Chapter 45 ∞ The Coming of Death
Hell had broken loose. The masked men around me weren’t expecting this form of attack at all. It baffled them knowing their comrades were aging before their very eyes—and they didn’t know the reason why. They couldn’t see the adversary, but they knew the frost was the marker of death. They brushed it off their bodies to no avail. It clung to their skin and grew like mold, inching under into their flesh, piercing into and through the bone. Filled with fear, each of them tried to make their escape, but they all got chased down by the Veils around me and feasted on borrowed the lives in their body.
“And someday return, river child. Return you will.”
The same went for the empress. She watched in horror as her youthful skin turned wrinkly and dull. She clawed at her face, shocked, and let out cries of distress, yelling, “W-What are you doing?!” Her voice had turned raspy and old. No longer did it have the sultry and seductive tinkle to it as it did before. “What are you doing?! Stop! Stop this right now. No! What’s happening? My…my…AAAGGHHH!”
I looked over to the men with reptilian eyes.
To my shock, they weren’t affected at all. The frost had already appeared on their skin and the Veils were already around them, but their lives didn’t get sucked out of their bodies. They moved well and closed in on my mistresses, swinging their weapons with the intention of killing.
How come…how come they weren’t affected?
Before I could wrap my mind around what was happening, one of reptilian-eyed men swooped in, taking the old, wrinkly empress into his arms and making haste to escape. I didn’t want them to get away, but it wasn’t like the Veils were concrete things that could block their paths. What more, with the man shielding that damnable queen, not even the Veils could touch her.
I was frustrated.
I willed the Veils further, but found that I had already zapped my own energy dry. I tried singing further, but with every note that left me seemed to squeeze me for nonexistent juice.
I coughed up blood. I doubled over and landed on my side. The song had stopped and, like a flock of sheep that had lost its shepherd, the Veils began to scatter.
Nevertheless, with the commotion that had ensued, everyone leapt into action. My mistresses managed to break free of the holds that the men in black had over them. Mistress Veronika had taken the advantage of the distraction and made a grab for the weapon of one man. With it, she began taking down the others, one after another—if they still hadn’t given in to death. She hacked at them, slicing at their flesh like there was no tomorrow.
It was gruesome, but what made it even more disgusting was the blood. Contrary to expectations, it was black, particularly those of which could technically no longer be considered humans. Their blood was so tainted that it smelled of death. I saw some fumes rising in the air. It was a presence that I was very familiar with. The Veils heeded the call, lapping up the essence and hissing in pleasure upon tasting it.
What was it? What were they?
“These guys don’t die easily,” Mistress Veronika said. “They’re…like…immune to death.” Her blade came whistling down and chopped neatly at the head which came tumbling down. Only then did the man finally stop moving.
The body rotted before our very eyes immediately. It was not even spared the proper cycle of death.
“Veronika,” Lamia began as she sent a punch to her captor, only to withdraw her fist in pain. “Shi—” she took a sharp breath as Mistress Veronika swooped in to knock out her captor for her. And very effectively at that. “Get the children and escape,” she continued to say.
Veronika focused on taking down the rest and on freeing the others. I, on the other hand, was still quite preoccupied with staring at my mother’s lifeless body. I had managed to successfully veer away the focus on the Veils from her, but even without their help, her life bled back into the earth and I could not stop it from leaving her body. Despite my motionlessness, none of the enemy dared come near me.
Before I knew it, Maun came to my line of sight. He looked at the frost that surrounded me hesitantly, fear in his eyes. Then he looked at me. I stared back but said nothing else, proceeding to drop my gaze on my mother’s corpse beside me.
I had already stopped singing at this point, but the frost continued to spread. It was worse, in fact. I feel like a rider who’d lost reign over her horse—like I’ve unleashed some hell I could not control, and it was taking over me in ways I couldn’t even begin to explain.
I wasn’t paying any more attention to Maun, feeling lost in the cold that was beginning to eat away inside me.
I didn’t expect to find him bravely traversing the field of frost.
I looked up, startled. I wondered if this guy was just stupid or he was insane.
Nevertheless, where his feet would land, the frost would crack and shrivel away.
I was taken aback by this. Nevertheless, the frost grew faster than it melted and, by the time he reached me, he was already half frozen.
He landed on his knees before me like a shivering chick and that was when I felt like water was poured over me.
I gazed at Maun weakly, a lone tear spilling down my cheek which immediately turned into a trail of frost. He reflected my emotion with utmost sincerity and I felt my heart breaking all over again.
I found him signing, “Are you…okay? I know how it feels. I lost my family too. But it is enough…so…” his fingers shivered as he formed them into words and his lips had turned frostbitten blue, “please stop crying.”
My eyes landed on the dark sky. The brightness of the moon had waned, and the stars have faded away so much not even a dot of light could be seen. Despair filled me even more.
I realized what I had done right then and, immediately, dread filled my heart.
Regret? Not so much. Over other things, maybe.
Maun proceeded to lift me by the arms and guide me outside of the circle of frost I had created around me. I didn’t know what he was trying to do, but I didn’t try to resist. He’d grown stronger over the past few months. I could remember being the one to drag him away. It was funny how situations could turn upside down in such a short time.
We slumped weakly onto the ground as we stepped out of it, just in time for one of the masked men to come sweeping in, seizing the opportunity to land a killing blow.
The guy was far too swift to react to properly. By the time we realized it, the blade was already on our face.
Unexpectedly, however, Maun lifted his hand. I almost didn’t see it move either. He fingers wrapped square around the blade and he scooted me back a little, pushing me away from the point of the blade. He recoiled upon impact, one foot stepping back to help him maintain balance.
Meanwhile, shock corked my throat. I was half expecting his fingers to cleanly slide off.
But they didn’t.
Instead, they sweated. Or, to be more accurate, something had grown on his skin that kind of looked like water. Upon looking further, I realized it was actually a thin layer of iridescent scales—the perfect unicorn blend at that, matching the silver-violet hair and eyes of his.
So it wasn’t water or sweat. It was…scales.
Why would he have scales?
Was he…part fish? What else had scales? Definitely not crustacean.
Our attacker was astonished. That gave enough time for someone to come in and knock the him out.
“Leave. My. Children. Alone!” Kora furiously hit the man several times until the piece of wood he had in his hands had turned to splinters. Upon seeing that the enemy had finally been knocked out—even if not yet dead—he dropped the broken plank he was holding—probably a part of our wall before and knelt in front of us in panic. “Tell me you’re alright, blossom.”
I nodded weakly, the disbelief still clear on my face.
“How about you, Maun?”
He nodded as well.
“Alright. I’ll take it from here,” Kora said. He loomed over me and tried taking me into his arms only to flinch away. Frost spread at the tips of his fingers which he hastily shook away. He then looked about, wondering what he was supposed to do. After a bit of debating, he decided to remove his outer coat, leaving himself in his innerwear, and wrapped it around me. He then lifted me into his arms.
“Are the reinforcements not coming?” Kora yelled to my mistresses who were just beginning to gather their bearings. His teeth chattered a little. I could see the hair on his skin rising into little bumps. Kora looked down to me and commented, “Good gods, Evy, you are very cold. Don’t do that again…not until you know how to control it well just yet.” He then looked at Maun’s scaled hands…which was not so scaled anymore. Whatever those things were had receded back under his skin, concealing themselves once more.
As we came to terms with our shock, Mistress Lamia replied, “There are no reinforcements.”
Why would there be a need for reinforcements, anyhow? They had clearly taken out everyone already. Most of the guys who weren’t taken down by the Veils or my mistresses had already escaped.
From a distance I heard an explosion. Startled, I weakly looked towards the source of the sound, trying to maintain a hold on my consciousness. Over the courtyard walls of Oblivion was a massive sky of fire…among other things. A platoon of dragons flocked in the sky, turning the whole horizon into a late-night firework show. They were targeting something on the ground, bombarding it with all sorts of attack.
“What’s happening?” Kora asked.
“I’m assuming a civil war has commenced,” Lamia whispered.
“Civil war?” Veronika replied. She walked up to us panting, dropping the broken blade that she used against the enemy.
“What else?” Mistress Lamia replied in an almost defeated voice. “It’s most definitely between Thoran’s faction and Alron’s. Considering the actions of Freyna today, it is most likely their initiative.” I caught her kneel down by my mother’s side, the smallest signs of grief passing over her face as she looked at my mother’s lifeless body.
After taking a few moments, Mistress Lamia rose and faced us.
“Perhaps the emperor has finally died. Right now, they’re going to seize the throne by force. The reason why Freyna came here is to take the royal seal—that way, it will give them more advantage over the enemy,” Lamia said. “It happened too soon. I’m assuming Alron’s faction is at a disadvantage. My sources have failed to pick up on such activities.”
“How can your sources fail?” I heard one of my mistresses inquire.
“I’ve been fed the wrong information,” she said. “I placed my trust on the wrong people this time.” I could hear the bitter disappointment and anger in her voice. It was so thick she nearly spat out each syllable. “Make your way out of Kilahad first. The city is not a safe place right now. Things will only escalate further.”
“What about you?” Mistress Neilly inquired, stumbling forward as she fixed her coat around herself, shivering from the cold. She tugged forward Eren as well who was shaking in fear so much she seemed ready to pop.
“What about me?” Lamia echoed. She wiped off the blood that was pouring from the wound on her cheek. “I will stay,” Lamia continued. “There are some problems I ought to fix. This will never happen again. And I’ll make sure of it.”
“But, Lamia, what are you going to do?” Kora inquired.
“I’ve been lenient too long. It’s time to change a few things in this country.” She walked away, making her way straight into direction of the line of fire. “And, preferably, abolish that wretched harem as well. It breeds demons.”