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The Solitary Duchess[1]

Background

House Paxley ruled over the regions near the Lantis Mountains in the south of the Moniyan Empire. Generations of the house has guarded these areas for the empire, defending them against the invasion of the Abyss with magic and swords. As the house patriarch’s eldest daughter, Valentina was raised under strict rules. She grew up to be a proud perfectionist woman, the heir most qualified to lead this noble house. Since her teenage years, Valentina had fought the demons in the frontier, crushing bones and cracking skulls.

After Valentina became the chief commander of the Paxley militia, she once went alone to the Elves’ territory in the Moonlit Forest, seeking to build an alliance to fight the Abyss. An elven hero named Irlan was moved by Valentina’s sincerity and followed her out of the Moonlit Forest with his friends.

Elves and humans had since fought alongside each other on the battlefields in the Lantis Mountains. After the days and nights spent with Valentina, putting their lives at risk, Irlan realized that he’d fallen deeply in love with her. But Valentina was at a loss when Irlan revealed his feelings for her: she’d always been taught that a noble lady shouldn’t indulge herself in ridiculous romance, and she should marry someone of equal status for the interest of the house.

Nonetheless, Irlan’s passionate courtship awakened the feelings buried deep in Valentina’s heart. She felt the wonderful joy of being loved for the very first time. Just when Valentina pretended to be untroubled but was actually unsure how to respond, Irlan seized the chance at the House Paxley election meeting and proposed that he was willing to fight under Valentina’s command with the other Elves permanently, but only on one condition: Valentina had to say yes to his marriage proposal.

Irlan’s suggestion perfectly solved the problem that’d been troubling Valentina. Now she could follow her heart and accept his feelings for the interest of the house. Thus, they shared holy vows under the bright moonlight, and Valentina became the head of their house as the house cheered with joy. But among the cheering crowd, her uncle remained silent – the position should be his according to the house rules.

With the assistance of the Elves, House Paxley gained power with each day, and Valentina was conferred the title of Duchess by the Moniyan Empire. And she also relied on Irlan who showered her with love. Having grown used to coming face to face with death, Valentina finally tasted the sweetness of life.

But that was when a disaster suddenly struck: after biding their time and gathering strength, the Abyss once again attacked and the fief of House Paxley with strong troops. Before the emperor’s reinforcements arrived, House Paxley was left to fend on their own. Valentina knew it to a fault that they were no match to the Abyss, so she decided to gamble with the trump card of House Paxley: they’d been researching on dark magic, and among those spells was Soul Casket that could create a terrifying zone that devours the souls of all lives within, whether they’re enemies or allies. Even the army of the Abyss couldn’t escape.

To make sure the magic chant was completed, the magicians needed loyal troops to cover for them on the front line. This extremely dangerous mission was carried out by Valentina and Irlan, as they would lead the most fearless soldiers to face the enemy head-on.

The battle began, and thousands of demons swarmed toward the Elves and humans like ocean waves. But the alliance stood firm like the toughest of rocks, letting waves of the Abyss troops smashing themselves into smithers.

But these courageous soldiers still fell one after another. Seeing this, Valentina grew more anxious awaiting the signal for the completion of the magic spell. Their plan was to withdraw from the battlefield with all their troops as soon as the signal came, so that the magic zone covering the frontline would destroy the demon army all at once.

However, Valentina suddenly noticed the symbol of Soul Casket appearing above the engaging armies, but the rear hadn’t fired any withdrawal signal. Confused, she turned back only to find her own uncle and the magicians sneering at her.

Knowing that she’d been shamelessly betrayed, Valentina shouted for everyone to retreat immediately. At the last moment before the casket fell, Irlan exerted his last strength to push Valentina out of the zone, before falling on the battlefield as he lost his soul. The Lantis Battle was thus put to an end, and the invincible legend of Valentina continued. But only Valentina herself knew what price she’d paid for the victory…

The duchess executed all those that betrayed her and escorted her loved one’s body back to Castle Aberleen.

She built a sacred hall in commemoration of Irlan and other martyrs and had since dedicated her life to searching for a way to bring back Irlan’s soul. After an arduous journey, she finally found out that the Heart of Anima, a broken piece from the Twilight Orb could revive a dead soul. But the stone seemed faraway and untouchable…

Seeing her aging self in the mirror and Irlan’s cold and stiff body in the coffin, Valentina realized that the transient life of a human wasn’t enough to complete the goal that could take a desperately long time. So, she began holding dark magic rituals in search of a way to live forever, but unexpectedly, in the series of magic spells she awakened the Evil God of Trickery – Kalon.

The Evil God saw through Valentina’s yearning and tricked the desperate woman into making a deal with him. Valentina exchanged her fresh blood for eternal life and the power of shadow, but the price that since then, all souls of House Paxley were to be tainted by Kalon. And when his power completely awoke, he would be revived through a Paxley descendant.

Now with eternal life, Valentina disappeared in case of further betrayal. But due to her remnant conscience, she left a stela about Kalon’s curse, warning her descendants of the Evil God of Trickery.

Since then, Valentina had been hiding among the shadows, silently waiting for the appearance of the Heart of Anima, the day her loved one’s soul could be revived…

References

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