an exaggerated sigh—not wanting to part from his new toy—and gently put her back on the ground in a huff. Mona's eyes watered a little as she finally calmed down from her laughing fit.
She subconsciously rubbed the sore spot on her arm, the pain resurfacing after Plague Knight squeezed her, but she paid no mind to it. Plague Knight on the other hand couldn't help but notice. He lifted her sleeve a little to see a red spot about the size of her hand on her arm.
Plague Knight's eyes widened. "What happened to your arm? D-did I do-"
"No, no, no! I got this earlier." She immediately answered, rubbing the hand that lifted her sleeve in assurance.
"What happened then? It looks like a burn mark."
Mona sighed. "One of your "minions" accidentally threw one of their potions at me when I was making my way through the Explodatorium."
Plague Knight growled. "Those idiots, I swear…sometimes they're more of a hassle than they are helpful!"
She patted his hand. "I've had worse though, this is nothing."
He lifted her arm to get a closer look at the wound. "Still, we should soak this in cold water."
He scooted her closer to the water and extended her arm out, submerging into the pond. Instantly, Mona felt relief from the burning sensation, dulling it to a more numbing sensation.
"You worry too much." Mona said. "We didn't need to do this now."
"The sooner the better! Hee Hee!" He said nervously.
Mona placed her other hand on his lap, patting it gently as the two quietly took in the surrounding area again. Although, Plague Knight's attention was more to her arm than to anything else.
She had a feeling of what was going on in that alchemist's head.
"You're scared to go back…aren't you?" She guessed.
Plague Knight closed his eyes and hung his head in defeat—he couldn't keep anything from her could he?
"Y-yeah…I am." He confessed.
She leaned into him. "It's okay to feel scared, you know. We can stay here a little longer until you feel comfortable."
He slowly raised his head and turned to give her a sad look. "P-please?"
She grabbed his arm and nestled into his chest. "Okay."
He hummed in relief, the rumbling in his chest a soothing feeling to the female alchemist. She never imagined she would ever fit so snugly into his lap until now. He removed her arm from the pond and dried it with his sleeve before placing back by her side. He lowered his head until it nestled perfectly on top of Mona's head, enjoying the peaceful moment.
"Plaguey?" Mona asked.
"Yes Mona?" He answered.
"You know I'll always be there for you…right?"
A warm smile stretched across his beak. "Yeah…but…can you still remind me? Just in case?"
A warm smile of her own reached her lips as a small chuckle escaped her. "Of course, my Plague Knight."