Chapter 9

Delusion and Tragedy

Louise kept her hands on her face while Vasyl watched arms crossed. "Well…that was uh…rather awkward to go through." "You have no idea how embarrassing it is…" Louise muttered "You were trying to molest me, yeah I have some idea" Vasyl said rather sarcastic. Louise reddened even further "Ha! We could milk this for days!" Derflinger laughed on Vasyl's back. Louise grumbled something unintelligible. "I'm not mad," Vasyl said serenely "I just hope that it doesn't happen again." Walking around the school of Tristain on the weekend was a perfect time to talk; they had avoided each other during the school days. Louise was embarrassed by her behavior at the Ragdorian Lake; Vasyl just put all of it in the back of his head and spoke naught a word. He even made sure Montmorency and Guiche were silent. He said blackmail was dirty but he knew how to use it.

"Okay, now that we've gotten through accuracy, all we need now is reaction time." Vasyl said as he outlined the schedule for their lessons. Louise nodded paying attention. Unfortunate that someone had to interrupt.

"Darling!" Kirche tried to wrap herself around Vasyl and as usual the Spartan moved out of the way. Tabitha was right behind them, still reading a book; Vasyl had a mind to ask her just how many volumes she had. "Were you spying on us?" Louise grumbled though she already knew the answer. "I just wanted to see your heartwarming reconciliation!" Kirche answered. "Well, okay" Vasyl said. The Spartan was already getting used to her antics. "Oh Darling, don't be so sarcastic and gloomy, I just aim to make you smile!" she said flirting with the Spartan.

"I saw a most interesting person today on the road, it seems Prince Wales had some business in Tristain!"

Louise and Vasyl froze, the Spartan's faceplate depolarized and Kirche's smile faltered as she saw the shock in his eyes. "What?" Vasyl asked quietly.

"That… can't be Zerbst," Louise said slowly "Wales is dead. I-we watched him die"

Kirche blinked "But I saw him riding off with someone down the road. They were heading towards Ragdorian Lake." Vasyl swore quietly to himself then proceeded to go to Professor Colbert. "Vasyl!" Louise exclaimed "Where are you going?"

"To get a weapon" Vasyl answered.


Ragdorian Lake

It was foggy and eerie. Tabitha and Kirche watched the back while Louise and Vasyl were on point. The Spartan held the MA37 in hand as he surveyed his surroundings. They eventually came across several corpses; their clothing indicated that they were knights of Tristain. Vasyl saw a heavily wounded one leaning against the tree. The knight raised his arm feebly. "What happened?" Vasyl asked as he knelt beside the dying man. "P-Princess H-Henrietta was kidnapped…we were o-ordered to chase her…the kidnapper h-he…" the man coughed once and never spoke again. Louise watched as Vasyl closed the man's eyes. She looked stricken with grief, behind her Kirche was shaking visibly angry and Tabitha still had a stoic look though her eyes betrayed a cold merciless fury. The Spartan stood. "Let's go…" he said softly leading the group.

Wales had a lot to answer for.

/

The attack was almost unexpected but Tabitha reacted with a speed that even a Spartan would be impressed with. She deflected the spells with superior skill. The title of Chevalier was obviously well earned. Six shadows had appeared in a semi circle around them, Vasyl knew they should be dead but now the nobles raised their wands. Vasyl raised his assault rifle. He recognized one of the undead "Prince Wales," he said coldly "This is unfortunate." The dead prince just smiled "How so? Henrietta is reunited with the one she loves…" Just as he said that Princess Henrietta was at his side, dressed in her white gown, she wasn't smiling and her eyes were blank and Vasyl could see an incredible amount of self-loathing.

"Princess!" Louise exclaimed, begging and pleading with her childhood friend. "That's not Wales, that…thing is using you! Please come back to us!"

Henrietta winced trembling then she sighed sadly and said "Louise, kind Sir Vasyl…I order you to turn back and leave at once." The Spartan narrowed his eyes.

"Princess…" Louise whispered worried.

"No, Louise!" Henrietta's voice turned into a desperate shriek "Leave, you must leave now…Please!" Vasyl could hear the anguish in her voice.

"Princess, that thing is not Wales!" Louise pleaded "I'm begging you princess…please come back to us."

Henrietta gave a sad smile. "I know…and I hate myself for it." Her voice was…calm and laden with small hysteria. "Do you know how it feels to lose someone you love? Vasyl? Louise? It hurts, that's why I'm asking the both of you to leave…please, my dearest friend. As my last order as Princess…I'm begging you leave…" she drew closer to Wales and the dead prince sneered.

That was when the Spartan made his decision. Vasyl stepped forward menacingly, like someone who wanted a bug crushed.

"I am afraid I cannot comply with that order, princess." Vasyl said curtly. His voice was very cold. Louise looked down. This wasn't the friendly Vasyl anymore. This was the Vasyl that fought Guiche the Bronze and nearly killed him; this was the man who broke through the window of the church and clove Viscount Wardes' head in two. And today this was the Vasyl that would kill Henrietta's most cherished Wales again without blinking an eye. The killing intent was strong; Henrietta's hand trembled as she stared down the barrel of the Spartan's rifle.

Vasyl readied his rifle "I will not stand by while these…abominations walk away with you. Princess, drop the wand or I will be forced to treat you as hostile. This is your only warning." Henrietta trembled but refused to comply. Vasyl chambered a round as he kept the targeting reticule on Henrietta's head. No one dared to move. Louise looked between both her familiar and her friend.

"Hands up princess. Do it now and we will not have to fight" Vasyl warned one last time. And just as resolutely Henrietta glared.

"I refuse Sir Vasyl, you will not hurt my Wales" Henrietta declared as her hand relaxed. "I refuse"

"No?" Vasyl said coldly "Fine." The Spartan opened fire blasted three of the dead nobles away with the Assault Rifle, the powerful 7.62mm Armor Piercing Rounds ripped through the bodies like a hot knife through butter.

Before the other two dead nobles could react, Kirche and Tabitha let off simultaneous blasts of fire and ice killing them once more. Vasyl then spun and charged Wales aiming to disable him…and was promptly knocked back by a wall of water, Vasyl's shields recharged as he rolled to his feet and made the switch to Derflinger.

"I will not permit you to harm Wales!" Henrietta cried waving her scepter once more.

"Forgive me Princess but I won't let you hurt Vasyl!" Louise answered raising her wand and battle was joined.


Vasyl blocked the two royal's magic with his sword while Louise, Kirche and Tabitha traded blasts with them. The forest became a deadly battle ground as both sides threw magic around. But both Royals were very skilled, even Vasyl had a hard time dealing with their magic. This was bad, Henrietta was actively attacking them and Vasyl was hoping for a nonlethal blow to her so he could take down Wales with the others' help but they were strong. It was only going to get worse. Tabitha narrowed her eyes "Rain," she muttered as the clouds gathered above.

Vasyl tightened his grip on Derflinger. "This is bad Partner" the sword said "I know" Vasyl answered as he watched the rain intensify.

Henrietta's eyes turned steely. "God favors us! Water Magic is invincible in the Rain!" Wales and Henrietta combined their magic, wind and water mixed into a deadly tornado and it slowly expanded towards them.

"We can't win," Kirche panted tiredly "My fire and even Tabitha's wind cannot stop this." Vasyl tightened his grip on Derflinger.

"Even so…I will not turn away" Vasyl said quietly as he stood before the raging storm before him.

"Girlie! The book!" Derflinger suddenly shouted. Louise took out the prayer book and saw that it was glowing she turned the pages quickly. "Dispel…Vasyl! Give me some time!" She commanded and began her chant. Vasyl nodded, this was it…All or nothing. Placing one hand on Derflinger's blade he tightened his stance as the storm approached "Derflinger, I trust you on this!" He pushed against the wind as it nearly engulfed him. His shield bled energy and the alarm shrieked in his ears. The Spartan's boots slid across the wet grass but he kept pushing forward even as his shield drained. The alarm rang in his ears and he heard Henrietta cry with regret "You should have stayed out of my way, Louise Françoise! Forgive me!"

Hold the Line! Vasyl's mind raged YOU DO NOT GIVE UP, YOU WILL HOLD THIS LINE SOLDIER!

Louise completed her chant "Dispel!" The Void echoed out of her, dissipating first the whirlwind her familiar held back and then it washed over Wales, driving away the dark will that had revived the corpse and finally Henrietta.

Vasyl's shields recharged as he exhaled. "Nice work Derflinger," he said. "You owe it to the girl over there she saved us. I didn't think you'd survive that, no offense tho partner." Derflinger said Vasyl felt banged up…a few bruises but it was worth it. "I'll be fine Derflinger," he said softly as Louise walked over to him tiredly.

Vasyl was about to turn when Kirche finally latched her arms around Vasyl's shoulders. "That was so amazing Darling!" she said as her large chest pressed against his back. Vasyl muttered "Why?" inaudibly. "You didn't even flinch against the princess' best magic!"

"Stone Wall…" Tabitha said reading a book, an umbrella of air kept the literature safe from the rain. "Kirche now's not the time. And I'm serious, let go." Vasyl said not even turning to her as he and Louise approached Princess Henrietta's still form.

"Princess, wake up…" Louise said gently shaking her. Henrietta opened her eyes at first she looked around quickly and then her eyes lost their luster as she saw Louise's tired face and the stoic face of her familiar in the depolarized faceplate. The princess closed her eyes in deep regret, she flinched as Vasyl offered a hand.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…" Henrietta whispered and repeated the apology over and over again.

"You have no need to apologize to us, however good men died trying to rescue you." Vasyl said calmly "You should probably apologize to them." Henrietta looked down guiltily. She felt nothing but shame.

"I…I…" Vasyl helped her up gently. There was no anger in his actions; Louise was just looking at her worriedly. She couldn't face the both of them; one was a dear friend and the other a kind and strong soldier.

Wales was still alive. "F-Familiar…" the corpse spoke feebly. Vasyl and Henrietta turned towards him "Wales…" Henrietta quickly knelt down. "I…I thank you for stopping me, Familiar…I apologize." Wales rasped looking at the Spartan as he crouched respectfully.

"There is no need for that…" Vasyl spoke softly "You were under someone's control. I am sure that had we met under other circumstances I would not have raised my weapons against you. I truly regret having to turn my blade on you both."

Wales nodded then turned to Henrietta "Ann my love…" he whispered as Henrietta tried to use water magic to heal his injuries. "D-Don't…" Wales said placing a pale hand on hers. "I…It's my time…" The princess blinked "No, no you…you can't…you can't leave me…" she sobbed tears streaming down her cheeks. Louise clutched Vasyl's hand and the Spartan let her.

"I have one last request Henrietta…" Wales whispered softly. "Name it!" Henrietta cried "I'll do anything…please, please don't abandon me…!"

"Forget me, swear that you will forget me…and find someone else to hold onto…I have lost that right with my actions…forgive me, my sweet Ann."

"No! I can't do that…I love you Wales! I-I just can't forget you…" Henrietta sobbed.

"Please…I don't want to wander for eternity, and I do not want you to live on in grief…Please Henrietta…" Wales was growing weaker with each passing moment.

Gritting her teeth Henrietta made the oath. "I…I swear to forget you, Wales…and I will find another man to love…There I said it…"

It was only a short moment and then finally Crown Prince Wales Tudor of Albion was no more. Vasyl put a hand on Louise's shoulder as they both watched Henrietta scream and cry over her dead lover's body. The Spartan straightened and gave a salute.

/

Vasyl stayed quiet in the corner of the room while Louise concentrated on homework. Well she tried to. One day had passed since Wales had been defeated. Vasyl kept an arm around Henrietta when they returned to the palace; Louise had to explain the situation to the guards who were ready to attack the Spartan when he was seen with the Princess thinking that he was the kidnapper. The princess' eyes were dead, it was a worrying sight but Louise prayed with all her heart that she would recover. Vasyl said nothing the entire trip back to the academy.

"I don't blame her for reacting that way," Vasyl said suddenly from his corner of the room. "Loss…is a hard thing to take." The Spartan exhaled as he looked at his helmet. Louise agreed but the way he said it…There was almost no emotion in his voice. Was that how he coped with losing his close friends? Just getting by and bottling it all up? She didn't want to know how much her familiar had lost to make him this way.

"You worried about her?" Vasyl asked Louise suddenly. "Very," Louise answered. The Spartan knew she didn't want to talk about this so he changed the subject. "What's your family like?" he said as he looked out the window. Louise blinked and turned towards him blinking.

"Just curious" Vasyl said smiling.

"Well…My mother and father are the duke and duchess of Tristain…" Louise answered. The Spartan raised a brow. That's quite influential.

"I have two older sisters one of them is-"

BAM!

The door slammed open and in the doorway was a tall blonde woman with angled glasses. She wore simple, but well designed clothing and her mouth was set in a frown. "Louise!" she said with a severe tone. "E-Eleanor!" Louise gasped in recognition then squealed in pain as the blonde pulled on both her cheeks.

"We're leaving, runt." The woman called Eleanor told her then dragged the pained Louise out the door. Vasyl just watched for a few seconds before trailing them, pulling his helmet on and slinging the M392 DMR onto his back.

"Time to go…" he remarked to Derflinger. "Wait…Wha? What's going on?" The sword mumbled apparently still drowsy.

"Apparently, Louise is going home Derflinger." The Spartan answered.

As he exited the tower he saw the blonde dragging Siesta and Louise along to two carriages. She and Louise took one carriage and Siesta was alone in the other one. The Spartan narrowed his eyes and looked inside the carriage at the maid. Siesta lit up instantly "Vasyl!" she said. Vasyl signaled her to be quiet.

"Just act normal for now I'll follow you."

"Okay!"

/

Vasyl truly wondered what was going on as he followed the carriage. Apparently the woman called Eleanor was related to Louise in some way…though he did recall seeing some resemblance. The Spartan followed the carriage, taking a few short breaks while he was at it but he made pretty good time with catching up. The carriages weren't hard to miss because of how extravagant they were.

/

Louise squealed as Eleanor pinched her cheeks. "We weren't done talking, you runt." Eleanor spoke. As the elder sister she had always been tough on Louise and it apparently hasn't changed at all. Louise, rubbing her cheek murmured "I-I'm sorry big sis Eleanor." She murmured apologetically. Inside she was quite angry, she wished Vasyl was with her but there was no way anyone would not notice such a large man. Vasyl towered over her and judging from Eleanor's height he was probably even taller. Big sis Eleanor was after all a rather tall young lady, even among Tristain's standards.

"Louise...Whatever made you think that you can rush off to join the war against Albion? You're just a runt!" Eleanor commented harshly. Louise mumbled something unintelligible but she was fuming. The Princess needed her! Needed her and Vasyl in order to win against Albion. She was a mage! And she used the Void! But what could she say? Louise knew she'd be ridiculed.

"Bah what's the point," Eleanor sighed "I'll let father and mother sort you out."

She wished, as always, that her familiar was with her here in this carriage. Then they'd see how strong she had gotten.