The Azure Bolt

Her sword plunging on soft flesh, much different from the usual clangor of metal against metal. A splatter of blood came out of the man's wound as she frantically took out her weapon.

Something was wrong. Something was wrong. That was the first time it happened.

His limp body fell backwards, while she lost her balance and fumbled on top of him.

Their eyes met, but the man's were dull and devoid of life. She took his helm off, out of instinct, no other reason. She fixated on the blue scales adorning his cheeks, much like the black feathers on her own. He was indeed a Reptide. He was indeed the enemy.

“Leuvre!” A voice cried in horror. She raised her head as a woman was about to chop it off with an axe. She sported the Vallendeur uniform, as the man did.

But the woman couldn't connect the hit, and Elster was safe. An ominous explosion of light, morphing the soldier's grimace from hate to terror, blew her several meters away from her target.

“El!” Grus was right behind her. Did she do that? Did she... did they both do that?

Suddenly, she remembered about the man.

She checked if he still had any pulse. She...

“El, what's wrong?!?”

Grus had erected a barrier over both of them and was looking at her, mildly worried.

“We need to save him!”

But Grus seemed puzzled.

“What are you doing? That's the enemy!”

Elster, still crouching down, looked at the man, then at his wounds, then at her sword red from blood.

She did that. She did that to him. She was a murderer.

Acid started gurgling from the bottom of her throat and vomit came gushing out.

She heard a single voice over the chaos of battle.

“Get a grip, Pickart!”

Her cheeks were burning from the slap she got from Captain Finken.

“You could've died there.”

“I know.”

The captain sighed.

“The people you trained with. Some died today.”

“I... I know.”

“They could've survived a bit longer if you hadn't broken down on your first time on the battlefield.”

Elster couldn't reply.

“I'd be silent too, if I were you. No “I'm sorry” will bring them back.”

The captain was right.

“Listen, Pickart... no, Elster.”

Captain Finken's — no, Frida's — face grew warmer, like a mother scolding her child. She put her hand on Elster's shoulder.

“You're a brilliant swordswoman. I mean it. But you're too soft for war.”

Elster felt her heart sink.

“B-But... I must, I need to protect...”

“You were the one who needed to be protected, today. Don't forget that.”

Silence fell again between them, until Elster found the courage to speak again.

“Captain, I...” She hesitated. “Are we murderers?”

The captain didn't meet her eyes.

“We're not murderers. We're soldiers. If you still want to live as one, you need to find a way to come to terms with it.”

Grus was awaiting her outside of the Captain's quarters.

She clinged to her shoulders, uncaring of what was around them. She held her, trembling, as if she needed to convince herself Elster was still safe. She managed to protect her. This time.

How Elster hugged her back, in comparison, was tepid.

“Don't you ever do that again.”

Elster smiled weakly, but her face soon turned dark again.

“Can you promise me that, El?”

But Elster kept silent.


Grus took her hand and led her away from others, in a quieter corner of the encampment.

“Please, look me in the eyes.”

“I can't.”


“I'm a murderer.”

“You're not.”

“I killed a man.”

“You thought you could fight a war without ever killing anyone?”

Elster finally met Grus's gaze, desperately trying to keep her tears in.

“Aren't you bothered...?”

“I'm not thinking about it.”

“How can you be so calm?!?”

“I've killed to protect you. Nothing else matters.”

The words of Captain Finken echoed in her head.

“You wouldn't have had to kill if I were stronger. Because of me, you...”

“Elster. Elster, listen to me.”

Grus firmly cupped both her cheeks, forcing her to look at her.

“I just want to come back home with you after this is all over. Understand?”

Elster nodded quietly, eyes wet with tears. Grus held her closer and gently caressed her hair, until she broke in sobs and then an ugly cry.

Finding a way to come to terms with it...

Leuvre was a Vallendeur soldier she knew nothing of. He had blonde hair, like hers, and blue scales. A woman she couldn't find among the bodies left on the battlefield, but whose face she could clearly remember, cried for his name, and tried to kill her in vengeance. She could've been a comrade, a sister, a girlfriend, a wife. Elster knew not her name.

But, fortunately, she knew Leuvre's. She managed to find his cold body, half-covered by fresh snow. He had no personal effects on him, except a necklace under his armor.

She dug his grave in the snow with her bare hands, refusing any help. Grus stayed behind her for the entire time, watching.

Elster firmly planted on the ground the polearm she pointed at her before dying. She then put the necklace around it.

She had found her own way.

The troops of Vallendeur learned to shiver in terror when they heard the name of the Azure Bolt. As fast as lightning, the young swordswoman from Himmelheit was said to be able to kill three soldiers in the blink of an eye.

But the Azure Bolt acted quickly not in the name of blood, but of mercy. She'd resolve to be better next time, so that they had no time to regret their last moments in life.

And she never forgot a single name or face.