At the same time as a primordial storm bended the knee and a holy lance made it as if the world itself roared, a fated battle was taking place deep in the royal palace of the Kyrie Kingdom.
“I may look different, but I shall protect you with my life! For I am Erevain vi Kyrie! Now come, Eternal Winter! Let us resume our fight!"
Exclaimed the former Crown Prince of the Kyrie Kingdom, who put herself between her family and the Dragon Lord that was crawling out of a certain ice doll’s body, Hilde Val’s body.
Said ice doll fell apart as the one controlling it fully came out and filled the room with her killing intent and mana, overwhelming everyone in the room except Erevain.
"...how?! How did you manage to...nngh…fight that, Big Brother?!"
"...this is a...nn...Eternal Winter?!"
Mary, Euphemia, and Licht were baffled as to how Erevain had been able to resist such crushing presence five years ago.
How was Erevain not completely paralyzed by it back then?
How did she push forward against the being that was now before them?
And while its suffocating presence gave the illusion that they were before something of great proportions, she still had a humanoid figure, one which resembled her doll in appearance. But if one were to look at her closely, one would notice that even then her beauty could be said to be in another level. Indeed, such beauty could be described as otherworldly, or almost divine, and it extended to her armor, which was as white as the snow that began to cover the room with her mere presence.
Her hair was a cold white with a tinge of blue.
Her icy blue eyes had a draconic shape and inhuman glow.
Her horns had a feathered wing shape and were positioned in such a way that they gave impression of a headband or a tiara, and they were almost immaculate.
Indeed…almost, for there was a scratch in one of them.
"Your form has changed...but your recklessness…has not, Fallen Prince..."
So said Eternal Winter as spite filled her melancholic voice and painted over her cold expression.
Such was her hatred towards Erevain that even her fangs were showing very, very clearly.
"You still believe that you can...match my power? That you can do...more than this?"
With such words having left her lips, she traced her hand along her scratched horn and the intensity in her eyes grew deeper.
Not only that, but the cold got worse as the crunching sound of the room freezing made its appearance.
Even then…Erevain ignored it all, the cold, the crushing presence of a Dragon Lord and her killing intent.
She ignored it all as she pointed her silver blade towards her with eyes full of resolve and firmly declared…
Then, after locking gazes for a second…
…Erevain turned around with an absurd speed and slashed at the many ice stalactites that sought to impale her siblings who still lied on the floor.
Exclaimed Licht, shocked as to how he did not notice such incoming attack until Erevain thwarted it.
But that was simply the opening salvo.
For more…many more came after that and not just stalactites.
Crushing ice boulders.
And even…protruding ice pillars.
They came from the floor, the ceiling, the sides, all with one intention and one intention alone, to destroy Erevain.
Thus, before such merciless assault, said target moved around the room as she evaded, parried, destroyed, and blocked it all.
Even doing so while protecting her siblings from the crossfire.
And yet...despite having used all of that, Eternal Winter had not chanted a single spell nor activated any skill.
Furthermore, she had not moved a single step from where she was standing.
The only thing she was doing was flicking her fingers and following Erevain with her eyes.
Nothing more, nothing less.
That is until…
…she said that in a sigh that seethed with intensity.
This time Erevain had her full attention.
This time she would freeze her completely.
This time would be different.
*crack* *crack* *crack*
And yes...it was indeed different, but in the way she was expecting, for the moment the ice started covering Erevain's body it cracked and broke down, which left Brynn in utter disbelief.
Indeed…her ice was resisted.
And that made her heart tremble.
After all, her ice was an ice that could freeze every inferior being with ease.
It was an ice that was difficult to escape from even for those of her kin who shared the same hierarchical position.
It was the same ice that bestowed upon her the title of Eternal Winter.
'Your winter is no longer eternal...'
Yet…the mocking words of the King of Storms resonated within her mind as she tried to process how a mere human was able to resist her ice.
That was what brought her heart over the edge and freed what she had been holding inside it.
Something that was anything but cold.
Anger and denial filled her roaring voice as she clenched her teeth and extended her hand with force.
So exclaimed Euphemia as saw Erevain being surrounded by floating icicles of varying sizes, which waited for their master's order and she gave it in the form of her closing fist.
"DIE, FALLEN PRINCE!"
Thus, all the icicles descended upon her at a blinding speed but...
"I refuse! [Full-moon Slash]!!"
...she slashed them all down with the same blinding speed before she kicked the ground, cracking the frozen floor, and jumped towards her opponent.
Then, as a faint silver aura began to envelop it, she gripped her sword with both hands, and swung it at a speed that made it seem as if her blade had disappeared, unleashing a powerful diagonal slash.
In response, Bryn, who had not moved at all since the combat started, jumped back instinctively and even summoned her enchanted spear to defend herself, which fed her anger as she realized that she had done such thing.
"I suggest you stop treating this fight as if I were the same from five years ago. I told you then and I shall tell you now, I shall not surrender myself to the cold."
"SILENCE! YOU, INFERIOR BEING!"
Before such declaration, Eternal Winter launcher herself in anger towards the glaring Erevain, brandishing her spear with the intention to impale her.
'This human dares to...! Dares to...! DARES TO TRY AND FIGHT ME LIKE AN EQUAL?!'
Completely absorbed by those thoughts, she did not notice that her opponent had been chanting while positioning her left arm as if covering herself with it.
"...protect me [Magic Shield]!"
In that moment, not only was Bryn’s spear perfectly blocked by Erevain’s [Magic Shield], but a strong magical pulse was released at the Dragon Lord.
A pulse that contained not only the same amount of force of the attack blocked but doubled it and added the Moonlight attribute to it. It was so strong that it shook the whole room, breaking the shell of ice that had been covering the walls and even cracking the ice pillar where Mary was trapped.
As for Bryn, she was both blinded and strongly pushed back by it.
'I AM BEING PUSHED BACK BY A HUMAN?! SHE…!! SHE…!!'
And as anger filled her thoughts more and more, she found it difficult to refocus.
She tried to fix her stance quickly and launch an attack of her own, but something else was coming for her.
For Erevain had molded her [Magic Shield] in the same shape her destroyed moon tear shield once had, wielded it like it, and…
"HAAH! [SHIELD BASH]!!"
…hit her with it, strongly.
Thus, staggering Bryn and breaking her guard, and that was what Erevain needed to unleash her next skill on her.
And she showed no hesitation, nor restraint, in doing so as she rammed her with the entirety of her shield and sent her crashing into one of the room's walls.
That one hurt her.
That one managed to make it through her defenses and hurt her.
'How dare she...! She is but a human! A human…inferior…!!'
Then, as she was trying to remove herself from the wall, Erevain appeared right before her, [Magic Shield] ready, sword enchanted and prepared to be thrusted.
"You are not going anywhere Eternal Winter! [Shielded Moon Fusillade]!"
And so, Erevain unleashed a merciless barrage of attacks upon Bryn.
Attacks that penetrated her armor and even pierced her skin, painting Erevain’s sword in a tinge of red, and causing Bryn’s mind to spiral further down into complete denial.
'NO! NO! NO! NO! THIS CANNOT BE!!'
Her arms, her legs, her chest, and even her neck received damage and started bleeding.
And in the middle of it all…
…neither of them noticed that something else was happening too…
…Erevain’s sword had started to crack.
'Erevain is overwhelming her.'
Thought Mary as she fought her own body's wish to lose consciousness.
The cold that had trapped her was shaving her life away by the second.
'It all happened so fast...'
Their plan to distract Hilde Val long enough to kill her with a blessed weapon had worked...but, to their dismay, she did not die.
Instead, she turned the tables on them.
One moment they were launching another joint attack and in the next Mary found herself almost completely trapped inside an ice pillar, watching how Hilde Val put the lives of Licht and Euphemia into her own hands, for she only needed to clench each of those hands to snap the neck of the former and crush the head of the latter.
But then Erevain arrived mere moments later and while her new form surely surprised her, it also shed light on something that had been bugging Mary.
On something about the woman that she fought.
The woman named Erica.
Her sword style was pretty much identical to the one her 'little brother' earnestly practiced every day and night.
A sight that was held close in her heart, just like the rest of her memories of her ‘little brother’.
'If Eresh Kur was actually Erevain then...Erica might actually be Eric...I mean the name is...'
Then it all clicked for her. The girl's reaction to her. Lady Argento's story. The strange sensation she had when close to Erica.
She had fought the one she had betrayed, and she had been none the wiser.
But instead of feeling vexed...she felt at peace.
Indeed, she felt like that for she had been left uninjured even after what she did.
She was still loved, and even if she knew that she did not deserve it, she was happy.
That was why there was no way in hell that she would give up and go to sleep.
She had to talk to her.
She had to be honest and confront her.
She had to take responsibility.
And as she kept looking at Erevain overwhelm Eternal Winter, she noticed something.
Something was moving inside the icy floor…a silhouette.
Moreover, it looked just like she had seen Hilde Val do before coming out of an icicle.
Worst of all, it was going towards Licht and Euphy.
It was then that she tried to warn Erevain, but her voice failed her.
She tried to move, but her body failed her.
But she was not giving up.
On the contrary, it was she needed to light the fire inside her once more.
'I can't keep being a prop! I need to break free!! Licht and Euphy...!! I must save them...!! Come on!! If Erevain fought her five years ago then that means I can at least free myself from this!! Burn! Dammit!! I have the blood of the fiery ogres!! Are you telling me that a piece of ice is stronger than the fucking blood of the fiery ogres?! COME ON!! GET OFF YOUR ASSES YOU BLOODY ANCESTORS OF MINE AND LIGHT ME UP!!!'
Thus, as she struggled within the ice, her skin was slowly turning red and heating up.
At the time same as a half-ogre thought of a ruined plan, Bryn found herself within the recesses of her mind, denying reality as time slowed down.
Something that made the barrage of attacks that she was suffering seem unending.
She could see what was happening but did not believe it.
She could feel the pain, but she ignored it.
She could feel the blood running down her body, but she denied it.
She had seen the power of the woman before her when she cut one of her spells in half.
She knew that and yet she confronted her in the same way she would have confronted any other human.
She refused to accept it.
She refused to accept the possibility that fighting once again against her could lead to more than a scratched horn.
She refused...her own fear.
For when she saw her spell being cut in half...she felt that fear once more, even if for an instant, and it started a chain reaction within her.
That fear made her usual cold and focused heart into something else.
Something that needed to be held back.
'I have been so blind...'
She was not herself.
'What am I doing...Master Scath?'
She asked at her memories of her Master while she, for the first time in the whole battle, truly looked at the fearless eyes of her opponent.
'A true battle? Hmm...that is a good question, Bryn. In my whole life I have battled many beings, from the first of our kin, who were my brothers and sisters, to Grand Monsters and Beasts. And even so-called Sages, Hermits, Saints and…Heroes.’
Back then she could see it in her Master’s eyes, each of those mentioned had left everlasting memories on her, they had been strong enough to be worthy of the benefit of being remembered.
‘Still, the thing that differentiates them from common to true battles...is simple, but it will probably be difficult for you to understand. The fearless eyes of the opponent, the rush one gets when the path to victory is obscured and...the embracing of one's fear of death.’
It was then that her Master looked at her with eyes that seemed to hold tinges of pity, disappointment, and interest. Much unlike her usual aloofness.
‘And judging by your expression I was right. But no matter, it was to be expected. After all, you are young, and you have been unopposed since you ascended to that form. Still, give it time and you shall find someone that will put you in that position, whether you want it or not. When you do, it will not matter who you are fighting against but the battle itself. And the only path that will lead you to victory will be the one where you break any preconception you may have and use everything.’
Her Master's wisdom shone within her mind like the sun coming out after a nebulous day, for she finally understood the meaning behind such words.
'You are truly wise...Master.'
Thus, her mind was finally free of the toxic cycle of denial.
She believed what she was seeing.
She acknowledged her pain.
She stopped denying her bleeding.
She accepted her fear.
And in that moment, as she felt like a weight had been taken off her body, she slowly but surely weaved her magical energies.
Moreover, she was now aware that Erevain was trying to outpace her [Health Regeneration] and make true damage before using something bigger to finish her off.
So, she made a plan to forcefully stop her and create the brief chance that she needed to break free.
Such plan consisted of manipulating the pieces of the ice doll that were left and sending them towards Erevain's siblings, forcing her to stop her attack and save their lives.
With that, she waited for her plan to work, but something unexpected happened.
The half-ogre woman that she had trapped in an ice pillar broke herself out of it and jumped at the place where the pieces were moving.
But that was not all.
Her arms and her legs had turned pale red, and vapor was emanating from her.
That made something clear.
The ice pillar had not only been broken by her sheer strength, but also melted by the intense heat that she was emitting.
"You keep attacking her, Erevain! I will protect these two for as long as I can!"
So exclaimed Mary as she grabbed the doll's pieces and crushed them with her hands.
Still, she knew that she would not last long in that new form of hers, for she felt as if she was being cooked alive from the inside.
'This must be my angry ancestors punishing me for calling them names...'
Such were Mary’s thoughts on the reason for that.
"Mary...I am sorry..."
"Save it, Licht. You fucked it up...but you tried. And Euphy, come on! Move! If I can, you can! I know that you have potions in that bracelet of yours! Use them! Or are you still that little girl?"
"Haha...that is the Big Sis that I love...hn! You know well that I have been trying all this time...!"
As Euphemia was finally able to move, even if slowly, she managed to summon some potions from her storage bracelet and started drinking one of them.
"Very well...[Great Draconic Force] [Strength of the Eternal Winter]."
...a wave of power suddenly emanated from Bryn, which not only pushed Erevain back, but threw her to the floor, all while also affecting the others.
"I...acknowledge you as an opponent...I will no longer disrespect those eyes of yours...Erevain."
And as said opponent stood up, she found a fully healed Eternal Winter looking at her.
Her stance did not show any openings and the way she was holding her spear told Erevain that Bryn was finally taking their fight seriously.
But that was not a good thing at all, for that meant that she was going to face the full might of a Dragon Lord.
Worst of all, in an enclosed space where her family was present.
Thus, she was the most disadvantaged of the two.
And she had realized that from the beginning.
That was why she had tried to defeat her as fast as possible by outpacing her regeneration and dealing true damage to her body.
But now that was clearly not possible.
Then again, true trials were never that easy and she knew it.
"[Shielder's Will] [Mystic Knight's Trance] [Mystic Fortress]."
As such, she did not waver before such trial and instead she walked towards it, towards Bryn.
And Bryn walked towards Erevain.
Their battle resumed.
Erevain's sword slashed and parried away Bryn's spear, while Bryn thrusted her spear once again and moved it perfectly, fully making use of her reach.
Sparks flew as the sound of metal clashing against metal filled the area.
It was truly a battle of technique where stopping for one second could mean heavy damage.
Not only that, but any of those blows could kill even a veteran knight and Erevain's family knew it.
Even if they were healed now thanks to Euphemia’s potions, there was no place for them in that battle, which frustrated Euphemia greatly.
Still, she did not take her eyes off it, waiting for a chance to help.
And Licht was doing the same, all while making his brain come up with anything that could help his brother...sister...win.
Mary, on the other hand, did not have time to do that, for she needed to defend those two from any attacks that came their way.
Furthermore, that fact that Erevain was not reacting to those attacks showed that she trusted her.
She would not betray that trust, not again.
Back to the fight, the attacks from Bryn became faster and Erevain responded in kind.
‘It is so strange…being able to keep up with a full-fledged Dragon Lord is something that I only knew from legends…and yet, that is what I am doing.’
Such were her thoughts as she kept slashing, thrusting, and parrying in a certain pattern.
That is until…
...an opening was created by tricking Bryn into following that very same pattern, making it impossible for her to block Erevain's next attack.
She knew it and still tried, for that was what her heart was telling her.
Yet, Erevain’s blade came down with amazing strength and connected with Bryn's shoulder, cutting into the skin, but before it could go any deeper...
...Erevain's sword broke into pieces, which not only shocked her, but also made her lose her balance for an instant.
An instant that Bryn was not going to ignore.
And so, she shot a ball of concentrated icy blue flames from her hand, flames that were not a skill nor a spell, but something natural for her as a Dragon Lord. What was once her breath when she was just a Dragon, was now something that she could shoot out of her hand at a lower input. But she knew that that was not enough for Erevain. After all, she had resisted her ice. Thus, she kicked her right in the stomach.
But despite receiving the full brunt of it and being pushed back towards her family, Erevain did not fall, for she kept herself standing by nailing her feet to the ground through sheer strength.
"You fought...well...Erevain. If that sword had not broken…I would have been injured enough for you…to finish me. But alas, this has taken far too long...no more whispers...no more dances...my cold flames shall be the end for you…and your family. But will you use the same thing as then, I wonder...?"
With that, Bryn's mana started to swirl around her gracefully and the room’s temperature began to drop sharply.
"Oh breath of mine...bring everything to a standstill...cease the dancing of life and..."
"That chant...! Everyone! I shall protect you!"
In that moment, realizing what was about to happen, Erevain readied herself to do everything she could to stop it from hurting those behind her.
Those who called out to her as they felt the impending danger, but they did not do so out of desperation or wanting salvation, they did so out of concern.
After all, regardless of everything that happened, they already had lost her once.
They did not want to lose her again.
"...turn everything into a field of pure...white death, [Fimbulvetr's Breath]!"
But such wishes meant nothing to the Dragon Lord before them as a magical circle appeared in front of her face and her cheeks cracked open, revealing a more draconic maw.
Following that, an icy blue glow started to make its way up Bryn's throat to the interior of her mouth and then…it was shot forth.
A torrent of icy blue flames that became a gigantic dragon’s breath as they passed through the magic circle and flew towards its targets.
"Moonlight and Earth, I beseech you protect me!! [Magic Shield]!!!"
In response, Erevain not only stretched her [Magic Shield] to the point that it could protect everyone effectively, but she also casted such spell multiple times, putting each shield on top of the other and creating somewhat of a layered barrier.
And yet, she knew that it was not going to be enough, for she could see the effects that such merciless breath was having in her surroundings.
Or more like…there was no sign of them.
Indeed, there were no traces left that would tell someone that such place had been a room until a few moments ago.
Even the vault that Bryn sought to open disappeared on top of layers upon layers of ice.
Thus, the room was not a room anymore but an icy cavern.
One whose freezing cold was already reaching Erevain’s family despite her blocking the brunt of the attack.
"Come you two! I will keep you warm!"
Of course, Mary was not going to just let them freeze, and as such, she embraced both Euphemia and Licht, trying with everything she had to keep them warm.
Even if that meant forcing her body to maintain a state she was barely holding onto.
Furthermore, Erevain was being pushed back.
At that point it was the worst-case scenario for her.
For while she felt that she could survive the attack even if it hit her, the others…the others would not.
'If only I had a shield...!'
Indeed, if only she had a shield…then she could have used her strongest defensive spell [Astral Barrier].
But said spell needed a shield to act as the physical medium from which her mana would materialize it.
Without it...the results could be even worse than what she was experiencing now.
Even then, she knew that she was being closely watched by Bryn, who was seemingly completely focused on releasing her unending breath.
But no, she was waiting.
Waiting for Erevain to try and use something that would leave her open to be annihilated by her spear.
Thus, the moment she started a longer chant, Bryn would move and use that opening.
'It does not matter...! I shall take the risk...!'
…she did it anyways, or at least she tried before time slowed down for her.
It was different than the adrenaline rush she had experienced multiple times.
Yet…it felt strangely familiar.
Like she had experienced such slowed down world once upon a time.
Haa…you truly are too selfless and stubborn for your own good...Erevain. But that is one of your good points too.
It was then that a strange feminine voice resounded everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
A voice that made the familiar feeling within Erevain grow stronger.
'Who…are you? Why do I feel that I know you…?'
So asked Erevain, but her lips did not move at all and neither did her body.
Who indeed? To think that the Knight that I chose, the Knight whose life I saved back then forgot about me. That pains me...
It was then that Erevain remembered that night five years ago.
The same full moon night when she found herself between life and death after her fight with Bryn.
Indeed, something else happened after that, something that had been a hazy memory until now, someone called out to her back then and she called herself…
She said in a surprised tone.
Oh, so you do remember! I am glad that my Master's lover did not tell you about me and let you remember on your own! But enough of that, I have taken the liberty of asking for a favor to my sister, the Time Spirit, and she has agreed to slow everything down for a moment. All so that I can apologize.
'What…? Why? I should be the one apologizing for...'
Shhh…let me finish. I do not want this to take too long or the favor I’ll owe will be bigger!
As I was saying, I apologize for making you wait. It is just that I cannot help but be finicky about blessed weapons born from Moon Tears, and I could not give my approval until I was sure that they were perfect! That is why you had to wait this long! So, when you hear me clap and everything goes back to normal, just summon them and ah! Use that! You can endure it now. I promise. Good? Good. See you!
Sudden was her entrance and sudden was her exit, leaving Erevain no time to reply before the world returned to its normal speed.
But instead of wasting time questioning what happened, she decided to trust the words of the Moon Spirit.
Thus, she planted her feet on the icy floor, took a deep breath, and shouted from the top of her lungs.
"COME, OH GREAT MOON, FILL ME WITH YOUR POWER AS YOUR LIGHT FILLS THE SKY..."
And as Erevain predicted, Bryn launched herself at her.
But it was too late.
For a pillar of bright silver light burst out of a magical circle beneath her feet, covering her completely and protecting her family from the last torrent of freezing flames.
Not only that, but it also made Bryn jump back at the last moment.
And as the light faded away, it revealed the figure of Erevain clad in an armor made of moonlight itself, one that hovered over her combat clothing.
But that was not all.
In her right hand there was a blessed longsword and covering her left arm there was a blessed shield.
The former had runes burning with moonlight in its fuller and had an exquisite silver shine.
Meanwhile, the latter looked as if someone had made it out of all the phases of the moon, giving it a layered appearance. And just like with the longsword, it had runes burning with moonlight, but these ones were right on its center.
Furthermore, Erevain’s pupils were glowing with a never seen before intensity and her black hair was now a pure, shining silver.
Lastly, she did not know it, but a full moon had suddenly appeared in the sky, making her Knights' morale go through the roof, for they knew what it meant.
Euphemia gaped, giving voice to what they were all thinking.
"I see...so this is what I saw a glimpse of back then...come!"
Said Bryn as she readied her spear, a smile appearing on her face for the very first time.
Thus, Erevain obliged, stepping forward with fearless eyes and the conviction to defeat Eternal Winter.
And so, they danced again.
To be continued (Cue illustration of Erevain in her [Moon Descent] form!!) (Up Next in IAWAMW Z: What the hell are the maids doing while these epic battles are playing out?! Their duty, duh!! Expect to read about the rest of the maids that were just in the background too!)
Thank you for reading and for your patience! I hope that you enjoyed the chapter! If you did, please drop a heart, and tell me down below! If you wish to support me and the story, please consider subscribing to my patreon, buying me a ko-fi, or donating to my paypal! Your support really helps, a lot.
Now, before we go to the art section of today/tonight. There’s a bit of news, or more like complementing one that was already mentioned! And that is, the stream where you guys can get to meet LARH and ask him questions, it will be on the 5th of this month! So, if you want to join in, do join the story’s discord server!
Speaking of discord, we are having a live read this Sunday! Yes, that includes me doing the voices of all characters and sound effects! So, if you not only want to listen to me, but also have the chance to choose which chapter I will read, do join us this Sunday!
And without further ado, here’s the art!
First, LARH gifted me this amazing sketch to celebrate the new year with all of you and wish you the best! In any case, Auros looks so good! I love it!!
Lastly, we have a very comfy New Year’s Nerinne by fia from our discord server! She looks so gorgeous and warm!
And that’s all for now, if you’d like to send some fanart, just go to the discord server and upload it in the fanart channel!
Special thanks from the bottom of my heart to: EmbraceTheSleeb, Lord-Hollow, YukisoraRin, LordInquisitorSteele, Anon, Anon2, Tikku, Teresa, Ayth, Knight_Redundant, Schoookie, sumdudeguy, pokio, greatred and eeleater!
Please do not translate my work without my permission. Favor de no traducir mi trabajo sin mi expreso permiso.
See you all in the next chapter!