Knightwalker sneered. The group had been ridiculously easy to infiltrate – if that word could even be used. With lax security and an embarrassing display of inexperience in clandestine event planning, she all but walked right through the front door.

"C-Captain Knightwalker!" the man at the head of the barely-congealed crowd exclaimed. His fingers curled into the edges of his shirt. Everyone present turned their head to stare at her with expressions all varying degrees of fear. "We're just -"

"I know what you're doing," she interrupted taking a bold step forward into the group. As expected they parted for her without being told. "I've been thoroughly informed as to your purpose." Knightwalker grinned and stopped directly in front of the apparent leader. "I have to say I'm disappointed."

"Excuse me?" he stuttered. The terrifying captain stood so close to him he thought he could smell the leather of her boots.

"I came here expecting talk of revolution, political overthrow, and magical resurgence. But –" Knightwalker raked her eyes over him in a way that might have been painful... if looks could kill. "This is nothing but the backroom of a bar. You don't even have a door sentry, and I must say the lot of you come off as whining children as opposed to citizens concerned for their fellow men."

"My lady," he sputtered.

"I am not anyone's lady," Knightwalker snarled. "You're under arrest for treason to the crown." She turned to leave the room and motioned for her platoon of soldiers to handle the prisoners.

"But... but the Prince! He's the one who's committed treason! He's betrayed us all with his selfishness! King Faust would never ha –"

Captain Knightwalker stopped mid-stride and spun around to fix the rabble-rouser with a glare. "You're right," she said in a deathly quiet monotone. "King Faust would've had you executed in this very room for even breathing words of rebellion." The man's eyes widened in horror. "And I'd have spilled your blood without a second thought."

The room was silent as the group of maybe fifteen men were taken into custody. Knightwalker nodded at her lieutenant as she stalked from the building and out into the night.

"It's done, Your Majesty." Captain Knightwalker delivered her report while standing as close to the doorway as possible.

The King leaned forward in his chair. Shadows danced on his face as he stared into the fireplace. A log snapped and the flames jumped higher before quickly settling with a flurry of ash and bark. "What was their agenda this time?"

"The same, Your Majesty." She stifled a frustrated sigh.

"Will it always be this way, Captain? Perhaps I deserve their hatred."

Knightwalker shifted on her feet. She could handle formal reports and orders but when he drifted down introspective paths she wanted nothing more than to leave him to his thoughts. Suddenly he turned to her and she scowled in response.

"Have you no thoughts, Captain Knightwalker?"

"None that are appropriate, Your Majesty."

"So you feel the same then? Should I be worried you'll decide to join one of these rebel factions I've set you in charge of seeking out?"



"No." Knightwalker paused and adjusted her cloak. "If I may speak freely, Your Majesty..."

"You may always speak freely, Captain."

"Your father made many, however false, promises to the people. Not everyone handles change... well. There will always be Faust-loyalists. If non-violence is the path you wish to keep, then you must be accepting of the time it will take to earn trust. These cells do not represent the whole or even the majority of citizens."

The king rose from his chair and stepped around it to stand in front of her. "And what sort of loyalist are you, Captain Knightwalker?"

"My life belongs to the crown."

"Does it matter to you who wears it?"


"But it should."

"It doesn't."

He eyed her for a long moment before exhaling heavily and stepping back. "One day, Captain Knightwalker, I hope to earn your loyalty."

"I've already said –"

"Not loyalty to the crown, Erza." She blanched. His use of her first name was disarming. "But loyalty to me."

He did not stop her when she abruptly fled his council chamber.