13-9: Those Espying the Crown

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Those Espying the Crown
Episode 13
Previous 13-8 (Story)

It's no use fleeing. The bloodline's predestiny will always catch up in the end.
Infected Child
W's Safehouse
Manor Hall
Cold Forest
The Confessarii raid the safe house Kal'tsit and the others are sheltering in, and reveal their true objective: to seize The King of Sarkaz's power for all eternity. In the end, they manage to take Nightingale away. Elsewhere, Talulah discovers the long-lived Nowell hidden within her team.
The myriad souls lie prostrate.
Howling knocks on the door from beneath, tangible usurps the intangible.
Qui'sartuštaj bears witness.
The Black Crown imprisoned, the offender perpetually innocent.
Because kings are born before immortality.
<Background 1>
Kal'tsit Is W back yet?
Shining No.
Kal'tsit The time she's spent on this mission has already exceeded our worst-case calculations.
How's Nightingale doing?
Shining ......
Shining looks past the window and at Nightingale, sleeping soundly under the trees outside.
Shining Not great.
Liz has never been more stable than she is right now, but the amount of Originium in her body is rising, and it's highly likely her nociceptors will be affected.
Kal'tsit This can't be an ordinary Infection symptom.
Shining Perhaps it's due to the Sarkaz witchcraft devices on the battlefield, or maybe the whispering of the revenant... I don't know.
There's no way I can tell Liz that "I feel her pain". For I have no idea what's going on.
But yesterday, she was happily telling me how she hasn't been feeling any pain in her dreams for a long time now...
Kal'tsit You're hesitating.
You"ve been like this ever since you returned from the Confessarius"s place alone.
Do you remember what you told me, when you applied to come with me to Londinium?
Shining To "heal Liz", Dr. Kal'tsit. This goal I've never wavered on, ever.
Kal'tsit We may not know the exact status of her illness, but we all know what it means to "heal" her.
Shining The things we need to do will not change... on this I'm clear.
Kal'tsit I have faith in you both.
The way you look at Nightingale isn't just with compassion. You're not just her doctor—she's healing your fears too.
Her body has its issues, but she"s a member of the "Followers", as well as your companion, and not a delicate flower that needs your protection.
The Confessarii secret is truly a sickening affair, but we might only be able to uncover the truth by facing the abomination lurking in the utmost depths head on.
Shining ......
Kal'tsit I know you may be somewhat worried.
But as I said when we first agreed to work together, Rhodes Island will help you if you ever need a hand.
Shining ——Thank you, Dr. Kal'tsit.
A blue fowlbeast chirps as it lands on Shining's shoulder.
This is Liz's usual way of greeting her.
Shining Liz's awake. I'll go fetch her.
<Background fades out and in>
Nightingale I'm fine, Shining. You don't have to look after me so meticulously.
Shining Liz, we were just discussing your condition, and there are some signs... that aren't too great.
The vicinity of Londinium has turned into a warzone, and there are some things that are affecting your health.
Dr. Kal'tsit and I are currently discussing our next course of action. This place is also just a temporary foothold.
Nightingale Shining... come here. Closer.
Shining Alright.
Nightingale Look at you. Why wear that face when you've already made up your mind?
We can't run forever.
The way things are now, we might as well confront them with our dignity intact, right?
I know you'll stay with me, so I'd rather stay here, and be a little more proactive.
Shining Liz...
Nightingale Be strong, Shining. Your brows have been knitted ever since you met with them. Are you nervous?
Oh, right. While I was napping under the tree earlier... I had a dream.
I think we were children, walking in a stream...
The water didn't even reach our calves. It was cold, but very pleasant. We didn't speak, only walking along quietly.
Shining ......
Nightingale And then I woke up. I saw a strange fowlbeast pecking at its own plumage.
It seemed to be pecking at its bruise-covered body until it was entirely covered in blood...
It gazed at me with a pleading look in its eyes, crying as it huddled in its own nest, but it was not liquid pouring down its face, it was white wax...
Even its mess of feathers were all frozen, and it was still chirping before it died—
Qui'sartuštaj bears witness.
Nightingale It was a strange melody, that sounded like...
Qui'sartuštaj bears witness.
Nightingale *Ancient Sarkaz Language*.
Shining Liz...?
Shining spots a black fowlbeast resting on the tree, weakly nesting on a crown made of dead branches.
It looks back at Shining, and a trembling cry resounds from its syrinx, a rhythm permeating—
*Ancient Sarkaz Language*.
A black feather floats from the crown of dead branches.
It covers everyone's vision despite its tiny size.
??? You led me here.
And so I've come to take you home, Liz.
Kal'tsit Mon3tr!
Mon3tr (High-pitched braying)
??? Return from whence you came.
[Mon3tr was struck by an attack...]
??? The structure is so fragile. It seems Theresis's blade is sharper than I imagined.
[...as the head Confessarius, whose name is revealed to be Qui'sartuštaj, reveals himself.]
Nightingale Watch out, Shining!
Shining It's fine, Liz. He can't harm me.
Confessarius You've regressed.
It will be a challenge to return your body to its peak condition. That will eat into my experimentation time.
Shining To think you'd willingly leave that sordid lair of yours...
The black fowlbeast rests on the dead branches in the Confessarius's hand.
Its robust body is covered by an abundance of feathers, shining with luster.
It was reborn so easily and instantly from corruption.
Shining It seems like you're anxious about something as well.
Confessarius We have already arrived at the gate.
We've made great strides in our experiments, even just knocking softly on the door.
You must attend the final ritual—
Kal'tsit Mon3tr, meltdown!
Mon3tr (Angry howling)
Confessarius Five minutes will be enough, Salus. Stop her with your life.
Do not let them hinder me.
[Salus reveals herself.]
A black curtain of satin drapes down.
It binds the howling monster in multiple layers, giving it less and less space to struggle.
Mon3tr (Pained howling)
Shining Her Arts are black...?
Is that... Amiya's? What have you done to her?!
Kal'tsit ...No.
They didn't defeat her.
Salus I should have been able to present the King of Sarkaz to the leader unharmed. It's a pity.
But no matter. Even just getting a glimpse can let the fake take another step forward.
So, little creature. Don't disturb our leader at work—follow me elsewhere to wait till he's done!
Mon3tr (Angry wailing)
Kal'tsit Mon3tr!
Shining Dr. Kal'tsit, you're in no shape to exert yourself.
I said last time that our next meeting would be on the battlefield.
Confessarius Oh? Then why are you concealing your sword even now?
You swore to sever your ties with our lineage when you left home, and this whole time I've been looking forward for you to return and fulfil your promise.
I gave you time, but you disappoint me again and again.
We were supposed to produce the next me. We would have created the most intangible bloodline in the last hundred years.
[Qui'sartuštaj leashes Nightingale with his Arts...]
Nightingale Ugh...!
[...and Shining tries to cut off the leash.]
Confessarius Hm.
Sharp, but so impure. What's happened to your soul?
Did you think you still had hope to cling onto, after leaving us?
Shining ......
Come back!
Nightingale ......!
I won't...
Let you manipulate me!
[Nightingale breaks free from Qui'sartuštaj's leash.]
Confessarius Oh...? You're a creation that has surpassed my expectations.
You're supposed to be just a shell, and yet you can touch "me"?
Nightingale Now, Shining!
I... I can't hold on much longer!
Shining ......
A strange feeling surges from within Shining.
Nightingale is resisting the Confessarius, and even suppressing him—the ancient devil's soul has never manifested in such a vulnerable state before.
Bloodline. The word itself sounds unreal, but at this moment there only seems to be an extensive crack of blood right in front of her eyes.
But Shining hesitates.
Why is this so simple?
How could it be this simple?
Kal'tsit Nightingale, stop!
It's a trap! He's waiting for your Arts to resonate!
Nightingale —!
Time slows down.
Mon3tr fights with Salus as Kal'tsit yells out. Everything flows past like streams of light.
Confessarius Both you and I know where fate will lead us, but those without self-awareness will only trap themselves in their own pitiful cage.
It's futile to despise your bloodline and resist your fate. No one can deny the natural gifts bestowed by our bloodline.
I will do for you what you're hesitating to do, to crack an opening in the cage... Enter it with me, and I will bring you back onto the right track.
Think it through before you make your choice...
*Ancient Sarkaz name*.
<Background black>
A white sword pierces though a heart atop a stone platform covered with dead branches.
Shining remembers the first time she cried, she remembers just how amazing it was, the birth of an unexpected emotion.
A brand new soul is carved anew under the blade.
??? I've seen... pain... your... tears...
Confessarius Accidents are bound to bring surprises. You could have stopped your explorations here and now, but you just can't bear to destroy the ignorant consciousness in that hollow shell.
And so you sew memories into the empty husk instead.
Shining She's Liz. She shouldn't...
Confessarius You did this of your own free will, filled up this consciousness with a name, with "Liz".
<Background 2>
"Liz" is afraid of the completely silent person sitting across from her at the long table.
They agreed to sit here every night at the same hour for dinner together.
But the white-horned Sarkaz opposite her with a sword in her hands no longer speaks or moves outside of recording her every action she can remember today.
"Liz" always asks herself, have I done something to upset her?
"Liz" misses the beautiful memories, of how their lives were before...
Liz? I keep having the same dream every day. I dream of us as children, walking in a stream hand in hand...
Then I flew upwards, and kept going higher and higher. You couldn't hold me back, and I saw you crying from the clouds.
Every time, when I wish to return to your side, I always wake up in pain.
I ache from your suffering, and I want to bear it for you.
I just need you to tell me why you feel like this...
Shining ......
Confessarius Qui'saršinnag. This name means "inseparable hope"—our destiny.
Poor "Liz". She think it's all her fault, because of the momentary kindness you showed her.
Shining I've already abandoned that sinful name. I'm called Shining now, and will always be.
Confessarius Is that so? Are you sure you can resist your family's destiny that has carried on for a millennium?
I'm looking forward to it.
<Background 3>
"Liz" holds the blue fowlbeast rescued from the river in her hands.
The indigo feathers are trembling, and the cold river water makes her shiver.
She thought Qui'saršinnag would get angry at her, but the sorrowful Sarkaz merely weaves a brand new birdcage for "Liz".
"Put it inside, and it'll stay safe always."
Liz? I'm sorry, Qui'saršinnag. I didn't mean to endanger myself by going into the river to save it...
But I just couldn't watch it die.
I became fond of it the moment your family gifted it to me.
It likes to fly freely, but once it gets too far away from me it seems to lose its life, and falls into the river...
You say I did something similar yesterday... but I have no recollection of that at all.
But I'll listen to you, and put it inside the cage. I'll keep it safe.
Please don't get angry. I promise you something so foolish as this won't ever happen again.
Confessarius The cage has finally accepted their own duty, and you have also realized your own destiny.
The more fragments and lies you fill her up with, the more confusion and suffering she goes through.
I've lifted those dusty fragments for her. There's no undoing her awakening, and eventually, she will suffer as her rootless consciousness crumbles.
Shining I won't let that happen, Father.
I'll end our sins with my own hands, and Liz will be "cured".
Confessarius And what next? Isn't her regaining the truth the very thing you fear, my dear sister?
This is the source of your woeful hesitation.
Shining ......
Confessarius I tolerate you wandering around with this receptacle, continuously strengthening this fragile cage...
Because I trust you to cherish it with your all, and you never disappoint me.
Eventually you'll come back to my side with the cage in tow.
That's what you've done. Look, She even tried to cage me in, to create an opportunity for you to defeat me.
Your rebellious love for her, and her fate resisting conscience have sadly only become another catalyst together.
Shining You—
—Even want to use the hope she found herself?!
<Background 4>
Liz? Shining? Are you here?
Shining !
Liz? I can sense your breathing, but I can't see you...
Shining I'm here, Liz!
Confessarius She can't hear your voice. We're walking within her tattered consciousness—
—Inside the cage.
Shining sees the blue fowlbeast, huge enough to fill her vision.
Giant gray eyes look down on her, she is unable to see herself reflected in those eyes.
The fowlbeast's sharp beak opens and closes, a mellow voice trails in from nowhere.
Liz? Shining... there's a vague question echoing in my head together with a name that stings me, but I can't recall it at all...
I might be able to remember it after we leave this place.
I've found I can share the pains of others and slow down their lives withering away.
You said we'd go to faraway places to find a way to cure me, and maybe I can cure others in pain along the way too.
Shining ......
Confessarius She's submerged in those disorderly and fragmented memories, and will eventually lose herself in them.
Or perhaps she'll go mad, or maybe she'll end her own life before that happens.
But you know how to solve this, Qui'saršinnag. I've taught you.
Shining ......
Confessarius Draw your sword, and cut down your blood relatives here and now.
Our souls will reconnect with your sword as a bridge, and you—
Will give birth.
To ancient power.
This is your inescapable destiny.
Become one with me, and use the remains of your bloodkin to nourish her consciousness that will stay shattered otherwise.
Shining ......
Forgive me, Liz.
<Background 1>
Shining clutches the sword in her arms, and the Confessarius's hand is already pressing on the scabbard.
Confessarius At last, Qui'saršinnag...
Day and night are about to pour out from the sheath.
But a single hand holds onto Shining's sleeve.
Nightingale Shining. I like your new name much better.
Shining Liz...
Nightingale I feel like I've slept for a long time, lost myself within an infinity of fragments.
But I heard your voice, and you guided me to a place buried underneath the countless fragments.
I dug up some of my splintered memories there... and I still haven't remembered them all.
But I've recalled the question that I should have given you my answer to long ago...
I forgave you long ago.
Even before you resolved to seal all the memories of that laboratory away...
So I'm angry with you for deciding to act on your own without asking me.
Shining ......
Nightingale "Liz". I've always loved the name you chose for me.
Don't run away and bear everything by yourself. Didn't we promise to face it all together—
Shining sees Nightingale's eyes, and her smile.
When she comes back to her senses, the hand has already quietly slipped away from her sleeve.
<Background 1>
Confessarius A tragedy we have here, but the ending has already been determined.
You killing me will turn you into the breeding ground for the next in our bloodline, or, you can look on helplessly as you watch me take her away and drown in your regrets after.
It's all the same, Sister.
Salus Sir, we need to retreat!
[Ascalon shows up and strikes Salus, causing her Arts to dissipate.]
Salus Ugh!
Ascalon ......
How many bloodlines have you yet to touch, Chimera? Show me.
How many times can you put blood back into your body, and tell yourself your own fate?
Mon3tr (Confused growl)
Mon3tr? (Angry howling)
Mon3tr (Excited cry)
Confessarius Your little monster's copy is quite poor.
Is this because you're not as strong as you were before your rebirth, or is Dame Kal'tsit, beloved of all tribes, even more injured than I thought?
Mon3tr? (Disdainful roar)
[The second Mon3tr reveals itself to be the other half of the reincarnated Damazti Cluster — which is on Rhodes Island's side.]
Damazti Cluster Qui'sartuštaj. The other part has chosen you.
So what will you bring him?
Confessarius The name "Qui'sartuštaj" itself is the answer.
(In ancient Sarkaz) "Inextinguishable hope".
Qui'saršinnag. The cage is already awake. If you continue to keep her by your side, she will only... like the dewdrops of early dawn, evaporate and fade away in the light.
Shining ......
Confessarius I will take her away, and I will help you maintain her, I will help you make amends—
I will forge this cage into a crown.
And then, you will, we will be—
The King of Sarkaz for all eternity.
[Qui'sartuštaj flees along with Salus and Nightingale with his Arts.]
Kal'tsit There's no point in chasing after him.
Take stock of our losses and prepare to move at once. We still have unstabilized wounded, but our cover here has already been blown.
Shining Dr. Kal'tsit.
Kal'tsit Operator Nightingale is an employee of the Rhodes Island Medical Department, and we will not allow anyone to take her away or to do her harm.
But we might place her in greater danger if we make any rash moves. After all, we"re facing an immortal "Lord of Fiends" that has been coveting the crown for thousands of years.
Qui'sartuštaj. The one who knocks on the door, the King of Usurping Kings.
I knew the threat of the Confessarii since the days of Babel, even though my numerous countermeasure attempts were all in vain.
Theresis concealed them so well that everyone merely thought of them as the regent's guards.
Shining Please be at ease. I know what we have to do now.
Ascalon I thought you'd be less calm than this.
What's your plan?
Shining Liz... She has made her own choice.
A choice even I had never dared to think of, daring, aggressive, and also the most effective method. It seems like the one afraid of loss and death has always been me...
What I need to do. Heh.
Is to catch up to her.
Kal'tsit ...I believe in you both.
How's Amiya, Ascalon?
Ascalon She and the Doctor were also beset by the Confessarii's surprise attack, and are now with Logos.
Amiya has been affected by some kind of witchcraft. The one who they call Salus tried to seize the King of Sarkaz's power from her directly and failed, but Amiya's current condition is... very strange.
She's fallen into a coma.
Kal'tsit Amiya's connection with the "Lord of Fiends" is only growing stronger, so we can only place our faith in her.
Ascalon We also discovered several of the Vampires' Arts Circles, accompanied by some "illusions" from history.
The Doctor mentioned that the Originium used to build these Arts Circles was very "special".
Kal'tsit ......
Well then, Lord Damazti, I thank you for your assistance. What do you seek from us?
Damazti Cluster We seek change. To hone ourselves. And meaning.
We seek the meaning of living a long and disordered life. You will show it to us, and we will verify it.
...That's all.
Kal'tsit ......
Tell Closure and Feist to sweep this place thoroughly. We'll leave in three hours.
Leave a message for W to head towards Brentwood as per our original plans
We... really have to hurry.
<Background 5>
Infected Child Hey! Uncle Nowell! The lens in my glasses fell out again!
Nowell *Sigh*
I told you so many times your ears are too soft.
You grip on the frames so hard every time you feel your glasses sliding down that you break and change their shape. So of course the lens won't stay in place.
Let me have a look.
Infected Child It's because you gave me such a heavy pair to wear!
But I found a better method, look!
Little Susanna pulls out two leaves from behind her, and wedges the stems on her ears with the tips resting on her nose bridge.
Ah, glasses of green, fashioned with leaves.
Infected Child Ta-da! What'd you think?
Nowell Can you see with them?
Infected Child I can! Really!
Just face the sun, like this—
The child goes over to Nowell and puts two leaves on his eyes.
Nowell's vision is filled with a verdant green.
Nowell Alright, kid, you—
Infected Child Just look!
Leaf veins.
The sunlight at noon in the forest is not very strong, but it is enough to shine through the thin leaves and reveal their interlaced veins, clear for all to see.
Infected Child How is it? You can see, right?
You won't see anything interesting with that frown always on your face, Uncle Nowell!
He stares blankly at the sun with the leaves covering his eyes.
Nowell ...I can't see anything at all.
But, I know of a story from Yan of the east, a tale of "missing the forest for the leaves"—
Infected Child Nuh-uh, not listening! You're as boring as ever, Uncle Nowell!
The child with the glasses made of leaves comes and goes like a breeze, and disappears into the distant camp in the blink of an eye.
[Talulah shows up.]
Talulah It seems like you don't get along with the children, Mr. Nowell.
Nowell If it isn't Talulah. Done with work?
I told that story to my son once... however, he didn't like hearing my stories either. Maybe I'm just not suited for it.
Talulah You have an abundance of experience, even if we only know it from a smattering of phrases.
An average downtrodden Victorian optometrist who fled here after his shop was taken away from him amidst the war.
He sympathized with the Infected who were being discriminated against, and so chose to join their group and help out a little with his abilities.
You've always displayed a respectable character ever since I got to know you, Mr. Nowell.
But it's because of that... I...
Nowell Please speak your mind, Talulah.
Talulah I'm just curious why a long-lived like you would deign to conceal your identity and do such insignificant things.
Nowell ......
Talulah I noticed. Of course, this is still much better than the worst-case scenario I thought of.
However... you can deny it, and we'll speak of it no more. I'll tell Nine though.
Nowell I won't.
Nowell smiles, plucks a leaf and fiddles with it.
Nowell There are actually many Victorians who I'm well-acquainted with, that know my identity... I only wish to avoid scaring my travel companions.
But I'd like to correct you on one point, Talulah. I'm not "deigning" to act like this.
My longevity aside, I doubt I'm any more talented than ordinary people.
The long-lived gain their longevity through different means, as diverse as the Originium Arts they use.
But we aren't always influential figures, Talulah.
Talulah ......
Nowell In fact... I'm much more interested in your story.
A descendant of the red dragon, founder of Reunion, and the leader of the Infected movement that took off in Ursus. To think you'd still act so shrewdly towards a so-called "long-lived"?
Talulah ...Who exactly are you, Mr. Nowell?
Nowell Just some guy.
A hundred and fifty years ago, I was telling my third son the fables I learned from my travels in Yan, and he left my side from impatience.
And as I stood before his granddaughter's granddaughter, I was once again a stranger in a large family.
So now I harbor anger and pain inside me, giving up entirely on both family and love as I try to locate the villain hiding in Victoria who manipulated my fate.
I spent the last century researching... researching the "long-liveds", the "gods", the "masterminds", the "immemorials", and myself.
I tried to benefit from the system of nobility, to hone my Originium Arts, to accumulate wealth and exchange it for secrets...
I tried every method you can fathom to get closer to the truth, but I haven't been successful at all.
I didn't manage to become nobility or wealthy. I only had a little shop... that's all I really had. Combat abilities wise, I might not even be able to defeat Mr. Guard.
Time has only taught me to recognize the reality that I hold no talents at all.
That's the story of an ordinary person, Talulah. This tale I can freely share with you.
Nowell drops the leaves that were in his hand, and the breeze blows them far away.
He dusts himself off, and picks up his suitcase once more.
Nowell Please, rest assured I hold no ill intent towards you all. I only wish to find... the "hands of fate" that cursed me.
She hides behind the country, treating her monarch as her glove, and the city-state her chessboard.
She merely looks upon everything labeled "Victoria" with a cold gaze. If needed, "Victoria" can even be destroyed and rebuilt, and topped off with a new flag after.
How can I believe she isn't involved in our current turmoil of absurdity?
She's definitely hiding within the dukes. Watching the Sarkaz and Victorians engage in mutual slaughter. Bloodshed and sacrifice are merely heartless parameters and indicators to her.
Perhaps you might have been manipulated by a similar pair of "hands" before—you have royal blood running through your veins after all. She has no reason to let you nor Alistair's daughter go.
Talulah Me? I do know another conspirator, but he doesn't deserve to be called a god, nor can he manipulate my fate.
Nowell But that's exactly how they live on, Talulah.
I want to know how to kill them.
Or perhaps, how to kill myself.
Talulah ......
Nowell It's getting late, I need to fix little Susanna's glasses.
Talulah Mr. Nowell, you...
Nowell Talulah. The reason why I willingly tell you all of this, and why I joined Reunion—do forgive my selfishness—it is due to the intuition I"ve honed by the extra century I"ve lived.
You too, have resisted such a predetermined fate.
All of you here have.