Little Red Riding Witch
“To answer your immediate question,” Dragon started with a snap of his fingers. Reluctantly, Phoenix conjured another flame, but this time, it was larger than before, around the size of a small crystal ball. Within the flickering fire, once again, images started to show themselves. However, this wasn’t the same image of the present, but an image of the past – of Phoenix’s own memories.
While Lucy stood agape at the fighting between the group that proclaimed themselves the Mythic Ops and the pack of assassins in black, Dragon had no intention of just stopping there. Pointing towards the corner of the flaming orb, he continued:
“Notice that over there? That’s a wolf’s corpse that matches your description. We don’t know what happened exactly, but it was dead when we arrived.”
“Dead…” Lucy widened her eyes in horror. Of course, she had known this already. She had always known this, ever since the words left her mouth when she asked for information. It was just her stupidly hopeful self desperately trying to cling to a sliver of hope, no matter how improbable it might have been.
After all, only when her brother was dead would she regain her lost power. And her lost power showed itself in the form of lapses in her memories.
“Haha…” as tears slowly welled in her eyes, the young girl could do nothing but let out a laugh – a dry, bitter laugh at the cruel hands of fate. “Dead, you say… You were such a liar, Brother… Didn’t you say that we’re going to stick together from now on…”
“Dear…” Phoenix patted Lucy’s head with her other hand, trying to alleviate the young girl’s pain. However, the recipient was quick to push the helping hand away, and, with a shake of the head, Lucy asked once more:
“Tell me… what did I do to deserve this?”
“What did you do, you ask?” This time, it was Dragon who answered, the same condescending smirk hadn’t left his face. “Well, the answer is simple…”
Taking a brief moment of hesitation, the man then stared directly at Lucy’s eyes, his black-and-white eyes digging deep into her soul, as if trying to pry open every one of her thoughts.
“It’s because you exist.”
“Because I… exist?” The rest of the group could easily see rage building within Lucy, looking at the way her shoulders shivered in anger. “That’s… it? All because I was born? All because I was alive?”
“It hurts, isn’t it?” Dragon continued. “To be put on the edge because you were different from others. To be called a monster even though you were no different from any of them. A contradiction that you could never find out even when you ask…”
The man abruptly stopped, which brought a great surprise to Lucy and the rest of the group, save for just one person. While the others were confused as to why Dragon would just stop mid-sentence, Phoenix understood everything. His way of delivering, his intention, she was able to see it all. And the thought terrified her to the point of cold sweat, for the first time in her long life, pouring out of her palms.
Lucy and the rest hadn’t realized it yet, but ever since everyone in the Mythic Ops appeared, a crowd had been slowly building up around them. Whispers had been spreading like wildfire from the curious citizens wondering what their king, queen, and guards were doing with a young girl in the middle of the road. All eyes were on them… just as he had planned. And the fact that Dragon had stopped could only mean one thing – he was biding his time, waiting for the crowd to get bigger.
And finally, when the muttering was getting too big to be ignored, Dragon let out a smirk. The gears of fate were completely turning to his whims.
“Being faced with such hurtful actions, don’t you think it’s injustice?” He continued, raising his voice louder and louder with each word. “Don’t you think that it’s unfair? Don’t you want to do something to fight back? To earn back the trust, the respect that you deserve?”
Then, with his eyes towards the crowd, Dragon raised his arms in a triumphant pose:
“Tell me, how many years has it been since we were abused and mistreated? How many years has it been since we were forced to live under the illusory sky? And what was the cause of all of this? It was those greedy, arrogant humans who went mad with power! They came back to bite the hands that fed them, when our ancestors were the ones who taught them how to harness mana! We were only born, why can’t we soar free like our forefathers did? Does that seem fair to all of you? Does that seem just to all of you?”
“No!” Lucy, completely captivated by the man’s words, shouted with all her might. To her surprise, beside her was already everyone else in the Mythic Ops, save for Phoenix, along with the rest of the crowd, all in unison, forming what seemed like an unshakable bond to all of them.
Crowd manipulation, a masterful tactic.
Such was the thought that ran through Phoenix’s head. Using your own popularity among the people to gather a public crowd. Showing the girl just what she wanted to see, riling the people, along with the target. Using unity and freedom as the bond to hold them together. It was flawless. She could never refuse your offer now, but…
My King… since when did you resort to such tricks?
Contrary to Phoenix’s discomfort, the crowd on the streets continued to cheer.
“We will not be silenced! We will not be oppressed! We will fight back for our freedom! For our rights to be alive!”
“That’s right, people of Alfheim, the forest of fairies!” Dragon joined in with the biggest voice he could muster. “Though we are of different species, we are unified as one! There will be no discrimination, no injustice! Together, we can fight! We can overthrow the humans! Take them out of the top of the food chain once more!”
“Down to the humans! Down to the humans!” The crowd continued to chant in unison. And, utilizing the momentum, Dragon grabbed Lucy’s arm and raised it in the air.
“That’s right! We will continue to fight against the humans, with the help of our new champion! She was one of us, but was separated in her first mission in the outside world. After suffering the cruelty of humanity first-hand, she has returned to us stronger than ever! With her power, we will triumph! With her power, we will take back what is ours! The remaining ‘Winged Magician’, she has finally appeared to our aid! Our ray of hope, Cu Sith!”
Turning to Lucy, he shouted. “Champion! Will you join our cause?”
At this point, it was already too late. Lucy had already developed animosity towards the people she once lived with. She had wished them to experience the same hell as she did, even if she had never stated it directly. Now, having found out that she had the power, having found out about her origins, and having a constant stream of cheering to back her up, there was no chance that she could not accept this gift from heaven.
“Count me in, King!” With a loud and clear proclamation, said with absolute conviction on her face, Lucy confidently nodded.
“Then that settles it!” As the crowd erupted in joy, Dragon concluded. “Our ranks will welcome a new champion! Defender of Mythics, Cu Sith!”
Phoenix still stood silent. She knew that it was for the greater good, for the benefit of their entire group of species. However, she could still not accept the method in which the one she called her partner would use.
This is too much, my King. Do you truly need to drag her into this, when she had already suffered so much?
The question lingered in her head, but she dared not to object. Even if she was the second-in-command, were she to ruin the mood that her leader took so much to build up, she would certainly be met with fierce retaliation. However, that alone didn’t stop her eyes from frantically searching the crowd, hoping for something, someone, to share her sentiment.
A small figure left the crowd in a hurry. Their small build and the hood they wore hid their face perfectly. But even those couldn’t hide their clear disdain towards the whole ordeal, looking at the way their legs carry them out of the teeming crowd as fast as they could.
At that moment, Phoenix finally let out a smile.
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