chapter fifteen | sentenced

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"Arael Dalton, you are sentenced to life in jail for committing treason, attempted murder, theft, and conspiracy." Queen Malika pointed towards Arael, sending guards who were previously standing stiffly behind herself to him.

Arael didn't make a move to attack her- he was too busy gasping for air. It seemed that the blow the girl inflicted on him reached his throat as well.

A guard who I assumed to be the head grabbed hold of a pair of handcuffs and forcefully locked them around Arael's wrists. "These are magic-absorbent titanium handcuffs, so don't even try to break out of them," warned the same guard. He yanked Arael up, the latter remaining silent as the guards brought him to the prison cell he deserved.

We looked back at Queen Malika. After seeing that Arael didn't do anything brash, she picked up the Fire and Darkness keys that fell out of his grasp when the Ice Dragonslayer defeated him and turned back to look at us. On the side of her right eye was a forming bruise, the skin getting bluer by the second. Noticing me looking at the injury, Queen Malika used her long auburn hair to cover it.

"Thank you for fulfilling my request. You all have saved this kingdom. Not only have you gotten back the eight keys, but with your combined power, you have managed to defeat Arael. You will be receiving a bigger reward because of this." Queen Malika smiled gratefully.

"You're welcome, Queen Malika. It wasn't all us who defeated Arael, though. It was this girl," said Sienna, looking back towards the Ice Dragonslayer. She continued, "However, may I ask, what happened to you, Your Majesty?"

"Oh... I see. Then I will make arrangements for the reward to be split more evenly. Just call me Malika, it's fine. I was waiting for this guild to arrive with the keys. The doors opened. I thought it was this guild, only to find out that it was the enemy instead.

"Arael locked me up in one of my own chambers and left, but somehow..." She paused for a moment. Then she cocked her head, looking confused. "...Somehow, the chains he tied me up in just came loose, and I was free. I found the guards and rushed here as fast as I could. By the time I got here, Arael was severely injured."

"What? The chains came loose?" Reaper questioned, a bit too harshly. Lana shot a glare at him and then glanced back at Malika apologetically.

"It's fine. Yes, the chains came loose. It felt like there was some sort of force controlling them and moving them away from me. I don't know how..." Malika explained. She winced as her eyes looked back to the bruise on her head. Arael must have knocked her there.

"Qu- er, M-Malika, is it alright if I try to heal that... bruise on your head?" Suddenly, I heard Lyra's soft voice ask Malika.

The Queen nodded. "Yes, of course."

Lyra stepped closer to Malika and put her hands out before her, as if she was comforting a small child. "Curare," she murmured.

A green aura appeared on top of her bruise and then disappeared into it. Almost immediately, the bruise faded away.

"Thank you," said Malika.

"Y-you're welcome..." Lyra smiled.

"U-um, I think this is yours," a voice stammered. Our heads turned to look at the direction of the sound. It was the girl who had earlier betrayed and fought Arael. I almost forgot she was there for an instant.

Lyra's expression changed from a surprised one to a warm and relieved one. With a small smile, she muttered a 'thanks' and took her gun back from her, the touch between skin and metal making a soft clink.

Seeing this, Malika looked at the doors where the guards had dragged Arael through. Then she turned back. "I'll be attending to Arael's punishment now. Here's your reward. Once again, thank you all very much."

A young woman scurried towards the Queen and handed each of us a fairly large sack of Jewels- it was heavy, but I could still manage. In return, we handed over each of the elemental keys.

Queen Malika smiled and thanked us for the second time. Then she waved goodbye as she advanced towards the doors to attend to her business.

There was silence for a few seconds while we tried to register what just happened. We turned around to face the girl who defeated Arael simultaneously. "Ah!" She squeaked, squirming under the sudden attention.

"Where did you come from?" Grim asked.

"Did you follow us?" Hikari demanded.

"How come when you're in battle, you seem so much less timid than compared to out of battle?" Lana wondered.

The poor girl's face turned red and she looked as if she was going to faint under the pressure.

Akuma rolled her eyes and stepped up. "Come on, stop bombarding her with questions, let's give her space and a couple of seconds to breathe."

We all shifted back and paused for a few moments. After deciding that it was enough, Akuma slowly asked in the most soothing voice she could muster, "Alright, ...what's your name?"

The girl took in a deep breath and gently released it.

"M-my name i-is... Emma."

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