Fighting For My Freedom In Another World
I did manage to dodge the next blast as well, and the black spot on the wall was soon joined by further burn marks just a little bit below and to the side of it.
I breathed a sigh of relief at having gotten to live a few seconds longer, only to get knocked down on the ground by a smaller energy bolt that hit me from behind immediately afterwards.
“I don’t actually have to use my hands. You’re not going to pass this test by merely running around, witch.”
“Would have helped to know that a little sooner…”
I wasn’t sure if I should take her calling me “witch” as an insult or sign of respect, considering Elodia herself was just introduced to me as one. Either way she had a point.
“If you stay lying on the ground for much longer, I will not hesitate to do what I must. Get up or die.”
I was still on the ground after being knocked down earlier. Taking heed at her warning, I scrambled to get up and in a position I could actually have a good shot at dodging from.
While she had been kind enough to warn me, however, Elodia was not quite gentle enough to actually let me get on my feet again before continuing her bombardment.
I was still just on my knees when another blast came from somewhere to my right. Thankfully I just barely managed to see it coming and roll out of the way, but that put me in an even worse position for evading the next one and I was not just hit again but also thrown into the wall by the blast.
Hitting my head against the wall was not very conductive to thinking clearly, and I was hit by yet another blast and thrown to the side.
All I could do was look up towards Elodia as she prepared the final blow that would seal my fate. A much larger beam than any of her previous magic, by the looks of all the colourful sparks and glitter that was flying all over, both emanating from her hands and also appearing out of nowhere in the air around me.
I closed my eyes and waited for the end.
Held my hand up to shield me by pure instinct, and waited to face my death.
Hoped it would be as painless as my first, over in an instant instead of prolonged for an eternity.
It didn’t come.
Instead what did hit me was a voice saying “Well, would you look at that. Looks like you passed.”
I opened my eyes again, and looked down to make sure I was still in one piece. There was… some kind of fire around the hand I instinctively had held up. Mysteriously enough, it looked as if my hand was on fire, but it didn’t hurt. I watched as the last embers burned out and vanished from sight. Were those flames what had made me pass?
After confirming that I looked remarkably not dead, I looked up to find the princess staring down at me from right in front of my face.
“Are you okay? I was a bit wo… I mean, it would not do to see such a useful asset get damaged for the sake of a mere test such as this one. I take it you are unharmed?”
“My body hurts all over even more than it already did, but I’m mostly alive. That test though. I’d like to spend a few hours complaining about how you just promised me a chance to live only to then almost get me killed anyway, if you have the time.”
“I hope you do realise Elodia would not actually have killed you? You are far too useful an asset to waste that easily. You’re our one chance to solve some problems that have been plaguing us for a while now.
“I… of course I get it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, you know…”
And I didn’t really get it either. I still highly doubted I would have survived if I had been hit by that bigger blasty thing and not just the smaller beams.
“I do apologize for that. But this was necessary. I do not have the amount of influence you most likely would wish I did. This offer was the best I could do for you. Now that this matter is settled, I will inform you as to your mission at dawn tomorrow. For now, there is something I would like to inquire about. Do you know where the witch used to live when she still was in command of your current body?”
I ransacked my head, but all that came up was my own memories from my past life and a few very vague general facts about Maria Darkfire. She didn’t have any family, nor a partner. She had committed a couple crimes that it was possible I could have “remembered” if I had tried harder, but I chose not to delve too deeply into those.
But that was all there was.
“I have absolutely no idea.”
“Then I take it you would need a place to stay?”
“I wouldn’t complain if you’re planning on offering me one.”
“I would be delighted to. Come with me.”
I followed the princess towards the exit, but before we left… There was one matter I wanted to properly attend to.
“You know, you could have held back a little”, I turned towards Elodia to complain.
“That was me holding back”, she promptly responded.
I decided not to provoke her further.
After that, not much else worthy of being mentioned happened that day.
Maybe with one exception.
The princess led me through a gigantic courtyard and into the castle proper. We didn’t speak any along the way. I didn’t have anything that felt worth saying that I thought I would get a proper answer to, and she… Well, she probably had her reasons for not wanting to talk too.
After walking through what must have been dozens of halfways and a considerable number of stairs, as well as the princess being stopped by about half of the twenty or so people we passed on the way, we finally arrived at our destination, whatever that was.
The princess stopped in front of a huge set of wooden doors, and pushed them open with visible effort.
I followed her inside, to a room that was filled with all sorts of fancy decorations. There were two huge carpets covering the floor, one red and one blue. No less than three desks of various shapes and sizes, and some sort of scrolls with various patterns on them hanging from the walls.
All of that was just in the half of the room I actually could see.
A big chandelier hung from the ceiling, but it was unlit at the moment. The only light that streamed in came from two gigantic rectangular glass windows, but at the moment said light wasn’t really enough to grant much visibility, making the room only just bright enough for me to make out what furniture was present closest to me, but not any actual details or what the far side of the room looked like.
It had apparently started getting dark while me and the princess wandered through the castle. A testament to its size and majesty, or just a massively unnecessary pain to actually get anywhere in? Depends on who you asked.
The princess was standing beside me, her face partially obscured due to the lack of light.
“So, here’s the place. Bet it’s pretty fancy compared to what you’d be used to? Or maybe everywhere was this fancy in your old world… Anyway, there are some other matters we should discuss, one in particular. But frankly speaking, I don’t really feel like it at the moment. Something tells me it would be a bit of a pain to explain, so let’s save it for tomorrow.”
The princess went over to the other side of the room. I hesitated as to whether it was better to follow her or wait where I was.
“So, you’ll get to sleep in here. In this bed over here.”
The princess gestured to a huge bed placed in one of the distant corners of the room. It was the biggest bed I had ever seen, easily big enough to fit five people in it.
“We don’t really have a lot of space to spare in the castle. Normally someone like you probably wouldn’t get to stay in a room like this one, but I figure this is a worthy exception. You’re not going to be sleeping this comfortably for a while, so you’d better enjoy it… well, I guess the same thing goes for me. Anyway, why don’t you give it a try?”
I reluctantly marched over to the overly huge bed with stiff legs, and tried lying down on it on the side opposite where the princess was standing. It was unsurprisingly rather comfortable, but having the princess watch me try it out was distinctly not comfortable.
“Unless you have any other business you want to take care of, since it’s getting kind of late already… I guess I’ll just leave you here for the moment.”
I didn’t have any particular reason to object, so I settled down and watched what I could make out of the princess’s back slowly glide away as she left the room.
I closed my eyes, and reflected over what had happened. I had lost my past life, an entire lifetime just vanished in an instant as if none of it ever had happened. I should probably have been frustrated, annoyed, sad. Felt any emotion at all about any of it.
But waking up in the dark, and almost ending up dead. Perhaps that had been enough to make me feel like things weren’t so bad? Or perhaps there was that, no matter how hard I had worked to build up my past life, it had also constrained me.
Was this my chance to at last be free, or was I just about to be bound by a different set of chains, more fierce than those I once had donned of my own volition?
Thinking about it wouldn’t help me anyway. Trying to sleep would by far be the wiser decision, was the conclusion I eventually managed to arrive at.
I even thought I would be able to fall asleep easily after everything that happened.
Turns out that didn’t quite work out as planned.
About half an hour after the princess left, the doors to the room I was in creaked back open and a small figure slipped in with light, noiseless steps. At this point it was too dark for me to make out who the figure was until she got quite close.
It was only when she was right on the other side of the bed I could tell it was the princess again, now dressed in something that looked more like a nightgown rather than the proper dress she had been wearing before.
For some reason, the princess laid down next to me, without saying a word.
She was soon snoring away a mere two or three meters in front of me, offering me not a single shred of explanation about what she was doing there.