Ulric Statusian faced Emi and stared her down. This was Beatrice’s former teacher, somehow now a leader of the rebellion. Behind him stood a number of rebels. The carried large spears and axes pilfered from the bodies of the Dannark soldiers they had slewn moments ago. And now this ragtag group of Emi and her friends and family had their only path out of this carnage blocked.
Emi had never talked to Ulric Statusian in her life, but from the moment he looked at her, she knew his feelings toward her. His scornful gaze told her everything she needed to know about how he would prefer the L’Hime Family end up.
Then, he stared at Emi; just her, nobody else. She stared back. She held a tight grip on the lance in her hands.
They kept at this for some time before either acted.
Ulric Statusian pointed his fingers at her and one of the soldiers shot an arrow–
–which Emi knocked away with a slash of her lance.
She had no idea how she did that.
Immediately, Tia and Emi’s Father leapt into the fray and blocked Ulric’s path to attack her again. Another arrow launched, and it whizzed past Tia so close it knocked the wig off his head.
“Wait, Mr. Statusian!” Beatrice shouted. She stepped in front of Tia and Emi’s Father. “Stop all this fighting!”
What in the Goddess’s name was that girl doing?! Emi ran in front of her protectors and joined Beatrice by her side. She raised her lance and pointed it at the rebels. Nobody would be falling for her sake, no matter what.
“What are you even doing here, Beatrice?” Ulric asked, his voice cracking and eyes quavering. “Of all people, I would never have expected you… Beatrice.”
“You shouldn’t be killing people!” Beatrice shouted.
“And you shouldn’t be protecting the very people that allowed Dannark to capture and arrest our own King.” His expression hardened and his composure returned. The L’Hime Family is the epitome of scum. It looks like you might be, too. You could have been special, Beatrice. You could have brought peace and harmony to the continent.”
“And I will.”
Ulric and some of the rebel soldiers took a few steps closer to them. “You’re a delusional love-obsessed fool. I was so, so wrong about you.”
“Shut up,” said Emi. “Talk to my girlfriend that way again and I’ll kill you.” She jabbed with the lance and forced the rebels to back up a step. “Tia, get everyone else to run to the safe house. We’ll catch up.”
“Are you quite serious…?”
“Yes! Do it!”
Tia complied, ushering everyone to flee with him leading the way. Only Father and Runa stayed behind.
Emi stepped forward and attacked, jabbing her lance at the rebels. They easily dodged, but one lost his balance and had to step backwards to catch himself. One advanced too close to her, so she kicked him in the stomach, pushing him on his back.
Ulric bashed his sword against Emi’s lance, but she pushed him away. She flipped around to make sure she was in front of Beatrice, who had nothing but a rusty rake to defend herself with.
Never in her life had she dreamed she would be in a situation like this, but somehow, something inside of her had activated. She understood the world around her, and saw the battlefield for what it truly was–a series of gears and cogs, springs and levers, that together worked to create the ultimate peril. All Emi had to do was break the machine holding them back.
She struck at Ulric and hit his chest. He reeled backwards on instinct, but the lance cracked and his armor remained unpierced. Once he realized he was safe, a snarl grew on his face and he attacked with a fierce blow.
Emi ducked to dodge, but, unfortunately, she was still a young woman who was decidedly out of shape. She couldn’t get out of the way in time, and Ulric’s sword bashed into her lance with overwhelming strength.
The lance snapped in two and flew out of her hands. She was defenseless once again. The others had long since escaped, but Emi, Beatrice, Runa, and Father were still there, now completely encircled by rebel soldiers. Dannark soldiers were also fast approaching from a few blocks away, the thuds of their marching boots growing louder by the second.
Emi’s Father held some rebels back with defensive moves, but it wouldn’t hold for more than a few more seconds. Runa was here, but instead of helping she was watching her homunculus off fighting on the other side of the plaza.
Their fight was over. But at least the rest of her family and friends were safe.
“All you’ve accomplished with your life, young L’Hime, is leading my brightest pupil astray,” Ulric said. “You’ve committed a greater sin against the Gods than any of your traitorous family, because you defied their very Will.” He grinned, revealing a missing front tooth. “When Balarand is free, no-one will remember the Ragnells ever existed.”
Beatrice started to advance as if she were going to attack with her rake, but Emi held her back. He said they had defied Will of the Gods, eh? Emi didn’t buy that for one second. The Gods were with her on this one.
Emi grabbed Beatrice’s hand and held it tight. “I will always love you,” she said. “That will never change.”
Beatrice nodded and tossed her rake to the side. “Me too. No matter what the world brings us.”
“Forever and ever.”
The rebels advanced from all corners. Ulric raised his sword high up in the air.
But, somehow, Emi felt at ease.
No, she hadn’t accepted her fate. In fact, fate was never a question in the first place. Because fate was just some bogus idea thought up by people too uncreative to build their own destiny. Fate was for people who had no magic in their lives.
Magic was a peculiar thing, Emi thought. It resided within the souls of every being, and yet it was nearly inaccessible, nearly impossible to understand. It was a lot like love. Sometimes, people might find someone where together, they can make miracles happen, and they can change the world with just their hands held in the melted snow, but it’s really rare. Too rare to even mention.
But when love was truly there, when Emi felt Beatrice beside her, all of those mysteries and qualms and caveats and drawbacks vanished.
All her life, she had told herself she wasn’t good enough and she needed to change who she was to succeed. But right here, right now, at this exact second, Emi L’Hime realized all of that was a blatant lie. Magic was real and she was actually a great person all along.
Emi raised her free hand into the air, concentrated with all her will–all her love.
And then from that hand came a ball of light that exploded–literally exploded–
Every soldier, every rebel, every person in the vicinity except the four in the center of the blast, was knocked to the ground. Every single person, including those four, were blinded by a shining brightness.
The entire scene went white.