Chapter 344: Past Events (Part 1)
What a queer form of address... It’s something you’d only hear in the tales of old.
Attempting to move her eyes was a struggle. She tried casting her gaze to the side only to see a gray-haired man enter her field of view, several women standing by his side.
"How do you feel?" he asked softly.
"..." she didn't reply, asking a question instead, "Where am I?"
"Border Town, Kingdom of Greycastle’s western territory."
Great, she thought. Things currently looked to be developing in the direction she least wanted them to: an unknown location, an unknown time period, and unknown people. She wanted to get up out of bed, but she discovered that she couldn’t muster a single iota of strength.
"I am Roland Wimbledon, the fourth prince of the Kingdom of Greycastle as well as the feudal lord of Border Town," he continued after a short pause, "These girls are members of the Witch Union. You... Do you not remember anything?"
Witch Union? she frowned, So they're witches? I don't know what kind of newfangled organisation this is, but at least we're alike. Still... Why do they look like this man's subordinates?
Wait, a prince?
She thought back for a moment and couldn’t help feeling stunned. Wasn't this one of the titles used in the secular regime during the First War of God's Will over four hundred years ago? Could it be... Did I return to a time before the start of the great war? Could the gods have possibly given me another chance to start over, to make preparations, to rescue the Holy City and its people?
No, calm down, she told herself, This kind of completely illogical affair would only occur in a fictional tavern story. That's right, she thought while trying to recall the scene at the end. There was a horde of Mad Demons that had charged into the experimental lab’s basement and she had discharged all the magic in her body to construct the sturdiest possible ice barrier. A magic stone of reverberation had been set to release distress signals non-stop, awaiting the day they restored their fertile fields and could locate her again.
"Were you the ones who saved me?" There was no mistake, she had already escaped from the ice barrier so the only possibility was that the witch's army had returned! "Have the Devils withdrawn already? Have we won!? The Holy City... What happened to the Holy City of Taqila?"
Having blurted out this series of questions, she saw the faces of the other party change. They looked at one another with expressions of joy and excitement. "We really did find you in the basement of a stone tower,” said a witch with a mature looking face and auburn hair. She clearly couldn’t stop herself from asking, “Are you truly someone from four hundred and fifty years ago?"
That person reminded her of the miraculous Holy Warrior who had fought against impossible odds. That woman's hair had also been like this, like a flame igniting everyone's spirit. She was more willing to answer the witch's question than the one the grey-haired man asked. She did not usually care much for social hierarchies, but she nevertheless found being interrogated by someone beneath her somewhat offensive.
Had it been her petty master in her place, this man would most likely be severely punished.
"My name is Agatha, a witch of the Taqila Exploration Society," she paused, "What do you mean by four hundred and fifty years ago? Don’t tell me... Have you been fighting with the Devils for over four hundred years? That's impossible."
"You've slept for a very long time, things might be a little different from what you imagine," said the man who called himself Roland, "If you think it won't be a burden to your body, we can fill you in slowly."
Agatha closed her eyes and took a deep breath. This prince behaved very rudely, but she did not have the energy to argue about such matters.
As the other party began to detail the history relating to Greycastle and the development of the Four Great Kingdoms of the continent, she felt shivers creep down her spine. She soon discovered a few familiar features in his tale—the Concealing Forest and the Impassable Mountain Range for example... But when she compared these points with her memories, the conclusion was absolutely shocking.
If those places corresponded to the ones in her memories, then those so-called Four Great Kingdoms were part of the desolate lands of the past—a long, narrow area situated between the mountains and the sea that was, in her contemporaries’ opinion, a barren place with no development value whatsoever. And the forbidden wastelands he spoke of laid where she remembered the fertile plains to be. Finally, when it came to the Holy City of Taqila, it had long become a region no one knew of, buried in the depths of the fertile plains after many, many years.
How ridiculous was this?
However, there was something to top even that.
The status of witches in society had been lost along with Taqila. According to the prince, witches had unexpectedly become the target of opprobrium in the wider society and the regular people had a firm grip on power in the Four Great Kingdoms. All those obsolete playthings from before the First War of God's Will now called themselves kings and lords.
Yet it was precisely these antediluvian beings who had become the rulers that dominated the witches.
How could this be?
"Preposterous!" She couldn’t stop herself objecting, "To have witches actually be killed by regular people? Who would be courageous enough to dare do such a thing?"
Full of indignation, Agatha extended her arm, intending to teach this drivelling man a lesson, but to her surprise the magic failed to transform into frost and was not discharged.
It was only at this moment that she noticed a metal cuff fastened around her ankle. When she lifted up the quilt she saw there was a stone embedded in the shackle - a God's Stone of Retaliation.
“Are you guys insane!?” She looked at the group of witches in disbelief, "You would go so far as to help a regular person suppress a high-ranked witch, violating the Federation's prohibition on unauthorized use of a God's Stone of Retaliation!?"
Only the Federation's law enforcement team was allowed to use the God Stones. Anybody apart from them who dared to carry, sell, modify or destroy the God Stones would receive the most severe of punishments, up to the death penalty.
The prince sighed, "This was what I was worried about."
"Don't worry, I'll go and talk to her," the auburn-haired witch sat at the bedside, covering Agatha’s body with the quilt once again, "My name is Wendy. You see, things aren't really as you believe them to be. Not only is all he said true... Taqila no longer exists and I have never heard about the federation you spoke of either. I don't know what the Holy City you lived in four hundred and fifty years ago was like, but nowadays we witches are always spending our days in hiding. As we have been until we met Prince Roland."
"He gave us a safe place to stay, encouraged us to use our powers, and at the same time researched ways on how to make use of our abilities to transform the world. Here, we can live completely free, just like a normal person, without the need to hide. Neither do we have to worry about suffering persecution from the church or the masses. You must know that nowadays God's Stones of Retaliation are everywhere. A witch that loses her powers is no stronger than a normal person.”
After listening to Wendy’s story, Agatha was completely silent.
The Federation was a large organisation established jointly by several witch kingdoms. It possessed many high-ranked witches and witch extraordinaires. They concentrated their forces in order to win the War of God's Will and the Federation formed a colossal army while incorporating every Holy City into the fold at the same time. It was responsible for training and dispatching witches, resolving disputes, and maintaining the stability and public order of the city. Only it had the power to capture and try a witch... Yet somehow an organisation that powerfull had declined so much that no one knew of its reputation nowadays...
Those refugees who wanted to re-establish order, she mused, Where are they now?
For more court politics, check out Return of the Swallow.