Beatrice, Runa, and the giant hulking monstrosity carrying them on its back made their way towards Castle Balarand. Runa was giddy with laughter, but Beatrice was gripping the thing as tightly as possible. Her body was shaking more than even the bumpiest portions of that carriage ride to Mammoth Pass. This monster was moving so fast that she felt like her glasses were going to fly off at any moment.
She was on the back of a beast. An eight-foot-tall, humanoid beast. Its ears were so pointy she was afraid to touch them.
“I can’t believe you actually went and made a homunculus!” Beatrice shouted. The wise thing would be to do would be to be unassuming and try not to draw attention from the growing number of people outside as the sky grew dark from the ash rising across the city. The giant monster they were riding made that impossible, though. “And you used a human’s hair without their permission! That’s really rude!” That was not to mention the fact that it happened to be her girlfriend’s hair she used, making the creature all that more uncanny to look at.
Its lanky, hairless body made her quiver anytime she saw it, but its brown eyes resting their gaze on her tilled soil… well, she was pretty sure she knew where those came from. Nothing else bore any resemblance, but those eyes…
“I will do anything in the pursuit of domination,” Runa said. “I put none before that, not even myself.”
“What about a rebellion destroying Balarand and sending us into war with Dannark?”
“I will most certainly not allow that,” she said. “There is only one person allowed to conquer Balarand. Me.” Beatrice really hoped Runa grew out of her mad scientist phase soon…
Some Dannark soldiers jumped out from the shadows, lances pointed at the three of them. “Halt!” they shouted. “You cannot progress past this– Oh my Goddess!”
The homunculus charged forwards, knocking the weapons out of the soldiers’ grips and then literally tossing them aside.
“I’m thinking of naming it Hasha. Does that sound like a good name to you?”
Beatrice didn’t respond. There was no point.
On the side of the street, a pack of greyback bears howled, scared senseless by the horrific monster running past them. They bolted through the snow in the opposite direction.
Castle Balarand, now covered from corner to corner in rebel soldiers, was going to be impossible to get through. but that’s where all the prisoners seemed to be kept, and if Emi was going to be anywhere, it was probably there.
“We’re breaking into there just to save one measly woman?” Runa asked. “She is indeed beautiful, but that seems excessive.”
“And her family,” Beatrice added. “And any other people being wrongfully imprisoned by these people. We’re saving everyone.”
“What do they matter to me? Granted, they would surely become loyal subjects if I were to free them… But my plans better be in here, or I will be upset.”
“I think most of these rebel people are untrained civilians wielding weapons for the first time in their lives. It shouldn’t be too difficult.” Beatrice and Runa hopped off of the monster–er, “Hasha,” as it was apparently called, and stepped back from it.
Beatrice turned and looked at the homunculus. She tried not to cringe at its ugly, bulging face. It might have been the only chance they had to help, though. “I… can you clear out the soldiers up there?” she asked. It did nothing.
“Go on, you can do it,” Runa encouraged. “You’re mommy’s little sweetheart.”
On that note, the homunculus went towards the castle. There were screams and shouts, and soldiers quickly surrounded it, but they all went down very quickly. The homunculus only had to swing its arms from side to side to knock everyone around it out. At least, Beatrice desperately hoped they were only being knocked out.
After the field appeared to be cleared, Beatrice and Runa advanced. Runa patted the homunculus on its back, hopping into the air to reach it. “You’re such a good child,” she said. “You are going to have so many amazing siblings.”
“Come on, let’s go, Runa.”
They entered the castle with ease… only to find Dannark soldiers and rebel soldiers clashing by the dozens, slicing each other with swords and screaming out. Bodies littered the floor.
It was a terrifying scene to see, and one Beatrice took great pains to ignore. She tried to block it out as best she could and focus on the only question that mattered: where were the prisoners?
“Let’s find my plans!” Runa shouted.
The homunculus charged forwards through the frenzied fighting and Beatrice closed her eyes as tight as she could, just so she wouldn’t see the horrors they passed by. She only opened them when the screaming voices were well behind.
“We must find the evidence room and seize back what is rightfully mine.”
“Could we please free the prisoners first?!”
“And leave them to be caught up in the warring back there? I think not,” Runa said.
She may have been right. The castle was the epicenter for armed and bloody conflict, and releasing a whole load of unarmed prisoners into the middle of it was a recipe for disaster. They needed to act more carefully.
This was going to be tougher than Beatrice thought, if that were even possible.