Let's just pretend that Season 3 didn't happen, shall we?
'What's going on?'
A large explosion rocked the streets of South Gotha, sending the fleeing villagers into further panic. Louise weaved in and out of the crowd searching for Saito.
'Where are you?'
A crazed soldier stepped into her path and swung his sword at Louise, who ducked the blow and ran into an alleyway. Gasping for breath, she paused with her hands on her knees. Suddenly, a dark figure with red eyes loomed in front of her, saliva dripping out of the corners of his mouth.
'Saito… where are you?'
As the blow from the sword descended, time seemed to grind to a halt for Louise.
'That's right… Saito won't come and save me this time. I've always been pushing him away from me, always thinking for myself. Why would he come and save me when he has someone like Siesta with him?'
Inch by agonizing inch, the blade continued towards Louise.
'I hated it when I summoned him. If Colbert-sensei let me, I would have tried the Summon Servant spell another time. Still, you were always there to save me. When Fouquet's golem was about to crush me, you rushed in and saved me. When Waldo turned out to be a traitor, you still stayed by my side, even after I left you behind. I've been such a burden to you, and yet you've never looked back; you've always kept pressing forward.'
Louise raised her wand.
'No more. Saito, I can't just wait around for you to save me all the time. You've fought for me all this time. Let me do my part, so that I will no longer be a burden to you. I will fight by your side, not as your master, but as your partner.'
She felt an unbelievable power course through her body, so she pointed her at the soldier. Immediately, a beam of white light burst forth from the wand and struck the soldier in the chest.
Louise watched in amazement as the soldier's eyes lost its feral abandon. Blinking in confusion, he looked around.
"Where... am I? What's going on? I remember getting a drink of water after drinking with my friends, but… everything after that is a blur."
"I don't know either, but it looks like some of the soldiers are under some sort of spell. Are you going to be all right?"
The man nodded.
"Yes, I am fine. I have a feeling that I must thank you for saving me somehow. If you will excuse me, I must go and help my comrades."
With that, the man ran off to rejoin the frantic efforts to subdue the bewitched soldiers.
'So my void magic can dispel whatever is causing the soldiers to act this way. I need to use my magic to free everybody and stop the fighting, but I can't go from person to person, because it'll take too long. What can I do? My only chance is to make it to the center and cast a widespread spell on the area.'
She ran off to the center of the battle, desperate to quell the din of battle. When she arrived there, the brutality of the fighters shook her to her core. She had to do something quickly. Gathering her magical energy, she raised her wand. Unbidden words formed on her lips as she began chanting an incantation. As the battle raged around her, Louise felt the familiar power swell up inside her.
'Damn it… I need more time to complete the incantation-'
Saito's cry pierced Louise's thoughts and she broke off the spell.
"Saito! What are you doing here?"
"What about you, are you crazy? You could be killed out there."
"I have to… I have to stop everybody here with my magic. Don't try to stop me, Saito. This is an order from your master: don't get in my way!"
Saito drew his sword and turned towards Louise with a smile on his face.
"And what sort of familiar would allow his master to go into battle alone?"
"LOUISE! You get started with that spell! I will protect you with everything I have, even if it kills me."
Louise quelled the blush that rose up on her cheeks.
"W-w-w-w-what are you saying at a time like this, you stupid dog?"
"Never mind, hurry up and get to work!"
With that, Louise once again started her spell while Saito darted about, knocking aside any potential threats with the flat of his blade.
"LOUISE! HURRY UP! I CAN'T HOLD THEM OFF FOREVER!"
"Partner, you can't distract her while she's concentrating on the spell. You are the legendary Gandalfr, familiar of the Void Mage. Your duty is to protect her with all your power. Go, Saito!"
Saito's runes glowed brightly as he swung Derflinger once more, cutting through the sword of a soldier headed in Louise's direction. He kicked the soldier away and raised Derflinger once more in defense. Just then, Louise finished her incantation. Saito looked over at Louise to see her wand burst aflame with a blue energy.
All of a sudden, a brilliant white bolt dropped from the sky, illuminating Louise in the sparkling white light. Saito watched, transfixed, as the light radiated outwards from Louise, bathing all of the soldiers in the calming warmth.
When the light died down, the duo looked around at the now quiet town.
"It's over… isn't it?"
Saito glanced towards Louise and saw that she was swaying unsteadily on her feet.
"Oi, Louise! You all right?"
"Saito… I… did I…"
"Save your strength, Louise!"
"Hang in there!"
Louise fainted into Saito's outstretched arms, her mouth desperately trying to ask the question on her mind.
'Saito… did I help you this time?'
Saito gently carried the unconscious Louise in his arms and rushed off into the night.
The next day, Louise awoke to find herself in a warm bed. She got out of bed and went over to the nearby window. Outside, she could see a large throng of people desperately gathering at the Port of Losailles, boarding the docked ships in a hurried, yet orderly manner. She noticed a letter on the nightstand and read its contents.
Louise Françoise de la Bamue le Blanc de la Vallière,
Your presence is requested by Chief Priest Mazarin in the armory as soon as you wake up. Do not inform Her Majesty of this meeting, but it regards her safety. Your familiar, Saito, is waiting here with me.
Chief Priest Mazarin
Moments later, Louise was in the armory, where Saito and Mazarin were waiting in silence. Mazarin shifted nervously as Saito rushed towards Louise with a look of concern on his face.
"Louise! Are you okay? I was worried when you fell unconscious…"
Louise turned a shade of red normally reserved for tomatoes before pushing Saito away.
"O-o-o-of course I'm okay, you s-s-s-s-stupid dog! Are you saying I can't take care of myself?"
Louise's wand sparkled with a dangerous blue energy. Mazarin coughed to get their attention, before Louise killed them all with a massive explosion.
"Louise Françoise de la Bamue le Blanc de la Vallière, what I am asking of you is a secret mission that Her Majesty does not know about."
He got down on his hands and knees, prostrating before a shocked Louise.
"Please! Use your power and protect Henrietta-sama! Right now an invasion force of seven million is on its way here from Albion. Her Majesty refuses to escape until all of the others are safe, but we don't have enough strength to hold off Albion long enough. You are the legendary Void Mage right? Please protect Henrietta-sama with your Void Magic and give her the time she needs. You are the only one we can count on in this situation. I'm begging you."
Saito watched on in shock as Louise walked over to the Chief Priest and raised him back onto his feet.
'What's going on? What is Louise doing?'
"Chief Priest Mazarin, please do not bow down to me I have sworn to protect Hime-sama no matter what, and I would gladly do so, even at the cost of my own life."
With that, Louise whirled about and stalked out of the room. Saito looked over at Mazarin, confusion showing in his eyes.
"What exactly does that mean?"
The Chief Priest hung his head in sadness.
"Louise is… acting as the bait."
"You didn't know, partner? Being the bait is the last line of defense. She will draw the entire army of seven million while the Queen makes her escape."
"WHAT? But that means…"
"Aye, her chances of survival are slim. If you hurry, you might still have a chance to convince her to come back and reconsider."
Without another word, Saito shot out of the room in search for Louise. He found her standing in front of a merchant stand carefully looking over an array of flowers.
Louise jumped in the air and turned around to face Saito.
Saito grabbed Louise by the arms and looked her in the eyes.
"Louise, why? Why did you tell him that you would do the mission? Why didn't you refuse?"
"Hmph, a commoner like you can't possibly understand."
"What does this have to do with being a commoner or an aristocrat? Don't you understand? If you do this… you'll die."
Louise looked down, shading her eyes from view.
"All my life, I've been called useless, a mage without magic. Whenever I'd try a spell, it wouldn't work. People would laugh at me all the time, and no matter how hard I tried, I would still fail. Do you know what it feels like to want to protect something when you don't have the power to? It hurts, Saito. Finally, I have the strength to stand up for what I believe in. Please Saito; don't stand in my way this time."
"Are you stupid, Louise? Do you know what it means to die! This isn't some game where you can throw your life away! You've got to be joking!"
Louise slowly lifted her eyes to meet Saito's. Saito's glare immediately softened when he saw the flow of tears streaming down Louise's cheeks.
"Saito… maybe I will die. Maybe it is foolish of me to go out and face them alone. However, is it worth living if I am not willing to risk my life for something I believe in and someone I wish to protect?"
"You might think it's a joke, but is this really something to laugh about?"
"SAITO, LISTEN TO ME! Of course I'm scared of failing again. Of course I'm scared of dying. But still, I have to do this. Not for myself, but for Hime-sama, for the maids of the Inn, for the soldiers, for the people."
She wore a soft, yet sad smile, and Saito's breath hitched in his throat.
'What's she planning?'
"That's why it's goodbye for real this time, Saito."
"I'm relieving you of your duties as my familiar. Go back and say goodbye to everybody for me."
Saito drew his sword and stood in front of Louise, blocking her path.
"Like hell I'm going to let you leave like that! Louise, I don't care if I'm your familiar or not… I won't let you do this!"
Louise wiped her tears away hastily and turned to the merchant, who had packed away most of the flowers. She pointed to a pair of flower buds in a crystal bottle.
"Hey mister, how much do these flowers cost?"
After making the purchase, she turned to Saito and forced of the bottles into his arms.
"Huh? What's this?"
"It's called the flower of Ekulerudamaru. It is my parting gift to you, along with this…"
She leaned forward and gave Saito a short but sweet kiss on the lips before running off, tightly clutching the bottled flower to her chest.
'I guess I couldn't tell you how I feel in words, but you understand, right? Why I didn't ask you to join me on this mission? Saito… my feelings for you…'
Saito watched in stunned silence as Louise's form disappeared into the distance.
"Well, this should be fine. This world is of no concern to you, partner."
Saito slowly turned in the opposite direction of Louise and began to walk back to the port, still trying to comprehend what had just transpired. Hours later, Louise was seated on the steps of a church, gathering her final thoughts before the final confrontation.
'Was that the right thing to do? Whenever I'm with Saito, I can't think straight. It's as if all my attention is focused on him. I care for him so much, but I always push him away. Guess I'll never get my chance to tell him how I feel.
'Saito… I love you. When I first summoned you, I thought you were strange. Still, after all this time together, you stuck by my side like a faithful dog. Heh, I used to treat you like a lowly dog, but in the end, you proved to be better than everyone else.
'You were alone, all this time, and yet you managed to keep your head up and fight for what you believed in. That's why… that's why this time, I'm going to fight with everything that I have. I will fight to protect my beliefs, my dreams, and those I hold dear to my heart. Saito, even if I must cast you aside, never forget me… please.'
Louise got back on her feet and marched on to face the Albion army with a renewed resolve.
Back at the port, Saito was watching as the citizens continued to board the evacuation ships.
"Hey Del, why do people fight?"
"Ehh? Still thinking about what your former master told you? Or is it the kiss?"
"S-s-shut up! That has nothing to do with this!"
"Heh Saito, you need to be true to your feelings. You can't let things end like this."
"Are you doing what your heart is telling? Or are you lying to yourself?"
"Partner… I think I should tell you more of the power of Gandalfr and Void. As you probably know, your power comes from your connection to Louise and the Summon Servant contract. However, it's the same deal with Louise and her powers as a Void Mage. If your hearts are not connected, neither of you two will have the strength to fight."
"Ehh? Hime-sama! Shouldn't you be boarding the ship now?"
"Saito, where's Louise? I've looked for everywhere, but I can't find her!"
Saito looked away and scratched his cheek.
"Louise, huh? Funny thing… I'm… err… looking for her right now."
"Saito-san… are you hiding something from me?"
Saito refused to make eye contact with the Henrietta and fidgeted nervously.
"You know where she is, don't you Saito-san. Please, I'm asking you, not as the Queen, but as a friend, can you tell me where she is?"
"Hime-sama, Louise has taken a… secret mission for your safety."
"What… what does that mean?"
Saito's head whipped up and he stared directly at Henrietta, who flinched back at the intensity of the gaze.
"It means that Louise is heading out to face the Albion army of seven million, just so you can make your escape."
Henrietta stepped back in shock, with one hand clutching at her heart.
"No way… Louise is out there fighting… alone? Why did you let this happen? Aren't you her familiar? Aren't you supposed to watch over her?"
"I'm not her familiar anymore."
"Louise ended our contract earlier. She told me to leave."
"Saito-san… I've know Louise for a long time now. She may be stubborn, but she has a good heart."
"I… know that."
"Please Saito-san, bring Louise back."
Henrietta walked forward and wrapped her arms around Saito, burying her face into his chest. Her next words came in a whisper, almost as if she was afraid of showing any weakness in her actions.
"Louise is one of my most important friends. If I were to lose her, I wouldn't be able to face myself afterwards. To think that she would give her life for me like that… Please, go to her and tell her to come back, Saito. I'm sure that you can be the one who saves her from this fate."
Saito patted Henrietta on the back softly, allowing Henrietta to regain her composure before he gently pushed her away. It was at that moment that he realized exactly what he had to do.
"Hime-sama, leave it to me."
Henrietta watched Saito walk off towards Louise, with mixed feelings in her heart.
'Saito-kun… maybe in a different world… just maybe… you and I…'
Elsewhere, Louise sat on a hill overlooking the waiting army from Albion. The individual lights from the fires at the Albion camp dotted the landscape below her. The grass around her waved in the cool night breeze as Louise continued to ponder her final mission. Why did she feel the overwhelming urge to head back and go to Saito for warmth and comfort? Her final farewell had left a hole in her heart, in spite of her dearest wishes that her sentiments be transmitted to her former familiar. She thought back to all of the time they had spent together, the joys and pains that they shared. Would Saito forget all those moments and move on?
'Get a grip on yourself, Louise. It doesn't matter what Saito does from now on.'
Louise lay on her back and allowed a lone tear to escape from her eye.
'Even though I said goodbye to him, I still want to see him one last time, before the end.'
She looked down at the flower in her hand. The blue flower was dimly lit, and the petals seemed to droop in sadness. Louise turned the bottle slowly and continued to stare, as if willing a miracle to occur. After a moment, she stood straight up, preparing to harden her resolve for the task at hand.
Her heart skipped a beat.
'No way, what is he doing here? I told him to leave, to run away. Saito…'
"Saito, you stupid dog! I told you that I no longer want you as my familiar. Go back to the ship and leave!"
"I can't do that, Louise."
"Saito… are you trying to get in my way again?"
"SAITO, YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING, HUH? YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO! YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHAT'S BEST FOR ME!"
Louise paused to take a breath. Before Saito could say anything, Louise turned to her former familiar and cut off any possible rebuttal. Her next words came out as a soft whisper.
"Saito, I meant it when I said that I don't want you to be with me anymore. Go back and live, Saito. Isn't that what you're always saying? There's no reason for you to be here with me. You're no longer my familiar, and if you stay here with me..."
"Louise, please, you don't unders-"
"THERE YOU GO AGAIN, SAITO! JUST… STOP TALKING AND LISTEN TO ME! Saito, I know I wasn't the best master. I yelled at you, made you do all my work, made you eat and sleep on the floor, and hit you with the whip. But still, you supported me and stayed by my side. That's why… that's why you have to let me do this. Give me the chance to prove that I deserved to be your master. Run Saito, run to safety, and this time, I'll protect you."
Trembling with rage, Louise walked up close to Saito and glared at him. Saito was the first to look away, but he still held his ground.
"Geez, Saito, you're so annoying. GET… OUT… OF... MY… WAY!" She punctuated each word with a fierce jab, but Saito still didn't budge an inch.
"HIRAGA SAITO, I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT WHEN YOU DO TH-MMMPH!"
Louise was cut short when Saito fiercely mashed his face into hers, locking their lips together in a passionate kiss. At that moment, time seemed to ground to a halt.
'Why is Saito kissing me? Does that mean that he loves me as well?'
Louise gasped in shock and surprise at the revelation, and Saito took the opportunity to slide his tongue into Louise's mouth and ravage the cavern of her mouth, sending shivers of pleasure down Louise's spine. Slowly, Louise began to respond to Saito's motions. She hesitatingly pushed out her tongue, and was immediately attacked by Saito's.
She pressed herself deeper into Saito's chest and deepened the kiss as their tongues continued to struggle for dominance over one another. Saito seemed to permeate all of Louise's senses- the touch of his hands roaming down her back, the sight of his face up close, the sound of soft inhalation and exhalation from his nostrils, the smell of his scent, and the taste of his lips.
As they continued to kiss, Louise allowed herself to be pulled away in her bliss. She felt as if her heart was soaring, as if any dream, any goal, was attainable. In the back of her mind, she was aware that the Albion army was waiting for them at the bottom of the hill. Still, Saito's overwhelming presence seemed to wash away all of their insecurities. She slowly pulled back and gazed into Saito's eyes.
"Oi, you two, are you done swapping spit?"
Louise turned beet red while Saito turned to his snickering sword.
"Yo Del, we were having a moment. Can't you just shut up?"
"Ah, but Saito, you looked like you were having sooooooooo much fun. I was worried that you'd forgotten what you were here for."
"Of course I haven't forgotten, you stupid lump of metal. I was taking care of something important.
"Ehh? So that's what it was? It looked to me like you were trying to suck her face off."
"THAT'S ENOUGH, YOU STUPID TOOTHPICK!"
Louise raised both hands high in the air. Her right hand clenched her wand, which sparked dangerously. Saito slowly backed away from the danger zone, wary of the impending blast.
"I'll KILL YOU!"
The resultant explosion left Derflinger coughing and covered in ashes.
"Alright… I get your point, I'll stop teasing. But still, you two should really start thinking about what you're going to do about that army down there."
Indeed, the Albion army seemed to draw close and closer. Louise and Saito hastily laid out a battle plan, but the Albion soldiers were soon at the foot of the hills and beginning their march towards Saito and Louise. After a nod from Louise, Saito turned to a large rock outcrop. With a swift stab, Saito jabbed Derflinger into the rock and wrenched a large chunk from the ground.
The rock exploded in a molten fireball, raining fire on the hapless soldiers below. Saito began fighting off the onslaught of soldiers climbing up the hill while Louise bombarded the enemy with her explosive magic. The pair continued to successfully repel the assault, but the stress of maintaining their efforts for an extended period of time was starting to take its toll on Saito and Louise. Louise was struggling to properly channel her magical powers to cast her spells, and Saito was panting heavily as he continued to repel the frontal assault.
Finally, there was a pause in the action, allowing Louise and Saito to survey the field below them. The Albion camp seemed formidable as before, and there was no visible sign that the army had been impacted by the losses that Saito and Louise had dealt.
"That was just the first wave of attackers, partner. They were sent just to test your strength."
"Yeah, I know."
"What can we do?"
"All we can do is to continue looking forward, Louise. You promised to protect the Queen, right? Well I promised to always protect you, so that's what we're going to do. So, you ready to get back to work?"
"Saito… I have a question for you. When you kissed me earlier, did that mean that you… love me?"
Louise tightly clenched the bottle containing the flower of Ekulerudamaru by her side, silently praying.
"Yes Louise, I do. I love you from the bottom of my heart."
At that moment, blue flower contained in the bottle within Louise's grasp glowed and blossomed, unveiling its beautiful petals to the clear night sky. A faint pink glow issued forth from Saito's pocket as well. Saito pulled out his flower and looked at it quizzically.
"What does this mean?"
"The Flower of Ekulerudamaru is a flower that senses the connection between two lovers. They are said to be able to feel each other's presence even if they're thousands of miles apart. When the flowers fully blossom and glow, it is a sign that the two have fully connected."
Louise turned bright red as Saito looked at her with a smile.
"Isn't that great, Louise?"
'I can do it! I can say it!'
"Saito… all this time, I've always-"
"WATCH OUT LOUISE!"
Louise turned in horror to see a black cloud of arrows heading in their direction. Saito quickly jumped in front of the surprised void mage, wielding Derflinger. As the hailstorm of projectiles struck, Saito reflexively began blocking the hazardous arrows with relative ease.
'Huh? Why do I feel so light? I can see everything clearly. I can protect Louise!'
'That's right, partner. Your feelings have allowed you to reach your full potential as a Gandalfr. Continue to fight as always.'
'Del? What the hell are you doing in my mind?'
'Saito, now that you have truly become the Gandalfr, you and I are now bound as one. Your knowledge is my knowledge, and my knowledge is your knowledge.'
'Huh? You mean… you can read my thoughts?'
' Yeah, and I must say, Saito, some of your thoughts are-'
'Shut up, you stupid sword. Anyways, at least we're done with those stupid arrows'
'Not bad, not bad, but what will Tabitha say if I told her that you-'
The arrival of the Albion forces cut their argument short. With a nod from Louise, Saito darted forwards to intercept the enemy. Louise watched, transfixed, as Saito handled the large numbers with ease. A single horizontal swing of his sword would blow back a circle of enemies.
"Hey, Louise, start casting your spells! Your familiar can't hold them back forever!"
Louise nodded and began to chant an incantation. Once again, she felt a tremendous power well up within her, but this time, the flow of power was calm, bending to her slightest whim. She looked up to see a large troll swinging its club at Saito from behind and waved her wand. The troll let out a squeal of pain as its arm was instantly severed from its shoulder, saving Saito from harm.
"Thanks, Louise! Keep it up!"
They continued to fight off the soldiers, and slowly their efforts seemed to be paying off. The enemy forces seemed to be thinning a bit. However, they were attacking with increasing ferocity and intensity and were pressing Saito and Louise back with each attack.
Saito staggered back after deflecting a fireball from one of the mages before darting to intercept a swordsman that was headed towards Louise. Before Saito could reach the Albion soldier, Louise fired a beam of concentrated magical energy, effectively taking out the soldier. Saito smiled to himself.
'That's right, even if I've sworn to protect Louise, she can still protect herself.'
Louise proudly looked over and saw Saito's smile of approval. The content feeling vanished as an axe-wielding soldier managed to knock Derflinger out of Saito's hands. The triumphant shouts of the surrounding army drowned out Louise's desperate scream. Before the savage fighters could descend upon the disarmed Saito, the roar of multiple firearms cut through the din of battle.
"Looks like you could use our help, Saito-kun."
The commander of the musketeer division looked down the end of her rifle and smirked. By her side, Henrietta stood, scepter in hand. Louise stared at her childhood playmate.
"Hime-sama, what are you doing here? We're doing this so you can escape!"
"Louise, how could you agree to such a thing?"
"But Hime-sama, I would gladly give my life if it meant that I could protect you."
"Louise! How do you think I'd live without my precious friends?"
"LOUISE! LOOK OUT!"
A large golem rose from the ground and brought down a large stone fist, but before it could hurt Louise, a blue missile shot from the sky and collided with the golem, toppling the stone creature.
'Sylphid? That means that Tabitha is probably here, which also means…'
"Ara? Louise, is the Vallière family really this weak? Don't worry, because my beauty shall overwhelm the enemy.
"KIRCHE! WHO THE HELL SAID THAT WE WANTED YOU HERE, YOU COW!"
Kirche laughed while shooting a large fireball at a group of soldiers attempting to attack the queen. The large-breasted mage dashed over to Saito and buried his face in her breasts while throwing Louise a sly smile.
Louise's eyes flashed red and fired a bolt of energy inches past Kirche's face and straight into a feral wolf , instantly incinerating the feral beast. Kirche's eyes grew wide as she instantly let go of Saito, laughing nervously. Louise ignored her rival and stalked over to Saito, who grew pale.
"Louise! I wasn't trying to-"
"It's alright Saito, just make sure that you always love me, okay?"
"Fufufu… don't you two look happy over there."
Everybody shifted their attention to focus on the newcomers, a black-haired woman with strange markings all over her face and a blue-haired man. The man raised his scepter and then swung it in a wide arc. Instantly, all of the remaining Albion soldiers collapsed to the ground, dead.
"Hmph, those worthless worms are better off dead. They'll just get in our way."
Tabitha dismounted from Sylphid and stared at the man.
"Ahh, is that my dear Charlotte? You've grown since I've last seen you."
"You murderer, I'll make you pay!"
Tabitha sent a jet of air at her sovereign uncle, but the magical attack dispersed inches away from his body before it could cause any damage. Her eyes widened in shock at the ease with which her attack was deflected. She fired another burst of wind, only to watch the attack vanish before striking its target.
"Oh? Is that all you have? Your father would be so disappointed."
Tabitha snarled viciously and darted toward her adversary, heedless of any danger. All of the emotions that she had repressed since her father's death and mother's insanity burst forth uncontrollably.
"UNCLE JOSEPH! I WILL KILL YOU TO AVENGE MOTHER AND FATHER!"
The Gallian King was momentarily taken aback by the sudden shift in demeanor, allowing Tabitha to slip in underneath his guard. A quick incantation from Tabitha caused her staff to hum with power, and a faint outline of a blade forged from wind could be seen forming at the end of her staff.
As Tabitha plunged her staff through her uncle's heart, the king slumped over Tabitha's shoulder, dead. With a sigh of relief, Tabitha allowed herself to release the tension in her body, causing herself to fall to the ground. Kirche ran over to Tabitha with a look of concern on her face, and was relieved to find that Tabitha was relatively unharmed, save for her exhaustion.
Sheffield looked over to her fallen master and smirked. It was about time that Joseph die for her own schemes to work. She walked over to Joseph and laid a glowing hand on his chest. Everybody watched in morbid fascination as Sheffield's hand slipped into the dead man's body. After a moment, she withdrew her hand from Joseph's body. In her hand, she held a jet black orb, which she brought to her lips.
'Once I consume Joseph-sama's soul and absorb his power, I will become invincible! None will be able to stand in my path! All shall bow down before my supreme power and beauty.'
She swallowed the black sphere and instantly felt a dark energy rush through her body. Strange runic markings covered her face as it took on a more demonic appearance. Everybody except for Saito and Louise were thrown backwards as Sheffield's aura swept over the field.
'What's this dark aura? It's frightening.'
Sheffield let out an evil laugh and sneered at the two.
"Fufufufu, most impressive, Mage of the Void and Gandalfr. Then again, it would be a pity for such legendary warriors to quail in my mere presence. Come, face the true might of a Master of the Void!"
Raising her hands, Sheffield shouted out an incantation that raised a circular barrier around the three, isolating them from the rest.
"Now those pesky flies won't bother us."
Saito put a hand to the hazy barrier, but the barrier sparked dangerously, causing Saito to quickly withdraw his hand.
"And don't bother trying to escape either. Once this barrier is set up, nobody can get in or out unless I wish it."
"So that means…"
"That's right my pretties, the time for talking is over. Now we fight."
Sheffield seemed to grow larger, and horns sprouted out of her forehead. The strange markings became more and more pronounced.
"Oi Saito, be careful. If this is what I think it is, we're in deep trouble. The Void Mage legend says that once the mage and familiar have completely united, the resultant being will attain powers of either the gods or demons. I'll give you three guesses as to which one the old hag has received."
A tick-mark formed over the transforming demon's forehead.
"I'M ONLY 26 YEARS OLD, YOU PIECE OF TRASH!"
She quickly regained her composure and looked down on Saito and Louise, holding up a hand that crackled with a dark energy. Saito and Louise looked at each other and nodded. Louise began to channel her magical power while Saito took up a defensive position in front of Louise. Sheffield simply watched in mild amusement as Louise fired her spell, which simply deflected off of Sheffield's body without causing any harm.
Saito followed up by leaping in the air and bringing Derflinger down, aiming for Sheffield's head. The demonic woman raised her hand and caught the blade in her bare hand. A blast of dark energy threw Saito back towards Louise's side.
"Damn it. Louise, what can we do to stop her?"
"I don't know. All we can do is to keep trying."
"Impossible. No matter how hard you try to resist, you can never hope to overcome my power. Now, allow yourself to drown in your deepest fears."
A dark wave flew forth from Sheffield's body and passed through the pair, who immediately collapsed to the ground.
Slowly, Louise opened her eyes and looked around. She was back at the Academy, but the surrounding atmosphere was different from usual. As she walked through the dark hallway, she couldn't suppress the chill that ran down her spine. She made her way to the entrance to the Great Hall and opened the door, fearful of what awaited inside.
Inside the Great Hall, normally so full of life and activity, a grisly bloodbath awaited Louise. She looked on in horror at the various bodies lying around, their faces twisted into grimaces of pain and terror.
'Kirche, Tabitha, Montmorency, Guiche… What happened here?'
She felt a hand grasp at her ankle and looked down to see a half-dead first year staring at her with pleading eyes.
"Please… save me…"
"What happened? What's going on?"
The bloody student closed his eyes and relinquished his grip on Louise's leg without another word. Louise slowly made her way through the hall, trying to ignore the gruesome spectacle around her. Her familiar was nowhere to be found.
'Saito… where is Saito? He'll know what to do.'
In spite of her frantic searching, she failed to locate Saito among the corpses strewn about the hall. Stepping over the headless body of the principal, she made her way out of the hall and in the direction of her room. Along the way, bodies of dead students and teachers lay randomly spread throughout the hallways, but Louise continued forward, trying to ignore the uneasy feeling settling in the pit of her stomach. Finally, she reached the door of her room. After steadying her nerves, she slowly pushed the door open and stepped inside.
"Louise… run away… Saito… he…"
The sickening sound of a sword sliding out of Henrietta's body rang hollowly in Louise's ears. The queen slumped to the ground, dead, revealing the hooded figure that had stood behind her. Louise stared at the man before her, unwilling to believe her eyes.
"Saito… did you kill all those people?"
Her familiar didn't reply, instead raising Derflinger and pointing it threateningly at Louise.
"No, I don't believe it. The real Saito wouldn't do something like that. You're a fake!"
He slowly drew his sword back before thrusting it forward, straight at Louise's face. Louise screwed her eyes shut and let out a desperate scream.
Louise felt a warm liquid dripping on her cheek and slowly opened her eyes.
"Louise, are you alright?"
Saito was hunched over her, panting heavily, with blood seeping out of the corner of his mouth. Louise gasped as she saw the small hole in Saito's stomach.
"Me? What about you?"
"Ahh, don't worry about me, Louise. Just as long as you're safe… everything is… fine."
Saito's breaths were becoming irregular, and his entire body was trembling as if he was about to collapse at any moment.
"Saito, hang in there! You can't die, not like this!"
She laid Saito down on his back and took his hand in her own.
"Louise… I promised you, didn't I? I'd protect you with my life whenever you're in danger."
"Saito, you baka! Why did you have to do something like that?"
"You still don't get it, huh Louise?"
"No, I don't! You can't die here, Saito! What am I going to do without you?"
Slowly, Saito's eyes closed shut, and his hand fell limply in Louise's hands.
"Wait, Saito… don't leave me… I still have something to tell you. Saito, I love you. I love you with all of my heart. That's why… that's why you can't leave me."
"My, what a touching scene, a familiar saving his master at the cost of his life, and the master finally confesses her love for her familiar, even though the lowly dog is dead."
Louise slowly stood up to face Sheffield, gently wiping away the tears on her face.
'That's right, this isn't the time to mourn Saito's death. Right now, I have to avenge Saito and make sure his death wasn't in vain.'
"Saito-kun sure surprised me, being able to break free from my illusion, just to stop my attack. He would have been a worthy opponent for me if he had not gotten in the way of my attack. Why he would bother trying to save such a pathetic weakling is beyond me. What a foolish child."
Louise glared at Sheffield.
"Don't you dare speak of Saito like that, you ugly bitch."
"Louise! Come over here and use me to fight."
Louise ran over to Derflinger and pulled it out of the ground. She hefted the blade in her right hand, and her wand in her left.
"Oh, and what do you plan to do with those toys? Scratch me? Cut my fingernails?"
"Cut the crap, Sheffield! I'll make you pay for what you did to Saito!"
"Hmph. Bring it on then."
Louise clenched Derflinger tightly and rushed towards Sheffield in a blur. Taken aback by Louise's sudden burst of speed, Sheffield barely managed to raise a magical shield to protect her body. When sword met barrier, the two combatants locked eyes. Louise was filled with a tremendous calm in spite of the battle, as if a warm, comforting presence was constantly at her side. She continued to press against the barrier, and eventually, it began to crack before finally shattering.
For the first time during the entire battle, Sheffield's normal arrogant demeanor was replaced by one of fear and doubt.
'What is this power? Where does it come from?'
She watched as Louise raised her wand and began to chant a familiar spell, which Sheffield replicated. The two finished casting the spell at the same time, and with a loud bang, a stream of pure white light flew out of her wand to counter the burst of darkness coming from Sheffield's palm.
Inch by inch, Louise's spell continued to push Sheffield's spell back.
'Why is this brat so powerful? I have completed the Final Legend of the Void Mage, but she's still overpowering me… it's impossible!'
"This one… THIS ONE IS FOR SAITO!"
Louise's spell grew exponentially in strength, completely overwhelming Sheffield, causing her to scream in pain and outrage.
"Oh, and one more thing… I'M THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN CALL SAITO A DOG, YOU OLD WITCH!"
"THIS CAN'T BE! MY POWER… IT'S NOT ENOUGH… I CAN'T DIE, NOT YET… NOOOOOOOOOOO!"
Louise dropped Derflinger to the ground and rushed to Saito's side.
'It's all over now, Saito. We've won.'
She laid her hand on Saito's cheek and caressed the smooth skin. The world around her did not matter anymore. She barely noticed her fellow classmates standing behind her with concerned expressions on their faces. She didn't react to Henrietta's comforting arm around her shoulder, either. Now that the adrenaline of the battle had worn off, the shock of seeing Saito dead had finally had time to settle in.
'You said you'd stay with me forever. Saito, you liar.'
A week later, everybody was gathered in the courtyard of the Academy to pay their final respects to Saito. Henrietta had offered to hold the funeral at the palace, but Louise had insisted on holding the memorial at the Academy, a request that Henrietta and Principal Osmond eventually agreed to.
Since the day that the date and place of the funeral were decided, Louise had retreated to her room. The others left her to herself, unwilling to intrude upon Louise's quiet mourning. Henrietta was rumored to have entered Louise's room and spending a couple of hours inside, but the Queen was tight-lipped as to Louise's thoughts, only saying that Louise was still in good physical health.
Henrietta stood in front of Saito's oak casket, facing a large throng of mourning students, teachers and soldiers. Louise was seated behind her, a dark veil covering her face. Henrietta spoke up, addressing the gathered crowd.
"Today, we are here to remember the life of a great hero. Hiraga Saito was not originally from this world. Through the ancient summoning ritual, he was brought into our world as a familiar summon. It's true that he became the legendary Gandalfr, but Saito was much more than that. He spurned the idea of aristocrats and plebeians, instead treating everybody as his equal. The first time I heard of him was when he was accused of attacking an aristocrat with a weapon for the sake of one of his friends. Granted, what he did was against the written law, but the spirit of his actions represented nobility and chivalry…"
Louise sat behind Henrietta, the speech ringing hollowly in her ears. Guilt over Saito's death continued to haunt her, images of Saito hunched over her, bleeding from taking Sheffield's attack swam through her mind every time she closed her eyes. In life, Saito was constantly by her side, steady and unwavering. In death, Saito was constantly on her mind.
She looked up from her reverie and saw that the funeral had come to a conclusion and that the area was almost completely deserted. Had she really spaced out during the entire funeral? A hand on her shoulder shook her from her reverie. She turned around to see Tabitha staring at her.
"The principal requests your presence immediately."
Louise mechanically made her way towards the principal's office while Tabitha looked on in concern. When she arrived, she wasn't surprised to see that Principal Osmond was accompanied by several representatives from the royal palace. Osmond noticed Louise's arrival and coughed slightly to alert everybody of her arrival.
"You called for me, sir?"
"Ahh Louise, yes I did. Henrietta-sama has a proposition for you."
Henrietta stepped forth and nodded her head.
"That's right. Louise, I would like for you to be my personal bodyguard. Would you do that for me? Would you be willing to stay by my side and protect me?"
Louise was taken aback and hesitated. Henrietta took the opportunity hastily correct herself.
"Of course, you don't have to answer me right away. Take your time and think about it. I just wish to keep those that I hold dear… close to me."
Osmond took the opportunity to cut into the conversation.
"Furthermore, there is also the matter of your familiar that we must discuss."
Louise twitched slightly, but continued to listen.
"The death of your familiar, Saito, was most unfortunate, but if you wish to serve as Henrietta-sama's bodyguard, then you will need to redo the summoning process. Don't worry about it right now, Louise. You still have a lot of time to decide what you want to do…"
Osmond's voice trailed off as Louise walked out of the room without saying a word. He withered under Henrietta's withering glare.
"What did I do?"
Henrietta turned her nose up and strode out the door to chase after Louise.
Meanwhile Louise had made her way to her room and quickly locked the door. Finally, she allowed the tears she had been holding back to fall silently to the ground.
'Another familiar? I can't possibly imagine having another familiar than Saito.'
She removed her clothing, reaching for her nightgown.
'Does this mean that my days as a mage are over? Am I going to go back to being Louise the Zero?'
Louise closed her eyes as she laid her head on her pillow. Since Saito's death, Louise had had trouble falling asleep each night and when she was finally able to sleep, her dreams were plagued with nightmares. This time, Louise fell into a deep slumber the instant her head hit the pillow.
Louise opened her eyes to see that she was in a pure-white landscape.
'I must be dreaming. I thought I heard… him.'
Tentatively, Louise called out to the open space.
"Saito? Is that you?"
She felt a hand on her shoulder and whirled around to come face to face with the man who had constantly been in her thoughts.
"It is you! But I thought you died… that means that this is a dream. Oh well…"
Saito sighed and embraced Louise tightly.
"Why don't you tell me everything, Louise?"
And so, Louise poured her heart out to the dream Saito, describing her emotions and feelings immediately following the battle all the way to earlier that day when Osmond suggested summoning another familiar. At that point, Louise was surprised to see Saito's eyes crinkle in amusement. Louise's eyes momentarily regained their old fire.
"What's so funny you stupid dog? Don't you care if I summon another familiar? Are you just willing to let our bond disappear like that? It's not like I can summon you again."
Saito burst out laughing out loud.
"Who says you can't?"
"But… but… you're dead… it's impossible, isn't it?"
"Yeah, but since when has that ever stopped you, Zero?"
With that, Louise bolted up in bed and raced out of her room. She rushed past a startled Henrietta and hurtled towards Principal Osmond's office. Osmond was just about to take out his latest issue of Playmage when Louise burst through his door. Red-faced, he quickly stashed the magazine back inside his desk. Louise ignored the principal's actions and slammed her hand on the desk.
"Summoning ritual. Now."
An hour later, Louise was out on the school grounds with a growing crowd standing behind her whispering amongst themselves.
Louise raised her wand and began her summoning as familiar words rolled over her tongue with ease.
"Oh sacred, beautiful and strong familiar spirit!
I desire and here I plead from my heart!
Answer to my guidance!"
A flash of light lit up the evening sky, and from that light a lone hooded figure emerged.
"Saito… is that you?"
"I'm back, Louise."
Louise rushed into Saito's arms, wrapping her arms around his back and nuzzling her face into his chest.
'Stay with me forever, Saito.'
But wait! There's more:
Louise raised her wand and began her summoning as familiar words rolled over her tongue with ease.
"Oh sacred, beautiful and strong familiar spirit!
I desire and here I plead from my heart!
Answer to my guidance!"
A flash of light lit up the evening sky, engulfing Louise and causing her to pass out. When she opened her eyes she found herself in an unfamiliar environment.
'Where am I? What am I doing? Who am I?'
Slowly, information started to seep into Louise's mind as she walked down the crowded pathway.
'Aisaka Taiga… 2nd year student… school hallway…'
All of a sudden, a large figure bumped into her, sending her crashing to the ground. Instantly whispers could be heard.
"Tiger and Dragon are about to start fighting already?"
"Somebody get a teacher."
"Oh man, this is going to be epic."
"My money is on Aisaka."
"Shh! Don't let them hear you."
Louise/Taiga's voice rang clear through the hallway.
"HEY, YOU BAKA INU! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?"