”That girl’s pretty determined to follow me, even at this pace.” Lapis, astride Nidhogg, was soaring high in the air, looking back as the distant figure of a girl carried by large crimson wings kept an even distance from him. Close enough not to lose him in the occasional thin cloud, but far enough to allow for a reaction should Lapis attempt to attack her to get her off his tail.
”Sorry, but I can’t have you following me around.” With a snap of Lapis’ fingers, a great monstrous figure formed of shadow began to appear. Sinew and ragged flesh stretched and knitted together over bone, forming the immense undead form of Blazer. The creature’s eyes glazed over with a faint red hue. The necrotic dragon did not roar, it did not even seem to breath, only holding itself suspended in the air with its rotting wings as it awaited a command.
“Go play with the girl, Blazer.” Lapis ordered. With no acknowledgement, the abomination flapped its great wings and flew off to intercept Pricia. A thin, wide smile spread across Lapis’ face.
Pricia had been pursuing Gill Lapis for a short time. He was the only lead she had to Valentina and she couldn’t let that slip away. As she soared above the ground, she occasionally looked down at this new world below her. It was so similar and yet there was an unmistakable sensation of strangeness, of unfamiliarity. She was an alien here. Was this how it was going to be from now on? Pricia found herself clutching a hand to her chest.
It didn’t have to be.
The thought crossed her mind. She could see it. She wasn’t sure how, but she could. The way to other places, to other worlds. The path had been forced open for her and would never shut. She could find a new place, go anywhere.
“Anywhere except home.” She sighed. Her contemplation was suddenly interrupted by a strange sensation that shot through her body like electricity. Her body suddenly tensed and quickly rolled to the left as if by reflex, just in time to dodge a gout of black fire that surged past her. Pricia looked ahead and spied a large decrepit looking dragon between her and Lapis, making its way closer to her.
Pricia was certain that she’d never seen this creature before and yet there was an unmistakable familiarity to it. Blazer. This creature… was called Blazer. But how did she know that? How did she know to dodge the attack?
“Was that you, Faria?” Pricia pressed a hand to her chest. “You’re still...” Another blast of fire roared past Pricia. She refocused herself on the task at hand. She would deal with this later. If Lapis called up that thing to attack her, it meant he didn’t want her following him. Which could only mean that he absolutely needed to be followed.
“Which means I have to get through that...thing.” Pricia reasoned. Her great wings propelled her forward, speeding towards her new opponent. Blazer, ever silent, did the same. While Pricia was confident that she could handle the dragon, the problem was that she needed to do so quickly. Every second she wasted on Blazer was another chance for Lapis to escape, and her only lead on Valentina with him.
“I need something, something that can beat this guy in one blow.”
As if in response to her words a warm light burst forth from her hand, quickly taking the unmistakable shape of a hilt.
“Okay, this is...new...But I don’t really have time to think about it!” Gritting her teeth, Pricia grabbed the strange hilt protruding from her palm in her other hand and pulled. The hilt easily slid out, and gave way to a long blade of light. Once fully free the light began to fade and the shape of a familiar sword remained.
“This is...Excalibur!” Pricia exclaimed. “Wasn’t this back at that castle? How did-” Another blast of black fire flew by, and Pricia refocused herself. First, Valentina, then the other worlds, and now whatever this was. There was a lot going on. And Lapis was going to give her answers. Excalibur in hand, Pricia lead Blazer into a nearby cloud. For all the creature’s strength, Pricia had noticed it hadn’t displayed very much intelligence, just attacking blindly. Using that to her advantage, she disappeared into a cloud, leading the mindless creature in as well. As it loosed scorching black fire from its mouth with no direction, Pricia swooped down from above, thrusting Faria’s blade into the monster’s skull.
Without a sound,the creature shook in pain for a moment, before going limp, falling to the earth below. It’s body however, seemed to dissolve into dust as it fell, disappearing into the clouds.
Rising up above the clouds, Pricia frantically searched the skies for Lapis and his mount. After a moment she could just barely spy him in the east. With Excalibur still clasped in her hands, she quickened her pace to catch up to him.
Faster, faster, she thought to herself. If he gets away, you’ve got nothing. She could feel the strain on her body as her fiery wings struggled to increase her speed. Just a bit longer, he wasn’t that far ahead now. Pricia moved in, hoping to strike the dragon Lapis was riding. She had caught up with him so quickly it seemed he wouldn’t have time to respond.
“Hyahh!!” Pricia shouted as she swung Excalibur at the great black dragon. However, her attack was met not by the scaly flesh of the creature, but by cold steel. Lapis had, seemingly from nowhere, conjured a sword to parry Pricia’s attack and protect his dragon mount.
“That sword...” Pricia was stunned when she examined the blade Lapis had blocked with. Though the entire weapon was a strange sort of shadowy purple color, the shape was unmistakable.
“Excalibur!” Pricia exclaimed.
“It’s not complete yet, but I thought it appropriate to deal with you.” Lapis sneered.
“B-but, how? I have Excalibur right here!”
“I owe you no explanation, queen of Attoractia. I warned you not to follow me.” With an otherworldly power, Lapis shoved Pricia back, breaking the clash of the two Excaliburs. Pricia struggled to keep herself afloat as her wings began to fail. She had pushed her new powers too far too quickly, and she gradually began to fall to the ground as Lapis made his escape.
Zero and Charlotte had made their way to the edge of the forest, following the spire of thick grey smoke to its point of origin. Though the smoke had begun to dissipate, there was no mistaking the spot of the explosion. A small, scorched crater sat in the middle of the path. Stones turned up in the blast were glassy and polished from the heat of the event. Small patches of azure fire still burned, illuminating the evening with a sickly supernatural glow.
“Fieth! Where are you!” Zero called to no avail.
“What happened here...” Charlotte said to herself, looking over the crater and then up to the sky at the cloud of smoke. While Zero searched the surrounding area for her fellow sage, Charlotte got to work extinguishing the small remaining fires so that they wouldn’t extend to the forest.
“Charlotte.” Zero started, as she came back and realized what the girl was doing. “Thank you. That was very sensible.”
“Well I’m not as fast as you, so I thought this was the best I could do to help, while you looked around.” The two sat down on the cold earth for a moment to take a rest. “Miss Fiethsing...really isn’t here...is she.”
“No.” Zero’s voice shook as she struggled to maintain composure. “She’s not.”
“Auntie Zero!!” Kaguya came running from the direction of the Light Palace. Her face still clearly fraught with fear.
“Kaguya? Why aren’t you with Millium and the others?”
“I’m sorry, I-I couldn’t go. I couldn’t leave her. It’s my fault...it’s all...my fault.” The girl collapsed into Zero’s arms, breaking down again.
“The others-” Zero stammered, still trying to get a handle on the situation. “Did you tell them about what Lapis said?”
“I did.” Kaguya nodded between tears. “Nyarl said she might know the place since she knows about old stuff.”
A gentle breeze began to blow from the western woods. It was an unusually calming sensation. Like the hand of the person one loves on their shoulder.
“Kaguya.” A voice carried by the wind spoke to the girl, startling all three.
“Fieth!” Zero could have cried at the sound of the voice. The three looked around, but Fiethsing was nowhere to be seen. The gentle breeze continued blowing past them.
“Kaguya, listen to me. You’ve got to live for the future. I-Fiethsing is dead. Forget her. Don’t live chained to the past. Don’t look back, there is nothing for you there.”
“It’s like...a message?” Charlotte said. Zero nodded in agreement.
“It was waiting for Kaguya to get here.” the sage concluded.
“But...but Auntie...you...” Kaguya started, but the message on the wind continued.
“I was really happy, y’know. So happy to know you. So fortunate to watch you grow up and become who you are. I love you, Kaguya. And I always will. Goodbye.” With those final words, the breeze faded and so did the last vestiges of Fiethsing’s spirit.
“I..I-I...I won’t forget.” Kaguya choked on the words. A large tear fell from Kaguya’s face, catching on the fading winds and forming a magic stone as it hit the ground.
“Kaguya...” Zero started.
“Are you alright?” Charlotte reached out to her friend.
“I don’t like this!” Kaguya screamed. The newly formed stone, as if in response to Kaguya’s words, began to shine with a magical light. In an instant, an immense bamboo thicket sprung up around Kaguya and an illusory moon appeared once again in the sky.
“I, I hate this...” Kaguya continued. “Someone take this feeling away. Please...I don’t...I don’t want to be me...” Kaguya laid on the ground and the bamboo shoots wound around her. She closed her eyes, and the world went dark.
“Young lady, young lady!” Grusbalesta’s tired voice awoke Kaguya as he furiously tore away at the surrounding bamboo shoots. he had been following the traveler’s road to the light palace after the explosion caught his attention, only to discover a curious bamboo thicket and a moon hanging in the sky.
When he finally tore away the last of the thick plants, the aged sage was astonished to find, that the one inside was not the shape of the young girl who had awakened him in his laboratory.
Instead he was greeted with a much more familiar sight. A grown woman. A hero. A woman who had sacrificed herself to seal away the cthulhu with the power of the sages in the old days.