[Zako fiction] A deal with the Devil

ZakoLover

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Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Yeah, I intend to make the characters all have the motives to do what they are doing now, and most of they genuinely believe that what they are doing is right.

It is hard to say who I sympathize with more. Objectively speaking, Anastasia is the victim and Carmilla is the aggressor. After all, Carmilla started it. No matter the reasons, she is the one who crossed the line and used violence to settle a debate. Also, her mistake of trusting (and distrusting) wrong people has caused a mess much bigger than it should be. So we can say that she deserves what she is going to get (which is not pretty by the way). Nevertheless, I like Carmilla a lot and it's fun to write about her.
 

ZakoLover

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Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Intro_06_Priscilla.png

Let's continue the character introduction: Priscilla, the Fugitive.

In a way, she is very similar to Anastasia. She was living a comfortable and luxurious life without having to worry about anything, and then suddenly, everything changed. Her older sister Lucia is dead, and her mother Carmilla is probably going to have the same fate. She is also forced to run away from her home, but unlike Anastasia, she doesn't have any sealed God to free. So, what will happen to her?
 

ZakoLover

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Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Chapter 10: After the Storm



Minerva let out a deep sigh. So many things had happened during such a short period of time. So many things had changed. After a few weeks of restoration, the palace had been repaired back to its original condition; however, while things could be easily replaced, people were not. Most of the guards and servants working here were strangers, and the people she knew were no longer in this world. Once again, she was the only survivor, just like the last time.

Maybe she should have died with them. Maybe it would have been better if she had died fighting. This was not the first time Minerva had such a thought. She thought of it as well when she was about to fight Lucia in a duel. To die with honor, that was what she had been always yearning for.

“If you had died, Lucia would have thrown your naked corpse to the streets and let everyone fuck it. I seriously doubt that is what you wanted.” A man’s voice raised behind Minerva.

She furiously turned back and glared at the man. “You can read what I am thinking?”

“Who do you think I am?” The man smirked. “I am a God.”

“Stop it! Or I will kill you!” Minerva demanded, even though she knew that there was no way she could carry out the threat.

“Fine! Fine! I just got curious since you were silent for a while, staring at blank space.” The man waved his hand. “I won’t do that again. After all, it costs magical power, and the last thing I want is to waste the tiny amount I have been saving up on a suicidal chick.”

Minerva did not say a word. This was the change that she hated the most. He was here. Ishkur, the man who claimed to be a God. His appearance had turned everything upside down, and Anastasia had changed so much due to his influence.

“Oh, you blame me for that?” Ishkur rolled his eyes. “Sure, I am the sole reason why your little Ana is no longer the innocent kid you knew. Yes, it is entirely my fault. Her family’s murder and the sudden responsibilities that she has to carry have no effect whatsoever.”

“You are still reading my mind?”

“Oops, sorry about that. The spell is still in effect. Three … two … one … okay, it’s gone now.” Ishkur looked up into the air, and then returned his graze back to her. “Anyway, how exactly has Anastasia changed? Other than becoming a queen, of course. She is very busy these days and she rarely sees us, but that is to be expected.”

“It’s about Carmilla’s punishment.” Minerva murmured.

“The duchess?” Ishkur asked. “She is being fucked at the city center at the moment, isn’t she?”

Carmilla, the mastermind behind the coup, the ringleader responsible for the murder of the royal family, did not attempt to flee, so Cornelia’s soldiers easily found her when they got to her house and brought her to the princess. Anastasia, furious and vengeful, had decided to give her archenemy the most horrifying punishment. She sentenced her to death, but before she executed her, she made the former noblewoman suffer the worse humiliation. Carmilla was now at the city square, naked and in chains, and everyone was allowed to freely rape her for a month. Even though she was a villainess who had committed unforgivable crimes, Minerva could not help but feeling sorry for her, as well as being disgusted by the lowly men who took advantages of such a defenseless woman.

“I can’t understand what those men were thinking.” Minerva blurted out. “They are vile! Immoral! Sinful!”

“I can though.” The man shrugged. “Fucking her is great. She is one of those chaste women, I guess. I can’t believe her pussy is tighter than her daughter’s.”

“What?” Minerva was aghast. “You went there and fuck her too?”

“No no no! Of course not!” Ishkur laughed. “Do you really think I would want to touch a woman covered by semen of other men? No, I fucked her before she was put on the street.”

Unbelievable! Minerva was shocked. However, considering what this man did to Lucia’s corpse, she shouldn’t be surprised. “Did Ana know?”

“Of course, she did.” The man grinned. “I also told her what I did to Lucia as well.”

“And she didn’t get mad at you?”

“No, why should she? If anything, she is a bit jealous because I fucked them instead of her. Our queen is obviously madly in love with me.”

“It can’t be helped.” Minerva sighed. “Other than her father and the male servants in the palace, she literarily has never met any other man in her entire life. You are the first one she met. And you saved her life. You are also, well, I really don’t want to admit it, but you are not bad looking either …”

“Thank you for your compliment!” Ishkur grinned again.

“Ugh … What I mean is, it’s not a surprise that she has a crush on you. And I hate that fact. I don’t want her to be used by the likes of you.” Minerva stared at the self-proclaimed God. “You must have already known it by now, but let me state it clearly. I hate you. I despise you.”

“The feeling is not mutual, my dear.” A biggest and most annoying grin broadened across Ishkur’s face. “I love you very much.”

“I am NOT your dear! Stop calling me that!” Minerva scowled. “Seriously, why am I stuck here with you?”

“Because I need to learn about current state of the world before I can make any plan to overthrow the Goddesses. Politics, economy, history. Those things are important. I can read books but they are boring and time consuming, so it’s better to have someone explain it to me. I prefer Anastasia though, since she is obviously the smarter out of the two, but she is too busy, so you are the only choice I have.”

Minerva tried her best to suppress to urge to smack him on the face. She took a deep breath. It was okay. He was always irritating like this. It was pointless to keep getting mad by everything he said. She had better get this over as soon as possible.

She had just shown him the map of the world and introduced to him the nations and their relationship. After that, he said that he needed to process what he had learnt. That was why they were sitting at two corners of the room without saying a word to each other for a while. “Have you finished your review? Do you have any question?”

“Let me summarize what you have just told me,” the man mused. “Currently there are three power blocs with each is led by a Goddess. First, we have the Alliance of the Southern Plain, consisting of Maven, Baern, Velen and Elidor. The religion here is the Church of Isastha the Cunt.”

Minerva’s eyes twitched, but the the man ignore her grimace and continued. “The second power is the Gothorian Empire in the north, ruled by the Goddess-Empress Shala. The Empire and the Alliance have been enemies for three hundred years. In fact, the only reason why the Alliance was created in the first place is to help its members defend against the Gothorian. Two years ago, Maven invaded the Empire but it ended up losing most of its army and a large chunk of its territory.”

“It’s true.” Minerva nodded grimly.

“Lastly, we have the Elven Ecclesia in the west and its ruler is the Goddess Nanshe. The pointy ear arrogant bastards do have some border skirmishes here and there, as well as some limited trading, with both the Alliance and the Empire, but in general, they stay in their forest, minding their own business. That’s all, right?”

“Yes.”

“Interesting,” the man mused. “Very interesting indeed!”

“What is?” Minerva asked.

“When we first met, I talked about the Three Goddesses and you talked about the Three Goddesses, so I assumed that the ones we were referring to were the same. It turns out there is a difference. My enemies, the three bitches who imprisoned me, are Nidaba, Nanshe and Isastha the Whore. But the current Three Goddesses are Shala, Nanshe and Isastha the Slut instead.”

“Can you stop calling Lady Isastha like that?” Minerva said angrily.

“Why? She is, after all, a cunt, a whore, and a slut.”

“I am leaving.” Minerva stood up. “Do your research yourself!”

“Wait! The queen told you to help me, did she not? Are you going to ignore her order? I thought you were a loyal knight.”

“If you want me to help you, then stop being so offensive!” Minerva yelled. “Why do you have to keep insulting me like that?”

“I am not insulting you. I am only teasing you a bit because you look very cute when you get mad.” The man grinned. “Okay, I apologize. Let’s get back to our business. So, have you ever heard of a Goddess named Nidaba?”

“Never heard of her.”

“And I don’t know any Shala either. She must be a new Goddess who replaced Nidaba while I was imprisoned.”

“While I don’t know whether she replaced that Nidaba or not,” Minerva shrugged. “But yes, she is new. She used to be a priestess of Lady Isastha who became a Goddess several hundred years ago.”

“Really? What happened?”

“The only thing I know is she betrayed Lady Isastha. As the result, Lady Isastha decided to erase her from history and ordered to delete everything about her in every record. However, since she has become the ruler of the Gothorian Empire, it’s impossible for us to forget about her. But we don’t call her by name, but as the False Goddess.”

“How can I learn more about this Shala?”

“Lady Sophia, the Living Saint of Maven, may know …” Minerva stopped mid-sentence. She had just remembered that this man was Lady Isastha’s enemy, so he could be a threat to Lady Sophia as well. She should never allow him to get anywhere near the Saint. “Or you can ask Ana. She is knowledgeable. Also, she is of royalty so she might know some secrets that I don’t.”

“Let’s pay my little Baʿalah a visit then! We haven’t had a decent conversation for weeks anyway.”

“Now?”

“Yes, now.”

Ishkur stood up and casually walked toward the door without waiting for her, and Minerva scrambled behind him. However, once they had gotten out of the room, he fell back to walk behind her, as if he was merely a simple and unimportant male servant of the palace. That was the facade that he wanted to maintain in order to hide his true identity. Since they had all agreed with each other how to act in public, she did her part as well, going ahead without saying a word to him. It suited her well, as she didn’t want to talk with him anyway. Thus, the captain of the guard and the lowly servant walked in silence through the long corridor.

“Ah …”

Minerva exclaimed as soon as they enter the hall at the end of the corridor. There were two people emerging from the other entrance of the hall. One of them was the exact person she was trying to keep Ishkur away from.

“Oh Minerva! Long time no see!” The woman smiled at her as their eyes met.

“Your Reverend!” Minerva greeted the saint. “You are here to see Her Majesty?”

The woman, who had a dignified and serene appearance, was no one but Lady Sophia, the revered Living Saint of Maven, and the Head of the Church of Isastha in this region. Despite her youthful appearance, she was actually older than the kingdom itself. Three hundred years ago, when Lady Sophia was still a teenager, she was a companion of the heroine Lucretia, the first Queen of Maven, and together they fought against the invading Gothorian Empire to save the world.

“I have just had an audience with the queen.” The holy woman nodded. “Are you going to see her too?”

“Yes,” Minerva replied.

“The queen was in the garden at the moment. She looked exhausted. Minerva, you are the one closest to Her Majesty. Take good care of her, okay?”

“I will.” Minerva nodded. “Thank you for your concern, Your Reverend!”

“I will take my leave then.” Lady Sophia smiled. “By the way, it has been a long time since you last visited my church. Come once for a while, okay?”

“But … I am already excommunicated …” Minerva said. “Lady Isastha will be angry if I go there.”

“Don’t worry! As long as she doesn’t know then there is no problem. And she has a lot of better things to do than monitoring my house all the time.” Lady Sophia giggled. Even though she always kept up her dignified appearance in public, she also showed her mischievous side to the people close to her from time to time, so such an “unsaintly” statement did not surprise Minerva at the slightest.

Then, Lady Sophia left her. Irina, the holy knight who was escorting her, nodded at Minerva then turned to follow her mistress.

“So, that woman with such a huge rack is our Living Saint?” Ishkur asked after the two women had vanished from her sight.

Lady Sophia’s voice and appearance had put Minerva in such a calm and peaceful state that she forgot for a moment, but those vulgar words reminded her who was also here.

“Yes,” she answered curtly.

“Isn’t she the one who excommunicate you? You two are surprisingly friendly with each other?”

“Lady Sophia did what she had to do,” Minerva sighed. “I deserved it.”

“Now I am getting curious. Why were you excommunicated? What did you do exactly?”

“Don’t want to talk about it. Let’s go.”

Brushing off the man’s question, Minerva walked toward the entrance leading to the royal garden.
 

bartley

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Apr 14, 2019
It would be nice to see the “punishment” from Carmilla’s perspective. I wonder if she regrets not trying to escape now.
 

ZakoLover

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Feb 19, 2018
Well, she does regret it now. It's to be expected.
People tend to think that they can endure anything when they are not in an immediate danger, then they learn the hard way that they are not as brave as they think, but at that point, it's already too late.

Anyway, let's introduce the next character: Sophia, the Living Saint of Maven.

Intro_07_Sophia.png
 

ZakoLover

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Chapter 11: Crime and Punishment



“Lord Ishkur! Minerva!”

The young queen’s tired face lit up when she saw us entering the garden. She left the wooden bench where she was sitting and ran toward me.

“My Ba’alah,” I greeted her.

“Oh! I should have called you as Ba’al …” Anastasia looked down, smiling apologetically. “I’m sorry that I forgot to address you the right way.”

“It’s fine, princess.” I said, my hand touching her chin and lifting her face up. “If you are more comfortable with calling me ‘Lord’, then feel free to do so. There is no need to force yourself to use the unfamiliar words.”

“Thank you, my lord! It’s great to see you!” Anastasia looked at me with the eyes of a puppy. “Just hearing your voice makes all the stress and exhaustion wash away.”

“You look tired, princess.” I commented.

“Yes,” the young queen nodded. “I never know that running a country is so stressful.”

“Don’t worry! You will be fine! After all, you are a strong young woman. There is nothing you cannot handle.” I told her. Well, that was still to be seen, but there was no harm in giving her some encouragement.

“Thank you, my lord!” Anastasia blushed. “Actually I am in a dilemma. Can I have your advice?”

“Sure, why not?”

“Thank you, my lord! Please, sit with me!” Anastasia smiled, grabbing my and Minerva’s hands and took us back to the bench in front of the pond at the middle of the garden. She sat down between us while humming a tune, acting like a child who was playing with her parents. I wondered whether she was repeating the same things she did with her family in the past.

“So, what do you want to consult me, princess?”

“As the investigation continues, more and more Carmilla’s co-conspirators are arrested.” Anastasia replied. “At this point, there have already been over a thousand people in the dungeons. The noblewomen in Carmilla’s faction, her servants and household guards, the captains of the City Guard who received her bribe …”

“You are afraid that the city square is not big enough for all of them?” I grinned.

“Please don’t jest, Lord Ishkur! I am serious here.” Anastasia pouted. “I am talking about their testimonies. They all said the same thing, that they knew nothing about my family’s murder. They told the interrogators that Carmilla tricked them. She told them that coup was bloodless, and then betrayed them at the last minute.”

“They could be lying,” Minerva said. “Blaming everything on Carmilla to save their own skins.”

“How about Carmilla? What did she say about the matter?” I asked.

“She … she said something similar …” Anastasia replied. “She told me that she planned to have my mother and sister exiled and then install me on the throne. She never wanted to kill them. What happened was just a mistake …”

“Anything else?”

“No, she didn’t have the chance. I had the guards drag her away immediately after that.” Anastasia shook her head. “I was furious. Not just me, Cornelia was too. She looked like she was about to strangle Carmilla on the spot. ‘My family’s death is just a mistake? How can you be so shameless?’ That was what I thought at the time. Now, I am not so sure. All of them are saying the same thing. Sure, they could be all lying, but there might be some truth in it. Lord Ishkur, tell me! Did I make a hasty decision?”

“Yes, you did. And you don’t need me to tell you that, you already know that yourself. Isn’t that why you are feeling guilty now?”

“Yes,” Anastasia replied grimly.

“There is no point regretting it now though. What is done is done. The only thing you can do is to remember it so that you will never make the same mistake again. Think twice before making a decision. That is especially true for you as you are a queen now. Your words mean life and death to other people.”

“I … understand …”

“On the other hand, even though your judgement was driven by your emotion at the heat of the moment, it is not necessarily unjust.” I patted her back. “The fact remains that Carmilla is the main culprit responsible for your family’s murder. No matter why and how she did it, she has wronged you in the worst possible way, so she deserves the retribution. Beside, even if she didn’t kill anyone, what she did is still high treason anyway.”

“Thank you, my lord!” Anastasia nodded.

“Is that all what you want to talk about?”

“Well … there are now a thousand people who are waiting my judgement.” The young queen said slowly. “I don’t know whether I am able to do it. I did it only once and I already messed up, so how can I decide the fates of a thousand people?”

“You don’t have to do everything by yourself. You have your subjects to help you.”

“But my subjects have totally different opinions about the matters,” Anastasia shrugged. “Lady Sophia has just had an audience with me …”

“I know. We saw her when we are getting here.” I said with a straight face. “I told Minerva that the saint had a huge rack and she agreed.”

“You …” Minerva started at me angrily.

“Pfft ... It’s true … Her Reverend’s chest is … impressive,” Anastasia giggled, her expression relaxing a little.

“So, what were you talking about?”

“Lady Sophia told me that the best way to rule was with virtue, not force. Therefore, I should be merciful and generous. Rule with compassion, and I will become a queen loved by everyone.”

“Basically she wants you to be lenient with the prisoners,” I said. “I am sure that Cornelia is not thrilled with that suggestion.”

“You are right,” Anastasia confirmed. “The general wants to execute the conspirators. She told me that if I was afraid of delivering punishment, other people would think that I was weak and they would trample upon me.”

“What do you think then?” I asked.

“I think that both of their advice have their own merits.” Anastasia replied. “Which path should I take? To be merciful or to be ruthless. Or maybe I should do something in the middle. Punish them but neither too harsh or too lenient.”

“Don’t.” I told her. “Do things in a half-assed way and you won’t be able to achieve anything.”

“So I have to choose?”

“Not necessarily,” I grinned. “Why choose when you can have both?”

“How, my lord?” The young queen was astonished.

“Pardon the nobles.” I said, amusedly. “Not only you do not punish them, you restore their positions in the court. Pick one of them and promote her to replace Carmilla.”

Not only Anastasia’s, but also Minerva’s jaw dropped. Whatever they'd been expecting me to suggest, this definitely was not it.

“Err … what?” Anastasia looked at me confusedly. “I am sorry, my lord, but I don’t understand.”

“The reason is simple.” I explained. “How are you going to rule if you kill half of your court? There used to be two factions: Cornelia’s and Carmilla’s. If you decimate one, the other will be dominating. Cornelia is now a heroine of the kingdom. After all, she is the one who defeated the traitors and helped you become queen. She is popular and the entire army of Maven is in her hand. I am not saying that she is not trustworthy, but giving too much power to one of your subordinates is just unhealthy. It could be problematic in the long run. Therefore, you need to maintain the balance of the court, so you need to keep those women around.”

“I … see,” Anastasia nodded. “How about the rest?”

“Kill them all, of course.” I chuckled. “They are nobodies. They are worthless to you and you can safely kill them without offending anyone that matters. See? This is how you can be both merciful and ruthless.”

“That doesn’t sound fair to me,” Minerva said. “You are spared if you are nobles, and you are executed if you are not.”

“Life is not fair, my dear.” I told her, and then turned back to Anastasia. “This is what you are going to do. Everyone claims that Carmilla is the only perpetrator behind the royal family’s murder, so let us use that excuse. Pin everything on her and her alone. Use her as a scapegoat. Execute her in the most brutal way. Burn her house to the ground. Kill everyone in her household: family, guards, servants. Kill the members of the City Guard who she bribed too. Let the whole world know what will happen to anyone who dares to cross you: Total annihilation. Of course, let the imprisoned nobles know too. Let them squirm for a few days, then come to see them and tell them that you are going to give them a second chance. They will be grateful to you, and they will never betray you again, since they know what you do to your enemies.”

The two girls were speechless. It was to be expected. They were too young and too affected by things like morality to truly comprehend it, but that was the right way to rule: With brutal efficiency. That was how I was able to conquer the world despite the starting point of a minor and unknown god. My eventual downfall was caused by the unconditional trust I placed on someone else, a mistake that I would never ever repeat.

“That … that is how to be a queen?” Anastasia asked.

“Yes.”

“There is no other way, my lord?”

“It depends on what you want, princess.” I replied. “If you want a simple and quiet life, I suggest that you run away from the capital again, never coming back, and pray that no one will ever find you. If you still want to be Queen … Well, you can stay being nice and hope that other people will treat you the same. But I doubt it. Baern will eat you out. Another option is to surrender to Baern, grovel before Queen Valeria and kiss her feet, maybe lick her pussy too. If you plan to do that though, you might need to have Cornelia assassinated if you don’t want to risk another coup.”

“I … I want to return Maven to its former glory. I want to help my people who are now suffering under Gothorian rule. I don’t know whether I can do it, but that is what I want.” Anastasia said. “I understand. I will do what must be done.”

I looked at the young queen’s eyes. They are not the eyes of someone full of confidence. She still had doubt. Nevertheless, I believed that what she said was true, that she had made up her make to take on that path. I was sure of it even without having to use my mind reading power on her.

“Good! By the way, princess,” I grinned. “If there is any knight bestowed with Isastha’s power among the ones who are to be executed, bring her corpse to me. I will make good use of it.”

“Ah … yes … of course …” Anastasia nodded. I expected Minerva to have something to say, but she remained silent.

“Good! That concludes your business. Now let us move to mine. Actually I come here because I have questions for you.”

“Yes, my lord?”

“What do you know about Shala, the Goddess-Empress of the Gothorian Empire?”
 

bartley

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Apr 14, 2019
When Ishkur was asked to give advice, it felt like a galgame where you had to choose your dialogue carefully or end up in the bad ending. If you met some conditions, you could unlock some extra choices, like the third route that Ishkur took in this chapter.
 

ZakoLover

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Feb 19, 2018
Carmilla's punishment:

Carmilla being punished.png

Duchess Carmilla, once the Queen's top advisor and one of the most powerful women in Maven, is now paying dearly for her mistakes.

She is stripped naked, locked in a pillory, and publicly exhibited in the city square for everyone to see. The citizens of the capital, who all have already known of her hideous crimes, flocked to this place to mock and laugh at her.

The Queen forbids the people from throwing anything at Carmilla, in order to prevent her from being accidentally killed, instead she allows them to freely rape the former noblewoman. For most people, being able to touch such a high-class woman is something that they can only see in their dreams, so there is no reason for them to put this opportunity to waste. As the result, there is a very long line of men waiting for their turns to fuck the Duchess. They wait patiently, since there is no need to rush. After all, this whore is open to public for a full month.
 

bartley

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Joined
Apr 14, 2019
Poor Duchess and great drawing & writing! Always like to lowborn male vs. highborn female plot. What is on her tongue?
 

Myosotis

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Apr 26, 2012
I'm pretty excited to see some maids and guards. Seems like they're going to need a bigger trophy room.:wink:
 

dinomoneyman

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Aug 23, 2014
DeviantArt Username
dinomoneyman
You know the more I read this the more I wonder if this is really a zako based story enough to be listed on the Zako board instead of the fiction board or something. Seems more centered on regular ryona and only really had major zako themes at the beginning. But maybe I'm speaking too soon, as there's probably more zako stuff on the way. Don't mind me though, none of this is a knock on the story itself at all anyway, I'm just arguing semantics with myself, heheh...
 

ViridianShine

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Sep 18, 2018
I felt the same, but honestly the line between Ryona and Zako seems pretty blurred from reading through the Zako sub in general.

Besides, ZakoLover has pretty much the biggest story around (his first one) so it makes more sense for him to stay here for his second too. The Zako sub tends to attract way more stories.
 

ZakoLover

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Feb 19, 2018
Poor Duchess and great drawing & writing! Always like to lowborn male vs. highborn female plot. What is on her tongue?
It's a clip used to force her open her mouth and stick out her tongue all the time.

You know the more I read this the more I wonder if this is really a zako based story enough to be listed on the Zako board instead of the fiction board or something. Seems more centered on regular ryona and only really had major zako themes at the beginning. But maybe I'm speaking too soon, as there's probably more zako stuff on the way. Don't mind me though, none of this is a knock on the story itself at all anyway, I'm just arguing semantics with myself, heheh...
Well, later on there will be many large scaled battles with multiple combatants.
So yeah, I think that it's "zako" enough :))
 

ZakoLover

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Feb 19, 2018
Noble households:

2019_0521_Servant.png

A typical noble household consists of a noblewoman, the head of the household, and her family members, her servants and guards, and her slaves.

The number of family members in the household varies, depending on the the head's ability to financially support her relatives. A lesser noblewoman’s manor generally only has places for her children and perhaps her grandchildren, while a powerful and wealthy one can have her her sisters, aunts, cousins and their families living with her as well. When a noblewoman dies, her eldest daughter will inherit her title and holdings, while the younger daughters might need to become knights or priestesses in order to make a living for themselves. The ones who are lucky to have a rich mother can be granted a small holding and start branch families, while the ones who are poor can gradually become commoners after a few generations.

The household servants and guards are the noblewoman’s employed retainers. While it is possible for outsiders to get hired into these positions, most of the time these trusted employees come from clans who have served the noblewoman’s family for generations. Greater houses tend to have servants and guards coming from their own branch families or other lesser noble houses. In the picture is one of the more important servants in Carmilla's household. Her high status is shown by the the fabric on her body, which is of quality no less than that is worn by her mistresses. It is common for greater houses to have such servants be in charge of serving food and drink at the family's table in order to guard against possible poisoning attempts.

Lastly are the slaves. Since most if not all female slaves are breeders, who are kept at the breeding camps, they are almost never parts of a noble household (unless the head of the household is a mother who pampers her sons a lot). As the result, the slaves are all male. A few of them are young and handsome men who serve as sex slaves to the women in the household, while the rest are castrated slaves used to do menial jobs.

A noble house’s downfall usually has detrimental effects on its members. In the best case, the family members are demoted to commoners, the household guards and servants become unemployed, and the slaves will be seized along with other properties and assets. In the worst case, a ruler who wants to make an example might decide to exterminate everyone in the household. This is a method that was employed many times by Queen Valeria of Baern during her early reign to suppress the factions who opposed her.
 

ZakoLover

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Feb 19, 2018
The City Guard:

City Guard.png

City and town watches of any kind have always been a mixed bag in the Kingdom of Maven. Their ranks are filled by soldiers drawn from many sources with very different qualities: young levy recruits who are obliged to serve in the watch as part of their training, retired soldiers and mercenaries who have passed their prime, or even civilians who wants a part-time job. Rarely having to deal with any threat more serious than petty criminals, these women are more law enforcers than true soldiers, and their terrible performance during the Gothorian Empire’s counter invasion two years ago shows that fact.

The City Guard is the watch of the capital of Maven, so their quality is a bit better than their provincial counterparts. Their force is exactly two thousand strong, divided into twenty companies, each commanded by a knight who was blessed with the Goddess Isastha’s power. Even though these young women, who come from minor noble houses of Maven, are also knights, they are the ones who are not skilled enough to make it to the Army. As the result, instead of becoming real officers who command real soldiers, they are assigned to the City Guard, spending their days bossing around their underlings and extorting money from travelling merchants passing through the city’s gates. Such corruption of the watch was mild in the past, but became rampant after Maven's defeat in the Gothorian War.

Thanks to the shrinking morals of the City Guard, Carmilla easily bought their captains with Baern's gold, and with their support, she launched the coup to overthrow the rule of the royal family. However, the massacre in the Royal Palace had made these young women panicked, and they wondered whether they had bit off more than they could chew. Their fear was confirmed when Princess Anastasia returned to the capital with an army behind her back. Believing that all was lost, the demoralized captains decided to open the gate, surrendering without a fight and begging for forgiveness. Now they are all locked in the dungeon, waiting for their judgement. Their only hope is that the new queen, who is known for her kindness, will show them mercy ...
 

ZakoLover

Casual Client
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Death to Traitors:

Execution.png

The new queen of Maven has decided the punishment to the traitors who were involved in Carmilla's coup. As the Queen's command, the entire household of the treacherous Duchess, with the exception of her younger daughter Priscilla, who had escaped while the Queen's army was retaking the capital city, and the captains of the City Guard who has received bribes and fought for the rebels will be all executed.

These women will be dragged to the town center, where they will have their large breasts ripped off from their bodies before they will be beheaded. After the execution, the criminals' beautiful head and breasts will be displayed to the public, while the rest of their carcasses will be gathered and used to make fertilizer. Since the pile of bodies is so large, nobody will realize that the corpses of the knights who have been bestowed Isastha's power will mysteriously disappear.
 

ZakoLover

Casual Client
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Chapter 12: The Overseer



In the end, even Anastasia did not know much about the Goddess-Empress of the Gothorian Empire. As the sun was setting, I said goodbye to the two girls and returned to my room, where Minerva and I were discussing history a few hours ago.

When I opened the door, I was welcomed by the smell of dust and old paper rising to my nostrils. The room was dim, lit by a tiny ray of light passing through a small window, and it was a mess, with stacks and stacks of papers laying against the walls, and books and scrolls scattered all over the floor. Even though I had been living here for nearly a month, I didn’t bother either cleaning the room or at least making it a bit more organized. I did not have any visitor other than Minerva anyway, and she was more irritated by me than by the room so I guessed there was no problem.

Yes, this was my chamber. In fact, the entire Royal Library was mine. The old staff that used to work here had all perished during the coup, so I, “Oscar”, the only scribe who survived the crisis, had been promoted to Chief Royal Librarian or something like that. As I did not want anyone else to be here, Anastasia used financial difficulties as excuses to delay hiring more people, so at the moment, I was the sole worker in the entire complex. Initially the young queen wanted me to live in the inner courtyard, but Maven’s Law forbade men to stay there during nighttime, and while she could override the Law, it would inevitably attract unwanted attention, so she had no choice but giving up. In the end, she arranged for me to live in the Royal Library, while telling other people that I was so busy that I was forced to live in my workplace. To me, this place was perfect. There was no one bothering me here, and there were many materials for me to read to learn more about the world.

The world, or rather its depiction on a map, was in front of me now. It was a large map, stretched on a frame covering most of the area of one wall, which Minerva used to explain to me the current political entities. My gaze started from the bottom of the map, and slowly moved upward. It ran from the One Thousand Islands, now called the Elidorian Archipelago, to the Southern Plain of the Great Continent, which did not look too different from when it was still ruled by the Lord of the Sky ten thousand years ago. Finally, it stopped at Mount Zaphon, the highest mountain in the Northern Tundra.

My old home.

Millennia ago, on the top of that mountain sat a mighty fortress. Named Ishkur’s Keep, it was the seat of power of me, Baʿal Zaphon, the terrifying Dark Lord of the North. I ruled the region for a few thousand years until Isastha came and convinced me to wage war against the Lord of the Sky. Now it had a new owner, a new Goddess named Shala. This woman intrigued me. Who was she? What did she do exactly? Since everyone had forgotten Nidaba, I assumed that my old enemy perished long before Shala’s rise to power. If that was the case though, how could Shala become a Goddess? After all, one could only become a God by receiving the godhood from an already existing God. Well, actually, there was another way, but no, it was impossible. If Shala had become a Goddess by using “it”, she would have also become invincible. There was literally no way Isastha and Nanshe could stop her from conquering the world, at least not without me working with them.

So many questions. So many mysteries. I had hoped that Anastasia could have given me some clues, but it turned out that she only knew what Minerva knew. That was very strange. As the queen of one of the four nations worshiping Isastha, she should be privy to information not disclosed to the public. Well, she was not supposed to become Maven’s ruler though. It was possible that the secrets were only passed from the previous queen, her mother Katherine, to the heir, her sister Helena, and then, due to their sudden death, Anastasia was unable to learn anything. However, Sophia, the Saint of Maven, should have told young queen what she was entitled to know after her coronation.

But Sophia did not tell Anastasia anything.

That woman was suspicious. She was conveniently absent during Carmilla’s coup, and when she came back, the first thing she did was to attempt to convince Anastasia to forgive the traitors. Moreover, it was unthinkable that Carmilla could plan and execute something of such scale without Isastha or any of her minions noticing anything. No, she must have known, which meant, Anastasia’s family died because their Goddess wanted them to die, or least, allowed the murder to happen. Therefore, Sophia, Isastha’s representative in Maven, could well be one of the conspirators.

I didn’t tell my suspicion to the two girls though. They seemed to be close to the saint, and respected her a lot, so it was unwise to make accusation without evidence to back it up. They were still young and inexperienced, and unlike me, they have not learnt the hard way that even the closest person to you could backstab you. Nevertheless, I should prepare for a clash that could happen at any moment. A fight against Sophia was inevitable anyway, since she was one of Isastha’s underlings. I was not confident that I could defeat her at my current state though, so I would prefer to delay the confrontation as much as I could. On the other hand, that woman possessed an enormous amount of magical power, which would be a massive boost to my own if I could manage to kill her. Also, that juicy and curvaceous would be a great trophy to keep.

“I will think up of a plan to deal with her later,” I murmured.

Yes, Sophia could wait. Now my focus was on Shala. There was still one more way to gather information about her. I didn’t want to use it though, as I did not want to see ‘her’ again. But it seemed that I had no choice.

“Tia, come here!” I demanded.

As the words escaped my mouth, in the middle of the room appeared a woman out of thin air. She had arrived, answering the summon, a beautiful woman with slender and delicate figure, a silky long hair with one half being black and the other silver, and a face that once fooled me into believing that she was someone she was not. “Ishkur! Long time no see!” She said softly.

“Yeah, long time no see indeed.” I nodded.

“Why didn’t you call in the past ten thousand years?” She asked, concern tracing across her face.

“What is the point?” I said coldly. She should stop acting as if she was worrying about me. She did not care. She lacked the ability to care. “Would you help me to get out?”

“No, I couldn’t. You know the reason.” She shook her head. “But at least we could have talked with each other. Being alone for a long time without anyone to talk to was terrible. I know that feeling because I myself feel it all the time. You know, people only summon me when they need something …”

‘Feeling lonely? You? Don’t make me laugh! As if you can feel anything!’ I sneered at her in my head. “You knew, didn’t you? That those three were conspiring against me. That the moment Isastha set foot on my keep to ask me to attack the South, she had already had a hidden agenda. Of course you knew. The Great Tiamat is omniscient after all. She knows everything and anything that happened and is happening in this world. But she didn’t care enough to warn me about my imminent doom.”

“You know why!” Tia shouted, on the verge of tears. “I am neutral in the argument among Gods. The rules forbid me to have favoritism. I am not allowed to let a God know what can put other Gods in disadvantages. I tried to talk Ish …, Isastha out of it, but she didn’t listen. There was nothing I could have done. I knew the tragedy was about to happen, but I was powerless to stop it.”

“Neutral? Yes, yes. After all, you are the Keeper of Order, the Overseer of the System, the one that is neither Gods nor mortals, but a machine created to protect the Harmony. That harmony is no more though.” I smirked. “But if you are neutral, then you are not my friend. Stop acting like one!”

“Fair enough,” Tia replied. She looked hurt. Was she even capable of feeling hurt? No, she was not. What she was doing was nothing but mimicry. “Then why did you summon me?”

“You said it yourself,” I chuckled. “People only summon you when they need something.”

“You want to ask ‘that’ question?”

“Yes, ‘that’ question.”

It was not one of Tia’s original functions. Initially the Gods only consulted her about the rules of the System, but during the Age of Dark, as wars raging across the world and Gods rose and fell in quick succession, it was hard to keep track who was who, so as the result, everyone agreed to add to her a question that she was obliged to answer.

“Fine,” Tia frowned, and answered the question that was given to her a million times, whenever a God wanted to make sure that his enemy was truly dead. “Currently there are three Gods and Goddesses existing in this world: New God, Isastha; Old God, Nanshe; and New God, Ishkur.” She sighed. “What a pitiful amount! There used to be thousands in the Age of Harmony. How could it happen?”

“I don’t need your useless comment,” I told her, while pondering about what she had said. There were two valuable pieces of information. The first was, Nidaba, one of the three traitresses, was indeed no longer in this world, the the second was … “Shala is not a real Goddess?” I asked.

“She is not.”

Well, that answered my question about how she became a Goddess in the first place, but it begat new mysteries. If she was not a Goddess, how could she compete with Isastha and Nanshe? From what I learnt from Minerva and the books, the Gothorian Empire was a serious threat that terrified everyone. How was that even possible?

“What are you going to do from now?” Tia asked.

“Why do you care?” I snorted. “I am going to make the two bitches pay, of course.” Which reminded me, the first time I met Tia was the same. That time, I had just become a God, having no followers and starting a quest of vengeance. I won at the end, so I was going to win now as well.

“This is not a fight that I want to see,” Tia said.

“I don’t need your opinion.” I waved my hand. “I have no more use of you. Begone!”

“Farewell, Ishkur! Take care!” Tia said with a tone that would have been able to make me believe that she was sad if I hadn't known better. One moment later, she had disappeared into the air as if she was never there.
 

ZakoLover

Casual Client
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Chapter 13: Miserable



“Kill the bitch!” A man bellowed. “Death to the traitor!”

“Stab her in the ass! She will love it!” A woman shouted, and the crowd laughed.

A thousand voices were screaming, throwing insults and mockery at the condemned criminal. ‘It’s so ugly,’ Minerva thought. She didn’t want to be here at all, but as the new Commander of the Queen’s Own, it was her duty to overseer the execution of the chief perpetrator behind the coup.

The former Duchess was at the center of the city square. Two guards were restraining her, forcing her to bend forward, while other two were standing behind her, holding a long spear, its tip slightly touching her anus. “Please … no … don’t do this … mercy … please … mercy …,” Carmilla begged softly, as she did not have much strength left after a month of being publicly exhibited and raped. She knew what was going to happen. Overwhelmed by fear, the noblewoman lost control of her bladder and bowels, letting urine and feces pour out from her two holes, which made the crowd mock and laugh even more at the miserable woman, who no longer had a shred of dignity left.

“It’s time, Commander!” Adela said. Her former friend in the army was here as well, because once again, they were now comrades. Since the Queen’s Own had suffered heavy losses during the coup, many knights under General Cornelia’s command had been transferred in to fill the ranks. Adela was one of them, and she was now serving as the Vice-Commander of the royal bodyguards.

Minerva nodded, and Adela waved her hand, signaling to the soldiers. Carmilla screamed as the pointy end of the spear entering her asshole. She tried to resist, but the two guards who were holding her forced her to maintain the right posture, so gradually, slowly, the thrusting spear pierced though her trembling body until its tip came out of her mouth. Carmilla twitched a bit, and then her body went limp and moved no more.

“That is … quick.” Adela said with a tint of disappointment in her tone. “I’ve heard that Queen Valeria of Baern has a special executioner called the Royal Impaler, who excels at the art of impaling people. It’s said that she can do it so skillfully that the executed criminals can be kept alive for more than a week with the spears inside their bodies …”

“I leave the rest to you.” Minerva interrupted the Vice-Commander. Adela nodded and then turned to give commands to the soldiers. Some were assigned to clean up the mess that Carmilla made while dying, while others were ordered to cut off the former noblewoman’s head and pull it out of the spear. The head would be applied treatment to prevent it from rotting, before being placed on the trophy shelf in Anastasia’s room, right beside her daughter Lucia’s, while the headless body would be displayed for a few days before being fed to the dogs.

Minerva quickly left the city square. She had no specific destination in her mind, but anywhere was better than here, as she did not want to spend even one more second in this place. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. She didn’t want to be seen by anyone. Thus, she took a quick turn turn into a dark alley between two buildings.

“Oh Minerva! Fancy seeing you here!”

“Ugh …” Minerva grimaced when she heard the voice behind her. When she looked back over her shoulders, she found a familiar man with an annoying grin. “What are you doing here? Are you following me?” She scowled.

“I was walking around the city when I saw you going here alone.” The man looked around the deserted alley where they were standing. There were nothing here but trash, rats and cockroaches. “What are you doing in a place like this? Going to pee?”

Minerva did not answer. There was no need for her to show any reaction. She ignored him and continued her course. However, the self-proclaimed Dark Lord simply ran up to her and walked with her side by side. “You know, the world today is very different from how it was ten thousand years. Especially the fashion. Now every woman loves to show off her boobs and ass. I don’t how it became like this, but I am not complaining …”

Minerva sighed. If she stayed silent, he would just keep babbling. “If you want to ogle at women, then go back to the main streets. Leave me alone!”

“There is one girl with nice jugs who I can ogle at right here right now, so I am not going anywhere.” A sardonic smile flashed across the man’s face. “Anyway, you haven’t answered my question. What are you doing here? I fail to see anything interesting in this place.”

“I am in a bad mood, so I want to be alone. Is that reason good enough?” Minerva bristled.

“You are always in a bad mood.”

“Yes, I am.” Minerva barked. “I am always mad and angry. So why are you still here?”

“No, that should be my question.” Suddenly Ishkur looked straight at her eyes. “Why are ‘you’ still here?”

“What do you mean?” Minerva frowned.

“It’s obvious that you hate your job.” The man said. “So why don’t you quit? If a combat oriented profession is what you want, then you can ask the princess to let you go back to the army. I doubt that there would be any problem. You are a heroine now. No one will protest.”

“You want to drive me away from the queen?” Minerva stared at the man suspiciously.

“Oh please, Minerva.” He chuckled. “I like you and I want to keep you close and personal. But seriously, look at the mirror! You are miserable.”

“I won’t leave the queen.” Minerva replied. “Her mother entrusted her to me. So I will stand by her side until the last of my days.”

“Of course! A promise with a dead woman. I should have guessed.” Ishkur snorted. “Should I call you stupidly honorable or honorably stupid?”

“Queen Katherine left her own daughter in my hands, even though she knew the sins I had committed. She trusted me even more than I trusted myself. That’s why I made an oath, that I would never betray her trust, no matter what happened. It was the little honor left in me, and I would hold on to it even if it costed my life.” Minerva said. She didn’t know why she even bothered explaining to him. The likes of him would never understand.

“I see,” Ishkur nodded, to her surprise. “Hmm, once again it is something related to your excommunication. Seriously, what did you do?”

“I told you. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Fine,” Ishkur said. “Let’s change the topic then. What is the power that you possess?”

“Why does it matter?” Minerva was taken back by the unexpected question. “Mine was Sanctuary of Peace ...”

“Sanctuary of Peace, Virtue of Resilience,” Ishkur let out a suppressed chuckle. “The Saint of Maven loves melodramatic names, doesn’t she? What did it do?”

“I could create a barrier about this size,” Minerva said, extending her hands to demonstrate. “Anyone inside the barrier became completely undetectable from outside. No sight, no sound, no smell. Like the name suggests, it is supposed to protect you from the enemies, but I mainly used it for ambushes. Huh? Why are you giving me that weird look?”

“You? Ambush?” Ishkur laughed. “I thought that the only way for you to fight was to charge at the enemies head on while screaming foul languages?”

“You think that I am a stupid brute?” Minerva got flustered. “I am a military officer. I know tactics.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Ishkur smirked. “Anyway, did you use your power when you and Anastasia were running away from the rebels?”

“Are you an idiot or what?” Minerva frowned. “I was excommunicated, remember? Lady Sophia has taken it back.”

“No, she didn’t.” Ishkur flat out rejected her reply. “Because she couldn’t. The pattern has already been engraved in your mind, and there is no way to remove it, not without frying your entire brain. She only cut off the magical power supply to prevent you from using it, like letting you keep the bow but taking away the arrows. However, your own body itself can generate magical energy, albeit very slowly. So you can still use your power, but only, I guess, once per year perhaps.”

“What are you talking about? Pattern? Magical power supply? I … I don’t understand.”

“Oh well …” The man sighed. “Explaining to you is a waste of time. You don’t need to understand. Just try using it, and then you will see whether what I am saying is true.” As Minerva was dumbfounded, unable to process what she had just been told, Ishkur shrugged. “Okay then, I will leave you alone to think about it.” Then he turned away and quickly vanished into the busy streets.

This man kept making her confused. Before she met him, her world was very simple: serving the Goddess, protecting the Queen and her families, upholding the code of chivalry. Everything was clear. There was nothing to doubt. Now though, her head was crammed with so many things that she didn’t understand.

‘Maybe I should consult with Lady Sophia.’ Minerva thought. The last time she met the Saint, just seeing the holy woman was enough to create a sense of peace and calmness in her mind. Besides, the Saint did invite her to visit her church, so there shouldn’t be any problem.

Making up her mind, Minerva started walking toward her destination. It was a small church in the eastern part of the city. Even though Lady Sophia was the most revered person in Maven, her house was very humble. It only had a small chapel and a few rooms for the Saint’s private use. The only person who lived here other than than the Saint herself was Irina, the knight who assisted her with daily jobs. People had been persuading her to move to a bigger church for literally centuries without any success, since the Saint insisted to stay at the place where she has been living since the time the capital city was still just a small town.

Minerva kept walking through the myriad of roads and alleys, not paying any heed to anyone or anything she was passing by. She didn’t stop for even a heartbeat until she saw Lady Sophia’s church appearing before her. It was an old and modest building, but it was a haven to her, an asylum where Anastasia and her could have taken refuge if the Saint hadn’t been absent during the coup. It was a pity. If Lady Sophia had been here, she could have stopped Carmilla’s nefarious plan and saved everyone, just like how she was going to save her now.

The church was in front of her. All she had to do was to approach the door and knock. But could she? She was longing to see the Saint, was she not? She had made up her mind, had she not? Then was she hesitating now?

Because …

This was not just Lady Sophia’s home, it was also the House of the Goddess. Lady Isastha probably would not notice, just like the Saint said, but it did not change anything. Did she, who had committed an unforgivable crime, have any right to enter a place like this?

‘No! There is no place for me here.’

Of course there wasn’t. Why should the House of the Goddess be open to a vile sinner like her? She wanted Lady Sophia to save her? Laughable! Who did she think she was? No, no, no. If she was suffering now, then it was just the punishment for the blood on her hand. She just reaped what she sowed. No more, no less.

“He was right. I am miserable.” Minerva let out a deep sigh, and departed from the holy woman’s abode.

As Minerva was about to return to the palace, she saw a woman walking in the opposite direction, the sun setting behind her back. The woman’s body was wrapped in a heavy cloak with the hood covering most of her face. Minerva did not recognize this stranger, but somehow she felt that she was familiar, and, for some reasons, this woman made her think of …

‘A witch?’ Minerva thought, as they passed by each other.
 

ZakoLover

Casual Client
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Chapter 14: A Saint's Concern



“Your Reverend!” The woman greeted, her moving lips, the only parts of the face not hidden behind the hood, barely visible under the dim light of the candles in the church.

“Spymaster,” Sophia nodded, gesturing for the visitor to sit on one of the benches in the first row of the chapel.

The hooded woman stepped toward and took the seat, casually leaning back, crossing her leg over the other. “Why are you standing there? Are you going to give me a preach?” She chuckled.

Sophia had placed herself behind the pulpit a few steps away from where her guest was sitting, the same place where she delivered sermons every Isastha’s Day. It was awkward to have a conversation like this, but she preferred to have some distance and an obstacle between her and the Baernian spy. She also chose to have the meeting take place in the chapel, since it was easier to maneuver here than in a closed and narrow room, and had Irina, her trusted knight, right beside her, ready to intercept any possible attack. Of course, she did not expect a fight, but she could never be too careful when dealing with people like this.

“Whatever,” the woman snorted without waiting for Sophia’s answer, as if she had figured out the obvious intention. It was hard to know how she felt about being treated like this, since the hood had covered her facial expression. She might be not very happy about it, probably, but she should have known that she would not be trusted. Besides, it was not like she trusted other people anyway, considering that she showed her face to nobody. “Anyway, how is the young lady?” She asked.

“Priscilla is sleeping. The poor child was crying all night last night. After all, today is the day …” Sophia sighed. “She only fell asleep after she had no strength left.”

When Princess Anastasia, who was now the Queen of Maven, returned to the capital with Cornelia’s army, Priscilla, Carmilla’s second daughter, was taken away from her manor and hidden inside Sophia’s empty church. That was a smart move by the hooded woman, since even though Sophia was not at home, no one in Maven would dare to break into her house to search for people. When she came back, she agreed to grant the girl asylum, since she believed that a young girl who had not committed any sin shouldn’t be persecuted by her mother’s crime.

“I have just been at the city square,” said Laeticia, the spymaster of Baern.

“How was it?”

“Badly. That idiot doesn’t deserve it.” The woman replied with a sad tone. “At least she died quickly without having to suffer much.”

“I didn’t expect that from you,” Sophia said, eyeing the spy, a creature of deception whose only functions were to plot and conspire. She couldn’t figure out the woman’s intention. Why did she care about Carmilla? Why did she want to protect Priscilla? Their plan had failed, and both the former Duchess and her daughter now had no value whatsoever to her.

“It might not look like it, but I do have a heart,” Laeticia chuckled. “We all do. Even my mistress, the Ice Queen of Baern. We are different from a certain immortal being who considers everyone her pawns.”

Sophia bristled at the insult against the Goddess, but she was unable to refute what Laeticia had said. The bloodbath at the capital city happened because Lady Isastha allowed it to happen. She sanctioned the coup. Sophia, as her servant, didn’t have a say in the matter. The Goddess had decided, so she stood aside, doing nothing to prevent the tragedy. Therefore, even though she wasn’t involved in the conspiracy, she was as guilty as Carmilla.

No.

She was much worse. She was a coward who ran away from the problem, which led to a greater disaster. If she had stayed, she could have stopped the massacre. However, since she was unable to bear seeing the Queen being dethrone, she went on a trip to Elidor right before the coup was launched. So no, it was neither Carmilla nor Lady Isastha, but her who caused this calamity to happen.

“Don’t blame yourself, saint.” Laeticia said. “It’s Lucia’s fault.”

Sophia was astonished. Was what she was thinking written so clearly upon her face? “Well, yes,” she shrugged. “Lucia was to be blamed too. If she could handle the situation better …”

“Better for whom?” Laeticia giggled. “For all of us, it’s bad, yes, but for Lucia herself, the outcome is perfect.”

“What do you mean?” Sophia stared at the woman.

“I have never told Carmilla, since she had enough shit already, but I have my suspicion.” The hooded woman explained. “Lucia was someone who longed for war, a prideful woman who wanted to prove herself in battle. However, if the transition of power had been peaceful, there would have been no battles, and therefore no glory. On the other hand, if she could trigger a civil war …”

“You are telling me that Lucia massacred the royal family on purpose?” Sophia was aghast by the absurd idea. However, if she considered Lucia’s character, it actually made sense.

“I have no proof.” Laeticia shook her head. “And since Lucia is dead now, there is no point talking about it. Let’s drop this matter and never talk about it again. The young lady will be tormented more if she hears about it.”

“Agreed.” Sophia nodded.

“Anyway, why do you summon me?” Laeticia asked. “Not to have a chat, obviously.”

Yes, Sophia invited the woman here for a reason. She let out a deep sigh. She had never thought there would be a day where she herself would start a conspiracy. “What do you think about Queen Anastasia?”

“I am impressed,” Laeticia replied. “She is much more ruthless than I expected.”

Sophia nodded in agreement. Nobody had ever expected that the young queen would be so merciless. The saint believed that even Cornelia was shocked by the body count. “How many more people is she going to kill?”

“Zero,” Laeticia said. “The series of execution is nothing but a performance and Carmilla’s is the finale. There will be no more death after today.”

“How do you know?” Sophia frowned.

“Because that is exactly what my Ice Queen would have done if she had been in Anastasia’s shoes. What your queen is doing is not mindless violence, but ruthlessness with a purpose. If my prediction is right, in the next few days she will release the imprisoned noblewomen and restore their positions in the court. Seriously, I underestimated her.”

“Anastasia is not capable of doing this,” Sophia shook her head. What Laeticia had just said might be right or wrong, but it didn’t matter. “You don’t know that child well, but I do. I have been watching over her since the day she was born. This cannot be her idea. She is doing this under someone else’s influence.”

“Cornelia, maybe?”

“No, I know that child very well too. It’s not her.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot that you were freaking old. Everyone is a kid to you.” Laeticia laughed. “However, people can change drastically within a short amount of time. Considering what Anastasia has been through, it’s possible.”

“There are other things that I find weird,” Sophia said. “Like how Anastasia survived the coup in the first place. The story of her escape from when she fled from the capital to when she arrived at Cornelia’s camp is very vague; however, if you add the number up, then basically Minerva had singlehandedly killed Lucia and over one hundred soldiers within three days. How is that even possible?”

“She is the freaking Taurus Slayer. That woman is not human, but a gorilla.” Laeticia laughed. “By the way, you have just questioned her about this, haven’t you?”

“Huh? No?” Sophia raised her eyebrows. “Why do you think so?”

“When I was getting here, I saw her going in the opposite direction, as if she had just left your church.”

What did it mean? The only explanation that Sophia could think of was that Minerva had decided to visit her and then changed her mind at the last minute. ‘Poor child!’ But now was not the time to think about it, she was now having more pressing matter. “She didn’t come here. Anyway, let us go back to what we are discussing. What I suspect is, my queen has someone’s support, but she keeps it a secret from everyone. Yes, I know. The evidence is flimsy. But let’s assume that it is true, then who do you think that ‘someone’ is?”

Laeticia was silent. She had gotten what Sophia was implying at. Then she whispered. “Justina.”

That was exactly the person that Sophia was suspecting: Grand Inquisitor Justina, the de factor ruler of Velen. She was the only one who could realistically compete with Queen Valeria for the position of the Leader of the Alliance now, and there was no way she could stand aside, letting Valeria take over Maven and increase her influence. Since the Goddess had sanctioned Carmilla’s coup, Justina couldn’t interfere; however, she could have intervened after it happened to tip the scales in her favor.

“So, what do you want?” Laeticia asked.

“I want you to find out who my queen’s secret supporter is, if such a person exists.” Sophia replied. “If my suspicion is baseless, and it’s Anastasia herself who makes the decisions, then I will support her no matter what she does. However, if she is Justina’s puppet, and I have to choose between that woman and your queen, then I will choose the lesser evil.”

“Interesting,” Laeticia said. “Let me rephrase it so that there is no misunderstanding. If my investigation shows that indeed Justina is the one who is helping Anastasia, you are going to betray your queen?”

“I … I will do everything it takes to remove Justina’s influence,” Sophia said with hesitation. “Even if it means that Baern’s influence will fill in the vacuum it leaves behind.”

“I see,” Laeticia smiled. “That’s good enough for me.”

“I see that we have come to an agreement,” Sophia nodded. “Now let us discuss how you will carry out your investigation.”

“What is there to discuss?” Laeticia laughed. “I will send one of my girls to infiltrate the palace.”

“The palace is very well guarded,” Sophia protested. “Are you sure that she can get in unnoticed.”

“I am,” Laeticia giggled. “After all, she has come in ‘here’ unnoticed.”

“What do you mean?” Sophia furrowed her brows.

Instead of answering the question, Laeticia called. “Come down here, Panthera!”

As the words escaped from her mouth, a figure suddenly appeared beside Laeticia, dropping herself from the ceiling above. At first, Sophia thought it was a human, until she noticed the furry ears on its head and the tail behind its butt. A Half-beast?

“A Felinus!” Irina bellowed, drawing her sword. “What is a Gothorian assassin doing here?”

“A former Gothorian assassin,” Laeticia corrected her. “She defected. Now she works for me.”

“Are you crazy?” Irina barked. “These creatures are evil minions of the Empire. How can you even trust them?”

Sophia stared at the creature. Those cat-like ears are unmistakable. It was indeed a Felinus, a foul creation of the Gothorian mages, mutated to gain the traits of beasts. While there were many types of Half-beast, three sub-types were the most famous and had their own names: Taurii, Felini and Lepii, who were used to great extent in the army of the Empire. Everyone in Maven knew them well, the enemies who had drawn so much Mavenish blood.

“Why did you have her hide up there?” Sophia asked the spy coldly.

“I am cautious,” Laeticia grinned. “Just like you.”

What she did was very disrespectful, but Sophia herself did not treat the woman politely, so she couldn’t complain. Besides, while she held the Felinus with contempt, the skills of such an elusive creature were undeniable. So she told her knight, “Irina, sheathe your sword,” and nodded to her guest. “Fine, let’s do what you suggest.”

“Good,” Laeticia smiled. “That concludes our business. Or is there anything else?”

“Ah yes, one more thing.” Sophia said. “Next week Cornelia will bring her sister here for me to treat her wounds. So if it’s possible, can you take Priscilla to your hideout for a few days?”

“I will take her for good.” Laeticia chuckled. “As I said, Carmilla’s death is the finale. Soon the security at the city gates will be more lax so it’ll be easy to smuggle her out of the city.”

“Where are you going to take her?”

“It depends on what she wants,” Laeticia shrugged. “But anywhere is better than this city.”

“Agreed,” Sophia nodded grimly.
 

bartley

Potential Patron
Joined
Apr 14, 2019
When Sophia assigned the investigation to Laeticia, didn’t she worry that the spymaster could lie about the result of the investigation in order to make her support the Ice Queen?

And it’s interesting that it was Baern that had a Royal Impaler, since I had the feeling that Baern was the more modernized nation in this story (more developed economy, standing army, etc.).
 
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