The stink of blood clogged my nose. A white-hot rage boiled in my chest like molten lava.
Once I started running there was no chance of stropping me. I'd already pulled a knife from my boot and hurled it with all my strength. It tore thew the air and seperated the central figure's hand from his arm. Drops of dark liquid spurt from his wound.
He let forth a piercing scream of pain.
"Kill!" Was all he said.
The other men were instantly alerted to my presence and turned. They looked at me with fanatical eyes I'd seen all too much of recently, except the usual worship was full of nothing but malice.
I saw the symbolic lavender hair of the Aeil, confirming what I already knew. There was no wind and yet those locks still stirred. I could almost see the Aura whirl about their bodies.
The one closest to me descended with a ferocity like that of a grizzly bear. His arm shot out, swelling with the power of Aura, and grabbed at my throat.
I didn't even bother dodging and directly tore it off. With a body as strong as an Aeil's it's likely few people could do something like that, even less if they were enhanced with the strength of Aura like these guys were.
But I could use Aura too, now couldn't I?
And as mad as I am right now I couldn't care less what might happen. I let it loose for the first time in forever and, like last, it exploded out of my body in a pillar of blazing light.
The ground cracked as the first offender hit the floor.
The others behind him didn't care at all how fast their friend was taken down and continued their charge. I gazed past and saw the leader of the bunch, or who I assumed to be, hunch over the altar in pain. He snarled as he caught me looking over.
He growled something in his language and a door burst open from the side.
Several more figures came in wearing heavy armor and carrying great broadswords. I smell the stink of blood
They charged over, war cries filling the air. Another attacker came. it didn't matter how followed after him. Didn't matter how well-armed they were. I powered my way through and dismembered any who were in my way.
One went for my leg and had his own crippled. Another aimed for my heart and had his torn out.
There were so many of them. I felt a something hot pool at my side. One of them got a lucky strike in. I took the weapon from his hand and stabbed him in his throat.
"O Great God, accept the nourishing blood of the golden child and descend upon the world once more!"
With his other hand the man once again raised the dagger. Charlotte was bound and gagged and squirming crazily.
Besieged on all sided, I roared. "No one messes with my little girl!"
I broke through in a burst of absolute rage and, like lightning, arrived at the man in an instant.
I pinned him against the wall by his chest and felt it cave slightly under my palm.
But for all that, his eyes never left her. It was like he couldn't even see me.
"May the Great Demon bathe us in his divine splendor!" Spit flew from his mouth.
I gave a small push and broke him. He crumpled to the floor and fell forever silent.
The men who were blown away by me before regained their bearings and looked over in shock.
I ignored them and instead concentrated on Charlotte, ripping her leather bindings. She was wild-eyed, confused and nearly hyperventilating.
I scooped her up into my arms and noticed her back was wet. There was sticky blood caked all over the altar, obviously recently used.
"Are you okay?"
There were about a thousand other questions I had right now but this was the only one I really cared about.
"I..." She looked at me in a daze. Finally she refocused and seemed to recognize me. "Of course I am. Who do you think you're talking to? Let me go already." She pushed.
She lacked any kind of strength.
I took her hand in mine. It was cold and trembling.
The cultists came back from their surprise and ran over, shouting for the recovery of their sacrifice.
I exploded with brilliant golden light as they charged.
"You should've ran."
"Dammit. Who knew these bastards would have a base so close to the city? It's insane. And they're even sacrificing people now?"
Chelsea was also worked up. She looked down at the knocked-out Aeil with annoyance and delivered a swift kick to one the men.
"Hmph. Wait till I bring you back for questioning. See how big and bad you are then--"
"They're mine." I cut her off.
"But they've gotta be interro--"
"They're mine." I gave no room for argument. My voice was cold even to my own ears.
"Your Grace, these people are cultists of our nation. It's only right for us to deal with our own."
I stared her down.
"They took my daughter." My voice was quiet but forceful. "I don't give a damn who they are. I'm going to hunt down every single one and wring the life from their throats. You should've handled them properly long before now. But you didn't, so I will. And if you get in my way--"
She held up her hands in surrender. "Nope, don't even finish that sentence. I got it. I'll be good." She wiped sweat from her brow, laughing nervously. She turned around. "Holy crap that was scary." A hushed whisper. "Although I kinda wonder..." She sighed wistfully.
I walked to Charlotte's side. "How you doing?"
"Fine." She replied curtly.
I saw her picking at her hair. Small clumps of blood came off. Her hands were dyed a brownish-red and I noticed her actively avoid looking down at them.
"Bubbles!" I called. "Come here."
The young woman heeded my command and sauntered on over. "Yeah?"
I pointed. "Fix her."
"No probs, boss." She conjured a Charlotte-sized ball of water and pushed it forward. The little girl stumbled in surprise but I gently caught her.
As the ball of liquid passed over her body it sucked all the blood, turning a dark, nasty shade of red.
Charlotte was entirely dry and clean.
"There. Pretty as a picture." Chelsea gave a wide smile and pinched Charlotte's cheek.
The girl blinked. "That's....thank you." Was all she could say.
Charlotte looked between us doubtfully. She seemed to wonder about the relationship but chose not to ask. Likely due to her thinking the question rude. A Princess is a Princess, after all. She was quite mindful of such things, I suppose.
"...I was about to break out myself, you know." Charlotte turned to me and said. "I could've easily..." She trailed off.
"I know." I rubbed her pretty little head. "Something of this level could never do in the great Dragon Slayer Charlotte, eh? Sorry for stealin' the limelight."
She averted my eyes. "Hmph. Well. I'll forgive you this time." And walked away.
The girl approached the pile of cultists. We watched her wordlessly. She just stared at them for a long time. Then, without warning, she kicked out. Viciously. Again, and again, and again.
Bubbles watched a moment more. Then, "Should we...?"
I shook my head.
"She needs this."
There were a small pile of corpses off to the side of the altar. I checked and none of them were familiar. A glint of light caught my attention. It was the dagger.
I examined it closely but found nothing out of the ordinary except the blade itself. It was blue, like crystal, somehow feeling very similar to Ko city's giant walls. Was this made from a piece of it? If so, why?
I thought about the legend Yesmina told me about the walls. A claw from a fallen God, huh. Still, didn't see a connection between that and these cultists.
It seemed obvious they were trying to revive some ancient being. This Great Demon. Why use a supposed piece of a Divine, then, when offering up a sacrifice?
And what Demon did they want to bring back anyway? Only one who jumps to mind is that Balthazar. He does seem to be the most famous from what I knew of. Which, honestly, isn't much,
I would guess Charlotte was supposed to be the main course to this whole ritual. For her Angelic bloodline? How did they even know she had that? No one should know about it except the family itself or someone close to them.
No way a bunch of Aeil cultists would find out information like that on their own, not with how far they were from the Kingdom. Someone had to have told them. I just didn't have a clue who since I don't know who else shared that knowledge.
Something about this whole thing stunk.
Do you smell it? That smell. A kind of smelly smell. The smelly smell that smells...smelly.
And it ain't Bubbles.
I should return and ask Lucy-loo about it.
I felt a shiver just then as I remembered something: Charlotte was never in the original game. She wasn't mentioned even once.
This had to be why.
I always wondered what the hell was going on with her, why things were different now from the orignal story.
At first I thought she died due to some illness. When I found out how weak she used to be I felt that a plausible theory. But that wouldn't explain why there was no sign of her anywhere.
It made sense now.
The circumstance, the timing. It was all too perfect. I mean imagine it. This is a period where Alex was supposed to be off in the Dry Lands to sharpen himself and gain new experiences. And at the same time his sister is kidnapped by a group of cultists and killed as a sacrifice, WHILE HE'S IN THE SAME REGION.
He must've felt like shit. While he was off fooling around Charlotte had been killed. And how far was it from where he was staying? A couple of days at most. How much anger and regret would that've caused a kid like him?
No wonder he grew up cold.
Did they ever catch the one responsible for it? I couldn't know. Lucius, Dana, Alex. If I lost my daughter to cultists I'd never want to talk about it either.
"Bastards went after the wrong man's kid." I muttered.
No one touches our Charlotte, eh, Lucy?
I'm kidnapping a King again. And when I do we're coming back and purging every fucking cultist scum from the Dry Lands.
These bastards are a bug infestation and I'm Dale Gribble, exterminator extraordinaire.
"Those degenerates had been killing a new person almost every hour." Charlotte said. "They kept us in a cage below. I was the last one they took out."
"What happened to Kane? Why wasn't he there to protect you?"
"He wasn't at the castle. He left before they showed up."
"That's no excuse." I clenched my hand, wanting to hit something. "He should've--"
He should've sensed them long before they arrived. That entire area is his domain.
Even if they took her, he'd be able to follow.
I furrowed my brows.
He's here, isn't he?
I looked around, finding nothing. But I was sure. That bastard was close by, watching, waiting. Why?
Didn't make sense why he still didn't show. I looked at the innocents that'd been killed.
....That man wouldn't care about them. Kane wasn't the type to move for people he didn't know and had no obligation to protect. I knew that.
But it was still a fucked up thing, just letting them die.
I could only sigh at the unneeded deaths. Though then again maybe they weren't innocent. Who knew? And I wasn't in a place to judge. I understood very well I wouldn't lose sleep over something like this.
I cared about Charlotte. And I didn't even know these other people. I wouldn't be a hypocrite and say I was pained by their deaths.
It was a shame, but only that.
All of a sudden I heard footsteps from behind.
"Young Master. Here."
It was Mary!
She, to the surprise of everyone, walked up and passed me a note.
"Mary, what the he--?"
But she only took a step back and vanished, leaving me dumbfounded.
I read the note:
Actually, your friends are still in the city :P
Did you have a happy reunion with the Princess? And to think I would've missed her if I hadn't been nearby. Guess neither I nor that stick-in-the-mud Kane had to make a move after all. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Still cut it close though, didn't you?
By the way nice save there, son. You were pretty cool you know~ I wonder how many points you scored?
Oh, but thats not only why I sent you. I also recognized a certain rascal in that area I thought you should meet. Tell him I said Hi, 'kay?
P.S Careful on your way down.
....This woman's driving me crazy!
What the hell is this?! What do you mean, a lie!? You're telling me they're still in the city?!
And she knew about the kidnapping?!
What would've happened if Charlotte hadn't been with Kane, and if Mother hadn't come to the Dry Lands and sensed her nearby?
To think the little one might've really died if not for one of those two things happening.
But thankfully they did. If I was late at least one of them would've saved her. If it was like the original story...
No, hold on, what did she mean by "on your way down"?
I then noticed a certain light emanating from the words. The letter, it was stating to glow.
My scalp tingled.
"Everyone get down!" I screamed.
I crumpled the paper and threw the letter into the air, then hugged Charlotte close to my chest.
"What about me?!" Bubbles yelled with great injustice.
I gotta be honest, I forgot about her.
"My baby girl comes first!"
Charlotte struggled in my arms, face entirely red, shouting, "I'm NOT your-!"