So some people have been saying that how Kazuma's contract with the Spirit King should be able to break the compulsory effects of the familiar's contract. In that case, you're thinking about it wrong. Besides granting Kazuma an insane amount of power for his Fuujutsu (both when he is using the power of the Contractor and when he is not), the Spirit King doesn't actually do anything for Kazuma. It'd be better to think of the Spirit King as nothing more than a reservoir of power. He doesn't think or act or do anything to help Kazuma except provide a source of power. How that power is used is all up to Kazuma.
Also, several people have expressed their dislike for Louise. To that, I wholeheartedly agree. I hate Louise's character both in this fic and in canon. If I was Saito, I think I might have murdered her a hundred times over, and nearly all of those times would have been out of self-defense. In general, I despise "tsundere" characters, and Louise takes that to the absolute extreme. But in any case, the reason why Louise hasn't really gone through that much character development in this fic is mostly because of one thing: her relationship with Kazuma.
In canon, the biggest driving force of her character development is her romance with Saito. In this fic, no such relationship exists, and the relationship between Louise and Kazuma never really goes past that of acquaintances. They sure as hell aren't friends or anything. Well, that much is because Kazuma, whether he knows it or not, was able to subconsciously resist the compulsion of the contract enough to slow down its effects.
Henrietta sighed as she played idly with her crown that she had laid before her on her desk.
The war was over, and they had won.
But had it been worth it?
Kazuma had once told her that revenge was wrong; that in taking it, she would become a villain, but that it was also a true need, something that simply had to be done for people like her and Kazuma. At the time, she had agreed with him. But now? Now that her revenge had been enacted, Henrietta wasn't quite certain anymore.
It was true what he said about the wrongness of taking revenge, but he had been mistaken about it being a need, Henrietta thought. It had been a desire. A burning, maddening desire that consumed her from within. But that was all it was; nothing more and nothing less. The thirst for revenge was not a need. It was a want. A drive to simply indulge in her hatred for Reconquista. A selfish thing. And for the sake of that selfish goal, she had driven so many of her people to their deaths and wasted so much of her country's resources.
"This thing..." Henrietta sighed as she spun the crown around her finger.
The crown was a symbol of her status as the queen, the leader of Tristain. And as queen, she had a tremendous amount of power. But with that power, she also had a duty and responsibility to watch over and care for her people and the country. Her job was to ensure all within her country could live happy, prosperous lives, and that it was a land where justice and fairness reigned. But instead of doing that, she had used her power for herself, and in doing so, she had gone against the very purpose of being the queen.
"I don't deserve this thing," Henrietta muttered as she placed the crown back on her desk and gave it a loathsome look.
It was laughable. She had been so set on being a good, just queen, one that treated everyone fairly, no matter what their rank or status. And what had she done? Forced them all into a war they did not ask for and nearly bankrupted the country.
The only bright side was that the war was finally over and the people could go back to their daily lives. Of course, the debt that had been incurred during the war wouldn't simply go away, and the reparations from Albion would only pay so much of it. Henrietta made a mental note to order the financial minister to take everything within the palace that was of value and sell it later.
Two swift knocks came from the door.
"Your Majesty," Agnes's voice came from beyond the door.
"Come in, Agnes," Henrietta called out.
Agnes opened the door and strode into the room. She bowed respectfully. "Your Majesty," Agnes said. "It's time for the council."
Henrietta sighed tiredly. "Right. The council. I'll be right there."
Currently, Henrietta was in Newcastle, the palace and fortress where her former lover, Wales, had died in a desperate and courageous last stand. She, along with the leaders of Germania and Gallia, and the plenipotentiary of Albion, General Hawkins, were gathered here to discuss one thing and one thing only: how best to split Albion between Tristain, Germania, and Gallia.
Most of the prizes of the war would go without a doubt to Tristain and Germania. When Gallia entered the war, it was when the Albion army had already been devastated by a sudden freak storm. All they had done was deliver the final blow to an already defeated army.
Well, that was assuming King Joseph didn't attempt to use his country's military and political clout to bull his way through the council. Being the ruler of the largest and most powerful country, he certainly had plenty of both.
After placing her crown on her head, Henrietta followed Agnes out of the room.
"Agnes," Henrietta said quietly as they walked down the hallways.
"Yes, Your Majesty?"
"I wish it had not come to this," Henrietta said with a pained voice.
"Yes, Your Majesty," Agnes said quietly.
When Henrietta finally arrived in the council room, it was to find that the other heads of state were already there. King Joseph was laughing and chatting away merrily, almost obliviously given the importance of the meeting, with the king of Germania, King Albrecht the Third, who in turn looked distinctly annoyed and uncomfortable by King Joseph's strangely friendly behavior. General Hawkins was also at his seat, eyes closed and breathing softly as though he was meditating. Once Henrietta entered the room, he opened his eyes and looked at her. He gave a faint, respectful nod, and Henrietta responded in kind.
"Well, lookie here!" Joseph said cheerfully. "The Flower of Tristain has arrived!"
Henrietta felt her jaw twitch slightly at the use of her nickname. It felt as though he was mocking her. Though, that did not bother her quite as much as the lecherous stare from King Albrecht did. Henrietta knew that, prior to the Battle of Tarbes, Albrecht had been... most eager to wed her. A sentiment she could honestly say that she did not return.
"Thank you, Your Excellency," Henrietta replied cordially as she took her seat at the table. And then the council began.
Louise sighed as she folded the letter she had been reading and placed it on top of her desk. It had been a week and a half since the end of the war. Or, in other words, a week and a half since Kazuma faced and fought the entire Albion army on his own. Publicly, the story was that an intense storm had suddenly appeared over Albion and had absolutely destroyed the Albion army. But Louise knew that was only half true. There had been someone who had caused that storm: her familiar, Kazuma Yagami. Siesta knew that too. And rumors were already starting to pervade throughout the country from the numerous sailors and soldiers and nobles who had personally witnessed the scene from the retreating ships. Rumors of the God of Wind.
Many priests and other nobles were doing their best in order to squash such rumors, for it was blasphemous to claim there was another god. But despite their best efforts – or perhaps because of it – the rumors only spread even more rapidly. The attempts to crush the rumors only served as proof to those that believed in it that it was true.
Louise looked outside the window of her dormitory room in the Academy. From here, she could see everything up to and beyond the gates of the school of magic. And it was from here she could watch a lone figure standing there by the gates, waiting. Always waiting.
Louise couldn't help but worry for her friend. During the first few days upon the return to the Academy, Siesta had been simply lying in bed, crying almost unceasingly. It was to the point where her entire pillow and her raven-black hair were almost thoroughly soaked with her tears. During this period of time, Siesta did not eat at all and drank very little. Any attempts Louise made at consoling her was futile, and so, Louise simply left her be.
Thankfully, Siesta eventually recovered. Though, if her previous behavior was unhealthy, her new one was downright obsessive. Every morning she would wake up, wash herself, eat a light breakfast, and then sit down and begin counting out the entirety of the bag of gold coins Kazuma had left behind when they had gone to war, as if to ensure that her master's belongings were all there. Once that was done, Siesta would then head out to the gates and simply stand there, waiting, looking outwards towards the direction of Albion, just like she was doing right now. It was as if she believed that Kazuma would return one day as if nothing had happened. It wasn't until night fell that Siesta would finally return, whereupon she would eat a simple dinner and then go to sleep, starting the cycle anew.
Watching Siesta invoked strong feelings of pity in Louise. She wanted to tell Siesta to stop, but couldn't bring herself to do so. Kazuma was dead. That much was certain. Being unable to move on from that fact was extremely unhealthy for Siesta. At the same time, Louise wasn't sure if it would be better to stop Siesta or not. Compared to her previous behavior, what she was doing now was an improvement. At least now she was keeping herself alive.
Suddenly, Siesta stirred, and she looked up towards the sky, but only for a moment. Louise followed her gaze from her room. Gliding down from the sky was a white figure. A dragon? Wait a minute. She knew that dragon. Louise's eyes widened as she jumped to her feet and quickly walked over to the mirror. After making sure that her hair and appearance was all right, Louise practically ran all the way outside, just in time to see Azuro land.
"Julio!" Louise exclaimed.
"Hello, Louise," Julio said with a wide, brilliant smile as he jumped off of Azuro.
"What are you doing here?" Louise asked as curious onlookers began to gather around.
"Why, to see you of course," Julio said in such a casual, matter-of-fact way that it caused Louise to blush several shades of red. She flushed an even deeper shade of red when Julio took Louise's hand and kissed it, causing the crowd around them to murmur eagerly. He looked around, looking at the gathered crowd. "Actually, I was hoping to talk to you about something. Is there somewhere we can talk privately, Louise?"
"Um, yes," Louise said hastily. "This way."
Louise led Julio back to her room. More than a few girls who had no doubt been smitten by Julio's looks attempted to follow them. It was only when the two of them were safely ensconced in Louise's room that the two began speaking.
"I apologize for taking so long to come visit you, Louise," Julio said. "Having to write reports is so strange and foreign to me, but I suppose that is how it is when one is in the Dragon Knight Corps. Ah, well. I'm glad that I've finally been released from it and can go back home." Stepping closer to her, Julio pulled Louise into a warm embrace. "I have truly missed you, Louise."
Louise felt as though her head was about to burst into flames as she simply wallowed in Julio's warmth.
"Um... Julio," Louise said nervously, looking up into his heterochromatic eyes. "What are you here to talk to me about?"
"A couple of things," Julio said airily as he released Louise. "First and foremost, I simply wanted to make certain that you are well."
Louise cocked her head. "Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?"
"I was worried that the loss of your familiar would trouble you," Julio said. He smiled. "I'm glad to see that it has not. You are far stronger than I had imagined."
"Thank you," Louise said, smiling at the compliment. "Kazuma's death may be sad, but it was an honorable and courageous death. There is no need to mourn."
"I am of mind with you," Julio said. "Now, the second thing I was wondering, Louise, was if you would like to come with me to Romalia."
"Eh?" Louise's eyes widened. "Do you mean to l-l-live with you?"
Julio grinned. "Unfortunately, as I am a priest, I do not have that sort of privilege."
"Oh, right," Louise said, a little crestfallen.
"Yet, anyways," Julio added, causing Louise to perk up again. "I could probably convince the pope to make an exception for us sometime in the future."
"The pope?" Louise said in surprise. "How do you know the pope?"
"Well," Julio frowned thoughtfully. "I was ordered to keep it a secret during the war, but since it's over now, I believe it'll be fine if I tell just you. Make sure to keep it a secret though, all right?"
"Of course," Louise nodded.
"In truth, I am actually the right hand man of the pope," Julio said. "I see him on an almost daily basis."
"Amazing!" Louise said. "I must admit, I am envious of you."
"There's no need to be," Julio said. "That's why I want you to come with me to Romalia. I thought that you might want to have the opportunity to meet the pope in person."
"I would," Louise nodded enthusiastically. "But..."
"In truth, I received a letter from my family recently," Louise said. "They want me to come home to visit them now that the war is over."
"Is that so?" Julio frowned.
"Oh, but if you can wait for a little while," Louise said quickly, "I can send off a letter to inform them that I'll be going with you. They'll understand if I tell them I'm going to go visit the pope."
Julio smiled. "Very well. Write the letter, then. I will wait."
Henrietta sighed quietly as she stood up to leave the room. The council had been lengthy and tense, but ultimately straightforward. In the end, it was decided that Tristain would govern Albion until a person bearing the blood of the Albion royal family was found. Germania would receive a large portion of the reparations paid to it and Tristain by Albion, as well as a few choice cities, except for Londinium. Gallia received the smallest prize. All they got was a small port town near the fringes of the island country, though it seemed that King Joseph had been most pleased with only this much.
With the conference finally over, Henrietta was looking forward to just going back to her room and collapsing on the bed. She was tired, and simply wanted to sleep and relax for a little bit before having to return to Tristain. As soon as she left the room, however, she was stopped by General Hawkins.
"Your Majesty, if I might have a moment of your time?" Hawkins said as he bowed respectfully.
"Of course, Your Excellency," Henrietta said politely, though she dearly wished to simply go to sleep instead. "What is it?"
"First of all, I would like to thank you on behalf of all of Albion's people for your kind and fair treatment," Hawkins said. "Though we are a defeated country, you ruled not with the wand, but with the bread. For this, you have the loyalty and gratitude of all our people."
"Though our countries may differ, we are all followers of Brimir and the children of God," Henrietta said. "And there is no reason to punish those who have already suffered so grievously from this war."
When Henrietta tried to leave, Hawkins stopped her again, causing her to look at him with a mixture of curiosity and a barely hidden annoyance.
"Followers of Brimir and the children of God... You say the most interesting things, Your Majesty," Hawkins mused.
"What do you mean?"
"Did you know that within Albion, there are already many people who have begun to worship a different god?" Hawkins asked.
"No," Henrietta said. "Though I'm certain the Romalians would be most interested in that."
"Oh? But I would think that this interest you as well," Hawkins said. "After all, it was thanks to the God of Wind that your army was saved."
Instantly, Henrietta's expression turned sharp as she stared at Hawkins. "What are you talking about?"
Hawkins frowned. "Do you truly not know of the rumors and tales?"
"I'm afraid I have no idea what you speak of, Your Excellency," Henrietta said. "But if I were to guess, I take it you are referring to the storm that afflicted your army?"
Hawkins shook his head. "The storm was not a natural one, Your Majesty. It was caused by a being."
"It was during your army's retreat from Saxe-Gotha after Cromwell somehow managed to turn twenty thousand of your men to our side," Hawkins began explaining. "My army was in pursuit. Had things gone according to plan, our roles would have been reversed this day, Your Majesty. But on the hills east of Saxe-Gotha, two people, a man and a woman, stood alone against the full might of our army. Together, they slew hundreds of my men. At first I thought they were merely two incredibly powerful mages. But as they killed more and more of my men, I began to think that perhaps they were elves."
Hawkins shook his head. "I was mistaken on both counts. While the man gathered his power, the woman stood alone and defended him. She called upon water to utterly destroy all those who attempted to approach them. Through her strength, they both remained untouched by any attack. And when the man unleashed his strength, it was surely a power beyond that of man or elf. He created a wall of wind so vast that it spanned the entire country, and so tall that it connected the heavens and the earth, completely blocking us from pursuing your army. And with his power, he called upon wind and storm to utterly destroy my army in the space of only a few minutes. Of the original seventy-thousand, less than ten thousand managed to survive. It is this man, who surely could not have been a mere man, who is known as the God of Wind. And the woman who guarded him, she is regarded with reverence as the Lady of Water, the Wife-Protector of the God of Wind."
"Wind... Water..." Henrietta murmured, eyes wide at the story.
"Aye, you've noticed as well," Hawkins said. "This is another reason why the Albionians have been so accepting of your rule. Because Albion is known as the Country of Wind and Tristain is known as the Country of Water, many have drawn parallels between our countries with the God of Wind and the Lady of Water. The belief is that these two were the incarnations of our countries, and that they had come to punish Albion for following a false leader. And just as how the Lady of Water protected the God of Wind, so to do the people believe that the Country of Water will protect the Country of Wind, so long as we do not stray again."
Hawkins looked aside thoughtfully. "Whether or not there is truth in these stories, I do not know. All I know is that I have faced the God of Wind and the Lady of Water on the battlefield. While it's possible that the Lady of Water might in truth be an elf, I can say with absolute certainty that the might of the God of Wind was not of mortal ken. His strength, his wrath, his absolute power cannot be described as anything less than divine."
"Heh," Hawkins chuckled softly and shook his head. "Truth be told, even if another organization like Reconquista were to try to take root in Albion, the people are simply too afraid of invoking the wrath of the God of Wind once more to risk angering Tristain. The devastation he caused will be felt for generations, and I fear it may take decades before Albion ever truly recovers from the loss of life." He bowed low. "Well, my apologies for taking up so much of your time. I did not expect to speak so much. Farewell, Your Majesty."
"Your Excellency, wait," Henrietta called out as Hawkins turned to leave.
"Yes, Your Majesty?" Hawkins said as he turned around.
"You said many Albionians have begun worshiping this 'God of Wind,' correct?" Henrietta asked.
"Indeed I did."
"What of you?" Henrietta asked. "Are you one who worships this new 'god' as well?"
Hawkins smiled faintly. "As I told you, Your Majesty, I have faced him on the battlefield and that his power can only be described as divine. Take that as you will."
Henrietta remained rooted to the spot as Hawkins left, leaving her alone in the hall. Within her mind, the gears began to whir and grind away. And then she was moving, practically running as she rushed back to her room. Once there, she began rifling through her desk. So intent was she that she only barely noticed a knocking sound on her door.
"Come in," Henrietta called out impatiently as she dug through stacks of paper.
Agnes entered the room. "Your Majesty? What are you doing?"
"Oh, good timing, Agnes," Henrietta said. "Do you know Matilda is?"
"She's back in Tristain," Agnes said. "You gave her a vacation after she returned. She will probably already be gone by the time we return."
"Damn," Henrietta said. "Do you remember where I placed her report, then?"
"Bottom left drawer."
Henrietta immediately pulled open the bottom left drawer of the desk and finally found what she had been searching for. Due to sheer amount of paperwork involved with the aftermath of the war, Henrietta simply had not had time to read the report of her special agent.
"Is something wrong, Your Majesty?" Agnes asked, concerned at Henrietta's strange behavior.
Ignoring the Musketeer, Henrietta quickly began skimming through the report. Her eyes instantly locked onto a small portion near the end. And then Henrietta let loose a silvery belly laugh.
"Your Majesty." Agnes walked over to Henrietta, the worry plain on her face. "I think you need to lie down for a while."
"No, I'm fine," Henrietta said, still chuckling. "Do you know about the God of Wind, Agnes?"
"I do," Agnes said. "During the investigations as to why so many soldiers had suddenly switched sides, I heard many people talking about it, as well as more than a few prayers and sermons." Agnes shrugged. "A new religion, it seems. Why?"
"I believe I've just identified who the God of Wind is," Henrietta said as she handed Agnes Matilda's report.
Arching an eyebrow, Agnes accepted the report and began reading through it. When she was finished, Agnes' eyes had gone wide with shock. Then she too began laughing.
"You mean to say that the God of Wind is Kazuma?" Agnes said. "Miss Valliere's familiar?"
"It certainly appears so," Henrietta said. "In which case, the Lady of Water must be his maid."
"Unbelievable," Agnes chuckled. "To think that he's become the god of a new religion. That's hilarious!"
However, while Agnes laughed, Henrietta turned contemplative. According to the report, Louise had been ordered to use her Void magic to stall the Reconquista army while the army retreated, and to die in doing so – Henrietta made a mental note to have some words with Wimpffen about this later – but that Kazuma had taken Louise's place instead. And now he was missing and presumed dead. Fresh guilt pervaded throughout Henrietta, a dark, sickening sensation. Because of her actions, her closest friend nearly died. Because of her actions, a man who had nothing to do with the war did die.
"Agnes," Henrietta said. "I know you only recently got back from your investigations, but I have a new task for you."
"What is it, Your Majesty?" Agnes said, her laughter instantly giving way to a calm, serious tone and expression.
"I want you to find Kazuma," Henrietta said. "Find out if he's truly dead or not. If he's alive, I want you to bring him back. If not... tell me, so I can at least order a proper funeral."
"As you wish, Your Majesty." Agnes bowed, and then left the room.
Once she was gone, Henrietta sighed and collapsed on her bed. As she slowly drifted off to sleep, she wondered: why was it that the burden of the guilt of one man's death weighed more heavily upon her than that of the guilt of sending tens of thousands to their deaths?
Before she could come up with a proper answer, Henrietta fell asleep.
"I'm back," Louise said as she entered her room.
Sitting casually at her desk, reading one of her books, was Julio. He turned to face her and smiled.
"Is everything done, then?" Julio asked.
"Yes," Louise nodded. "I've sent the letter to my family."
"Good," Julio said. "Then shall we get going?"
"Yes," Louise said enthusiastically. "I'm so excited!"
The door suddenly swung open as Siesta walked into the room. Without so much as sparing Louise or Julio a glance, she silently began packing her belongings into a large traveling bag.
"Siesta?" Louise said. "What are you doing?"
"I'm leaving," Siesta said without looking up.
Louise frowned. "To where?"
"Albion," Siesta said. "I'm going to find Kazuma and find out what is taking him so long to return."
Louise and Julio looked at each other and frowned.
"Siesta," Louise said cautiously. "Kazuma is d-"
"Do not say it!" Siesta shrieked, whirling around to face Louise. "He is not. He is not! Kazuma is alive. I know it."
Louise sighed. She had hoped that Siesta would be able to come to terms with Kazuma's death eventually, but it seemed that more drastic measures were necessary before she undertook a pointless venture.
"Siesta," Louise said slowly, deliberately. "A mage can only ever have one familiar at a time, and they can only ever use the Summon Servant spell again once the previous familiar dies."
"So?" Siesta said impatiently as she continued packing her clothes and belongings.
Louise pulled out her wand. "Siesta, I consider you my friend, and I don't want to see you like this. I'm sorry, but I'm going to prove to you that Kazuma is dead." Louise held out the wand in front of her, took a deep breath, and then chanted her spell. "My name is Louise Francoise Le Blanc de La Valliere. In the name of the Five Pentagonal Powers, I call forth thou who follows my fate. I summon a familiar."
Light burst forth from the tip of Louise's wand, streaming like a great, shining river as it coalesced into the gate that brought forth familiars.
"See, Siesta?" Louise said. "This is proof that Kazuma is dead."
In response, Siesta slashed her hand across the air, causing a blade of water to appear out of nowhere and slice apart the gate, forcibly destroying it.
"I do not care what your magic says," Siesta said. "It is mistaken, and I choose not to believe it. Kazuma is alive, and I am going to find him."
Walking over to Kazuma's bed, Siesta reached underneath it, withdrew the bag of gold and placed it in her bag. After tying it all up, she slung it over her shoulder and stormed out of the room. Louise could only watch with pity as Siesta left on her futile quest.