“The men are assembled and ready for battle, ma’am.”
“Very well. I will be out shortly.”
The human soldier smartly saluted, then turned on his heel and left the tent, leaving Vessel on her own within her command post. Vessel briefly ran a magical self-diagnostic, assessing the damage to her body. Two of her wings were damaged beyond repair. Her magical supply was remaining stable, but its maximum capacity had been cut by 23%. Several sections of her armor had sustained heavy damage, particularly her sides and her back. The doll had put up more of a fight than she had foreseen. She touched her fingers to her visor, where a section of it had been cleanly seared away, exposing her milky-white eyes. She pulled the visor off and dropped it to the floor. It did not matter. Its purpose was merely symbolic; she was just as blind with it as without. She had no need for sight – her Lord showed her the path. He granted her sight, sight of the path before her, sight of times yet to come. As long as she walked in His light and carried out His will, she had no need for sight. Her path was clear.
Vessel drew her twin blades, swinging them around. They were now useless – their blades had been broken in the fight with that doll, the doll that had somehow acquired the power of an angel. She grit her teeth at the blasphemy that implied. That a man-made doll should have attained the power of the servants of the Gods was unforgivable. The doll, which threatened the continued existence of the Gods, was an irreconcilable existence. An aberration. An anomaly. She should not have been allowed to exist, and Vessel had been tasked with the sacred mission of ensuring that it was so. However, in the process, she had lost her weapons. She moved to the table and ran her hand over the katana – the foreign weapon that she had retrieved from the ruins of that doll’s home. It felt familiar under her fingers. It seemed that this vessel had used a similar weapon in the past, before it had been touched by the divine will of Kuldevic.
Gripping the sheath of the weapon, she drew the blade in one swift motion. The blade, untarnished despite its many years of idleness, glinted in the daylight, streaming in through a small window in the roof of the tent. Vessel ran her fingers along the flat of the blade, feeling the smooth metal beneath her bare skin. She took up a stance with the weapon, the form coming to her unbidden, naturally. She made a few passes, the sword slicing through the air in the tent. Her movements were fluid, practiced. Moving from one strike into the next, she then returned the weapon to its sheath and nodded. She could use this weapon, though she preferred her other swords. It would have to do. Lord Kuldevic would provide.
As she the hilt of the weapon touched against the lip of its sheath, a sense of vertigo struck Vessel.
She shook it off and returned the weapon to the table, turning her attention to the information about the war’s progress. The numbers told an annoying story. Their failed assault on the previous city had reduced their fighting strength significantly. Even with the divine protection of Lord Kuldevic, these humans were, ultimately, merely human. Fragile. Weak. It would likely be more efficient for her to have embarked on this crusade alone. She caught herself wondering why Lord Kuldevic was so insistent on presenting this as a human victory, and quickly chastised herself. Her role was not to question. Her role was to obey her Lord’s divine will. This was the sole purpose of her existence.
She turned her gaze to one report – a report of deserters. A group of soldiers – the dispatch sent by the Adventurer’s Guild – had deserted the army even before they had reached that accursed city. Each of them a veteran adventurer, they had been a formidable fighting force. Were they at the battle with that human, they might not have sustained such heavy losses. That said, she had known that this would happen – her Lord Kuldevic had shown her a vision of their desertion. She had never considered them among their plans, knowing that they could not be relied upon. It mattered little. Any who would desert an army with such a noble mission deserved no place on her Lord’s divine crusade.
However, even with the strength of faith possessed by those who still fought with her, the constant battles and the recent loss was having a heavy impact on her remaining soldiers. Even if she had not been given divine vision by her Lord, the fear and exhaustion within the camp was palpable. The loss at the previous city was too great. The emergence of that girl – Lily – was not something she had seen. Lord Kuldevic had been unable to foretell of Lily’s participation in this war. She was an anomaly. She was a threat. Vessel would have to deal with her eventually.
I don’t want that!
Vessel staggered and clutched the side of the table for support. A sudden wave of emotion had struck her. The Vessel who possessed no emotions of her own was hit by emotion. Vessel narrowed her eyes as she felt within herself a vague, disembodied dread at the prospect of fighting Lily. These were clearly not her own emotions. The logical conclusion was that some vestigial remnant of the vessel’s original soul remained.
There was nothing Vessel could do about it if some trace of her past self – Hina – remained. She could not change anything within herself. Such was out of her power. Even if these remnants existed, they could hardly do anything of significance. She would simply have to make sure these thoughts stayed out of her mind in battle. A simple task, really. What could one mortal’s feelings do in the wake of the gravity of divine will?
A voice echoed in her head – a voice she immediately knew to be her Lord and Creator’s voice. She quickly sank to her knees, bowing down in supplication. She did not speak – she was unworthy of speaking in His presence.
((“Indeed, what can one mortal’s yearnings do?”))
As He spoke, she felt the alien dread abruptly disappear. Her Lord had clearly taken the trouble to complete the erasure of her past self. She bowed deeper in gratitude.
((“Now, the final battle is at hand. Your army will not last, but it will not need to.”))
Vessel was granted a vision of herself, standing astride the battlefield, issuing a challenge to some unknown figure. She quickly understood that she was meant to challenge the Demon King Regis to a duel, a duel in which her Lord had ordained her to be victorious. With the loss of their leader, the demon army would fall to pieces, and even her exhausted army would be able to defeat them without trouble. The Demon King would certainly accept the challenge – for it had been thus ordained.
((“Take the weapon before you, and with it, slay the Demon King. Then you shall receive victory.”))
Vessel nodded, speaking only when she could no longer feel the presence of her Lord in her vicinity.
“Thy will be done.”
She stood up and approached the weapon on the table, which had been transformed. It had lost whatever form it had previously held, turning into a white broadsword which glowed brightly with divine energy. She grabbed hold of it, and found that she was not assailed by that annoying sense of nostalgia. Her old self had been fully erased. All that remained was a Vessel, devoted to the service of her Lord, Kuldevic.
Vessel fastened the broadsword to her waist and left the tent, walking to the front of the lines of waiting soldiers. All would be as her Lord Kuldevic had ordained. Thus was the order of the world.