The Audience Chamber — Part 3
Editors: Speedphoenix, Joker
The first thing Nell felt upon entering the audience chamber was a sense of unease. And it wasn’t a problem wrought by the room itself.
After all, the room she was standing in was the one the king used to receive his guests. It was made to be glamorous. Gorgeous ornaments could be seen all over, and there was even a raised platform a bit further in. Atop the platform sat a single seat reserved only for the king. A throne. The throne was so beautifully made that even those that knew nothing of craftsmanship could tell that it was of an extremely high quality. The rest of the furniture, which lay arranged throughout the room, matched its atmosphere perfectly, and the windows had been strategically engineered in order to provide just the right amount of light. All these factors came together as one and made the chamber seem even more graceful than the sum of its parts.
Only one thing, or rather group of things, didn’t quite fit. Half the room was filled with fully armed soldiers that looked just about as out of place as could be.
His Highness the prince, the objective that the rescue squad had set out to capture, stood upon the raised platform at the back of the room. He began to speak in a loud, booming voice the moment Nell and her companions had entered.
“Behold, men. Those who wish to bring our country to ruin have finally come! Seize those rebels immediately! They are traitors, bygones captivated by the values of old. And that is not all. They are incompetents that wish for nothing but to impede our growth as a nation!” There was no doubt in his words. He was convinced that he was just. And as were his troops. They took up arms the moment he ordered them to and prepared themselves for battle.
The center of attention, His Highness, was the source of Nell’s malaise. She couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was, but her instincts told her that it was the look in his eyes. Everything else about the prince seemed rather normal. His behaviour was grand and he carried himself in a way befitting of a member of royalty; his body almost seemed to radiate an aura of magnaminty. But his eyes alone stood out as odd. Something about them struck her. It was almost like the light that filled them had rotted away.
She knew that something was wrong. But she didn’t get the chance to voice her suspicions. Things were happening too fast for her to offer her doubt.
“Your Highness, you are suspected of high treason. We will have you surrender yourselves to us!” shouted Carlotta. The operation’s commander followed the declaration by immediately issuing orders. “Our mission has seen nothing but easy progress. Now, we must fight hard enough to make up for all the effort that we hadn’t the need to invest elsewhere!”
“Yes ma’am!” The knights barked back a response, and like the soldiers, drew their arms and prepared for combat.
“Your Majesty, I know that you most likely have a lot on your mind right now, but I must ask of you to stand aside and allow us to handle the situation.” After addressing her knights, Carlotta turned to the king.
“Very well.” Though the expression on his face was bitter, he nodded and complied with her instructions by shifting behind the rescue squad.
His movements served to initiate the battle. The two groups immediately began clashing blades.
The result was a one-sided slaughter. Nell knew that she and Carlotta both completely outclassed every soldier present. The first of the two was the church’s hero, and the other an exemplary knight. The soldiers were unable to stand up to them. The prince’s troops didn’t even find themselves capable of halting the pair’s advance.
While they were definitely the stars of the show, the truth of the matter was that the end result would not have differed much regardless of whether they were present. Every single member of the rescue squad was hand-picked. They were the most prominent members of the elite, the cream of the crop. The skill they demonstrated in dispatching the soldiers that filled the audience chamber failed to put their reputation to shame.
The prince’s defeat and subsequent capture was only a matter of time. The rescue squad would soon have full control of the area.
Nell, however, wasn’t thinking of victory or glory. Her head was instead filled with thoughts of the demon lord that had stayed behind to delay the orichalcum class adventurer. The only reason the operation had gone so smoothly was because he had taken on the role of handling the strongest of the enemy’s forces. So dangerous was the man that attacked them that even Nell, who was ignorant of the world at large, knew his face. For he was the War Freak, an adventurer near unmatched in battle.
Yuki was, as a demon lord, quite powerful in his own right. But the same was true of his foe. Nell soon came to the conclusion that the two would take a significant amount of time to conclude their battle, given that they were both fearsome entities to face in combat. That’s right, she thought to herself, Yuki’s taken on the most dangerous role. We can’t just leave him. We have to finish as quickly as possible so we can go help him.
Both Carlotta and Yuki himself had stated that backup would only get in the way, but that didn’t sit well with Nell. She knew that there just had to be something she could do. It wasn’t like helping was literally impossible. Not helping him just wasn’t something she could accept.
And so, with that in mind, she continued to resolve herself to do battle—only to end up distracted by another thought. Why does His Highness seem so calm?
The rescue squad was overwhelming the prince’s soldiers. The audience chamber was sure to fall into her allies’ hands. And yet, the prince’s expression remained as confident as ever. Nell immediately began to suspect that it was because the prince had a trump card, something that could turn the situation around and seize victory.
There was a loud crash the moment the thought passed through her head. One of the windows had been violently smashed to bits as something entered the room.
Her train of thought had all but convinced her that enemy reinforcements had come. But upon craning her neck and looking at the intruder, she found that she was wrong. The person that had entered the stage was none other than the demon lord that had been on her mind the whole time.
I swung Zaien. The diagonal, downwards slash was backed with all the force of my window-breaking entrance. My target paused for a moment of surprise but raised his arms in front of him once he realized that he was under attack. My strike came into contact with his defence. I felt the blade mash up against something much harder than flesh. Was he wearing something metallic around his arms?
But either way, he wasn’t able to fully stop my strike. I ended up lopping off both his arms before leaving a deep diagonal gash across his chest that ran from his shoulder all the way down to his waist. Shit. It was a bit too shallow.
Blood violently gushed from both his stumpy, handless arms and his chest wound, but he didn’t collapse. My strike hadn’t been fatal. But while it hadn’t destroyed him, it had destroyed his enchanted pendant. I took the opportunity to analyze him and read his status page.
“The hell!?” I shouted, surprised. “You’re a demon!?”
“You have Analyze!?” He gave an equally surprised response before making a motion with his jaw, one that seemed like some sort of order.
“Watch out, Your Majesty!” I spun around and looked behind me as I heard some of the knights begin to shout. There, I found the prince in the midst of an attack. He stepped down from the platform he was on, drew the ceremonial blade on his waist, and began to charge at the king. The guards realized that they had to shift gears the moment he began to move. They drove their blades into his body with a series of fierce slashes as soon as they recognized that he was hostile.
But he didn’t stop. Which is kinda obvious. I mean, the dude’s a zombie. He’s already dead. Why would he care if he’s missing half his guts?
The stunned guards were too shaken by the sight to act in time. Their movements dulled to the point where the king’s safety looked like it would actually be put in peril, so I clicked my tongue, drew my gun, and fired a few shots into the prince’s limbs.
Every last bullet hit its mark dead on. The force of the attacks caused the prince-turned-puppet’s legs to tangle. I turned back towards the demon after confirming the prince’s collapse, only to see a pair of fangs come right for me.
I swivelled out of the way but soon found out that the reason the attack had seemed so half-hearted was because attacking had never truly been the demon’s goal. A pair of wings sprouted from his back and burst from his robe as he dashed towards the window I had come in from.
“Oh hell no! You’re not getting away!”
I pointed my gun at him and started firing, but he moved like a falling leaf in the wind. He swayed to and fro and dodged most of my shots. Only one landed, but it didn’t even so much as cause him to stumble. He leapt out of the castle regardless. Aw crap. What do I do now? Should I chase him?
Following the demon would mean materializing my wings and exposing my identity, so I hesitated. Unfortunately, my momentary unwillingness turned out to be a critical mistake. The sky was to the demon what water was to a fish. He rapidly picked up speed the moment he made it outside and zoomed off at an incredible speed. He was so fast that it only took him a few seconds to get outside my map’s range. He turned into a speck on the horizon, then vanished altogether shortly afterwards.
Editor’s note (Joker): Hey, guys! Joker here. Boy, how about that? The prince was already dead, and the one controlling him turned out to be a demon. This could be interesting. Yuki might have to go have some dealings with the demon race to find out who this soon-to-be-dead dude is. I also wonder what reward the king will give him. He’s gotta give him something, even if it’s just a promise not to go into the forest anymore without permission. At least, you’d think so. Also should be interesting to see how he gets away from Carlotta. Whether she tries to stop him from leaving to ask him those questions, or he just shuts her down entirely, I’ll have to wait and see. One letter today, so thanks to Confusing thingy. Now, I’m tired, so I’m going to bed. See y’all in the next chapter!