The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 15
Chapter 15

"Then why did you allow her to spar with him?" I cried in outrage.
"She was vigilant. She ... she is stronger than me. She threw me out of the way when I tried to stop her," he said. My eyes widened in surprise. No one in this mansion was known to be stronger than Lord Niklaus's butlers.
"The pace at which she has improved is dangerous," Lord Niklaus said, "Especially now."
"What will you do, my lord?" Claude asked.
"I will watch the fight," he said simply, exiting the room. After exchanging glances, Claude and I followed him.
Lord Niklaus led us to the most advanced training ground in the mansion, the one where the benders and the butlers trained, where Lady Victoria and Sebastian - with a smirk on his face - were standing, facing each other. A small crowd lined the walls, and several people walked in with us.
I meant to ask Lord Niklaus how he had known where she was, but he had disappeared. A sickly feeling bubbled in the pit of my stomach as I watched the wickedness in Lady Victoria's smirk. She was no longer wearing the juvenile punk clothing she always did, but clothes that was more suited for battle, even though it still fitted her perfectly. She was clutching Dominatio per Malum - unsheathed - in her left hand. Sebastian appeared to be unarmed, but as I watched, he withdrew two kitchen knives from the inside pockets of his coat.
The crowd around me was impossibly quiet. None of the people in the mansion liked Lady Victoria very much, and they liked Sebastian equally little. The only reason they listened to and respected the pair was because they would be tortured to death if they did not.
"I'll wipe that cocky little smirk off your face with one blow, Sebastian," Lady Victoria told Sebastian.
"Typical wolf," Sebastian retorted, "All bark, no bite."
"I have more bite in me than bark," she said.
"Show me, my lady."
"With pleasure."
As a unity, the entire crowd was a mass of wide eyes and open mouths at the speed with which Lady Victoria attacked Sebastian. I stopped caring about the rest of the audience and focused Ceilos in my eye, which slowed the duo's movements enough for me to make sense of it.
Sebastian was still smirking, and he parried each of Lady Victoria's blades as she swung them at him seemingly wildly. There was no pattern in her movements as she bobbed to the side, twirled, sliced at Sebastian, twirled on the balls of the other foot, jumped, aimed a flexible kick at his face, smirking when he blocked it with one arm, turned upside down, sliced at his legs, performing a somersault and landed lightly on her feet.
I felt ridiculous thinking it, but it was as though I was watching a couple dancing. Their movements were so fluid and flexible that I found it difficult to categorise it otherwise. Just as this thought reached me, it seemed to occur to Sebastian, as well, as he started to twirl and turn on the tips of his toes like a ballerina would, with a smirk on his face, mocking Lady Victoria. The Spirits only knew how on earth he managed it at that speed.
This seemed to enrage Lady Victoria, but I was surprised once more when she did not Change, like she usually would at a time like this. She had learned to become completely independent. Instead, she stopped smirking and a frown creased her brow. She seemed to concentrate.
A few hand seals fluttered through the movements in her hand, and a massive ice wall erupted out of the floor. I gaped. I had never seen anyone perform hand seals with only one hand. She sliced at Sebastian, who tried to stand on the wall, but realised too late what the substance was that his feet had touched. He slipped and was just about to start falling when he smirked again, jumped on the blade that touched the place where his gut had been seconds earlier, and leaped through the air, landing behind Lady Victoria.
A question occurred to me, and only then did I realise that Claude was standing beside me.
"Why doesn't he use any techniques?" I asked.
"We do not have the Ceilos that is necessary for that."
"But then, how were you able to perform surgery on Lady Victoria?"
"Lord Niklaus has - for lack of a better word - injected us with Healing Ceilos every week for a few months now. We can heal, but not attack."
"But then, this battle is already won by Lady Victoria, don't you think?"
"Vampires are fast, Sapphire, and Sebastian even more so."
"You want to bet on it?" I challenged.
"What are the stakes?"
"If Lady Victoria wins, you make breakfast every morning, and do my chores," I said. I had just gotten a clever idea. For once, I would be the winner.
"And if she loses?"
"I keep your secret."
"I do not have secrets."
"So you have no problem with me telling Lord Niklaus that you're in love with Lady V-"
"You have a deal," he growled, even though his face remained expressionless. Seriously, how did he do that?
For a moment, I was suspicious as to why he did not simply back out of the deal with a threat instead of accepting. I had the feeling that everyone was cutting me a lot of slack lately. I never even called the butlers 'Master' anymore and it was like they did not even notice.
My moment's distraction caused me to lose much of the battle going on before me. I had to refocus Ceilos in my eye because the technique had failed when I stopped concentrating on it, and I found Lady Victoria and Sebastian fighting atop the ice wall she had created.
Once again, I found myself feeling as though I was beholding the most graceful of dances.
Lady Victoria's balance and flexibility was unbelievable. She did not seem to slip on the ice a single time. She even did somersaults and backflips to support the rest of her attacks. As I watched, she bowed down to dodge a kick, placed her palms on the surface of the ice, swung her legs around her and, when they came to the other side, lifted them and kicked Sebastian clear in the face. He sailed through the air and fell, twirling in mid-air with just enough time to land lightly on his feet.
As we watched, they simply stared at each other again, each with smirks on their faces.
Lady Victoria threw Dominatio per Malum into the air, reached into her leg-warmers with impossible speed - so much so that I needed to focus even more Ceilos in my eye - and took out two weights from within them. This did not really surprise anyone - a few pounds of weight extra would not really help her in this battle. Her smirk broadened slightly as she took out two more weights from inside her arm-warmers. She glared at Sebastian while holding the weights out, and let them fall.
A great explosion knocked most people off their feet, some succumbing to coughing fits at the dust, as the weights hit the ground. When the dust finally dispersed, I watched with wide eyes at the massive holes the weights had made in the ground, the cracked and broken rock protruding at odd angles. Sebastian's smirk had disappeared.
"She was that fast with those weights?" I breathed.
"Something is not right," Claude said, "It is simply impossible to become a match for Sebastian, with those kind of weights, in mere weeks. It is impossible."
With that, he disappeared into thin air.
Even with my Ceilos-enhanced eye, I could not see Lady Victoria move anymore. One blow was all it took. Being no match for her anymore, Sebastian's widened eyes stretched even more as a blur made its way toward him and, with such force that a dull crack ran through the room, his neck was dislocated at the blow to his face, and he fell over backwards.
All this happened, I realised, while Dominatio per Malum had been in the air, and I saw her catch it behind her back without even looking at it.
Cheers and clapping erupted about the room, most people grinning broadly, some exchanging money who I was sure had placed bets similar to mine and Claude's. As the crowd filed out of the massive room - most people went past Lady Victoria to congratulate her - I walked forward to where her weights were. They looked quite normal.
I bowed down and picked one up, surprised when it weighed me down much more than I had expected. These weights were at least thirty pounds, each!
I put the weight down again and jogged to Sebastian, who was still lying on the floor. I had too much experience with the two butlers to be convinced that he was dead, despite the tear in the skin on the front of his neck. I rolled my eyes, pulled him upright and, with one hand, snapped his neck forward again.
Immediately, the skin sewed itself back together and, moments later, Sebastian's eyes opened, momentarily glowing red before returning to their normal hazel colour.
"It is not possible. Not in such a short time," was all he said.
Moments later, when there were no more maids or other servants in the room, I saw Lord Niklaus near, followed by Claude and flanked by Lady Victoria.
"I told you that I'd wipe the smirk off your face," she gloated, "Was my bite hard enough for you?"
"Lady Victoria," Niklaus said, and she turned to face him while I helped Sebastian up, "How did you improve so much, so quickly?"
"Simple," she shrugged, "I trained from sunrise to sunset. When I was tired, the Dark side took control of my body and trained while I rested. Tio also helped a lot, once I realised its full power."
"Its full power?"
"If I merge some of my Ceilos with it, it gives me power that only starts wearing off after several hours."
"Do you mean to say that your body did not rest a single time while you were away?"
"Yup."
Before I finished blinking, I heard a dull thud and Lady Victoria fell forward. It seemed as though, even with her new strength, she was no match for Lord Niklaus when he wanted to knock her out.
"Why did you do that, my lord?" Claude asked.
"We may have even less time than I thought," he replied, "Take her to her room, Claude, immediately. Sebastian, feed and then come to my room. You too, Sapphire. Both of you have alchemic expertise, so you might be of some help."
"And me, my lord?" Claude asked.
"Try to contact that petty king of the South, Lunarian. Find out exactly what Lady Winter has told him that caused him to want so dearly to ally with me."
"Yes, my lord," he said, and disappeared. Sebastian disappeared next, followed by Lord Niklaus. My stomach gave a rumble.
I ran to the kitchens, ate a steak pie and drank a glass of milk before running to Lord Niklaus's room. I wondered if I was ever going to get used to the ridiculous amount of stairs.
After knocking and receiving permission to enter, I did so.
I froze in my tracks as I took in the new adjustments to the room. The two existing tables had been moved to the corner, while another, massive one, had been added to the opposite side of the room. It had even a wider variety alchemic tools and ingredients, vials with potions and strangely shaped, whirring and spinning instruments, each equipped with its own whistling or steamy sound.
Lord Niklaus was busy at his two tables, measuring, mixing, pouring and exploding about as he normally did.
"Lord Niklaus thought it best if he continues on his own with finding a counter for the Tampered Mark, while you figure out a cure for what he calls damaged Ceilos wires," Sebastian said, looking at my expression with a smirk.
"What does that mean?" I asked, tying my hair in a ponytail. I could tell that, from now on, I was going to have to work even harder, and I could not afford any kind of distraction.
"It means that, at this moment, Lady Victoria is so damaged that, if she made so much as the beginning of a move that would result in a fight, she will die. Her fight with me took a great toll on her. We fear that we may need to perform surgery again soon."
"But the moment she wakes up, she'll want to fight-"
"Ah, but that is why Lord Niklaus has her on a drip laced with a sleeping draught," Sebastian interrupted.
"So how are we supposed to make a cure for something if we don't know what caused it?" I snapped.
"We do know. It is-"
"The instability of her power, I know already!" I said, "What I meant was, if Lord Niklaus doesn't already have a cure, how are we supposed to make one without him?"
"There is no 'we', Sapphire, this is your job," he said, the smirk never leaving his face, "I will focus on keeping Lady Victoria's body in check along with Claude, while you find other ingredients to replace the ones you used the last time, to cure her. Sungrass is something that the body recognises very easily, and so its effects will become futile after so much as three times administered."
"So I'm supposed to find a replacement for Sungrass to make a potion with the same effects?" I breathe, "You've got to be joking! There are hundreds of different ingredients used for healing potions, and each's effect would be different depending on the amount-"
"Well, then, you had better get to work."

 

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