Floor 1 Power of the Agents
In the borderless ocean up in the far north, a tiny boat was voyaging through the turquoise water. Enduring the freezing wind, Enoch came onto the deck and stared at the little dot on the far horizons, his eyes were filled with worry.
???: You’re here.
Enoch: Ingrid...Where did Panther go?
Ingrid: It hates the cold and is sitting next to the fireplace to stay warm… Don’t worry about them.
Enoch: ...Is it really that obvious?
Ingrid: You write everything on your face! Madam Heidi is perfectly qualified to be a Class-S mage, she simply didn’t sit the exams… And the stupid dragon girl…
Ingrid squinted as if in pain and struggled for a while. At last, she continued unwillingly.
Ingrid: She’s one of the legendary runedragons, how could she be in danger! Your agents are all strong and independent mages. What is there to worry about! Be sensible, will you?
Enoch: Ha, you’re quite right. My agents are indeed very talented.
A strong rush of icy wind blew, flipping Ingrid’s beautiful hair as she put her arms around herself.
Ingrid: Sss… I know it’s winter now, but isn’t it a bit too cold? I’ve already used some magic as protection, but it still chills me to the bone. How could those people live here? If I were them, I would’ve moved to somewhere more comfortable long ago.
Enoch: … I guess that’s because the northern land is their home. Even though living here has a lot of downsides, the fact that they love this land is inalterable.
Ingrid: … Hehe, Enoch is so nice. Always saying moving things.
Rarely could Ingrid put off her guard and show her innocent, youthful self of a young girl. But now, she was smiling brightly and looking Enoch in the eye. At the instant, Enoch felt as if he was surrounded by strong affection. His heart was tickling, his face blushing.
Ingrid: Huh? You looked flushed. Are you having a fever?
Ingrid came closer to Enoch and wanted to feel his forehead—
Sailor: Everyone, we’re arriving soon.
Enoch: “Phew… that was close.”
Soon after Enoch and Ingrid finished packing their bags, the boat was moored. The two left the boat along with Panther, and after getting instructions from residents of the neighbourhood, they headed towards the temple where the regalia was located. But once they set foot on the perimeter of the temple, their vision was blocked by white, misty fog in the forest.
Ingrid: This could be an illusion created by the regalia. Watch out.
Enoch nodded earnestly and entered the fogginess together with Ingrid and Panther. The fog was so thick that it seemed to have swallowed his two companions instantly. Here, one couldn’t even see his hands clearly and all noises were muted. Feeling a little uneasy, Enoch called softly.
Enoch: Ingrid, Panther, are you still around?
However, he didn’t receive any response. While he was trying to look for his missing partners, two people appeared from behind him all of a sudden.
Child: … I’m hungry…
Woman: Please… Help me…
Enoch: What’s the matter? What happened to you?
Enoch had always been solicitous that he decided to help them without any hesitation or doubt. But as he wanted to offer them a helping hand, the woman and the child gave him a spooky smile and pounced on him.
Child: I’m gonna eat you!
Woman: Give me your power!
Floor ２ The Cursed Regalia
As Enoch held his wand in the air and was about to conjure his magical power, a voice behind him held him back.
???: Back off meow, you coward!
Enoch: Huh? Woah!
Enoch retreated immediately. Meanwhile, an agile beast landed from the sky and expelled the woman and the child. Squinting his eyes, Enoch could spot the familiar stripes on the beast, as well as the three fluffy tails which he had always desired to rub.
Panther: Humph! If it wasn’t for me, the elements in your body would’ve been taken away by those evil spirits meow!
Enoch: Evil spirits? So they were already dead…
Ingrid: You’re blaming yourself again. They died a long time ago, and there’s nothing you can do to save them… Hmm, looks like the mages had their elements taken away because they were too guilty to do harm to their dead friends.
Enoch: Is it done by the regalia?
Ingrid: Very likely. Something must’ve made the regalia out of control. Tut! They’re so annoying!
When Ingrid was explaining, a throng of evil spirits came out of the blue and besieged them.
Ingrid: Enoch! Panther and I will hold them off, go and get the regalia now!
Enoch: It… Alright! Be careful!
Panther: These guys are too weak to pose any threat to a genius like me. Just shut up and run!
Waving its right paw, Panther expelled some of the evil spirits and created a gap for Enoch to escape. After thanking Panther with a grateful glance, Enoch held his wand tight and dashed away. Concentrated, he sensed the elements and found that they were clustering around a central point. Ignoring the fog, he traced the path in which the elements were floating.
Enoch: Found it! That’s Tyr’s Giant Axe— Woah!
As if knowing that it was in threat, the axe summoned the evil spirits to attack Enoch, who was lucky to have dodged it. Lifting his wand and pointing it towards the evil spirits, he muttered sympathetically.
Enoch: Please forgive me!
Evil Spirit: Urghhh!
The evil spirit couldn’t stand the attack and vanished, allowing Enoch to reach the regalia. The Giant Axe was covered by uneven rust stains, which symbolized countless battles and death. The regalia reflected some kind of peculiar murky light, which filled Enoch with disgust and made him nauseous.
Enoch: “It must be this cursed power that has caused the malfunction of the regalia… Then what I have to do is to purify it!”
Enoch stretched out his hand to touch the regalia. But as soon as he reached it, an immense reaction force exerted by the regalia pushed him away and sent him flying. In the meantime, a burly phantom appeared, exerting strong pressure on Enoch. The phantom grabbed the handle and pulled out the heavy Giant Axe smoothly.
Enoch: “He… Isn’t he the owner of the regalia… Tyr, the Judge of Aesir!”
Tyr: Power… Elements… Give me your elements…
Enoch: “Damn! I can’t just stand here. If he attacks, I’d certainly die in one strike!”
Enoch constructed numerous elemental shields in front of himself immediately, but they were too fragile to stand the attack of Tyr, who was holding his Giant Axe. In a crash, all of the shields were shattered.
But Enoch didn’t rely solely on the shields to defend against Tyr’s attack, all he needed was a few extra seconds which could allow him to escape into the misty forest. He looked behind him and saw Tyr’s wraith chasing closely after.
Enoch: “He followed just as I had predicted. Everything can go as planned.”
Tapping on his legs with the wand, Enoch speeded up and Tyr soon fell far behind. Losing sight of Enoch, Tyr stood there alertly and directed all his attention to detecting the noises in the forest. And he heard it - the faint, sizzling sound of someone’s clothes rubbing against the leaves.
Tyr ran towards the origin of the noise and caught sight of a black cape. Excited, he lifted the Giant Axe with a kick and hacked it off with tremendous strength. BOOM! The Giant Axe had left a crater on the ground along with a broken cape, but Enoch was nowhere to be found. Tyr was utterly confused when he heard a voice emitting from above.
Enoch: Gotcha! It’s my turn now!
Enoch had been waiting in ambush on top of the tree and was ready to purify the regalia. He hopped off and put his element-filled hands onto Tyr’s axe. Flashes of blinding lights which looked like the bright morning glow were gleaming, the murky lights which had initially surrounded the regalia were now gone as if purified. As the regalia regained its calmness, the wraith of Tyr vanished.
Enoch: Phew… Did...did it work?
Floor 3 The Consequence of Faith
The purification of the regalia had drained Enoch so much that he had to rest in the crate. Examining his black cape which had been badly torn by the regalia, he shook his head, looking tired and a little annoyed.
Enoch: “Sigh… The cape is ripped now, the person who gave it to me must be really upset...”
???: Enoch! Are you hurt? Let me see!
Ingrid came and was startled to see Enoch lying on the ground and all the mess around him, which made her believe that Enoch must have gotten hurt. She rushed to Enoch and crouched down to check on him, getting so worried that she almost tore off Enoch’s clothes. Enoch spaced out a little before he grabbed Ingrid’s hands and made a response.
Enoch: Hold...hold on. I… I am not injured or anything. Don’t take off my clothes!
Enoch: Really. I’m just a bit tired after using so much power.
Ingrid: Thank god…
Ingrid was relieved and heaved a long sigh. But as soon as she realized that Enoch had held her hands, she went scarlet and shook off his hands awkwardly. Rising abruptly, she crossed her arms in front of her chest and turned away.
Ingrid: I… I… I… am an agent, it’s my responsibility to take care of the principal. That’s all, and nothing else! And you, don’t ever lie on the ground if you’re okay. I thought you got hurt. Get up now, everyone is waiting for us.
Enoch: Everyone? They’ve all got the regalia?
Ingrid: Yes, and we wouldn’t have taken so long if Panther didn’t get distracted by food. Anyway, let’s go now.
Enoch stood up and joined Ingrid to return to the centre of Asgard, where Tyr’s Axe was located. The agents of Charlouette were all assembled, but no one felt the joy of completing a commission. Instead, the atmosphere remained grim.
Enoch: What happened?
Mephibo: Enoch, we’ve just got the news from the chairman that millions of demons had gathered near the border of the North. Presumably, they are about to launch a massive attack.
Enoch: Damn! They’re quick.
Madam Heidi: Now that the barrier has lost its defensive power, they must’ve recognized it as an unmissable chance to invade the North.
Ingrid: Then what are we waiting for? Let’s rebuild the barrier.
Qingxia: The barrier in the North was set by Tawil and I’ve marked down the magic formula that she used. We should be able to rebuild the barrier by following her formula.
Hong Ai: Let’s get started! I’m so tired from all the flying, I just wanna go home and sleep.
Under Qingxia’s instruction, they drew a magic circle, made offerings and placed the three regalia amidst the circle. Everything was finally in place after a while. Nevertheless, a strange feeling of anxiousness was churning inside of Enoch, but he was too perplexed to make sense of his uneasiness that came out of nowhere.
Enoch: “Though we’ve brought the regalia back, the reason as to why they had gone out of control still remains a mystery. Should we really rebuild the barrier? And it was built by mother...”
Qingxia: Are you okay? Enoch, you look quite unwell. Do you need something cute to cheer you up? Why don’t you go and hug Hong Ai——
Enoch: I’m good!
Qingxia: Hehe, I’ll go instead. It takes a lot of effort to build a barrier, let me just charge myself with a little cuteness before we start.
Watching how Qingxia swiftly approached Hong Ai and pounced on the girl, Enoch touched his right ear reflectively to feel the warmth of his earlobe. Tawil used to do the same thing to him and his sister, and Enoch picked it up as a habit.
Enoch: “... Hmm, I should trust her. Mother has always protected me and sister, she’ll never deceive or hurt us.”
The world froze for a moment when Qingxia activated the formula which turned out to be the lull of the storm. The next second, the eerie power of sparks and an ominous vibration filled the air. What followed was a deafening blare. BOOM——
The blazing explosion shattered everything in the perimeter. Everyone in the team was blown up by the blaze and crashed on the ground with injuries everywhere, especially Qingxia. She was standing in the middle of the barrier. Her fair face was stained with blood.
When Enoch could finally think clearly again, he soon realized that he wasn’t feeling any pain. It suddenly came to him that someone had rushed to protect him right before the devastating blaze happened.
Enoch helped Ingrid up. It was Ingrid who had just sacrificed herself to save him! Her back was severely injured, leaving blood and flesh all over the place. She gasped in pain as Enoch’s movements had dragged her wounds. Witnessing the disaster, he looked utterly desperate since his faith had turned against him.
Enoch: Why… why did this happen… Is it the consequence of my faith?