Isolated from other quarters, Princess Eleonora's chambers directly faced Nargoz's Chiropteran Tower, with the coiling statue's eyes staring at her glass windows. Like other castle rooms, hers maintained Nargoz's textbook ominous atmosphere, with jet-black furniture and sanguine tapestry depicting chiropterans and bloodkins gorging themselves in blood feasts. But in a rather uncanny display, even for Nargoz, white candles burned on top of the princess' bedside, with flickering scarlet flames from which cracking bones and heartbeats resounded.
Dressed in a white nightgown, Eleonora lay on top of her queen-size bed, her wrists and ankles bound by thick black chains, and her eyes tightly shut. The deafening noises of a brutal confrontation reverberated from the flickering flames, and a silent force snuffed the candle out.
Eleonora's eyes opened, and while her long, spread out hair shimmered in an otherworldly purple, her eyes remained the same blood-red of the Nargozi royals. Hard, distant eyes concealing a world of blood rage.
"Ailith?" Eleonora called, and in a whirlwind of red clouds, a purple-haired maid appeared beside her bed and bowed in greetings.
"Mistress?" The maid curtsied, then stood with her head bowed, awaiting her mistress' orders. Blood hunters and huntmasters were all born alongside their bloodkin, condensed from their Arcane Bloodline. But while at birth, Ailith possessed black hair, after her mistress' transformation, she too took the purple shade.
"The puppet was crushed. The foe is at least as strong as that brother of mine, if not stronger. However, he doesn't belong to Nargoz. Judging from his armor, he's not using traditional empire technology. And while we've seen some moves of a neo Technocracy, there's no certainty, yet. Which means that the most likely invader…is Kars," Eleonora inferred, and her candles burst, leaving behind red mist that wrapped her form and snuck into her veins.
"Make an inventory of all foreign dignitaries in the last 24 hours. If Kars was in the lot, give me all the names and—" before she could finish her words, an amalgam of detached molecules passed by Eleonora's window and landed at her bedside. Rematerializing into his human form, Kilian wiped the debris on the bedside table with one swipe, and sat beside the chained Eleonora.
"Hi, chained princess...or bdsm lover. Sorry for making you wait so long, horrible traffic." The words had barely left Kilian's lips that dozens of blood-red vortexes filled all corners of the room. Red flames surged from Ailith's form, with her knotted ponytail swaying alongside them.
From each vortex, the heads of blood hunters 50% larger than the ones the fake vannorin's snakes exsanguinated, emerged. But while a daunting spectacle, the appearance of the 48 growling beasts didn't alarm Kilian. Most bloodkin royals were born with about 15 blood hunters, while Eleonora was legendary for her 100 feral soldiers. The maid, however, disturbed him.
"By becoming a Fehl Daemoness, she should have lost her huntmaster, or at least the connection between them. But obviously that is not the case. Better, they're still scaling to her level," Kilian reasoned.
Should the true Eleonora have appeared, with her bloodkin abilities enhanced by her Fehl Mutation, Kilian didn't doubt the battle would have taken an entirely different turn. That puppet most likely didn't contain more than 15% of her true abilities. But through his genetically enhanced retina, Kilian could see that in terms of aura and Dra Level alone, Ailith reached the top-level High Emissary standard.
But as Kilian rethought his previous appraisal, the growling beasts opened their maws, each condensing a human-head-sized scarlet ball of baleful dra, each aiming at him. Overwhelmed by the malevolent forces, the room temperature sank to -20 celsius. But protected by his ever-warm blood, Kilian barely felt it.
"Oh calm your ovaries will you? I know I'm irresistible, but pouncing on me on the first meeting is not a solution. Your mistress is watching," Kilian chortled at the maid whose luscious curves stretched her traditional outfit, and turned to face Eleonora.
Though trapped in this ungainly position, Eleonora's body emanated grace and elegance that seemed etched in her bones. And though Kilian had often heard tales of the Nargozi beauty, they paled before the figure in the flesh. Unlike the bloodkins' typical scheming eyes, Eleonora's were frank and direct, piercing and uncompromising—yet lost nothing of her captivating appeal. No, they only enhanced it.
And though her small, purple lips didn't have the plumpness some men sought, when they parted, Kilian had to restrain the impulsion of kissing them on the spot.
"For someone that may die at any time, you seem oddly confident," Eleonora started in a paradoxical voice, as oppressive as it was compelling.
"That's because I know that you can't bear harming me. Alright I'm kidding, you just can't kill me. Across Nargoz, no one can," Kilian replied, and while at first, she found the words conceited, recalling how Kilian passed her window through demolecularization, Eleonora no longer doubted the words.
"But it's not your power and therefore must exhaust your batteries. I could just play the long game, wait for you to exhaust yourself, then tear your head off," she countered with the smile of a divine enchantress.
"You could try, princess, but then we would just have to put one another's skills to the test. And I would have to give up what I came for—a regrettable outcome."
"Your hand, of course. I want to save and marry you." Kilian's reply took both Eleonora and Ailith aback. While in the past, men gunning for the princess' hand were in large supplies, after the four lethal wedding nights, the situation drastically changed.
"Who are you?" In today's Arcadia's those that dared court Eleonora's hand were...inexistent. Which brought them all to that inevitable question. Tilting his head to the right, Kilian curled his lips into a lopsided grin, and spoke for both Eleonora and Ailith.
"Kilian von Karsten."
Immediately, Ailith raised her left hand, closing the vortexes, and making all blood hunters retreat to their dimension. Puzzled, Eleonora squinted at Kilian.
"The heir of Klaus?" She said, more for herself than Kilian.
"Indeed. Sucks to be the son of a famous man. People no longer care about who you are, and just remember the family name and status," Kilian sighed and stood up, crawling on the chain-laden bed to cover Eleonora with his frame.
"Ailith, bite off his carotid," Eleonora ordered, and Ailith turned into a three meters tall scarlet wolf to pounce on Kilian's neck. The Fallen Angel Armor automatically covered Kilian's frame, and he clenched his right fist.
One word, and the fluctuation of time throughout the room came to a halt. From the most volatile forces to the least offensive of atoms, all stopped moving. Behind his visor, Kilian still stared at his future wife's sanguine eyes, while Eleonora's defiant stare met him without flinching.
In this Statis state, although Kilian could ground everything across fifteen meters to a halt, he was no exception. However, unlike the rest, he maintained his mental faculties, and as soon as the skill wore off, could react.
After five seconds of Stasis, Ailith's lunge resumed, but with a duck, Kilian let her fly by, took his visor down, and lay beside Eleonora—the maid crashed in the adjacent wall.
"No need for violence. Alright, I forgot a tiny detail. I also want the Tear of Kalarac," Kilian said, and again the atmosphere took a 180 turn.
12: If You Marry Me (Part 2)
From the start, Eleonora didn't believe that her charm alone pulled the Junior Duke of Kars all the way to Nargoz. But never could she expect that her new suitor was greedy enough to covet what even the empire didn't dare snatch.
"I pondered the question for a long time, and it just so happens that you and I are the best match. In today's Arcadia, only I dare marry you. Only I am willing to risk Nargoz's outrage to free you from captivity and give you the vengeance you so dearly seek. At the same time, only you can free me from my predicament and help me claim the Tear. What do you say?" Kilian asked, making Eleonora realize that the rumors about the rakish Junior Duke didn't deserve much credit.
"You're the betrothed of Anke von Karsten-Rulweil, no woman in Arcadia dares marry you—expect me, of course. Why you'd want to ruin a match even imperial princes crave, I don't know. But you're right about that. Now the question is, how could you possibly use the Tear? Even bloodkins can't channel it, to say nothing of a human teen," Eleonora countered.
Though a monstrous race whose insatiable hunger ruined civilizations, chiropterans possessed a unique trait: throughout their immortal lives, they could each shed one Blood Tear.
The Blood Tear contained the expression of thrice the strongest magical powers the chiropteran would achieve in his life. Indeed, like a divination stone, the Blood Tear accurately calculated the limit its owner would reach, and tripled it.
Shedding the Tear was no mean feat and required an eruption of the chiropteran's most heartfelt emotions. Interestingly, anyone besides the owner could theoretically use the Tear. But because it siphoned an outrageous quantity of lifeforce, humans and bloodkins couldn't.
In ancient times, chiropterans attempted to force tears out of one another, but met total failure. Once they shed their tear, however, they lost all human emotions, becoming cold herders and barbaric killing machines.
It was during the Eternal Night that, for reasons still unknown, Kalarac, the Eldest of the Chiropteran Dynasty, shed his Tear and entrusted it to his first bloodkin vassals. And Following his mystery-laced retreat, he left it behind.
"My body is special and can endure the Tear's negative effects. But before I can seize it, we must first…"
"Obtain Oliver's assistance, or make me the reigning Queen of Nargoz," Eleonora finished for Kilian. And seeing the two lying on the bed in such an intimate exchange, Ailith—still encased in the wall—couldn't believe that a few minutes prior, Kilian broke in through the window.
"And that's where I come into play. Although your powers probably surpass mine, only I hold both the will and ability to make you queen—a seat you can't take without crushing your brother's skull.
I will give you the crown and all its authority. The state and its 200 million citizens. Lay down plans to prevent you from suffering Oliver's incomming fate, and give you the freedom to live as you see fit. The only thing I can't promise you, is a man's true love and utter devotion, because I too have bills to collect and a blood ladder to climb.
Knowing this, will you marry me?" The mild words thundered in Eleonora's mind, and pushing against her chains, she pulled her face closer to Kilian, nearly brushing her lips against his.
"You won't ask the details of how I became the way I am?"
"I don't need to know. But if you speak, I will listen."
"What about the previous marriages and the roots of our family grudge?"
"I know the gist. But if you speak, I will listen."
"How about trust? Do you think you can trust a snake?"
This time, Kilian paused, and flashed Eleonora the most enrapturing smile she'd faced in her life.
"I know enough to realize that you're just like me. Broken, yes. Callous, yes. But though you may commit heinous acts, you will never bare your fangs at someone that treats you with sincerity. That being the case, I have nothing to fear." In the instant those words left his lips, Kilian could swear that in Eleonora's eyes, he saw a different person. The feeling didn't last a second, and for the first time in four years, the princess chuckled.
"Very well, as long as you can take the key to my anti-magic chains from my brother and obtain his submission, I will give you my hand," Eleonora replied, and turned away from Kilian.
"Ailith, from now on, you must obey all of the Junior Duke's orders and help him in whatever way he wishes you to," Eleonora added before closing her eyes. Regaining her human form, Ailith flew out of the cracked wall, and as if nothing had occurred, curtsied toward Kilian. However, with a wave of his hand, he dismissed her.
"I've had eyes on you for a long time and did my homework. If everything goes according to plan, your huntmaster won't be necessary. But if her strength and knowledge can be of use, I will let you know," Kilian said, stood up, and split into detached molecules to fly back into his chambers.
As soon as Kilian departed, Ailith spun toward her mistress, showing a gaze full of confusion.
"Mistress, this is unwise. As long as we keep up with the hunt, in a year at worst, you will regain enough powers to crush your chains. As for that Oliver, with I here, how could he harm you? That Kilian plays the strings of human emotions and is as cunning as his father. You can't trust him," With heaving breasts and trembling fists, Ailith rushed toward Eleonora's side and made her case.
But while she usually took her longtime servant's advice, this time, Eleonora shook her head.
"Ailith, what is our kind's greatest woe?"
"Our world is barren of sincerity."
"Right, no matter how hard we try, we are cursed to never find anyone able to treat us with genuineness. You say he's playing with the strings of my emotions, but with Kars' ressources, Nargoz's current predicament and a few schemes, he can force Oliver to hand over the Tear. Instead, he chose to make me feel indispensable. That being the case, I will return the favor and give him a chance," Eleonora replied, and seeing the rare smile stretching her mistress' lips, Ailith couldn't bear to argue. How many centuries had it been since the last time?
The Fallen Angel Armor's dra core enabled Kilian to use Demolecularization and Stasis five times per day. Each use couldn't last over five seconds, and he could also shapeshift into the appearance of whoever he wanted. Kilian obtained the armor at 15, and as he grew, a multitude of experiments and genetic enhancement enabled him to draw more power from it.
But though the sky-blue dra core embedded in his chest seemed to be the armor's source, as time flew by, Kilian was starting to wonder if Klaus didn't cheat him. Did the core enable him to summon the armor, or did it just facilitate the process? He wondered.
As soon as Kilian returned to his chambers, the dynamic hologram vanished, making the bodyguards sense a tiny disruption in the room's heat flow. In tandem, they rushed into the bedroom, but seeing their Junior Duke sitting cross-legged with a stern, authoritative gaze, they wondered if he'd not been waiting for them.
"Junior Duke, does—" A bodyguard began, but with a hand wave, Kilian cut him.
"You have a new assignment. Tomorrow morning, I want you to pursue three people and stand ready for my orders. This is for the benefit of Kars and His Grace. Do not fail them," Kilian said, and as soon as the words "benefit of Kars and His Grace" echoed, the 12 bowed in agreement, then withdrew to their rooms.
With a smirk, Kilian fell asleep.
On the following day, Nargozi maids knocked on Kilian's door to warn him of the impending banquet. As with all other Children of the Night, moonlight kept bloodkins awake and on maximum alert, while the sunlight somewhat dulled their senses. For that reason, they tended to trivial matters such as sleep and mandatory parties during the day, and worked at night. Then again, with Nargoz's overcast sky, the sunlight never had much sway, anyway.
Undisturbed, Kilian let them in. But instead of the expected maids, three bloodkin handmaidens appeared at his doorstep. With black, skin-tight maxi dresses cut at the left leg and exposing their flawless curves, they instantly gripped the male eye. As expected, Oliver researched Kilian's life and deeds in Kars, then provided baits to test his findings.
Suppressing a sneer, Kilian flashed the ladies a gentle smile, and ogled them long enough to show rising interest, but short enough that his stare didn't appear forced or excessive.
"Your Lordship, Her Highness sent us to get you appropriately dressed for the occasion. We can't have the Blood Court feel that Kars looks down on its customs���now can we?" They rhetorically asked, using their status as Kathrin's handmaidens to cover the fact that they did Oliver's bidding.
"Well then, do your thing," Kilian replied in a sultry tone, and stretched out his arms toward the three. After curtsying to show off their cleavage, they ambled toward him, untied his belt, and took down his ducal robe to help him into Nargoz's traditional black and red robe.
With low magic potential, unless they broke the blood-drinking restrictions, those three could at best rise to Core Emissaries. Nargoz had no shortage of those, therefore Oliver promised them to have Kilian take them back as his official mistresses.
As the Arcadian saying went, better be the emperor's mistress than an imperial dukes' primary wife. And although Kilian couldn't claim imperial status, calling him a future overlord was no exaggeration—the three leaped on the opportunity.
Little did they know that Kilian saw through and inwardly laughed at their petty thoughts. Perhaps if they knew how Anke dealt with the noblewomen unfortunate enough to fall into his bed, they wouldn't be so enthusiastic.
Now dressed in a black robe mixing a dark ecclesiastic flair with bright-red flame patterns, and laden by the epaulettes of a high noble, Kilian stood ready for the banquet.
Taking several steps back, the three handmaiden observed the result of their work, and prompted by a sudden impulse, said in tandem: "Your Lordship is sure to steal all the ladies' hearts."
They spoke their mind, for indeed, look-wise, Kilian overshadowed even his father. While in a society full of genetic enhancement, good looks were nothing special, Kilian's sapphire eyes always possessed a fiendish allure, that despite his average height, forced onlookers to look up to him.
He was the complete opposite of Klaus' amiable aura—but those handmaidens loved every bit of it.
"Have I stolen yours, then?" Kilian asked, and not knowing how to reply, the three lowered their heads and blushed in shame. But even as he smiled at them, Kilian had to curb a sigh. Most people believed themselves unique. Just like those three ladies that deep down thought that unlike the others, they could ingrain themselves in his heart, and make him yearn for them only. Yet, most followed established patterns, and whoever learned those patterns could see through the hearts of men and women alike.
Klaus was a master at that game. And though he didn't wish to acknowledge it, Kilian learned a lot from him. Kilian didn't look down on those ladies for wanting to use their assets to seize a better future for themselves. Arcadia was a world for men. The women able to claim a bright future through skills alone, all were exceptionally gifted. The rest could either thrive through petty wiles, or submit to whatever fate had in store for them.
But just like he didn't look down on them, he wouldn't give them a free pass, either. Outliving their poor choices was their job, not his. Just like he never stopped Anke from butchering those ladies that aimed to bewitch him, he wouldn't go out of his way to protect those three, either. For if on one thing he had a clear conscience, it was that he never deceived any woman.
Bubbly from their expected achievements, the three handmaidens led Kilian through a dimly lit corridor. As the castle mostly housed bloodkins, who all were equipped with night vision, it didn't rely much on light. But while this setting might have bothered others, with his enhanced retinas, Kilian didn't care.
A dark-gray door with the werebat-shaped skull of a chiropteran marked the corridor's end. The leading handmaiden pushed against it, making the door open with grating, unsettling creaks.
"After you, Your Lordship," the three said, and alongside them, Kilian walked into the banquet hall where hellcat-shaped scarlet flames flew across the hall, dancing underneath the grand, blood-flower chandeliers that projected ominous light on the dancing nobles below.
"Junior Duke, we've been awaiting your arrival," Kathrin, Oliver's wife and future queen, met him at the entrance with one of those smiles that provoked waves of sin.
14: Forgive My Wickedness
While Kilian dove into Nargoz's diurnal festivities, within a plain-looking room of Kars' ducal palace, a woman in her early thirties kneeled on the ground, with her trembling arms folded while a younger female of remarkable beauty circled her.
"Obscene old slut. Who could think that while, out of respect, I called you aunt, you were spreading your legs for my fiancé. Tss, tss, tss. I watched out for everyone, everyone except you," Anke leaned over and whispered in the noblewoman, Florens' mother's ears. Dressed in a high collar, black velvet dress that stressed the sinister look in her eyes, Anke rested her hand on the lady's shoulders and shook her head.
Though the daughter of an Orlothi marquis, as a non-magus, Florens' mother could only quiver under Anke's inquisition. No, even if she were one thousand times more powerful, she would still have to behave. The gap in strength and status was simply too vast. And recalling how she ended up in this state, the lady bit her lower lip.
"What? You got nothing to say? That's not good. If you don't argue, I will have to kill you in a slow, horrid manner. If you argue you will still die brutally, but I might just lop your head off in a fit of anger. And then at least, you won't have to scream," pinching the lady's cheeks in her snow-white hands, Anke nestled her head against hers, and lay there for a minute.
Cold sweat broke out from the noblewoman's forehead and cheeks, reminding Anke of the effect she tended to have on her victims. Her gleeful face twisted into a frown.
"You're scared. Why are you scared? You shouldn't be. When you started sleeping with him, you should have known that this day would happen. Even if you didn't then, after learning of my temper, a sane person would have stopped. But—" Anke trailed one index on the lady's neck, cutting a thin line of blood with the seemingly inoffensive move.
"You're too shameless. He's what? Half your age? How could you? HOW DARE YOU!" Seizing the lady by the neck, Anke hoisted her with one hand, and while keeping her locked in her grip, smashed her into the opposite wall.
Her bones crackled, and she spurted blood, staining Anke's insanity-laced face with another layer of madness.
"You...why don't you blame Kilian...why is it always us? You...always act the gentle and loving lady before him, t-then go out murdering innocents," the lady choked out. But the words only heightened Anke's wrath, and her grip tightened around her victim's neck.
"Wrong, I blame you two. But I forgive him. I always forgive him. Because if I don't, he will let go of me, forget about me, ignore me, and that, I CAN'T ALLOW!" Pulling the lady off the wall, Anke slammed her into the ground—her spine shattered on the spot.
"But you, you I can't forgive! Kilian is mine. MINE! He belongs to me and me only! Why, why do you sluts keep crowding him like bees to honey? Why can't you just say no!"
Again, Anke lifted her victim and slammed her back into the ground.
"I'm the Junior Duchess of Rulweil. Those that want my hand line from the Imperial City all the way to Kars! But for him, I ignore them all. So why can't he do the same? Why must he trample my pride?" Again and again, Anke battered the helpless woman like a rampaging bull would a helpless matador. But with masterful control of her dra, she protected her victim's vital organs so that the abuse could go on without interruption.
"I-it's not our fault. H-he can never l-love you. Haha, since you are Klaus' most beloved junior...how could he fancy you? P-pitiful, pitiful lunatic," the lady choked out, eager to end her own sufferings. And as expected, her words tore at Anke's sorest spot, her eyes went bloodshot, and as her warm tears trickled down, she bent her hand in a claw shape and thrust at the lady's heart.
But at that time, an irresistible hand gripped Anke's wrist, stopping her mid-move.
"You forgot to ask who gave her the order. That would be me. But even that is inconsequential. Little girl, who let you think that you could kill whom you pleased within my house?" A gentle voice that Anke knew all too well, echoed in her ears.
But while in usual days Anke would submit to Klaus' authority, on this occasion, madness prevailed over reason, and she thrashed against his grip—only to realize that she could barely move a muscle.
"You...it's you. It's always you! You knew...you always knew that this would happen! But since you did, why did you propose the betrothal? Why did you bring me back to Kars? Why couldn't you let me be?" Anke bit her lips to blood and snarled in grief.
Seeing the child he raised for half a decade in such anguish, Klaus heaved a sigh.
"You used to be the perfect choice to test Kilian's thought process. I wondered how he'd deal with you. Would he forget his hatred for me when it came to you, would he try to use you against me, lash out or just flat out ignore you? And ultimately, I wondered if and how he'd get rid of you. Alas, you went mad before we could reach a conclusion, and the answer no longer matters," Klaus coolly said, and sharper than blades, the words hashed what remained of Anke's heart.
"Hahahahaha!" Anke threw her head back and burst into a peal of frenzied laughter. The laugh then turned into the howl of a fehl banshee, tore cracks in the orstalph walls, and made the comatose lady's eardrums' burst instantaneously. Aggrieved by this sight, Klaus placed his left hand on Anke's head.
"It's fine, I will make the pain go away, let you rest and forget. When you wake up, you will be born anew—free from all mortal woes," he said, and starting with her toes, Anke's body crystallized, and she turned into an inert amethyst statue. The statue shrank into a purple orb, and dove into Klaus' ring.
With the fehl howl stopped, silence returned to the room. Klaus stepped toward his wife—for indeed, the battered noblewoman half-an-inch into death was...his wife—and snapped his fingers.
Shimmering golden vines surged from the grounds, wrapping the lady in their embrace to heal all her physical wounds.
"You've suffered too. My apologies, I didn't wish to harm you. May you forgive my wickedness and remember my sins no more," he said, turned heels, and left. The Duchess of Kars didn't know what to do with the words for, unlike most people in Kars, she'd long realized that behind his poised exterior, Klaus too teetered on the edge of insanity.
15: Outsmarting Oneself (Part 1)
Unaware of the waves his snide at Florens unleashed in Kars, Kilian met a toast from Oliver while the members of the Blood Court twirled on the dance floor. Arcane Musicians weaved orchestras through relentless incantation gestures, making the sounds of organs and violins intertwine for the Blood Court's pleasure.
But as soul-stirring symphonies pervaded the air, Kilian emptied his wine glass and lowered it so that Kathrin would refill it. In an atypical arrangement, Oliver had Kilian sit between Kathrin and him. With the grand prince at his right and the grand princess at his left, if not for his blue eyes, Kilian could have cheated any foreign dignitary into mistaking him as the King of Nargoz.
Naturally, this was Oliver's plan to overload Kilian's ego, convince him of Nargoz submissiveness, and lower his awareness—Kathrin could then exploit him. But seeing the drunken Kilian brazenly flirt with his wife, it would be a lie to say that Oliver didn't feel incensed.
"Nargoz's blood wine does live up to its reputation. This is the strongest beverage I've tasted in my miserable life. Not only does it take you to cloud nine, it also strengthens the body, makes your blood flow faster and can keep you awake for hours. What's your secret?" Kilian asked. But even as the world around him spun, he felt strangely alert and invigorated.
Sensing his state of ebriety, Oliver beamed and raised another wine cup.
"Aged bloodkin blood. As you know, though in a lesser measure than the chiropterans, bloodkin blood is like fine wine. It becomes better with age. Less than ten years old and it tastes like iron. Above 50, it tastes like sugar and past 100 you're drinking a unique variety of grapes. Although there are exceptions, it typically remains in those lines.
The bottles we're using on this table are all over 500 years old—the cream of the crop. Even your father didn't get to taste this," a tipsy Oliver said, and gulped down another glass. Although the blood's effect on bloodkins was weaker than humans, it didn't leave them indifferent. And while she minimized her dozes to keep herself alert, Kathrin too was starting to feel the effects.
Turning away from Oliver, Kilian leaned toward Kathrin, breaching her personal space, and bringing his face impertinently close to hers.
"What about you, Your Highness," Kilian asked, hinting at Kathrin's blood level.
"Are you asking me my age? That would be rude." Believing that the overly potent liquor unleashed Kilian's true nature, Kathrin aimed to humor him. But though they'd settled on the plan together, Oliver still failed to digest the exchange.
"Actually, that was my indirect way of trying to get my wine from the source," Kilian replied, making both Kathrin and Oliver's eyes stretch. Although as the glasses succeeded one another, Kilian conducted himself with increasing discourtesy, never did any one of them think he'd go that far. Keeping his emotions pinned down, Oliver made eyes at Kathrin, hinting for her to bring the farce to a finale.
Without a word, Kathrin stood up and extended one hand toward Kilian. As if blind to Oliver's presence, he followed, and the two rushed out of the banquet hall.
"Boys will be boys. Kilian, I've overestimated you," he scoffed, and summoned quill and paper to draft his new requests. Little did Oliver know that a shadowy figure observed the scene and scoffed at him instead. Meanwhile, Kathrin dragged Kilian into her regal bedchambers, sank her sharpened teeth into her lower lip, and pulled him into a blood-soaked kiss.
As expected of one of her lineage, though the grand princess stood far from 50, her blood contained an enrapturing, sugary taste that further dulled Kilian's senses. Unabashed, he wrapped his hands around her waist, savoring the intoxicating blood while her soft cleavage pressed his toned chest.
For a second, Kathrin forgot her duty, but soon regaining her composure, as her tongue coiled with Kilian, she moved her right hand in arcane gestures. Scarlet mist gathered at Kathrin's fingertip, and breaking the kiss, she backpedaled before aiming one finger at Kilian.
"Apologies, nothing personal.
Third Circle Spell: Blood Lush." Squalls of scarlet petals surged from Kathrin's right index and hurtled at Kilian. His eyes widened, but even as he recoiled, the petals latched on him and ingrained themselves in his body.
A spell unique to bloodkins and their chiropteran masters, Blood Lush enabled the caster to turn their intoxicating blood into an irresistible aphrodisiac that'd instantly bring the victim to extreme peaks of arousal. As the spell's effects kicked in, Kilian's eyes went bloodshot, and he dropped on his knees.
"Resistance is futile. Don't worry, you will enjoy every last bit of it," Kathrin scoffed and clapped, making the three handmaidens that served Kilian open the door and step into her chambers.
The cloaking spell within the room dissipated, revealing four recording mirrors that awaited Kathrin's activation.
"Take good care of the Junior Duke. From now on, he will be your man," she said, and gestured for the ladies to surround Kilian. Though nervous, they did so within a second. Only now did Kathrin snap her fingers and trigger the recording. Like a predatory beast eager to pounce on its prey, Kilian stood up, snarled, but as Kathrin prepared to leave the room, a burst of laughter stopped her legs.
"Hahaha! Alright, this was okay fun, but it's time to return to seriousness," Kilian chortled and lifted his head, showing clear eyes unaffected by spell or liquor. Worse, as she spun to face him, Kathrin was startled to see her blood rose petals fly out of Kilian's skin—a frown took hold.
"W-what sorcery? How can this be?" She stammered. And when even Kathrin couldn't maintain her composure, we need not mention the handmaidens who already collapsed on the ground. With a gleeful smile, Kilian walked past them.
"Oh, I forgot to mention. It's a well-kept secret, but it just so turns out that magic doesn't work on me. In fact—" Kilian paused and aimed his right hand at Kathrin.
"I can just return it all," he added, and the blood roses barreled into Kathrin, breaking past her defenses to corrupt her body. Her pale skin flushed red, and her chest heaved and dropped alongside her ragged breathing as she struggled to restrain the spell—a short lived struggle.
Unable to contend with her own magic, Katrin tore off the straps of her dress, making it drop on the ground to reveal her bare, pert body to Kilian's amused gaze.
"No foreplay, I guess," Kilian sobbed as Kathrin threw herself into his arms, stuck out her tongue, and flicked it across his neck. At the same time, her hands fiddled with Kilian's clothes, and with the persistence of a lust-crazed devil, she unbuckled Kilian's belt, and took his pants down.
Terror-stricken, the handmaidens attempted to scurry away, but Kilian's voice stopped them all.
"Where do you think you're going? You're witnesses. Witnesses stay, watch, then report. And I must admit that I love an audience," Kilian said with his lips curled into a fiendish grin. Only now did the handmaidens realize that the one on whom they pinned their hopes was, perhaps, the worst of Nargoz's demons.
16: Outsmarting Oneself (Final Part, R-18)
Driven by a surge of feral passion, Kathrin pushed Kilian onto the bed and climbed on top of him, kissing him with the raw passion of a mating succubus while rubbing her slick, moistened cunt on his hardening cock. The long, thick, and hefty rod rose to full length, holding the grand princess' curvy butt while enjoying the cuddling of her ass cheeks. The friction took Kilian by surprise, and as Kathrin rubbed herself on his juice-soaked meat-slab, he moaned in her lips, and she in his.
Breaking the kiss, Kathrin stared into Kilian's eyes with voracious lust and urgent needs, as if every second spent without his cock pumping warm spunk in her snatch was a second spent in hell. Lying down, Kilian gripped Kathrin's waist and lifted her to aim his cock at her sex-craving entrance. But instead of just impaling the hungering grand princess on his rod, Kilian poked the entrance, stretching her puffy lips with his engorged shaft while denying her the delight of a rough shag.
"Anh, anh, anh…" Kathrin whimpered, protesting against Kilian's treatment while her D cup breasts swayed ever still. Leaning forward, he pulled one nipple into his mouth, tugging on the soft piece of flesh while still denying Kathrin her prize. The grand princess' cheeks reddened further. Her body, tits and cunt's temperature's shot up while inviting moans left her lips to tease Kilian's ears and cock.
And though she only wished to ram herself down the meat-pole, and ride it till her legs gave out, Kilian kept her body under a firm grip.
"I want...I want…" Unable to resist the suckling of her tits and the teasing of her insides, Kathrin started moaning the words swirling in her mind. In a plop, Kilian let go of the lady's pink nipple, and spread open her ass cheeks.
"You want what?"
"Your cock! I want your cock! Give me your cock!" She groaned, more restless and demanding than the great Whore of Babylon, and Kilian rewarded her by pressing on her ass to slam her cunt down his cock. Impaled to the hilt, the grand princess threw her head back and let out a long, loud squeal of delight.
"Ohhh!" Before such a spectacle, the handmaidens didn't know where to put themselves, and merely lay there, clenching their thighs in shame. But as expected, in a castle full of emissaries and templars, Kathrin's unconstrained groans reached disloyal ears. First, it was the maids, then the guards, and even as her tight-fitting, cum-craving cunt adjusted and hugged Kilian's cock, words of the debauchery reached the banquet hall and poked Oliver's ears.
With no care for that, Kilian ran his hands up Kathrin's waist and down her ass cheeks, electrifying her with his touch as he drove his cock into her with small, slow thrusts. Lowering her lips on Kilian's, Kathrin gave him a soft kiss, then arched her back to start riding his cock to heaven.
Holding the back of her head, the lascivous princess moved and rotated her hips so that Kilian's cock would find and hit all her sweet spots. The sloppy, squelchy sounds of a thick cock plowing a drenched, gripping snatch filled the room. Kathrin's eyes glazed over, and her paced move gave way to a more frantic dance as she slammed her hips up and down Kilian's cock.
"Ahhh...oh yes...ahhh...ahhh!" The grand princess' arms dropped on either side of Kilian, and with her head now nestled against his, she rode her mate till her juices drenched the velvet sheets, and his cock throbbed uncontrollably between her walls. With a smile, Kilian flipped Kathrin on the bed, mounting her with the scent of rut, and plunged his cock back into her fold.
Spreading her legs wide open, Kathrin stuck out her tongue for Kilian to suck on, and welcomed the jack-hammering of her lifetime. And as Kilian's cock pumped and filled the lady's walls, his balls kissed her butt cheeks, drawing a picture that the handmaidens could no longer take their eyes off.
Sensing his cock tense with impending release, Kilian accelerated his pace, thrusting in and out the blissful lady's fold, faster than the average eyes could follow. Her clawed hands sank into his back, and with a loud groan, he unleashed his spunk straight down her hole, and it vacuumed it all.
Alerted by unsettling whispers, Oliver burst out of the banquet hall and rushed toward Kathrin's chamber. Their initial plan was simple: obtain footages of Kilian shagging the three handmaidens and threaten to upload it for the whole Arcadia to see. Even if Kilian did not care for his betrothed, even if he already possessed a poor reputation, he couldn't afford proof of such a scandal.
The Grand Duke of Rulweil was Arcadia's number one duke and the only Exarch not surnamed von Skoll. Should his house, granddaughter and heir suffer such a humiliation, honor demanded that he raised his armies against Kars. To say nothing of Kilian, Klaus himself couldn't endure the result.
Therefore, Oliver didn't doubt that the coarse trick would bear wonderful fruits. Alas, as he reached his lady's chambers, he feared a miscalculation. And when the squelchy sounds of entangling flesh and throaty moans teased his ears, fear became confusion, then rage, and he kicked the door open.
Barging into the room, Oliver stumbled on the picturesque scene of his wife bent over on her bed, with cum trickling down her thighs, and Kilian hammering her cunt from behind.
"Hey Oliver. Welcome, we were waiting for you. Well, I was. Not sure she remembers your name," Kilian said, gave Kathrin's butt a good smack, and released another load in her fold. The move made her ass cheeks and walls spasm, and she fell to her fourth orgasm—then dropped on the bed.
"Best thing is, the spell wore off half an hour ago," Kilian added for the dazed Oliver to hear and lay beside Kathrin.
17: If Time Could Stop
Sanguine light erupted from Oliver's form as his eyes almost popped out of their sockets. Summoning a blood-red lance, he lunged at Kilian, aiming for his throat. But as the move neared, Kilian raised his hand, summoning a recording mirror where a scene of Kathrin getting fucked senseless replayed. Except that this time, it wasn't Kilian, but three bloodkin youths Oliver knew all too well.
The video made Oliver stumble, and he fell face-first.
"Lies!" He barked, and while still lounging on the bed, Kilian smiled and replied:
"Not quite. This is me, using my power armor to duplicate myself and shapeshift into the appearances of those three. Not my fault. Your wife wanted a foursome," Kilian sighed, and stood up. Regaining his senses, Oliver realized Kilian's heinous ploy.
"One is her brother, another is your maternal cousin, and the last, the son of one of Nargoz's strongest duke. All three are Junior Dukes whose fathers hold tremendous power in your state. Oliver, even if they screwed your wife, how could you be so reckless as to behead them all and send the heads to their fathers? That's how you get a civil war." Kilian shook his head, lamenting at Oliver's lack of tact.
Alarmed, Oliver eyed Kilian from head to toe and asked, ��I did what? When?" The situation had already spiraled out of control, and in his four decades of life, Oliver had never felt more confused.
Crouching before the grand prince, Kilian clasped his shoulder and replied: "Don't you wonder where my guards are? I mean, even if they're not always by my side, they should have remained nearby. Instead, they're nowhere to be seen. That's because they left at dawn to capture the three. As soon as I had the video set up, they beheaded them and sent the heads to their fathers' mansions.
I've also used an anonymous phira channel to upload the video for Arcadia to see. At this point, who, why and how, no longer matters. Within 48 hours, the three dukes will lead their forces in rebellion and overthrow you," Kilian explained. And unable to take the blow, Oliver clawed at his neck, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Idiot. Twenty-two years ago, in the Imperial Academy, you tried a similar trick with Klaus—using your then girlfriend. But instead, Klaus screwed her and screwed you too. That's how you became such good friends. Knowing the story and my own reputation, how could I not prepare? You really need to learn new moves," Kilian said, unveiling the deepest of Oliver's secrets. Recalling his university past as Klaus' boytoy, Oliver bit his lips and shut his eyes close.
"Now isn't the time for tears and sighs. You're a grand prince, not a pornstar. As a royal house, although the dancing members of the Blood Court aren't yet aware, the Veidt have effectively become the joke of Arcadia's aristocratic circles.
That alone isn't a big issue. But as I recall, the seven Grand Orders make all laws regarding public decency, honor and propriety. With all the laws you've violated tonight, even if the rebels don't kill you, Emperor Niklas will. So Oliver, for the sake of your house's survival, you only have one option: a complete and absolute surrender to me. You're dead either way, but at the very least, you can save the Veidt legacy." Awoken by Kilian's words, Oliver released a bitter sigh and prostrated himself on the ground.
"Your wish is my command."
That day, in the greatest feast of gore of Nargoz's bloody history, the royal house slaughtered all potential dissidents of the Blood Court while Kilian's bodyguards brought back the heads of the belligerent dukes.
That day, after giving Kilian the key to Eleonora's anti-magic chains, Grand Prince Oliver made a public apology to Nargoz's citizens and was trampled to death by 1,000 horses to atone for his house's failings. Kathrin vanished from public eye, becoming an ordinary handmaiden by Eleonora's side, and the council announced that for the first time in its history, Nargoz would crown a queen.
Using another blood puppet, Eleonora observed it all from the city's shadows. But while Oliver's brutal death comforted her soul, she soon forgot about him.
Standing on the Chiropteran Tower with Ailith by her side, Eleonora swept the entirety of Nargoz. And only now did Ailith realize that Kilian truly didn't need her mistress to claim the Tear of Kalarac. Yet, he still brought back the key and released Eleonora of her bounds.
"Mistress, the covenant has been fulfilled, and although far from the past peak, you've regained enough powers to leave this land. What shall we do?" Ailith asked Eleonora whose impassible eyes remained glued on the scenery below.
Dusk was about to fall, reminding Eleonora of her appointment with Kilian. Now dressed in a vintage-styled green dress, even without crowns, Eleonora possessed all the elegance of an inborn queen. Still, her eyes carried some hesitation.
"No rush. There is an oppressive fehl presence in this world. Thicker than anything I've felt in my long existence. If Fehl Princes and Overlords are heavily invested in this world, we must find out why and thwart their plans," Eleonora replied, but though the words seemed sensible, Ailith couldn't help but feel that it was all an excuse.
Having handled all of Nargoz's petty details, Kilian was ready to claim the Tear. But first, he met Eleonora for their appointment. And as he walked into the room, Kilian was surprised to see the new August Orphan standing in her vannorin form. Spinning, Eleonora faced Kilian in all her fiendish splendor, wearing nothing but a black corset that kept half her breasts exposed.
A heavy silence reigned in the room, broken only by Eleonora's hissing, purple snake hair.
"You've gotten what you wanted. Nargoz is yours, with or without me. Once you seize the Tear, if as you claim you can put it to use, you can turn this place into your stronghold.
Humans disliking monsters is natural; you don't have to marry me. I can give you a fake wedding as thanks for your assistance and won't resent you, or stand in your way for rethinking your choice," Eleonora said while her slit, scarlet eyes stared at Kilian.
Suppressing a chuckle, Kilian ambled toward her, and without warning, took her lips into his. Startled, Eleonora pushed against Kilian's chest, but he wrapped his hands around her scaly waist and leaned forward. Trapped in Kilian's embrace, Eleonora gave up resistance, and abandoned her tongue and lips to his gentle caresses.
The kiss went on for what seemed like a delightful eternity before Kilian broke it to look into Eleonora's eyes.
"Monsters exist only in our hearts. The rest is a matter of difference. I'd rather make a trustworthy monstress my queen, than share my bed with a crazed human devil. And while I know that you have your secrets, who doesn't? I'm not here for a servant. I just want someone I can trust and entrust myself to. What about you, Eleonora? What do you want?" Kilian asked with a gentle, mind-soothing smile. And as she met his clear eyes, Eleonora felt that perhaps, just perhaps, she'd found the one that could break her eternal curse. Selfishness took hold, and the Queen's lips curled into a radiant smile.
"Perhaps, that time stopped in this instant," she replied, and again Kilian locked his lips on hers for a sultry embrace.
18: Returning to Kars
After ending their embrace, Kilian pulled Eleonora toward Nargoz's Chamber of Relics where the Tear of Kalarac awaited. Only the blood of Nargoz's royals could open the gate, so Kilian kept a cup full of Oliver's blood and poured it on the handle.
In loud, grating sounds, the door opened wide and the two dove in. Ancient swords, dusty grimoires and blood-red armors with werebat-shaped helmets stood strapped against stone poles, or floating above pedestals. Kilian ignored them all to locate the only thing worth his greed: a sanguine stone shaped like a ruby teardrop that despite the room's darkness, shone like a blazing sun: the Tear of Kalarac.
Like a Philosopher's Stone, the Tear granted its owner outstanding Transmutation abilities, as well as mysterious, eldritch powers able to leave Archons and Exarchs witless. But beyond that, it enabled the owner to create a flawless, upgradable version of their bodies and store it in the tear's internal world.
There was only one problem. The Tear devoured more lifeforce than non-Chiropterans possessed. This wasn't a magic-level, but a species issue. Chiropterans were immortal and possessed endless lifeforce. And as using the Tear of Kalarac required 700 years of lifespan, even at the Exarch-level, humans could only live for 500 years. Naturally, they dared not touch it.
But while Kilian was no immortal, Klaus' experiments showed that even without magic, he could live for over 1,000 years. Striding toward the Tear, Kilian clenched his hand around it and yanked it off the pedestal.
The surrounding scenery changed, and he landed in an unfamiliar world where an endless blood sea covered the sky and earth. Closing his eyes, Kilian stretched his senses throughout the blood world, and as his mind spread to fill the realm, Kilian felt as if in this place, he possessed omnipresence.
The rush didn't last over three seconds, and regaining his senses, Kilian integrated his soul with the Tear, channeling the seemingly endless power that briefly gave him the misconception that he'd achieved godhood. In the meantime, the Tear devoured the 700 years of lifespan Kilian owed it—sealing their unwritten covenant.
Using his mind as a quill, Kilian waved blood mist to condense an inert shape that looked 100% like his. Sanguine flames embroiled the construct, making it solidify and grow from a cloudy figure to an entity of flesh and blood. Exiting the Tear's world, Kilian turned toward Eleonora, unaware that if anything went wrong, she stood ready to pull him out.
"Look," He said, and switching her attention back to the Tear, Eleonora was mildly disturbed by the appearance of a mini Kilian corpse in the jewel. Her eyebrows creased, and she spun to face him.
"Why are you doing this? Your body is exceptional and far from its true limits. The second body is useless unless you reached your limits or fear an impending death…" Eleonora's eyebrows arched up, and her voice trailed off.
"Exceptional? How do you know? Did you taste it in my sleep?" Kilian jested, making Eleonora's eyes narrow at him.
"I'm confused. Tasted what?"
"Oh my god you're so innocent. I almost feel bad for you having to marry me," Kilian said and cleared his throat.
"More seriously, I do fear an impending death. In fact, so long as I remain in Klaus' grasp, I feel like I can die at any moment. It's just a matter of time," he pursued, making Eleonora realize that the situation between Kars' duke and junior duke was nowhere near as peaceful as most imagined.
"Why don't you stay with me?" She asked, but Kilian immediately shook his head.
"With the Tear, I can shroud Nargoz from the empire, but I cannot escape Klaus' palm—yet. He rigged my body so that he can teleport me back to his side whenever he pleases. In fact, he probably knew that I'd claim the Tear. Perhaps it even delights him.
Be that as it may, it is not the time. I will leave Nargoz in three days. I don't know when I will return. Months, years? I can't say for sure. But when I do, I will teach you the tango and rob your innocence." As Eleonora pondered what "tango" was, Kilian aimed his right hand at her, unleashing waves of scarlet fog that flooded her body, and left a star-shaped mark on her chest.
"Should the Arcadian Empire attempt another assault, use the Tear to shroud and seal Nargoz. I'm also giving you a license to use it to strengthen my second body and build me an invincible regiment. Should I perish, and for one reason or another not rematerialize here, as long as the mark stands you will know that I am fine. In due time, I will return," Kilian said. But little did he know that very soon, his casually spoken words would become a reality.
Across the following three days, Kilian only did one thing: learn more about Eleonora. From how Oliver murdered her mother out of fear that she might plot to make her queen, to how she suffered her Fehl Mutation and became the monster girl she now was. Her plans, her hopes, her aspirations, she told him everything. But the longer they spoke, the more Kilian realized that Eleonora wasn't talking about the princess of Nargoz. Between the lines, she painted the stark picture of a lofty, lonely entity trapped in the chains of her duties.
At the end of the third day, the royal palace hosted a small wedding between the Junior Duke of Kars and the Grand Princess of Nargoz, after which Eleonora received her crown and Kilian returned to Kars.
The news that Kars' Junior Duke broke his betrothal to Rulweil and married the new Queen of Nargoz spread like wildfire. But while many high nobility scions wished to use the opportunity to console Anke, she was nowhere to be seen. The Grand Duke of Rulweil also made no comments.
After his aircraft landed in Kars, Kilian headed straight toward Klaus' study where, as usual, the duke awaited.
"I heard you had a great deal of fun," Klaus said as soon as Kilian passed the door.
"I even got a wife," Kilian replied and bowed like a vassal to his liege.
"I asked you to get me trade deals and an alliance. You changed the monarch. Well, I'd say you've learned all I had to teach you on secular matters. Tomorrow morning, we will handle your Dra Root Ceremony and start your Arcane training." Klaus said and returned his attention to the book on his table. Although most aristocrats only read spell tomes or grimoires, Klaus was one of the few that still enjoyed a good fiction book.
"I always wanted to ask. Why did you kill the 8,000 northern tribesmen? I know that you wanted to seize absolute judiciary power in Orloth without civil war, but with your skills, you could have found another way. Why that one?" Kilian finally released the voice caterwauling in the back of his mind.
"Because of you. I had to kill Viktor, Alina and all members of your tribe to make sure that you'd live in agony, and hate me more than you loathed destiny or your own powerlessness. Since that tribe was already doomed to slaughter, I reckoned that just cleaning the surroundings and using the massacre to spread terror throughout Orloth, was the most pertinent choice," Klaus replied without taking his eyes off his book page.
"I see," Kilian said, spun and left. But though his face showed no change, the hatred locked inside him never burned brighter. Rage seethed in his heart, pounding like a battering ram against his chest. And perhaps it was in that instant that his fate was sealed.