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It was a nightmarish sight to behold.
Irene was just sleeping in her bedroom when her shut eyes were forcibly opened by a bright red light coming from the window despite the curtains closed and a sound she had been accustomed to over the last year yet it was not the sort. Getting up from her bed, she was met with the most horrifying sight.
From top to bottom, the view of the window was engulfed in flames, threatening to burn the mansion to the ground. In fact, it had already encroached into her room.
“Lady Irene!” Layla, the named greater water spirit candidate Irene named, who had also been shouting her awake, beckoned to her in panic.
“Layla!” Irene practically jumped out of her bed, looking over to the spirit. “Can you put out the fire!?”
“Right!” Layla nodded. Immediately, she gathered her power to her hands, concentrating.
As spirit arts were about connecting with the spirits to request them their power, once a user was attuned to a particular spirit, a named spirit usually, they won’t even need to use the formal chant.
And so, Layla pretty much knew to perform her spirit art at Irene’s informal request – the chant was basically just to permit the spirits to access the user’s mind, after all; actually, it may not even be necessary in this case.
“Urk!” However, when Layla released the energy, nothing came out other than her keeling over.
“Layla!” Irene exclaimed, hunching over to the spirit.
“I’m fine!” Layla croaked. “Too much fire!”
“So yeah, we can’t do anything at all if there’s fire all over the place,” Layla shrugged as she lazily floated about.
“How about other elements?” Irene asked.
“Some of them can make us sick, yeah, but fire’s the worse,” Layla replied. “It’s really hard to perform water arts around them, even for me. Only lady Aquarius can do it.”
“And if there is water around you, your spirit arts get strengthened?” Irene reviewed what she was taught in this lesson.
“Yep! Pretty much!” Layla did a backflip mid-air. “And it’ll screw fire spirits in return!”
That would certainly explain the many fountains littering the garden and the amount of tea everyone here consumed. Even at this moment, Mia was pouring her another cup of tea.
“So basically,” Layla wrapped it up. “Fire is bad, water is good, and it’s the opposite for fire spirits. So it’s really freaky the fire territory is literally our neighbor.”
Too bad humans, even in the water territory, still need fire for their daily lives, even the Illyers despite the effort to minimize the presence of fire in the mansion.
Has the fire spread that far!? Irene panicked, comforting the weakened named water spirit. She didn’t sense other low-ranking water spirits in her room either. They must’ve fled already, not that they could do anything either if they stayed.
“Lady Irene!” From the door, a maid barged into the room. Actually, Irene could only tell that she was a maid as she knew her personally; she wasn’t wearing her uniform rather her sleepwear, which was rather singed from the fire. It was nighttime, after all.
“Mia!” Irene gasped, looking at her personal maid. “Are you alright!?”
“I’m fine, but you need to flee, my lady!” Mia, the maid, exclaimed.
“Right!” Irene nodded, dashing to the door with Layla follow suit.
And so, still in her sleepwear and without her slippers, Irene fled the burning bedroom behind.
“This way, my lady!” Mia shouted, pulling Irene’s hand.
Sure enough, the hallway of the mansion was burning down the moment Irene stepped out of her bedroom. The vases were shattered, and the plants became ashes; the paintings were burnt to a crisp and so was the carpet. Being the most exterior part of the mansion, it was natural that it’d burn down first.
It was just her luck that Irene picked the outermost bedroom in the second story so she could look out to the city.
“Watch out!” Layla exclaimed, pointing up to where the ceiling had broken and was falling down.
“Aah!” Irene screamed as it narrowly crushed them, soiling their white gown with ashes instead.
“My lady!” Mia pulled her to the other way, as the collapsed ceiling had completely blocked their way. “We must go to the other way!”
“Right!” Irene nodded, keeping her step with the frantic maid, running into an intersection, with Layla not far behind.
Then, a window broke as a foreign object into it. At first glance, it seemed to be made of glass, but Irene couldn’t make its features out as hit the wall and…
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…engulf its entire vicinity in flames, blocking yet another path. This must be what caused the fire, they were under attack.
As since there’s no time to contemplate, Mia guided Irene to the left. “This way!” she exclaimed.
But then, the ceiling above suddenly crumbled. “Aah!” Irene screamed as impending death fell upon them.
However, Irene was yanked aside as Mia pushed her forward. “My lady, you must survive!” she exclaimed.
“Mia!” As she was tossed backward, Irene reached out her hand to her personal maid, helplessly watching the debris falling on her.
“This is Mia,” her father introduced. “She will be your personal maid from now on.”
In the living room, in front of little Irene was a girl with brown hair several years older than her. She wore the same uniform as the older maids except this one was tailored for her size.
“Come on, introduce yourself,” her father said to the young maid, patting her back.
“Y-Yes!” the young maid stuttered. “M-My name is Mia!” She then bowed in a rushed manner. “Please take care of me!”
“Hee hee,” little Irene giggled at her new personal maid’s bashfulness. “Nice to meet you, Mia, my name is Irene, I will be under your care from now on,” she smiled.
And thus, only one had died.
“Mia, no…!” Irene clenched her mouth, gasping in horror. The maid she practically grew up with, who served her with all her sincerity, and someone she could call a friend in her sheltered life, was now gone.
“Lady Irene, we have to go!” Layla pleaded, virtually pulling her namer’s nightgown as she was about to fall to her knees.
Wiping her tears, Irene turned her back and pressed forward.
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After what was an eternity running raggedly through the burning hallway behind her with Layla, Irene came upon the imperial staircase where she looked down below to see her family, the prince, the intermediate water spirit Neptune, some of the knights along with their captain, and the servants sticking together in one huge crowd, already barricading themselves to prevent the fire from spreading to them. However, it was painful to see that not all of the latter two made it.
“No good, my lord!” Then, a knight came running from a hallway. It seemed that it was not so worse than she thought. “That exit has been sealed too!”
“That was the most secret exit!” Allister, her father, clutching to her mother, Marisa, exclaimed. “How did they find it!?”
“Sir!” Another knight reported in. “There is still no sight of lady Irene or Layla!”
“I am here!” Irene then shouted, making her way to the staircase.
“We’re over here!” Layla frantically waved their attention to them.
“Irene! Layla!” Allister exclaimed, looking up to see his daughter along with the spirit she named in relief. Her mother and others shared similar expressions.
However, a familiar dreadful sound was heard directly above Irene. She didn’t even need to look up to tell what it was, what with what happened in regards to it just before.
“Aah!” Irene screamed as the burning wooden ceiling fell upon her.
“Irene!” her father shouted in despair. Several others followed suit, but Irene didn’t hear it as she could only focus on the very thing that killed her maid.
Not even Layla’s was heard behind her. And without spirit arts, not even she can push her out of the way with how physically weak non-greater spirits are and especially in a weakening environment.
No! Irene cried in anguish. Am I going to die like this! Mia!
Suddenly, when Irene glanced in front of her, she saw another flame. However, this fire was spherical in shape and large too. But most importantly, it was flying towards her.
Straight to the would-be end of the blonde woman.
Everyone was stunned when the giant ball of flame utterly destroyed the collapsing ceiling and the force sent its fragments away from harming the young lady. However, it did fling into Layla, but spirits can phase through solid walls so the splinters passed through her harmlessly.
Then, Irene tilted her head downward, looking to where the fireball came from, and widened her eyes. And it was a sentiment shared by everyone else.
In another burning hallway from where Irene could see, two figures were coming from it, one of them being absurdly tall. Wearing a brown robe and a light blue cloak, their hoods were lowered revealing a crimson and white hair respectively along with eye colors that complement them; blue and a lighter shade of blue.
“S-Sir Ronald!? Sir Joshua!?” Irene gasped, quickly identifying the two. “What are you doing here!?”
“There’s no time to explain!” Ronald shouted, running to her. “We’re getting all of you out!”
Once he got to Irene, Ronald suddenly lifted her up, carrying her by her legs and back, earning an “Oi!” from Layla and completely flushing Irene.
Ronald, however, completely ignored this as he stepped off the railing, breaking it, and lept down to the first floor. Joshua followed suit not too far behind him.
Ronald firmly planted his feet on the ash-covered floor, bending his knees down to evenly distribute his fall. Joshua rolled forward to break his fall, thus wasting no maneg for the usual landing method.
“Sorry about that. Can’t waste any time,” Ronald then said to Irene who he was bridal carrying before letting her down.
“I-It is fine…” Irene meeked, gaining her footing. Her face was red like a tomato, blood rushing her cheeks, must be running from all the fire.
“Irene!” Marisa, Irene’s mother, broke away from her husband and rushed to her eldest daughter, embracing. “Thank the greater spirits you are safe!”
“Mother…” Irene smiled, hugging her mother back.
“Your timing could not be more perfect!” Albert, first prince of Kirash, praised, holding his fiancee, Elaine, with him.
“Thank goodness sister is safe…” Elaine muttered in relief.
“Waah! Layla!” Neptune, the bald-looking intermediate spirit Allister named, rushed to the other spirit’s presence, crying comically.
“Yes, yes, I’m here, you big baby,” Layla patted the intermediate spirit’s head as he hugged her tightly.
“Sir Ronald, sir Joshua,” Allister, the duke of Illyer, approached the two. “I thank you for saving my daughter.”
“Indeed,” Oswald, the captain of Allister’s knights, chipped in. “We are in your debt once again.”
“You’re welcome,” Joshua replied. However, it was a ‘bat of an eye’ kind of reply. “Anyway-”
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“What was that!”
And then a part of the mansion broke down, reminding everyone that they were still trapped inside a burning building.
“Anyway!” Joshua continued regardless, catching their attention before they could panic further. “Is-”
However, his attention was caught when he heard a violent cough coming among the frightened maids. Even without one of the maids shouting her name out, Joshua could see that it was Willow, the weak-bodied maid he met countless times, being comforted by another maid as she inhaled some smoke.
“Gah! Joshua!?” Without wasting another second, Joshua went over to Ronald, nabbed a handkerchief from the rich boy’s breast pocket beneath his robe, and rushed to the maid.
“Urk! Huh? Sir Joshua?” Willow stared dumbfoundedly, looking at the tall Court Wizard right in front of her. It was a similar reaction by her co-workers.
“Here,” Joshua handed over the piece of cloth to him. “It’ll help you with the smoke.”
“A-Ah…” Willow nervously took the handkerchief from him, her cheeks beet red from the heat of the fire around them. “…Thank you,” she smiled before covering her mouth and nose with it.
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Then everyone cringed again as the world drilled it to their heads once again that they’re literally inside a burning mansion.
“As Joshua was saying,” Ronald immediately turned to Allister. “Is this everyone!?”
As a response to that, Allister quickly looked over all who survived with unease. He turned back and firmly replied, “Yes, I believe this all of us trapped inside who made it.”
Confirming this, Ronald held out two of his fingers over the back of his ears and-
Yep, I only see living people in where you are. Everybody else inside is dead. (Evelyn)
“…Right, our colleague outside also confirmed this,” Ronald said wryly, giving a pique from the duke in return.
Leave it to Henry Maverick’s equally unique twin sister to already sense the need for her presence from a world away and knowing exactly when to take her cue.
“Wait, my lord, sir Ronald!” Suddenly, a voice cut in. It was from another maid among the crowd, the youngest one. As Ronald recalled, she was called Tia. “Where is my older sister, Mia!?” It was out of the spur at the moment, a bit of confusion and desperation in her words putting aside her blatant-ness. “Ah, wasn’t she with you, lady Irene!?”
Mia? Ronald raised his eyebrow. Wasn’t she the maid that follows Irene around? The one who always served the tea whenever I had a chat with Irene… wait. Looking around the crowd, he realized Mia the maid was not among them. Is she?
Irene, however, shifted her face into melancholy. Layla too wore a similar expression on her blue face. “I-I am sorry…” She rolled her eyes in shame as she broke the obvious news to the young maid. “She… gave her life to save me.”
“Ah, noo!” With that, Tia clasped her mouth with both of her hands, breaking down in tears with the other maids around her comforting her.
“We have lost too many good people tonight…” Allister grabbed the palm of his head in grief.
“Mia was very kind too,” Elaine, prince Albert’s engaged, sobbed under her fiancee’s shirt. Mia must have served her too.
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“Damn it! The fire’s spreading too fast!” Joshua cursed the second time, as the fire has been inching closer and closer to them with all the hold-up. “We have to go now!”
“Ah, right.” Allister broke out his stupor but then asked, “but how? All the exits have been sealed.”
“Transfer obviously,” Joshua replied. “We’re bringing all of you to Manegia!”
“What!?” With that, everyone fell into a murmur.
“I see,” Oswald nodded, having a first-hand experience with the transfer, turned to the duke. “My lord, you and your family and the prince should go-”
“There’s no need for that,” Ronald interrupted. “We will transfer all of you in one go.”
“…Huh?” Oswald raised his eyebrow. “Is that possible?”
It made sense for him to think that. When they transferred Oswald’s knight corp, it was in multiple batches of a slightly bigger circle, so it was natural for him to think that was the largest circle the Otherworldly Court could possibly use. However, that was because of the second rule and it was not like the bandits were going to execute Willow’s orphanage anytime soon, unlike this situation.
Good thing everything in the Otherworldly Court was built to accommodate a dragon in mind.
Irene has seen Ronald and Joshua appearing from the rainbow circle countless times as it was agreed that it was faster to directly transfer inside the mansion than having to come from outside the city border all the time. While it was an astonishing sight to behold, after seeing it that many times, she thought she had seen it all.
However, now, she was standing inside perhaps the largest circle she has ever seen, easily surrounding every survivor without leaving even a strand of hair behind.
“Incredible…” Was all Irene could only mutter as her vision was engulfed in kaleidoscopic light.
Name: Evelyn Maverick Age: 37 Sex: Female Species: Human World: Rakarok-Earth World Merge Element: Life Element Color: Green and White Cherished Armament: ??? Rank: Grand Wizard
Azhure: Thank you for reading End of the Five, Twenty-Three, and Twenty-Nine Years Story thus far.