"On account of your father, I'm giving you one final chance," Alfreid said as his robes fluttered from the power the four bombs behind him radiated. He looked down on Annelotte coldly like a magic god. "Leave that devil and accept a fair trial of the empire and you might just be spared!"
"A fair trial?" Annelotte said, not turning her head back one bit. She was still kneeling as she touched Leguna's blood-and-mud-stained face. "Can you honestly claim any fairness when you look at the person in front of me?"
"Annie, you leave first. If I can go a minute later, I will look for an opportunity," Leguna weakly said, "You've done enough for me. It is enough, truly…"
"Shut up, you idiot! Do you think I don't know? Once I leave, you'll be killed immediately!" she rebuked with an expression of pity and pain.
"But… we no longer have a minute to spare…" Leguna muttered as he looked around at the empire's soldiers with his bloodied eyes.
Annelotte watched him as a complicated feeling surfaced in her heart. The youth had always annoyed her, but she somehow felt surprisingly lonely and bored without him around. Was it a habit formed from being around him too much? Or was it because she really felt something for him? Even she didn't know which it was. She had thought she was only doing this to fulfill Eirinn and Innilis's wish, but at the sight of his lonely and helpless face, she understood that no matter how others saw it or how much they were against her doing so, she would definitely come to the execution grounds to defend the helpless and despairing fellow.
The fragments in her memory were beginning to piece together. She could vaguely remember the weak and pathetic youth that took an attack from a fearsome magic beast for her years ago. Even though he knew that he wasn't the beast's match and might very well die from it, he did so regardless. She had asked him why he did so, but she didn't know how to react when she heard the reply. It was something that changed her attitude, and even her life, completely.
"I don't have many friends. I only have boss, Sis Vera, and you… I don't want to lose any of you. I don't want to lose what little I have. I can't afford to…"
She clearly remembered his every word as well as his distraught terror. For the sake of mere friends, that pitiful bug had charged in and risked his life despite with no regard to his weakness. It was as if he was a stray dog defending the last piece of rotten bread he had.
All that just because he saw her as a friend. Perhaps it was from then on that this dirty little monkey barged into her world. Back then, all she knew was intelligence, profits, the guild, being used, and schemes. Just like her reasons for approaching Leguna the first time, most people had an agenda behind their actions.
However, the motivations behind his actions were so simple they were laughable. It was so laughable that it managed to crack open Annelotte's formerly frozen heart, letting the emotions she kept sealed away leak out like an unblockable torrent. When she realized the change in her attitude, her first reaction wasn't to try to erase those feelings. Instead, she felt thankful that she met that weak and pathetic fellow. The whole time, he had stuck to her like a piece of gum she couldn't shake off.
Will he stick with me in the future too? she wondered.
"Idiot!" Annelotte scolded. She knocked on his head with her fist.
"You…" He had never seen her do something so cute.
"Don't forget who I am." She stood up like the proudest person to ever live. Looking at him, she broke into a sudden smile. "I am Annelotte. I shall buy you the minute you need!"
[Oh, my final gift to you has finally been delivered,] Nidhogg said once more.
"Annie! Annie! No! Come back! Annie! Annie!" He watched as she floated into the sky with a sense of foreboding. Her smile looked too similar to Leybecca's. It wasn't a smile of confidence, but one of determination for a final farewell!
She ignored him and slowly floated into the air, blocking Leguna behind the bombs of light. She stretched both her hands open and said, "If you want to hurt him, you'll have to kill me first."
"It's a shame you made the wrong choice." Alfreid wasn't the least bit surprised at her choice. With a will of his, he sent a photon bomb to strike her.
"Noooooooo!" Leguna roared.
A few drops of blood dripped down on the ground in front of him. He looked up and saw that her robes were stained crimson red. She looked entirely bloodied. Parts of her blood vessels had burst from the clashing energies. She could feel her life force seep away.
Why isn't… cough… the barrier… working… she thought. Even though she only had a small amount of mana left, that should've been enough for her to erect a few barriers. Based on her calculations, she should've been able to take two or three more of those bombs. Now, there was less than half a minute left. If she were lucky, she would be able to rescue him despite suffering heavy injuries.
However, it seemed her luck had run out for good.
"Do you think a gift that consumes this much mana is merely an enlarged version of the fireball spell?" Alfreid said with a cold laugh. When Nidhogg gave Leguna the explanation, he left out one thing: the fact that Photon Bomb couldn't be blocked by any kind of barrier. While Annelotte's frost domain could keep it subdued with shocking cold, the bombs would easily pass through normal magic barriers to deal damage to the target.
What is… going on… Her mind blurred from the blood loss to the point that she had to bite her own tongue to keep herself awake with the pain. After that, she used her final gift, Host of Glacier. She wasn't intent on dealing Alfreid any damage. With Alissanda beside him, he was definitely safe.
She was only using it to freeze her biological functions. She had to ensure that she could take all the hits before the seal on Leguna was undone, even if it meant the rupturing of her heart.
"Sis Annie!" Innilis, upon seeing that, wanted to charge in.
But Angelista held her tight immediately. "Calm down, lass! Don't forget what you promised me before we came here! You'll only get yourself killed!"
"Mmmmf!" Angelista covered the mouth of the struggling girl.
"Well, looks like I have to do it the hard way." She used a hypnosis spell to put her to sleep, before turning back to look at the pale and shivering Eirinn. "What about you? Fancy a nap?"
"No!" She shook her head furiously. Even though what she saw utterly terrified her, she forced herself to stay calm. "Don't knock me out. There might be something I can do to save this! Please trust me!"
Angelista gave her an intent stare before she shrugged. "You're not like this girl and know what you're doing. Keep yourself in check, then!"
Eirinn breathed a sigh of relief. She grasped the egg-sized stone in her hand. It had always remained inside her diatagi for storage. She had received it long ago from Pyro as a gift. And now, she had a feeling she might have to use it.Previous Chapter Next Chapter