Zelgius continued teleporting us to multiple locations around the land and I continued to purify the shadow magic. There were many times we had to fend off the undead, and many times people looked at is with an expression of disdain. But, I tried to not let it bother me. I wanted to help the people. It was the right thing to do. It was responsibility as the Demon King to control the shadow magic that was spewing into the land.
However, every time I used my light magic at the end of the battle, I always felt severely weakened, so we took some time to rest between each location. There were times I insisted to simply absorb the shadow magic so then we could quickly regroup with the rest of the nobles and deal with Lulu, but Nocturne refused to let me do so. But. I felt somewhat relieved that he wasn’t trying to rush me. Although there were times I needed to depend on the shadow magic, I still felt afraid that I would lose myself to the powers of the Demon King.
“Alright, that should be the last of the shadow magic,” Zelgius announced. “I don’t feel any more of the magic around at all.”
“Really, Zelgius? We’ve actually cleansed all of the shadow magic?” I asked hopefully.
“Yes, I don’t sense it anymore. The air seems quite purified to me.”
“Did you hear, Nocturne? We’ve done it,” I smiled happily.
Nocturne frowned momentarily. “I don’t know. If we’ve purified all the shadow magic, why haven’t we run into that lich and her undead dragon lord? Surely, those two creatures should be emanating a large amount of shadow magic, right?”
My happiness quickly changed to sadness. “That’s true. We still have to deal with Lulu.”
“So, what do you propose we do now?” Zelgius asked.
“Let’s return to Animus,” Nocturne proposed. “We’ve been away for a few weeks. They should have found some clues pertaining to the lich’s whereabouts by now.”
Zelgius immediately teleported us to the castle. Right as we appeared, the guards nearby immediately moved to a defensive stance.
“Undead creatures?!” One of the guards exclaimed as he noticed Noctis and Zelgius.
“Stand down,” Nocturne ordered.
“Sir Nocturne,” they all called out in unison. They immediately withdrew their weapons and saluted him.
“These are our allies. Do not harm them.”
“Yes, sir,” they all responded.
The guards allowed us to pass through without any questioning. We began walking towards the main hall of the castle. “Wow, Nocturne, you’ve really got them well trained,” I praised. “They don’t talk back or question you at all.”
“They’re supposed to be disciplined. We can’t have knights questioning their superiors, can we?”
I nodded in agreement. “So then, why do you always have to question me? I’m the master you serve right?”
Nocturne turned his eyes towards me. “You’re a different matter entirely,” he grinned. “You’re too troublesome to be left to your own devices.”
“H-hey! I am not.” I slapped him on the chest in refute. Nocturne immediately held on to my hand and pressed it against his chest. I could feel his heart beat strongly against the palm of my hand. I immediately felt my face flush.
“Ahem,” Zelgius cleared his throat. “I’m sure your flirting activities can wait for another time.” Even Noctis let of a soft groan.
Nocturne quickly released my hand and turned away. I held my hand against my chest. I can still feel the warmth of Nocturne’s body in my hand. I smiled momentarily but quickly shook my head. Wait, since when did I start thinking about Nocturne in this sort of way? He’s always been my childhood friend.
“Stella, Nocturne, you’ve both returned.”
“Olber! Did you finish relaying the messages to the other kingdoms?” I asked.
“I did,” he nodded in reply. “Ace and I returned back to Animus a few days ago. Ren has also made progress in locating the lich. I was about to go see him now.”
“Let’s get going then,” I nodded and we all followed Olber to where Ren was.
As we entered the meeting room in the castle where I had come to before to speak to everyone when I was brought back to the Castle. Ren stood from his chair to greet us. However, he froze as soon as he saw Zelgius. “You…”
Zelgius looked at him in confusion. “I know that I am quite terrifying but I am fairly harmless.”
Ren shook his head. “You’re the presence I’ve felt around Stella after the coming-of-age ceremony.” He eyed Zelgius suspiciously.
“Uh, Ren, this is Zelgius,” I introduced. “He’s the Wight that decided to make me the Demon King. He’s been guiding me around to purify the shadow magic.”
Ren eyed the undead cautiously.
“Hehe, you don’t trust me, but that’s easily understandable. However, I made a good decision to select Stella as the new Demon King. She’s able to rid the land of shadow magic without losing her sanity because she’s able to purify the magic instead of absorbing it,” Zelgius explained.
“Well, I suppose it can be to our benefit for an undead to be on our side.”
“Anyways, did you find where Lulu was hiding?”
Ren nodded. “The traces of where she would be is very minimal. I don’t understand how she’s able to hide such a large amount of shadow magic.”
“We will have to find out once we find her, isn’t that so?” Aeris asked as she entered the room. “Oh, what an interesting creature you have with you Stella,” she noted as she bent down to pet Noctis on the head. Noctis immediately responded by pressing his head back against the palm of Aeris’ hand.
“Yes, he’s unique because I created him from multiple animal remains. He’s been my faithful companion the entire time,” I smiled.
“H-hey, Stella, what about me? I’ve been by your side, as well,” Zelgius complained.
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, thank you for being my companion,” I spoke simply.
“Oh, yes, that makes me feel so much better,” Zelgius replied sarcastically.
“Ren, are the preparations ready to go to the lich?” Olber inquired.
Once again, Ren nodded. “I’ve drawn a teleportation circle in the treasure room. We’re ready to go at any time.”
“Good. Aeris, please inform Zeno and Ace that we’ll be setting off momentarily. Ace should have weapons prepared for us in the armory. We’ll go over there and equip ourselves appropriately. After, we’ll meet outside the treasury.”
“Your name is, Zelgius, correct?” Ren asked. “Can I speak to you in private for a moment? There are a few things I would like to confirm.” he asked suddenly.
Zelgius looked at the noble in surprise. “I don’t mind.”
I followed Nocturne to the armory and observed as he put on a new set of armor. He decided to keep the blade with the golden, wing-engraved guard and the silver-blue blade instead of replacing it with the ones that were prepared by Ace.
“It’s too bad that regular armor doesn’t provide you with any resistance to magic,” I noted.
Nocturne smirked. “Even if I get hurt, you’ll just heal me up, right?”
Those are the words I told Nocturne on our first journey together. I grinned. “You got that right. If you or anyone else gets hurt, I’ll just patch you all up with my magic!”
Suddenly, the doors to the armory opened and Ace walked in. He still had his messy, blonde hair. As he entered, he nodded in greeting at Nocturne and then directed his attention to me. “Hey, brat,” he spoke.
“I’m not a brat,” I retorted.
Ace looked away and rubbed the back of his head. “You know, you’ve changed lots.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“You’ve started to take on a lot of responsibilities. You’ve matured.”
I looked at Ace in surprise. He’s complimenting me? Why is he being so nice? “Thanks. I think.” Ace immediately planted his hand on the top of my head and began ruffling my hair. “H-hey!”
Our eyes met. His expression was serious, despite his ears going pink. “I mean it. You’ve become strong. I guess, it would’ve made the situation much more severe if you hadn’t become strong.”
I smiled at him. “Thank you.”
“Anyways, you’re still just brat. So, don’t forget that we’re all here to help each other.” Ace swiftly picked up a sword from the rack and made his way out the door.
I glanced at Nocturne and he returned my expression with a smile. “He’s really bad at expressing himself.”
I nodded. “Ace isn’t the type to let his feelings out. But I’m happy that he doesn’t just see me as a useless kid.”
“Stella,” Nocturne spoke as he placed his hand on my cheek, “you’re not useless. You’ve done so much for the land on your own. And now you’ve reunited with us. You have no idea how happy I am to finally have you back at my side.”
I smiled. “I’m happy to be back with everyone, too.”
He shook his head. “Stella, you are more important to me than you could ever imagine. If I had the choice, I would keep you locked away where I know you would always be safe.”
“I don’t want to be treated like a doll that’s only good for being put on display.”
“You’re more than just a doll, Stella. You’re irreplaceable to me. If something were to happen to you, I don’t know what I would do.”
“You’re important to me, too.” Why does it feel like I’m not saying something right?
Nocturne released a small sigh. “I know that you would always refuse to simply stand by in any situation. But please be careful out there. We don’t know what the lich is planning yet.”
“I will,” I pouted. “But, you have to be careful, too.”
He chuckled at me. “I will.”
“Alright, let’s go meet up with everyone else.” I headed towards the door.
“Wait,” Nocturne stopped me, “before we go, I want to give you something.”
“What is it?” I asked as I turned around. As my head moved to look at nocturne, I immediately felt a gentle touch to my forehead. I could feel the heat rush to my face in an instant. “W-what was that for?”
Nocturne smiled at me sincerely. “For good luck,” he replied.