“I’m back, Shion.” Valentina had returned to her private quarters, where her loyal servant, Shion, had been ordered to wait for her return.
Valentina’s expression was calm, a faint air of confidence and success surrounded the woman. Shion stood up as her lady entered, a gentle smile on her face. She greeted her softly and pleasantly.
“Welcome home, Lady Valentina. Shangri-La has eagerly awaited your return.”
“Shion, I am feeling generous today. All my plans have gone as I had hoped, and things shall proceed as I wish without hindrance. You may choose your own song to sing for me.”
“Very well, my lady. Then I shall sing for you, a song I composed today. A song to commemorate your coronation as the queen of all seven kingdoms. I call it ‘The Ruler’ .”
“Yes…’The Ruler’. A more apt title, would be hard to find. I and the world are one and the same. Love for the world is love for me. Alas I only have enough time to listen to it once, I must be joining my forces soon.” Valentina listened to the song intently. She then arose from her seat, moving swiftly to the lower floors of her palace.
Valentina’s forces had been waiting on her command to seize control of the other nations. With the death of each nation’s resident monarch, the armies of Shangri-La could now easily take advantage of the resulting chaos to claim the lands in the name of Valentina. The traitorous woman quickly readied herself to join her armies.
“Well then Shion, I shall be leaving once again. Even the glory of battle must be reserved for me and me alone.” Valentina’s calm expression twisted into a crooked smile for a brief moment.
“I shall remain here and pray for your safe return, my lady.”
“Don’t worry. Those foolish plebeians will be helpless without their leaders. The only loose end is whether Dark Alice will deal with that Primogenitor successfully or not. But I am ready for either outcome.
“My lady are you not worried the people will revolt? Even a rat will bite the cat when cornered.”
“I am no cat, and no rat can defeat a god.” Valentina dismissed Shion and took her place at the head of her army.
Alone, Shion returned to Valentina’s private quarters. Her steps echoing in the large empty marble halls of Shangri-La’s palace. Her life had not always been that of a servant to lady of the kingdom on the seas. When she was sixteen her father had mysteriously died during an unexpected raid of merfolk. Destitute, Shion found herself performing in a local tavern to support her weak mother. The girl’s beauty and talent for song quickly awarded her some notoriety within the city, and a modest, but comfortable salary.
Eventually, word of the girl reached the ears of Valentina. The songstress’ beauty and fame only fueled the princess’ desires even further. As such, Valentina summoned Shion to her palace and bade the young woman to work for her. To support Shion’s mother, Valentina delivered a small fortune to her. However, several days later it appeared as though Shion’s mother had lost the will to live without her daughter, and took her own life by jumping to the sea. Though her mother’s tragic fate had happened only several days after Shion had been taken away by Valentina, she didn't hear of it until several months afterwards.
“Lady Valentina, where exactly do you think the rats are hiding? You may be surprised to learn there are more ‘rats’ in Shangri-La than any kingdom you’re hoping to seize.”
As Valentina and her armies sailed off to invade foreign lands, Shion slipped away from silent halls of the palace. She strolled the streets of Shangri-La, gazing out at the sea. She turned down a small alleyway and moved away from the center of town, disappearing into a dark network of side streets. These were the streets Shion loved most. The streets she had called home for much of her young life. Alone in this secluded place, she sang to herself, forgetting her life and slipping into an eternal moment of happiness.
“Valentina took my mother, and she’s starting another war like the one that took my father. I want things to change...but I don’t know what to do.” As the streets lead her to the edge of the floating city, Shion’s eyes held transfixed on a distant point on the horizon. Somewhere far away was another kingdom, with people and music of their own. A kingdom that Valentina was coming to take for her own, like she did with everything.
How much longer? Shion wondered. How much longer until their music is gone forever? Shion felt her stomach twist and knot itself. She suddenly felt a great weight within her chest. The girl fell to her knees.
“I can’t...do anything. I couldn’t save my parents, I can’t stop Valentina...all those people...”
For the first time in far too long, Shion cried. Everything she had held back in front of Valentina suddenly came forth without provocation. Why couldn’t things return to the way they were before? If only she could go back to when she could just sing and make everyone happy. But Shion knew why. Yes, the one obstacle in her way, the true enemy of Shangri-La. Long had she plotted that wretched woman’s demise, but Valentina’s magic was too strong, and her eye ever watchful. The songstress, arms wrapped around herself, gripped her sides as she felt her sadness contort into hatred.
However Shion’s solitude was disturbed by a peculiar sound from just beyond the reach of the floating city. It was an unusual sound, not the usual creaking of a wooden ship. It was the sound of a large metal head surfacing from the water. The construct's, two arms followed soon after, grabbing the edge of Shangri-La and hoisting itself up onto the city. A large thud echoed as it did so.
“Puhaaa! Wow Mary, I didn’t know you could move under water! Nice job!” A girl, perched on the shoulder of the giant machine like an animal, leaped down nimbly.
“While continued submersion is inadvisable due to corrosion, Master designed me to endure short term excursions under water. I must admit, I did not calculate that you would be able to go that long without breathing, Pricia.”
“Wahaha! Its something that Xuan Wu taught me! Hmm...It seems like our assault is turning into more of an infiltration. There doesn’t really seem to be anyone around, Valentina must not be home.”
“My eyes can can magnify images at significant distance, and I too cannot detect the presence of the one who killed my master.”
“Well I guess that means we can set a trap for her. If she’s gone, she must have taken her army t-..uhhhh, hey Mary, who’s this?” Pricia had not noticed Shion until just now. Shion, however, had been staring blankly at the two since their most curious arrival. Taking a moment to compose herself, Shion called out to the peculiar duo.
“Excuse me, I know this is a longshot but...you wouldn’t happen to be a rat would you?”
“What?! Jeeze this place is weird. Do I look like a rat? Does she?” Pricia pointed to Marybell, who was busy draining water from her appendages. “Although..” Pricia put a finger to her temple, as if to emphasize how hard she was thinking. “I did train with a rat back in Sissei once. What was his name again? Oh yeah! Master Splin-”
“Pricia, I believe this woman is referring to the phrase, ‘drowned rat’. I recall my master using it on several occasions when discussing Valentina.”
“Ohhh I get it. Hey! Just cause you’re all fancy, and we’re all wet, doesn’t mean you can make fun of us!”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. I overheard your conversation and...oh nevermind.”
Pricia dashed up to Shion, her face now only a few inches from the startled singer. Pricia made an attempt to twist her face into what she believed to be something intimidating “Hey...everything you just heard...it’s a secret...to everyone. Got it?
Shion took a moment to distance herself from Pricia by a few steps.
“Yes, I understand. Actually I’d like to talk to you about your earlier conversation.”
“Hey! Do you have carrots in your ears? I said be quiet!”
Marybell, now finished purging her internal systems of water, turned to Pricia. “Pricia, wait a moment. I believe this woman is worth hearing out.”
“I am not sure how to explain it. I feel a kind of...sorrowful determination from her. It is the same feeling I feel when I look at you.” At Marybell’s words, Pricia’s expression quickly turned more serious.
“Yeah? Well if Mary says so, I guess you can’t be that bad. Alright, I’ll trust you. I’m Pricia, and this is Mary.” Pricia’s solemn expression once again spread into a beaming smile. She patted the side of Marybell’s leg, a slight metallic clanging sound could be heard as she did so.
“Lady Valentina, I’m afraid I only sang the first half of that song for you. While the first half exalts the ruler, it is only out of obligation. In the second half the people rebel after years of oppression. And when they finally do, the ruler... ” Shion’s quiet words trailed off as she focused herself on the hardships that surely lied ahead of her. She took a deep breath and spoke with a soft smile on her face.
“Well then, it seems like there’s a lot we need to talk about, but since you’ve introduced yourselves to me; My name is Shion. Rather than an introduce myself though, I’d like to sing you a song. It’s called, ‘The Ruler’.”
Attoractia, the World of the Seven Kings