Chapter 224:

Fragile Trust

Atk 0 Crit All ~My attack stat is negligible, so I can't help but rely on critical hits to succeed!~


Eryn’s eyes popped open in surprise at being unexpectedly stabbed. Her lips separated from Claude’s as she pushed herself off him, staring painfully into his eyes as she clutched her wound.Bookmark here

Cold and emotionless, save for a flicker of intent.Bookmark here

He had attacked her purposefully. And she had fooled herself into thinking that everything would be okay after his body reflexively responded to hers. She had looked everywhere but the eyes that were aflame with purple miasma spewing from them. If she had done so, then she might have understood that her actions had been for naught. That they had not truly gotten through to him.Bookmark here

But in this moment of painful betrayal, a bitterness ignited in Eryn. She angrily lashed out at him with the back of her right hand and smacked him hard across the face. That was a blow that would normally send a man flying several meters into whatever happened to be there. But for the demonizing Claude, the shroud of miasma protected him. His head barely tilted to the side.Bookmark here

Still, that vacant look never left his face. Like all emotion was absent, he stiffly sputtered out some words.Bookmark here

“Purple… enemy…”Bookmark here

In a flash, the bloodied knife in his hand drew a vertical, upward arc, aiming straight for Eryn. She barely had the time to push off with her feet, avoiding a strike that would cleave her in two by a slim margin. However, she had not gotten away without harm.Bookmark here

“Gah! Ahhhhh!!!”Bookmark here

Eryn screamed as a sudden pain registered on her right side. Her eyes darted there, seeing that her arm had been cleanly cleaved off, just below the elbow. Fighting the urge to cry from the pain, she brought up a magic barrier just in time for the down stroke of Claude’s next swing.Bookmark here

The knife tore through the layers and layers of thick mana imbued into it, like slicing through wrapping paper holding the goods inside. Eryn stared in horror at how fearsome Claude had become. The wound in her back was making her bleed out, adding desperation to the fear.Bookmark here

The next thing she knew, another person barreled straight into Claude, knocking him back and away from her. She felt the bodies of other people and the clinking of armor as she was caught in their arms. Her eyes were too muddled with tears to see clearly, but her ears picked up the chanting of a healing spell that was being cast on her.Bookmark here

But even in her weary state, Eryn’s eyes fought to follow what had happened afterward.Bookmark here

After tackling Claude, the form of an enraged girl with black hair shouted angrily at him.Bookmark here

“I TRUSTED YOU! I TRUSTED THAT YOU WOULD BE SAVED BY ERYN! AND YET YOU DO THIS?!”Bookmark here

Similar to Claude, a purple haze of miasma circled around Saki. It collected around her arms and legs, forming frightening extensions to her appendages. Her anger at his backstabbing had caused her to pull off her charm and call upon the demonic power that once controlled her.Bookmark here

Somehow, she had learned to manipulate it to a certain degree. It gave her far stronger abilities than she could otherwise wield. But she hesitated to use it unless there was an emergency.Bookmark here

Given that she didn’t have as good of a control in mana as Eryn or the others did, this was the only option. She could at least shroud her arms and legs to protect herself from Claude’s deadly attacks. With that activated, she charged forward and batted him away from the injured woman she held deep affection for.Bookmark here

And with her unrivaled attack power, she slashed at him with her claws and dug into his body with taloned kicks. She was determined to take him down before he could hurt anyone else that he loved.Bookmark here

Yet, Claude’s demeanor suddenly shifted, like the fierce assault re-energizing his spirit. His blade swept through the air, forcing Saki to take cover behind the miasma coating her limbs. The fierce energy of two miasma signatures collided as she had to duck to shield her entire body. After that had safely passed by her, she slashed forward, feeling it connect with Claude’s side.Bookmark here

The sensation of bone crunching reverberated through her hand, making Saki bite her lip. But still, Claude did not give in. His body spun around with a grimace on his face before he sent another swing at her.Bookmark here

The wind from his attack slipped past her defenses this time, cutting into her torso. Even the expensive armor she wore stood no chance. She could feel blood seeping down from her belly. Fortunately for her, the cut had been shallow, as the armor had absorbed the bulk of the hit, but there would be no second chances. Another hit in the same place would likely cleave her in two.Bookmark here

Gritting her teeth, she dashed forward and punched Claude square in the stomach. The force was enough to send him into the nearby outer wall. The loud impact as he slammed into it riddled the already damaged section with more cracks.Bookmark here

Though he tried to get up, Saki wouldn’t let him, pressing the attack as she sent more blows to pin him against the wall. At the same time, Claude kept swinging his knife, catching Saki in the arms and legs, blowing away the miasma protecting them for only a moment.Bookmark here

The wind coming from Claude’s blade penetrated shallowly where the miasma couldn’t regenerate, riddling her body with cuts. Occasionally, one stabbed deeply into her, making her wonder if sharp knives had not been lodged there. A pain similar to falling straight into a bed of broken glass was nonetheless dulled by the adrenaline running through her body.Bookmark here

Despite this, Claude was in a far worse shape. Each blow that squarely hit him was breaking bones, despite being protected by miasma. By now, his accumulated injuries were akin to that of being struck by several trucks from every direction. One wouldn’t even be able to move after all that, much less strike back.Bookmark here

However, something seemed to will his broken body on. He only needed to lightly swing his blade with killing intent to generate the deadly strikes. That was something that a puppet on strings could do.Bookmark here

As his body continued to crash against the wall, Saki made a plea to him.Bookmark here

“Please! Please! Don’t make me choose! I don’t want to choose! Not like this!”Bookmark here

Saki was referring to that one question Claude asked of her not long ago.Bookmark here

‘If it came down to killing me or Eryn, who would you choose?’Bookmark here

That had been asked of her almost in jest at the time. And in response, she decided to tease him by immediately saying that she would do the honors of ridding a rival if it came down to it.Bookmark here

Yet, as Saki held her fist up in the air, she couldn’t bring herself to slam it forward with her full strength. She settled for a power that would cripple him, which was something that could be healed fully with the best magic available. Her hand wavered as she stood right before the point of no return, unable to cross the line of dealing a blow of certain death.Bookmark here

Did she love Claude? That was one thing she was most uncertain of.Bookmark here

Given her disgust of most men in general, she found it hard for Claude to have crept into her heart. But at the very least, she knew that she would be saddened if he weren’t there. That was a feeling beyond that of mere gratitude for him saving her from turning into a demon. Bookmark here

It extended to the day-to-day interactions that the two of them shared. A sense of comfort in knowing that he treated her with some sense of normality. That he saw her for herself and not some superficial title that was given to her for some reason. And that none of her actions every truly scared him away from acting the same to her as with any other person.Bookmark here

Whatever that feeling meant, she didn’t want to lose it. Not in a world like this where she had only just found some measure of acceptance again.Bookmark here

“I refuse! Just come back and go back to being the annoying goofball you were!”Bookmark here

With another strike that held back all intent to kill, Saki brought it down and listened to Claude’s body crack against the wall. That damage would heal. She only needed to immobilize him. She only needed to stop him from turning his blade at those who he didn’t mean to hurt.Bookmark here

‘Someone, someone would be able to heal him, right?’Bookmark here

For those watching this fight between two pseudo demons, virtually no one could step forward with an answer. The sight of a bloody, gruesome battle between two powerful Electi who could crush everyone else caused them to stare with imaginary chains holding them down. Not until one side gave up fully could they bear to move forward.Bookmark here

Though the sounds of battle were slowing down, strikes still echoed across the city like the rumbling of buildings collapsing. Debris was flung into the air and crashed with heavy thuds. Breezes of purple wind still swept the area, cutting through everything that stood in its way. These were the only noises as people watched on in silence, wondering how it could possibly end.Bookmark here

That was why everyone immediately turned their heads as a different sound came from behind them –the whirl of a magic gun starting up. A giant blast of ice shot in between the crowd of people and slammed into the two Electi that were still fighting. Slowly, their limbs grew slower as the frigid ice cooled their movements with its heavy grip.Bookmark here

The blast of ice had drawn the attention of the onlookers toward the now incapacitated fighters, but slowly, their gazes went back to the source. The one holding the weapon had beautiful blue hair, a pair of spectacles, and a lavish robe decorating her body.Bookmark here

Immediately, the crowd fell to their knees at the presence of Queen Katalina, who had rushed to the scene after hearing of Claude’s transformation. Behind her, a young girl in a frilly, black outfit stared with a gloomy expression. The two of them had taken full advantage of portals and the speed of an Electi to arrive in hardly any time.Bookmark here

However, they started to approach her in a panic as Katalina walked forward, straight toward the dreaded battlefield.Bookmark here

“My Queen! You mustn’t! Even if they seem frozen in place!”Bookmark here

But still, Katalina did not hesitate. She glided past them and left them hovering in their spots. Walking all the way up to them, she noted that both Saki and Claude would need high-level healing magic to recover. And even still, they would likely be out of commission for several days.Bookmark here

Saki’s face curved into a faint smile as she could finally relax. Someone had come to fill in the role that was too large for her.Bookmark here

Katalina turned to Claude, who still weakly held onto his knife. The arm attached to it hovered in the air, frozen in place. In an instant, the genius inventor had understood the situation.Bookmark here

“Claude, I’m here. Let’s go home,” she lightly said.Bookmark here

Claude continued to stare at her, eyes hollow but tracking her movements.Bookmark here

Katalina stepped closer, until she was inches away from his knife. To everyone’s surprise, she took another step, now the blade hovering right against her neck. A wave of panic swept over everyone, unsure of why their Queen would risk such a thing.Bookmark here

Though they knew how much trust she placed on her Chancellor, she had not been there to witness him stabbing his own Master. She did not understand how mad he had become. A single flick of the wrist was enough to take her head off.Bookmark here

Katalina, ignorant of the others’ fears, simply grasped his hand with her own and kissed it. Staring at Claude’s eyes, which were still flaring with miasma, she saw his lips quiver.Bookmark here

“B-Blue… Ka… Kat… lina…”Bookmark here

The chef knife, the weapon of destruction that had obliterated Lodz and those who stood in his way, fell from his hand and went ‘plink’ as it stuck to the ground.Bookmark here

Katalina reached into her pocket and brought out a charm, hanging it around his neck. Slowly, the miasma bursting from Claude was sucked into it, but the queen did not wait at all. She reached in and kissed the cheek of the battered and bloody face.Bookmark here

This time, the eyes that were hollow slowly closed. Soon after, the flames extinguished from them as he gave into the sensation on his lips. With the ice starting to melt, weary arms looped around the girl in front of him. The battle had truly ended at this point as all signs of hostility vanished.Bookmark here

As if the abundance of miasma had been keeping him going the entire time, his strength finally gave out and he fell forward, into the arms of Queen Katalina.Bookmark here

Though the people around them cheered that their Queen had saved the man from demonizing, there was one person who watched with a quiet fury.Bookmark here

Trails of tears ran down Eryn Faulkner’s cheeks as she stared bitterly at the result. Her heart had just been crushed that Claude had chosen Katalina over her, despite all that he had told her. All he had promised her. Visibly shaken by his betrayal, she almost wished that the healers had left her to die.Bookmark here

Slowly, she got up, going easy on the right arm that had been reattached and healed. With nothing left to say, she walked away from the cheers flung toward the Queen cradling her love as healers approached to aid them.
Alasse Yllarieth
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