The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 22
Chapter 22

Sapphire.
Lord Niklaus seemed a little torn when he returned from taking Lady Victoria to the Village of Water, but it also increased his concentration tenfold. He seemed determined to, as he put it, 'rescue her from those water runts'. He did all he could to both not pass out, and stay alive. Every hour, he took some of my blood instead of calling another maid, to save time, and these periodical breaks, even if they were short, gave his body time to rest.
He once again allowed me to help him. I preferred this over dealing with the other elementals.
In the weeks that followed, I trained as much as my body allowed it, and with every piece of freedom I had from my duties. When my muscles were too sore to train physically, I meditated or else improved my stealth by experimenting on the butlers. I tested just how close I could get to them until they noticed. My camouflaging technique developed very slowly, but soon I merged into a wall so successfully that Claude walked right past me and did not notice me at all.
It had been twenty-seven days later when, suddenly, Lord Niklaus's mood seemed to be at its top. He was very distracted, and eventually gave me the day off. This made me even more suspicious, but it was a matter that I would not dwell on. Spying on the butlers was dangerous; spying on Lord Niklaus while he was this agitated was suicide.
So I went about my business, had lunch and then trained for the remainder of the day. When I returned from the training room, I passed Lady Victoria's room, and stopped in my tracks when I saw that she was sitting on her window seat
"My lady?" I said, knocking softly on the door. She turned to face me with eyes so empty that, for a moment, I thought she was a reanimated corpse. "Welcome back."
"Thanks," she said, looking out of the window again.
"What have you been doing this whole time?" I asked, wondering if Lady Winter had trained her.
"Reading," she replied simply, not looking at me again. Before I could respond, she added, "Leave me."
I curtsied even though I was not sure whether she could see me, and headed back to my room to get a proper night's sleep. So this was why Lord Niklaus had been so excited.
More days passed, and they turned into weeks. Every now and then, Lady Victoria would disappear for a while, and then return just as suddenly. I did not ask, because I knew she was staying in the Village of Water while away, but I wondered how Lord Niklaus kept track of how she came and went: there was no pattern that I could figure out, even though I tried to at length one night.
The weather turned warmer as time passed. The snow started melting and Lord Niklaus was in such spirits that he allowed the servants an hour-long break at lunch every day. The reason for his good mood, as well as mine, was that we were getting closer to finding the cure for the Tampered Mark. There were no more explosions and Lord Niklaus's limbs stayed intact recently: it had happened a few times that an arm or a leg would sever from his body and fly out the window, where he would have to catch it and sew it back to his shoulder or hip.
One day, however, when I wanted to enter Lord Niklaus's room to start helping him again, he stopped me.
"I am in the final stages of perfecting it," he explained. I frowned. "It is extremely delicate work. A single mistake could take your life. That is why, as of now, I no longer need your assistance. I do, however, wish that you would look after Lady Victoria during the times that she is here."
"Of course, my lord," I said, curtsying.
"Thank you very much for all your help. It will not be forgotten, and will not go unrewarded."
I nodded, not knowing what else to do, as the door closed and I was left standing alone in the long corridor of the eleventh floor. Frowning all the way, I went down the stairs and to Lady Victoria's room to ask whether she required anything.
As I approached it, I saw that Arrow was standing in the corridor, facing her room, with his fists clutched under his chin in stress.
"What's going on?" I asked him as I neared.
"She's at it again," he said, "Sister refuses to listen to me."
I peered around the wall and into the room just as Aurora shrieked with anger, "Look at me when I'm talking to you!"
"No," Lady Victoria said simply, staring out the window as though I had never left her.
"I said, look at me!" Aurora snarled, stepping forward and clutching a handful of Lady Victoria's hair to pull her off her seat.
It all happened so fast.
As I watched, Aurora's hand was wrenched out of the hair and held against her back. The air elemental retaliated by bowing over and thrusting Lady Victoria over her back to try and knock her off-balance, but she was too fast, and landed on her feet with a knife in her hand, and thrust it into the nearest target...
...which was Luka.
I gasped, my heart starting to hammer in my chest. I put my hand to my mouth, my body not complying with any other command I gave it. Aurora had the same reaction.
No, not Luka ... not my Luka ...
"Pardon me," Lady Victoria said expressionlessly, as though she had accidentally bumped into him in the corridor, "I had aimed for Aurora. My body is weird recently. Do forgive me."
"What have you done?" I breathed, hurrying forward as Luka slumped to the floor when Lady Victoria pulled the ornate dagger out of his body.
"I apologised," she said, sitting on the window seat again.
Aurora also knelt beside Luka. I trembled with horror as I saw that Lady Victoria had stabbed him in his left lung. I could feel myself starting to hyperventilate.
It was entirely my fault. If had not broken up with him, he would not have been trailing after this skank. I had been meaning to try and talk to him, but I had been so busy I barely had time for myself. I never wanted it to end like this.
"Sebastian!" I screamed, tears stinging my eyes as Luka struggled for breath.
Moments later, the butler arrived. He swiftly pulled a cloth from his jacket and placed it over the wound.
"Just heal him!" I cried, "Lord Niklaus gave you healing abilities! Use them!"
"Whatever pierced him did so on the front and the back of the lung. By the time I summon enough Ceilos to try and heal him, he will already be dead," he said simply, "I apologise, but there is nothing we can do for him."
"No!" I screamed, clutching my head.
"Be quiet," Lady Victoria said.
"You, be quiet!" I screamed, and in that single moment, all my respect for her seemed to evaporate, "You are no relation of Alexudo Black! He would never have done something so monstrous!"
"You do not know what you're talking about."
"I know exactly what I'm talking about! You're a monster! You don't deserve to be in the same family he was! You don't even deserve to avenge your family!"
"If I could use Ceilos, you would be dead by now."
"I don't care," I sobbed, clutching onto Luka's hand as Sebastian placed his on my shoulder. "I don't care ..."

Luka did not even have a proper funeral. Lord Niklaus refused to be disturbed, and the butlers would not do anything that they were not told they were allowed to. They did, however, buy him a beautiful casket from a nearby village, and a small service was held at the nearby lake, after which he was set sail, and we watched as he slowly drifted toward the waterfall, and cascaded off it.
"Why did this happen?" I asked Arrow as we walked back to the mansion along with a few other servants; Aurora was walking behind us.
"I had been dissing her like I always did," she answered, "But then she started stepping over the line. She cursed my family and my offspring. You walked in as I had tried to wrench an apology out of her. Luka tried to stop me, but I didn't listen, and ..."
"So it's your fault he's dead," I said angrily, "You couldn't keep your mouth shut, and he paid the price."
"I'm really sorry, I didn't mean-"
"It doesn't matter what you meant!" I snarled, "Luka is dead because of you!"
With that, I ran back to the mansion.

Almost a month later, I was in the training room, where I spent most of my time every day, when Sebastian called me to go to Lord Niklaus, quite late at night.
I was ordered to pretend that I believed that Victoria meant no harm, and that she was only defending herself and Luka happened to get caught in the crossfire. This resulted in me being ordered to be her personal servant to get over Luka.
I knocked on the door of Lord Niklaus's room, staring at all the torture methods around me and absent-mindedly applying each of them on Victoria.
"Yes?" Lord Niklaus called from within.
I entered the room and stopped in my tracks. Both of the alchemy tables had been removed, the bed was returned and there were no more scorch and scratch marks all over the floor and walls. The room was returned to its former glory.
"I have the cure," he said. I frowned, taking a minute to process what he had said. When I finished, I could not help but grin.
"You did it, my lord!" I exclaimed, "That's so great!"
"It is, is it not?" he said. "What do you say: should we put it to the test immediately?"
"Absolutely!" I said.
I was so happy for him. He had spent day after day enduring horrible tortures, including dying, for months on end to find the cure, and now he finally had it.
However, as I followed him to Victoria's room, I remembered that I wished her no happiness anymore, and my mood sagged with every step.
When we finally reached the door of her room, Lord Niklaus knocked softly three times before entering, but the room was empty except for Claude dusting the sconces.
"Where is Lady Victoria?" Lord Niklaus asked.
"My lord?" Claude said, seemingly confused, "I was under the impression that you had returned her to the Village of Water."
"No, she was not scheduled to leave until the day after tomorrow," Lord Niklaus said, angst and rage in his voice. I frowned, wondering what was going on.
"I do not smell her," Claude said.
"Neither do I," Lord Niklaus replied, his eyes widening with fear.
I glance expectantly at Claude, but he mirrored Lord Niklaus's horrified expression. Before I could ask what was going on, he had stormed from the room. Not knowing what else to do, I followed him. He led the way down the stairs and into the basement, and I wondered what on earth he was doing here.
Finally, we reached the end of the basement corridor, where a heavy oak door was, covered in locks. I could feel Lord Niklaus release a strong amount of Ceilos, an amount that I would not dare attempt to use, and all the locks clicked open. I gaped, but I had no time to be befuddled. He led me into a large room, and I doubled back when I noticed that the opposite end of the stone wall looked like a face.
And it was breathing. I could feel the change in air pressure every time it took a breath. I held my arms to my chest, hugging myself in an attempt at comfort.
"Where is Lady Victoria?" Lord Niklaus asked the face, and I noticed with horror that it resembled him greatly: in fact, it was a statue face of him.
The face replied with two simple, terrifying words in an even more terrifying voice, "Morrow ... Obsidian."

 

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