Chapter 5:

The Princess Makes Sure I(So Far) Only Almost Get Killed(A Few Times)

Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

“You… promise? Do you really believe your promises are worth anything at this point?”Bookmark here

The executioner removed the rod temporarily after the princess addressed me again. Things not hurting as much all over really made it much easier both to think and to speak, I’ll have you know. Bookmark here

“If they weren’t, why are you talking to me now instead of continuing to have me tortured?”
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“I… your observation is quite correct.There was a certain… difference between your reaction just now and what I would have expected. Perhaps not enough to save you, but certainly enough to make me somewhat curious. It is highly likely you will still be executed, but before that… I would like to have a word with you, in private.”Bookmark here

I wasn’t in much of a position to object. Any smallest hope that I may survive the day, or failing that at least a few more hours, was a very welcome tint of sunshine to the quite dreary situation I had found myself in. Bookmark here

“I am at your service, princess”, I nonchalantly held my hands up to my sides. Bookmark here

Maybe I wasn’t actually confident… at all, but that didn’t mean I could at least act like I wasn’t facing a high risk of still somewhat immediate but now hopefully slightly less immediate death. Bookmark here

“I declare a recess. This trial will proceed after a break of… as yet undetermined length. There are some inquiries that I, acting as the royal princess, need to make in private.”Bookmark here

Perhaps this world was different, but wouldn’t declaring a recess usually be the judge’s job? Well, I suppose the royal family would have a decent amount of influence, being royal and all…Bookmark here

“You. Darkfire… Come with me. There are matters that need to be addressed.”
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“I’m happy to oblige, in particular if it means I don’t have to die just yet.”
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The princess leaned in close to me and whispered the next few words in my ear.Bookmark here

“You may not have to die at all.”Bookmark here

Those sure were some good news. Not dying was quite high on my list of priorities, right below getting a cute girlfriend, and just above everything else. Bookmark here

The princess led me along to… first inside what appeared to be the castle walls — apparently the royal castle had been quite close — then to a doorway which was relatively off to the side, then onwards to some sort of room. It was definitely a room. I could definitely say that much. Unfortunately I could not say much else about it. It was large, and round. Somewhat oval in shape. Bookmark here

There was absolutely no decoration in the room. Just gray stone walls with nothing else to them. Bookmark here

The princess stopped to face me in the middle.Bookmark here

“Thankfully I believe we should be afforded the bare minimum of privacy here. Now, there are a few things I need you to confirm. Will you cooperate?
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“I don’t really feel like I have much in the way of options here.”
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“Let me ask again… will you cooperate? I cannot proceed if you do not give me a clear answer.”
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“Yes, I’ll help you”, I responded with a sigh, “if it means I don’t have to die again I’d be downright pleased to do whatever you want me to… if it’s not anything too unpleasant.”Bookmark here

Chances were I would have helped her even if it was something unpleasant. Bookmark here

“Then there are some things I need to confirm before we begin. Are you really that witch? You don’t speak like her at all, and you weren’t able to do any magic earlier.”
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“I… I’m not. This might be a bit hard to believe, but I got transported here from another world, and—”
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“Thought so. Wouldn’t be much of a witch that couldn’t even cast any magic. But if she really was that harmless I guess we wouldn’t be in quite as much trouble as we are… anyway, welcome to our world! Hope you’ll like it here!”Bookmark here

For some reason the princess waved at me while saying her greeting. A small wave with her left hand, accompanied by a friendly smile. Bookmark here

“Is people coming here from other worlds, like… a thing that happens?”
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“Yup, happens all the time. Very commonplace occurrence. Mostly by accident, experiments gone wrong and stuff. But there’s also this spell that does it for you. Even if I guess it’s high level enough that almost nobody could use it… you’re basically the only one, I think. Or if you actually had access to all her powers, you would be.”Bookmark here

I suddenly wished I had known that about fifteen minutes earlier. Kind of felt like it would have been a really helpful defence during that “trial” thing. Bookmark here

“So, what’s this thing you want my help with, princess?”
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“Before that, the thing I wanted to check. Do you… does Maria Darkfire have any living family in this world?”
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“How the heck would I know? But somehow… I don’t think so. It’s just a vague feeling, but something tells me she doesn’t.”
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“That’s handy. I guess she doesn’t have a husband either then?”
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“She did not.”
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“Great! What about you? Any plans on getting one with your new life?”
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“No… I’m not into men in the first place. And by the way, isn’t seventeen a bit young to marry?”
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“This isn’t your old world. Customs are bound to be different. In this world you would have been able to. Not that I disagree with you in this case… I guess this isn’t the place to start complaining about my personal life. So, any plans on getting a wife then?”
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“No need to actually answer that. I’m just messing with you. The important part was that there’s nobody she has a close enough connection to. There’s this handy little thing called—”Bookmark here

A door on the opposite side of the room from where we had entered suddenly creaked open. The princess paused for just the briefest of moments but continued almost without missing a beat. Bookmark here

“—there exists something known as illusion magic. It is a common tool among would-be deceivers, and it would aid us greatly to have confidence in you being who you say you are. It pleases me to know we need not worry about that in your case.”Bookmark here

If I wasn’t me, there was no way I would have answered that question honestly anyway, but I figured it was probably better to shut up about that for now. Bookmark here

“Then there is someone I wish for you to meet. This woman here is a captain in the witch division of our military.”Bookmark here

The princess gestured to the woman standing next to her, who was slightly taller than the princess but slightly shorter than me, and was wearing armour that covered most of her body, aside from her face, framed by short silver hair.Bookmark here

Her appearance aside, since when had she gotten there? I suppose I did notice a door opening just earlier… Bookmark here

“She has come here to test you. I propose to you… we, the royal family, are offering you the following deal: you will use your powers to help fight our battles, to help fight for our kingdom. In exchange, you will be granted freedom in every other respect. You may do whatever you wish during times we do not need you. If you accept, there will be a test to judge how fit you are to this task. Do you accept? If you do not, I sadly do not possess the authority to stop your execution.”Bookmark here

Did I have a choice in this? I didn’t want to fight anyone. I wasn’t confident I could fight anyone. No, I definitely couldn’t fight anyone. I had never been in a fight in my life. And the kind of people that would pick fights with the royal family? Somehow I didn’t really feel like making an enemy of the kinds of people I imagined they would be. Bookmark here

But on the other hand, what choice did I have? If I refused, would I just be taken straight back out to be executed? Bookmark here

I didn’t want to fight anyone, but I didn’t want to die. But if I did fight someone, I could die. Even worse, what if I did accept the offer, what if I did fight, and what if I did learn to use this witch’s powers. And then, what if I had to not just use them, not just use them to fight, not just use them to harm, but also use them to kill?Bookmark here

Even more than I didn’t want to fight, I didn’t want to kill… at least not in the vast majority of situations I could think of. Maybe if things were grave enough…Bookmark here

No, it was better not to think things like that. Was the answer then that I shouldn’t fight? Bookmark here

I quickly realised that, no, that wasn’t it either. Bookmark here

If I didn’t fight I would probably still die. If I fought, and things turned bad, or if I didn’t manage to figure out how to use all this magic stuff, or if I was commanded to kill someone. I would still just die then instead, having gotten to live a slightly longer life beforehand.Bookmark here

In other words, I could lose everything from rejecting the offer, and I could at least gain something from accepting it. Bookmark here

There wasn’t really much need to think further. Bookmark here

“I accept your offer. It’s not like I have much of a choice.”
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“Good. In that case, Elodia, you may get started.”
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“My pleasure, princess.”Bookmark here

Elodia… that must have been the witch captain woman. As for what the test consisted of?
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“So, what exactly does this test consist of?”
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“You just need to survive. That’s it.”Bookmark here

Not exactly the comforting answer I had been hoping for. If the test was about whether I could “survive” something, somehow I suspected there could be some potentially lethal elements involved, and I was not a fan of anything that could get me killed. Bookmark here

I was soon proven right.Bookmark here

The woman… Elodia, was it? held up her hands and a glimmer of light appeared between them followed by a bunch of differently coloured sparks. Bookmark here

A beam of… energy? Lightning? Whatever it was, it came searing right into the wall next to me, right in front of where I would have been standing if I hadn’t somehow managed to stumble out of the way a second earlier. All the flashiness had kind of signaled that danger was coming, and I had just about managed to get my mind to process what was happening in time to not be thoroughly roasted. Bookmark here

The stone turned a scorched black where the beam had touched it. If whatever that magicky thing was had been able to burn stone, chances were a human wouldn’t stand much of a chance against it. Bookmark here

Even just after I had already dodged the first blow, Elodia was already charging up another one. I needed to do something, but what was there even I could do? Bookmark here

I had no means of protecting myself from a continued assault, and if this kept going for long enough I would inevitably get hit at some point. All I needed to do was to survive, but for how long? Maybe, if I could just manage to stay out of the way for long enough, maybe I would have a chance. Bookmark here

Was I being a bit too naive? Bookmark here

Yup, very much so. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.