Chapter 1: After the War
She remembered being in darkness again, and cold. She’d faced something like this not too long ago, after another huge battle. What was it...? She could not remember. But she did remember the voice then—
(“...So, please. Live for me.”)
—but he was not here now. Where did he go? She hoped he was okay. Even more, she hoped to at least have his hand hold hers one last time. His hand always felt so nice.
She tried lifting her eyelids, tried to speak, but couldn’t. Her body felt too heavy all over, with aches and pains. I’m so very tired. So tired...
“I’ll be damned. You actually did it.”
...Wait. Her brow furrowed. Who is this?
“I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong,” the voice said, cold and hard—but not as much as it could be. “But I don’t know what else to do now...”
Who are you?
“Still, looks like I owe you one anyway, goddess. Don’t ever say I didn’t do anything for you and that shithead.”
Before she could try turning towards the voice, a pair of cool fingers brushed against her forehead
The day after Britannia was saved from the Ten Commandments, Elizabeth woke up feeling like she’d been run over by a huge boulder.
It was a slow thing, her waking. She still felt an odd mix of exhaustion and the cathartic sensation of a well deserved rest. A part of Elizabeth wanted to drift back to sleep, back to the strange dream that was fading from her mind’s eye. Something that involved a sunset over an ocean, and a warm hand squeezing her own; maybe even flying. One of those strange dreams.
Finally, after a moment or so reveling in the soft bed, she groaned softly and slowly sat up, only to feel a pang shoot through her skull. Cringing, Elizabeth placed a hand on her forehead.
What happened last night? Then, opening her eyes a sliver, she wondered, What happened...?
Elizabeth remembered speaking with Diane about something, something involving Meliodas. She remembered trying to broach the subject with him, only for Meliodas to rebuff her with an aloof comment. She remembered being called to help Merlin, and then—nothing.
“What happened?” Elizabeth asked herself.
Then she opened her eyes wider and finally looked around the room. The bedroom was empty, not even showing a hint of Meliodas sleeping beside her. As she listened, Elizabeth became aware of the overwhelmingly eerie silence in the Boar Hat. No laughter downstairs, no yelling from Diane, and no call for her name. Not even any squeals or greetings from Hawk. The Boar Hat was silent, very much like a morgue.
Elizabeth shuddered—and then shook her head.
“N-no need to think like that,” she said, lightly smacking her face. “Nothing’s wrong. Everyone’s fine.”
Again, she shuddered. Something definitely felt off, but what? What?
Elizabeth frowned. Well, I’m not going to figure it out lying here.
With a firm nod, she turned and placed her feet on the floor. Even without standing, she felt an odd wobble in her legs—like she hadn’t used them in some time—so she decided to move carefully in standing up. Once she felt able, Elizabeth cautiously made her way to the bathroom to wash up.
She was washing her face when she saw it.
At first, Elizabeth was certain she was still on the cusp of waking. She narrowed her eyes and almost glared at her reflection, her mouth pursed together. Because there was absolutely, positively no possible way that she was seeing what she was—
...What. Elizabeth gaped and jumped back, now feeling very awake. WHAT THE—
Because she was seeing it, what had happened to her eyes; both of them. They were both blue again, but carrying a silver-ish pupil that was jagged, much like a rune. Elizabeth blinked wide eyes, including a new eye that did not look human anymore, and approached the mirror and sink again. She took one more close look and swallowed, her hands clenching around the porcelain.
“What is this...?” Elizabeth asked, tightening her grip. “How did this even—?”
She jumped at the sound of something cracking like glass, and falling to the floor. When she looked down, she found violent looking cracks going through the sink, starting from where her hands were; a small block of the sink fell to the floor and shattered, along with a few chipped pieces.
Elizabeth jumped back, one foot out of the washroom, gaping at the cracked sink and the pieces that fell. Then she looked at her hands. She hadn’t held on that tightly, had she? She clenched her hands, but didn’t feel the sting of the shards. What was going on?
After dusting herself off, Elizabeth slowly exited the washroom, feeling unsteady from her gut, and not just because of what had just happened. No one had come to see her yet, not even Meliodas. There was something unsettling about that, something she couldn’t name just yet. Elizabeth lingered on the feeling for a moment more before swallowing it down and taking a breath. She was being ridiculous. All she had to do was go downstairs and find her friends. Maybe they might be able to help—
Someone spoke softly in question before slowly opening the door. Elizabeth turned to face them and found herself pinned by molten gold eyes.
Merlin froze in the doorway, her gold eyes widening a fraction. She stared at Elizabeth for more than a beat, silent and her expression almost vacant. Like she had gone somewhere else, like she couldn’t believe what was in front of her. The gaze made something in Elizabeth tremble.
And then, Merlin spoke: “Elizabeth...do you know who I am?”
Elizabeth kept their gazes locked. And then, she smiled.
“Of course I do, Lady Merlin,” she said, feeling her shoulders sag with something like relief, despite the odd question. “You’re the Boar Sin of Gluttony, and the most powerful sorceress in all of Britannia. I could never forget you.”
Merlin waited before smiling back, a tired smile that was small but not sad; her eyes were gleaming as she spoke, “I know you wouldn’t.”
She paused to narrow her eyes at Elizabeth. In two strides, Merlin was standing right in front of her and nearly glaring into Elizabeth’s eyes. She leaned forward, almost looming; Elizabeth swallowed under the gaze and leaned back a little.
“U-uh, Lady Merlin…?”
After a moment, Merlin said softly, “Your eyes. They are…”
“Oh, right! I was actually about to go down and talk to you all about this—and well, the other thing.” Elizabeth chuckled, sheepishly rubbing the back of her neck as she glanced at the washroom. Then she looked back at Merlin, her expression brightening. “Speaking of, where is everyone? I haven’t heard from them at all since I woke up.”
“Everyone’s outside. Last night had been...well, rough,” Merlin said vaguely before turning the focus back to, “Elizabeth, did you wake up with both of your eyes like this?”
“And you don’t remember anything...strange, correct?”
“Anything out of place,” Merlin elaborated. “Perhaps a mix of two events…?”
“U-um, no? No, I don’t think so,” Elizabeth said, growing more concerned by the minute. “Why do you ask?”
Merlin paused, her eyes going narrow. She curled a hand under her chin and looked off to the side. Elizabeth watched as she seemed to get lost in thought, swallowing nervously. Finally, Merlin nodded.
“The Captain will want to know about this,” she said as an afterthought; and then she smiled at Elizabeth. “They all will, actually. I think seeing you...seeing you will certainly raise their spirits.”
Blue eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Raise their spirits”?
“Let me go down first, however; this will be quite a shock.”
Though very confused, Elizabeth didn’t protest as Merlin turned and walked out of the room. She wanted to get dressed anyway. And maybe wash my hair, she thought with cringe, her hand tangling in oily locks. Now that she thought about it, she did feel a light sheen of grime along her skin, along with a sour taste in her mouth that came from a lack of brushing. When was the last time she bathed? Elizabeth shuddered in thought, but then shook her head. Best not to think about it.
After a thorough shower and brushing of her teeth (which had been done in said shower, for obvious reasons), Elizabeth dressed in a soft blue gown and combed her hair. She looked in the mirror and contemplated whether she should brush her bangs over her left eye, like always, before snorting. Was there any point anymore? Elizabeth frowned a bit at her reflection in the armoire mirror, focusing on her eyes. What does any of this mean?
Elizabeth promptly shook it off and decided to just clip back the sides of her hair, her bangs combed to the front to show off her new (but also sort of not) eyes. Besides, maybe Merlin and the other Sins will be able to explain exactly what and was still happening to her. Feeling more reassured, Elizabeth combed through her finished hair and nodded to herself. Then, she walked out of the bedroom and headed for the stairs.
Once downstairs, Elizabeth paused. The tavern was empty, but left a mess. Along with some scraps left on the floor, there were several mugs turned on their sides, still smelling of ale. Some bottles of ale and other liquors had been left lying around, like the Boar Hat had just closed. Elizabeth felt something inside her twist. The Boar Hat hadn’t even been this sloppy before she’d stumbled inside all that time ago. Or at least Meliodas and Hawk wouldn’t have let it stay like that for long.
Where are they? She narrowed her eyes and looked around, only to stop when she saw something outside. A hint of something pink, and the mark of a clover, and slow movements along the porch. Hawk!
Smiling, Elizabeth walked towards door leading outside the tavern. The closer she stepped, the more she heard the voices of her friends. And the more she recognized them, the louder their voices became, even through the closed door. When she opened the door, she saw that all the Sins were outside, looking drained but clamoring around a calm Merlin. Meliodas was standing in front of her, his hands clenched tightly at his sides, and his teeth bared.
“—Merlin, just let me go up there!”
“Not until you calm down, Captain,” Merlin said, blocking Meliodas. “And promise not to...freak out.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” Diane shouted.
“Just trust me.”
“Yeah, okay, like we’re just gonna go by that, witch,” Ban scoffed.
Escanor spoke up, a chill in his baritone voice, “You watch what you say, Ban...”
Elizabeth watched the heated exchange, frozen in shock. Not because the Sins were arguing amongst themselves, but because of how they looked. Bruises, wounds poorly patched up, their armor cracked and torn apart, hair ragged, and heavy bags under their reddened eyes. Even those who didn’t join—a very silent, almost catatonic Hawk; a morose Elaine; and a very wounded, tired Arthur (When did he get here?)—they all looked like they went through hell. Like they had just come from a battle, one that chewed them all to mush, swallowed them, only to spit them back out. But what…?
“Oh, no,” she worried out loud, her eyes going wide. “I didn’t sleep through the final fight, did I?”
Everyone froze in place in their arguing with Merlin (and each other). Diane was the first to slowly turn to face Elizabeth as she stood in the doorway; Hawk quickly followed, snapping his snout forward so fast, it must have hurt. Then Ban, and King; and Arthur and Escanor, and Gowther. They all stared at Elizabeth, their wide-eyed gazes so piercing that it made her stomach churn. Only Merlin smiled at her.
Meliodas was the only one who didn’t move, who didn’t look her way. Somehow, this made her feel worse.
She slowly slid her gaze to each of her friends, often meeting with wide eyes and gaping mouths. They were still looking at her like...like that. Like she wasn’t real.
Still, she put on a shy smile and lifted her hand to wave. “Um, h-hi?”
“So, um, I’m guessing I missed a lot?” Elizabeth started slowly walking forward, in the careful way one would approach a wounded animal. “I must have slept a lot longer than I thought. I’m really sorry about that. But um, did something happen? Did we win?”
She froze when she heard a choked whimper and darted her gaze to Hawk. Hawk stared at her with eyes full of tears. He sniffled a little more, looking like he was trying to stop the tears flowing down his cheeks. A small sob followed after, making Elizabeth cut a look at Diane, who was covering her mouth to muffle her cries.
“Elizabeth?” Hawk said, slowly approaching her. “Is that...is that really you?”
Elizabeth blinked, then briefly shifted her gaze back and forth, feeling very awkward. “Um, yes? I’m pretty sure I’m me. A-am I not supposed to be...?”
Diane gave one last choke before removing her hands, revealing a watery grin. Hawk sniffled and smiled, his tears now flowing freely, and then leaped forward to tackle Elizabeth.
“Ah, Hawk!” She said, catching him and staying on her feet despite his size. Elizabeth embraced the pig as he sobbed and went to her knees to better stroke his back. “Hawk, what is it?”
“Elizabeth!” He kept crying. “Thank god…!”
Elizabeth felt two familiar arms wrap around her and hug her close. Diane laughed tearfully in her ear and spun her and Hawk around, making Elizabeth let out a scream. Hawk laughed, still too caught in...whatever he was feeling to care.
And, as Elizabeth landed back on her feet (confused and dizzy), it was like a dam broke.
Elaine finally hiccuped on a sob, a sound that quickly became a watery giggle that left her nearly breathless. Ban grinned wide and lifted Elaine up in his joy, joining in her laughter. King let out a long, deep sigh and rolled his gleaming eyes upward, almost into Helbram’s helmet. Escanor let out a joyful cry and hugged a grinning Arthur, who immediately winced, but still held some joy in his eyes.
Still holding Elaine, Ban made his way to Elizabeth and patted her on the back, a little too firmly, “Way to make a comeback, princess!”
“...A comeback?” Elizabeth asked, taken aback, then yelped as Diane nearly tackled her again from behind. “Diane…!”
In the background, Elizabeth heard Escanor declare, “I-it’s a miracle!”
“So it would seem,” Gowther said softly, almost an afterthought.
Elizabeth gaped at her friends as they surrounded her, her blue eyes wide as she was lifted up again. “W-w-will someone please tell me what’s wrong?!”
“Nothing!” Diane giggled.
“Absolutely nothing!” Hawk added.
“And it’s so wonderful,” they cried out in unison.
...Okay, so this basically tells me nothing. Elizabeth’s expression went flat, her mouth set into a frown. Finally, she shut her eyes and opened her mouth.
“Listen, I’m glad everyone’s happy and everything, but that’s enough!” She shouted, jostling Diane to stop and look at her. Hawk also looked up at her. Elizabeth shot them a look before looking at everyone else. “Can you please tell me why you’re all acting so strange?”
Everyone blinked and shared a look. King coughed into his hand and then said, “Lady Elizabeth...do you not remember?”
Elizabeth quirked a brow. “Remember what?”
They pressed their mouths together and looked conflicted—except Merlin, who looked certain enough that she’d drawn her own conclusions, like always—as if they had something to hide. Elizabeth stepped back from them, frowning. What was their problem?
Hang on, she wondered, narrowing her eyes.
“Wait, did something happen?”
Everyone, except Merlin and Gowther, did a very visible cringe. They all shared a wide-eyed look, the sort that bespoke a secret they were afraid of revealing—something Elizabeth found a little disturbing, considering how weary they all looked. Hawk hid his face into her stomach, lowly whimpering and dampening her gown with tears.
Elizabeth felt her stomach twist, and decided to draw conclusions herself. Not because she was particularly bothered by her friends keeping secrets from her—it was irritating of course, but if the reasons were good, she would understand their trepidation—and so, Elizabeth reflected on how everyone’s been acting. How they have reacted to her waking, how they’ve been looking at her...like she wasn’t supposed to be there.
She went pale.
“...Did something happen to me?”
A pause. Then, Merlin spoke up, “Yes.”
Elizabeth slid her gaze to her, licking her mouth nervously. “S-something bad…?”
Merlin blinked somber gold eyes, and then she nodded.
She didn’t realize she was swaying until Diane held her by the shoulder. Merlin waved her hand and muttered a word, and before Elizabeth could register it all, she was gently guided onto the seat of a chair. She leaned her forearms on her lap, taking in deep breaths, dully aware of the panicked voices and expressions around her over the pounding of her heart. The only comfort she could register was Diane’s hand gently stroking her back. Elizabeth didn’t truly understand why she felt this anxiety prickling under her skin. Technically, she didn’t know what happened to her. But the terrible truth was there, bubbling under the surface, brewing all sorts of chaotic questions inside her brain.
For example: Am I supposed to be here?
“Elizabeth, look at me.”
She picked up her head and saw Hawk staring at her, his gaze firm. He snorted in thought, but stepped forward, determined.
“It’s been...a rough few days. I don’t know how much we can tell you about it, let alone about what happened last night,” he said solemnly, before smiling wide. “But regardless of it all, you are still you. And you are still here.”
Elizabeth stared at Hawk a beat, then looked up at Diane, who nodded. After a beat, one in which Elizabeth took a few more deep breaths and focused on Hawk’s words. Not to say that whatever had happened to her wasn’t important, quite the opposite; but it was probably best to focus on the good, for now—one being that Elizabeth was indeed still here. No matter how confusing life would be from now on, at least she had that. All the other answers will come, with time.
Feeling a little easier, she stroked Hawk’s head and squeezed one of Diane’s hands before standing up. She turned to the rest of the Sins and Arthur, and smiled wider.
“Hey, wait a minute,” Ban spoke up, squinting. “Your eyes are still all…”
“Oh, right!” Elizabeth said. She looked down at her hands and contemplated. Should she tell them about this morning, with the sink…? It felt important to talk about. Maybe with Lady Merlin…
“What do you think, Cap—Cap’n?”
It was then that everyone realized that, somewhere in the middle of the conversation, Meliodas had walked away from them.
Ban scowled and turned to look at the forest around the Boar Hat, while King floated high above and also searched. King’s eyes narrowed when he saw a rustle from the trees, as well as sensed a familiar power signature.
Correction: Meliodas hadn’t walked away—
“He’s running,” King muttered.
“What? Why?!” Ban said, then gestured to Elizabeth. “She’s still alive. Shouldn’t he be happier than any of us? Why run?”
Elaine rested a hand on his arm, her gaze soft. “Considering what we know, it’s probably still a shock.”
“Yeah, I get that, but—”
Frowning deeply, Elizabeth stepped forward until she landed under King’s feet. She glowered out at the woods surrounding the Boar Hat and clenched her hands at her sides. It wasn’t that she was angry, necessarily. Knowing him long enough, Elizabeth understood that Meliodas had more sides to him beyond his aloof shield. She knew that if he was able, he’d avoid showing vulnerability to anyone, even and sometimes especially her. She understood that, and empathized with that as much as she could, even if she was still left confused about something she knew he could answer.
Doesn’t mean it wasn’t frustrating as hell, though.
“You stupid, stupid demon,” she yelled loudly enough to echo through the valley, stomping her left foot. “Stop running away from me!”
And with a speed that cracked through the air, Elizabeth chased after him—leaving behind a breeze that nearly knocked even Ban back and a streak of blown back grass.
While Merlin and Gowther blinked wide eyes after her, everyone else gaped at the spot she’d been in.
“Did she just…?” King started.
“No way,” Diane murmured. “What…?”
“Holy shit,” Ban grinned while holding a shocked Elaine.
Escanor just stared, while Arthur turned to the one person who might know. “Merlin?”
Everyone turned to look at Merlin. She pressed her lips together, and then shrugged.
“Well,” she drawled, “I have one theory…”
Elizabeth had never been a fan of running. Running was tiring at its best, and terrifying at its worst, particularly when running from someone dangerous. And yet, there was something natural in the way her feet glided over the ground, the way the world passed her—no, the way she passed the world—in a blur. It almost felt like flying.
When Elizabeth stopped in the middle of the forest, she paused to gauge her surroundings. Had the energy, the life that flowed through everything always felt so...so potent? She had felt something like this after her trial at Istar, but compared to what she felt before, that had been a poor, dull imitation—something she had to struggle for.
This, though; it was like all this energy was a physical thing that she could just reach out and touch, perhaps even mold to her bidding. Elizabeth looked around and listened, realizing that she could hear everything. From the pitter-patter of squirrels climbing up trees, the calming brush of wind on greenery, and even the soft crawling of insects—she could hear it all. It was amazing. Beautiful. And…
Too much, she cringed, clenching her eyes closed. She cupped her palms over her ears. Way too much!
Elizabeth took a breath, a sound that felt as loud as everything else, and tried to search through the sounds. All she needed was something familiar. The sound of booted feet, the sound of soft breathing; maybe even a curse, muttered under breath—
Her eyes snapped open wide. Elizabeth tilted her head towards the right, focused on the sounds. The sounds of heartbeats, frantic, maybe panicked; a rhythm echoing through seven hearts.
OH-kay, she exhaled a few times, her eyes wide and blinking. We have officially waded from the shores of Beach Weird to fudging BIZARRE Reef.
Still, it was the best lead at the moment. Elizabeth can worry about this...this weirdness after talking to Meliodas.
But how to sneak up on him? Elizabeth looked around, tapping a finger to her slightly curved lips in thought. Hmm.
Her gaze found a tree, but not for previous reasons. Elizabeth looked up in thought, and then nodded in affirmation. She bent down to gather her long skirt, hoist it to above her knees, and tie the hem of her skirt into a knot, making it look shorter than it was. Then, she started climbing.
It was hard at first. Hard to get used to the bark biting at her fingers and even through her flats, the wood scratching at her legs, the struggle of pulling her body upward. Elizabeth had not climbed a tree in years, let alone one as thick and strong as this one. She thought she’d long forgotten how.
When she finally landed on a thick branch, she crouched on it and found the nearest tree, focused on the closest branch.
Elizabeth swallowed nervously, before bracing herself. Go big or go home, right?
And with that, she leaped.
The landing wasn’t exactly...
Elizabeth dangled from the branch, her arms wrapped tight around the thick limb. She took one breath, then another; and then lifted her legs to wrap around it also.
“That could have gone better,” she said, and then grunted as she hoisted herself up. Elizabeth wobbled a little but after placing a hand to the tree, she managed to get her footing.
Once she was standing upright, Elizabeth paused to look around, to bask in the breeze that brushed her skin, through her hair. Why had she stopped climbing trees again? Was it just because of what happened with Father? Because, as guilty as she still felt, Elizabeth also felt like she’d missed out on something in climbing trees. She couldn’t exactly put her finger on it, but there was just something right about her being up here.
After taking in a rather sweet, oaky scent, Elizabeth tentatively stepped over to another branch, and kept going until the next tree was in sight. Feeling a bit more ready, she got in a stance and leaped once more. The landing still ended up being wobbly, and she still had to grab at the bark for support. But it was a start.
“Okay,” Elizabeth said with a slight grin. She looked to the next tree and squared her shoulders. “Okay.”
Between some more stumbles and new discoveries over her renewed body, it didn’t take long for Elizabeth to find him. From her perch on a nearby tree, Elizabeth could see that Meliodas was sitting on the ground, both legs bent and his back against the bark. He was clenching his hands into the ground on either side of him, his eyes hidden by his bangs. Elizabeth stared at him, feeling her heart clench.
She slowly climbed down from her tree, hoping she was as silent as she’d intended. Once she was back on the ground, Elizabeth brushed the dirt from her knees and arms; and then, she slowly approached Meliodas until she was adjacent to him.
Meliodas flinched, then shakily lifted his hands to curl them at his ears. He set his jaw but would not look at her. Elizabeth stepped to sit in front of him, curling her knees under her. She leaned forward and noted that he was keeping his eyes tightly closed. Her eyes stung. Meliodas had been vulnerable before, but in small pieces, even when briefly shedding tears. She’d never seen him like this, like he was ready to fall apart. Elizabeth quickly decided she didn’t like it.
“Meliodas, I’m here,” she said, swallowing hard. “Please, talk to me.”
Meliodas clenched his jaw tighter and gave a slight shake of the head. Elizabeth paused, her throat tightening, but was undaunted. She shifted closer to him, slowly, and then lifted one hand over one of the hands covering his ears. She gently stroked her thumb over his skin. Meliodas froze, a strangled sound escaping his closed mouth, but he didn’t pull away.
Elizabeth smiled softly. “At least look at me?”
He inhaled sharply, then exhaled in a manner that seemed just as painful, but slowly removed his hands. Meliodas opened his eyes and looked up at her. Elizabeth felt her chest tighten further when she finally saw his eyes—so dull and tired but also stunned, terrified. Elizabeth frowned, noting the dark circles forming under his eyes. When had he last slept?
“You’re here,” he almost whispered.
Elizabeth beamed, hoping that this would help. “In the flesh.”
Meliodas slowly reached out to cradle her face, his eyes wide, but vacant. His voice came out raspy as he spoke, “How? Last night, we saw you...I saw you...”
He couldn’t finish the sentence, and that made Elizabeth feel that dread again. She hoped she’d understand what happened to her soon, because this mystery was already terrifying for her. She placed her hands over his wrists and gently squeezed.
“I...I really don’t know,” she said. “I don’t even remember the past few days.”
Meliodas blinked. “You don’t?”
“Yeah, it’s like.” Elizabeth bit her lip, pausing to think. “One minute, I was talking with you about...something. I don’t know what, but I think it was important? Then, I’m heading to Merlin to heal her and break a curse from one of the Commandments and then—it’s just a blur after that.”
Meliodas stared at her, his wide eyes flashing.
“M-Meliodas? A-are you…?”
Elizabeth froze when she heard a choked sound, almost a whimper. She stared at Meliodas and felt her chest throb at the tear that started rolling down his cheek, quickly followed by more. And the more that fell, the more whatever mask Meliodas had donned began to crumble. Before she could say anything, Meliodas took in a shuddering breath and practically leaped forward, wrapping his arms around Elizabeth and burying his face in her neck. Though he held her tightly to him, he still gently stroked her back; and then, gritting his teeth, he started to sob.
Though stunned, Elizabeth returned the embrace, stroking one hand through his hair and the other at his back. She stared ahead with wide eyes. Even him...even him, she kept thinking, recalling everyone else who’d cried when seeing her.
But Meliodas, he was not the sort of person to shatter from anything. Not like this. He was solid as stone, and sometimes just as cold. The few times he’d been so vulnerable around Elizabeth? Nothing, compared to now. Someone had managed to break through his built-high walls and shatter something inside him, something he’d been protecting for a long, long time. And what made it worse was that someone had been her.
Elizabeth frowned into his hair, wanting to kick herself. Whatever she’d done to lead to her...getting hurt, to lead to Meliodas and her loved ones being like this, she swore never to do again. (Or at least, she hoped that it had been worth it.)
They sat there holding each other until Meliodas’ sobs softened, until he was only breathing shakily into Elizabeth’s neck. Finally, after taking a deep breath, Meliodas pulled away and began rubbing at his eyes. Elizabeth bit her lip and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“A-are...are you okay?” She asked.
“Yes. No? Very likely no,” he decided with a hollow chuckle. Meliodas paused to look at Elizabeth, and he slowly began to smile. “But I will be.”
Elizabeth smiled and nodded. Then she reached out to hug him again, an embrace that Meliodas immediately melted into, turning his head to nuzzle her shoulder. He closed his eyes and sighed deeply, his hands again stroking her back. Then he stiffened.
Elizabeth hummed, still smiling with her eyes closed.
“How...how did you catch up with me so fast?”
She blinked, and then pulled away, her smile sheepish. “Well, um. I kind of just...chased you?”
Meliodas stared. “Just you?”
“You didn’t come with...anyone else?”
She shook her head, and then said, “I couldn’t wait. You were already so far away when we realized you’d ran, and I didn’t want to risk losing sight of you. So, I ran after you,” Elizabeth finished with a shrug.
Meliodas narrowed his eyes, his gaze hard but not angry. “And did you feel...strange?”
Elizabeth paused to recall how running had felt, how she’d been feeling all morning. “I did feel strange,” she admitted, lowering her gaze to her hands. “I’ve been feeling strange since I woke up. But it’s a not a bad strange? It just feels…different.”
“Like...we might need to replace the bathroom sink different.”
“I...what?” Meliodas blinked wide eyes. “Replace the sink…?”
Elizabeth chuckled nervously, hunching her shoulders like the action would hide her from him. As she began twiddling her fingers, her goddess eyes peaked out from her silver bangs.
“I kind of, um, broke it? I’m so, so sorry,” she added, bowing her head. “I didn’t even mean to, but I just...”
Pouting in confusion, Elizabeth lifted her hands and mimicked the movement of her squeezing around the sink. She gave Meliodas a look, but he was staring at her hands. He narrowed his eyes once more, this time in deep thought.
Finally, Meliodas spoke, “Elizabeth, I need you to try something.”
She blinked. “O-okay. Um, what is it?”
“Put your hand to the grass, right here,” he paused to point at a patch of grass next to them, “and make flowers grow.”
Elizabeth frowned and leaned back, her brow furrowing. Was he seriously asking her to relive her failure at Istar? Her growth of flowers during the battle with Hendrickson had been one thing; she hadn’t even been conscious of what she did. It had been a fluke, at best. To repeat that again? Elizabeth was certain it wouldn’t work. She couldn’t even grow one sunflower under Zaneli’s teaching. So, what is he—?
Meliodas caught her look, and gave her a reassuring smile. “I know what you’re thinking, but trust me. If I’m right about this, you won’t fail.”
“...Okay,” she drawled doubtfully, and then closed her eyes. Elizabeth moved to tangle her fingers in the grass, extending her power to the earth.
At first, she felt nothing but the foliage, but then, then...warmth. Something sparking just beneath the surface, not exactly like lightning, but an energy all the same. Life, Elizabeth realized. She felt the life of everything growing, or wanting to grow from the soil. Being so caught in the warmth surrounding her, Elizabeth dug her fingers further into the dirt, wanting to, to—
“Holy. Shit,” Meliodas murmured, before placing a hand over the one in the dirt. “Okay, that’s enough.”
“Huh, why—?” Elizabeth opened her eyes and gasped. Because all around her and Meliodas, from the grass to the bark of trees, were brightly colored, newly grown flowers that spread almost all over the forest. And along with those flowers, carried the remnants of a magic that glowed from her very own fingers. Elizabeth stared at her hands as the glow faded and clenched them. I did that. I actually did that.
She looked at Meliodas, who was standing up and looking around. His gaze held some shock, with a tinge of something like...reverence? Elizabeth blushed. No way...I’m just imagining things.
Meliodas finally smiled and looked back at her, his green eyes gleaming with newfound mirth.
“C’mon, let’s go back and talk to Merlin. She’s gonna need to see this for herself.” Meliodas offered Elizabeth a hand and winked. “I’ll even race you there. Since you can finally catch up, and all.”
Elizabeth stared up at him a moment, and then beamed. She grabbed his hand and stood up. And as their gazes locked, Elizabeth felt that for the first time, they were truly seeing each other eye to eye.
Chapter 2: She Left Before You Woke
“There are a lot of different types of freedom. We talk about freedom the same way we talk about art, like it was a statement of quality rather than a description. ‘Art’ doesn’t mean good or bad. Art just means art. It can be terrible and still be art.
Freedom can be good or bad, too. There can be terrible freedom.”
—Alice Isn’t Dead, “Chapter 2: Alice”
Once again, I want to thank lickitysplit for beta-reading this chapter. I know this format might be a little strange for some people, but I felt like going back to my roots and presenting the past events in 50 sentence/drabbles, rather than in one huge linear one-shot. (It would have been too messy otherwise.)
And I wanted to present the past in two parts. This part, obviously, mostly covered Elizabeth's perspective. The next part will cover someone else's POV. :)
Thank you so much for the response. Hope you enjoy this chapter!
When you opened your eyes, darkness surrounded you—deep, lonely, and yet, calling for you—and not knowing what else to do, you began walking.
Eventually, after a long journey through the darkness, thousands and thousands of doors appeared—doors that, you realized, would lead to the lives you had lived, the memories long repressed and now unlocked—and despite the horrific revelation settling in your gut, you opened the first door and stepped forward.
Once upon a time, you and he danced under the twinkling stars, in a meadow you both liked to meet when you could get away—his movements were certain, measured, while you had been a little clumsy, being the one more inexperienced in courtly matters—and for one night, you two pretended that you were not from enemy clans; that you two were simply a princess and a prince meeting for the first time at a ball.
You had wished for many things, even before the millennia of this living and dying—peace, the end of the Holy War, Mother’s love and acceptance, the end of this damned curse—but when recalling the life you’ve been recently living with them and him, you just wanted to have more time.
He was following behind you, his steps hesitant, and you decided to reach back for his hand to gently guide him forward through the forest; throwing him back a warm smile, you said, “You’re going to love this, I promise!”
“You’re not going to die,” you kept whispering as you hovered your hands over his grievous wounds; they glowed for a moment, then dimmed (because healing didn’t always come easy to you, at first), “No, no—I can do this. I can.”
In one life, you didn’t live long enough to even turn twelve; but you remembered him (he helped clean your parents’ cafe and serve their customers) being there to indulge your every whim, including the many flower crowns you placed along his head, and your praising of him being the “prettiest princess” in all of Britannia.
Whiskey and rum
“Elizabeth,” he was saying in a warning tone, his hand loosely wrapped around a pint of whiskey, “I think you should slow down a little...”
To which you directed a very mature raspberry at him, before grabbing your newly filled mug—“O-only if you slow down first!”—and then tossing back the spiced rum.
“Wait, Elizabeth, don’t chug it—!”
It was during a battle when you first saw him—he was leading the Ten Commandments in an assault against the squadron you’d been assigned to, ruthless, commanding, and as powerful as the rumors had said—and the first thought that ran through your head was, irony of ironies: I hope we never meet.
You almost married him once, during one of your lives—he had been a holy knight, and you, a florist; and like always, you two met and fell in love, though he’d been more hesitant than you (like always, ha)—and before you could even confess that you were starting to remember the life (lives) you had together, despite your powers not awakening, you were gone.
“I bet that we can find you something, either in Britannia or otherwise, that even you will love,” you said to him once, smirking as your arms crossed, “and when we do, you can’t destroy it. Even if your clan wins the war.”
And because demons can’t resist a wager, even from a foe, Meliodas laughed and smirked back, “You’re on, goddess.”
(Spoiler: You won the bet, but it wasn’t something he came to love—it was someone.)
Let’s be real, you always knew that Mother would have never accepted your love for him, let alone your union—but to kill you for it? Along with his Father, Her supposed sworn enemy? Seriously, Mother?
Once, you preferred wearing trousers and loose clothing to dresses—you’d tried wearing one once, but wanted to rip from your body as soon as it was on—but no matter what you wore, no matter what you’d felt about your scarred body, Meliodas never seemed to run out of praises.
You remembered the very first time you’d kissed him—it’d been during a heated argument, after a battle with demons and Stigma being near devastated, not exactly the most romantic moment—and how that kiss sparked something inside both of you, something that’s been simmering between you for a long, long time.
You were stunned at first, not truly noticing the deep wound from the demon’s attack until you leaned back against the cool stone, when the act of breathing became painful.
...Too much, you kept thinking with each memory you walked into; no matter how hard you clenched your eyes closed, nothing could block the pain starting to shatter you, It’s too much...!
“He’s going to break the curse, he promised he would,” you heard your lives say, desperately hope, until it became a near madness; they whispered as you passed them, “He promised, he promised, he promised, so why, why—”
Why am I still here?
She was cleaning a fresh kill from a hunt, her brown hair combed to the side, and her skin darkened from a life under the sun; as you passed her, she lifted her head from her work and stared ahead with misted eyes, “We never should have made him make that promise. This burden should have never been his.”
“Zeldris was right,” another turned to you—an Elizabeth who’d once been part of a Celtic clan, her hair a deep scarlet, thick with curls and long—her blue eyes boring into you as her lips slanted into an accusing scowl, “You are the cause of all his suffering. This is all your fault.”
“Mother was right too.”
“Always have been,” one whispered, glaring at you from those who began crowding around you—a hundred or so, at least—“Always will be.”
“Why bother waiting the three days? You should just die now,” another said, her lips curled into a cruel smirk, the blue in her eyes like ice, “No one will miss you.”
You pressed your hands to your ears as they loom over you—the snuffed out lives, the lost chances, the many, many, many regrets—trying to block them out. Because you knew...you knew it wasn’t true. It wasn’t. It wasn’t. It isn’t true.
“You’ll just be reborn into the next one, right?” One laughed cruelly. “So, really, your life is as worthless as ours.”
Tears stung your eyes, even as you clenched them closed. From behind, a hand curled around your shoulder and someone leaned forward to whisper against the shell of your ear—and the voice that whispered next wasn’t theirs, wasn’t yours; it was Hers.
“Maybe the next one he loves,” She crooned, a voice you hadn’t heard in so long, a voice you’d hoped never to hear again, “will actually be worth something.”
Someone began screaming, a sound that pierced through the now deafening silence; you didn’t realize it was you, not until someone else began holding you and stroking your hair, a life you knew and yet didn’t; and then, it started to rain.
“I’m sorry. I know it’s a lot. It’s three thousand years being shoved into a brain that just isn’t equipped for it, especially in such a short amount of time...but you will be okay,” Liz said softly, squeezing you close and leaning her chin against your shoulder as you sobbed against her, “I don’t know how, not yet, but you—we are going to be okay.”
“...So, what now?” you finally asked Liz, after calming down, and then to everyone else—the Beths, the Elizas, all the other Elizabeths you had been. “What do we do now?”
“Maybe we can have Gowther erase our memories?”
“No way that will work,” one said, wearing a hood like a Druid of old, “the memories will still be there. It will just delay the inevitable.”
“What about removing the memories?”
“We don’t have that power,” you said, shaking your head, “and neither do the Sins or anyone else we know.”
“But we do know someone who can remove the curse,” she said, the Elizabeth who’d once been a hunter in a Barbarian tribe; she looked at you and added, “Ironically enough, it’s the one who got us in this predicament in the first place.”
“Ah, right, the default winner of the annual Brother-In-Law of the Year award,” Liz spoke up, rolling her eyes. “What a joke—‘You’re the cause of my bro’s suffering, wench’—and then he proceeds to bring upon not just ours, but Meliodas’ suffering. Which, y’know, makes perfect sense.”
You nodded at her comment in agreement, but then paused. That’s right...he did do that. Why...?
“He’s probably still bitter about his dead girlfriend or whatever,” another Elizabeth muttered, rolling her eyes and flipping her rose blonde hair.
“Then why didn’t he get that lady to bring her back?” The younger Elizabeth quipped, while playing with her toys on the floor.
“...Isn’t it strange? That he would do that, despite what he said?”
“Not really,” Liz replied with a snort, “He certainly didn’t hesitate to fight Meliodas back in Vaizel.”
“But it doesn’t seem like he hates him,” another spoke up, her tone laced with curiosity, “more like—pity?”
“Also, he brought not only our memories, but our powers too,” the florist said with a frown, “and the powers aren’t really necessary to activate the curse, let alone bring our memories. I’m proof of that.”
Liz paused, her very human blue eye flashing as she whispered, “That’s right...”
“So, he hates us, obviously. But he awakened our powers, and he doesn’t want Meliodas to suffer, supposedly,” you said, just as the others stared at you, “So, what does Zeldris want?”
When Elizabeth finally woke up, her memories and goddess powers fully restored, she still had that question in her mind: What does Zeldris want?
The first thing she did when she stood from the bed was go to the bedroom mirror and remove the earring Margaret had given her—because if anything should survive the next few days, it should be a beloved gift from her sister.
There was an injustice to it all, beyond the fact that Elizabeth had only a few days to live; it was in the tearful embrace Diane gave her, the way Hawk kept sobbing, the sorrowful gazes her friends directed her way, even Elaine—and worst of all, the weary slump in Meliodas’ shoulders, the emptiness in his eyes.
Elizabeth never thought she’d miss Ban’s mischievous smirk exactly, but she found it was something she much preferred to the blank, almost dead look he carried after leaving Elaine’s room later that night; she’d watched as the lovers said one last goodbye—they would be arriving in Corand the next morning—and her gaze hardened.
“Th-there has to be a way, a way we can save you,” Hawk whimpered as Elizabeth held him, her hand stroking his back, “Because I won’t be able to take it Elizabeth, knowing that you’ll...that you’ll—”
Elizabeth’s throat tightened when she finally went to bed later that night—the first night—and she was about close to breaking when Meliodas walked into their bedroom, wearing a sunny grin and holding a bottle of Vanya ale.
The next few hours were spent in recalling past joys, friends lost and friends made, and even some moments when they were just ridiculous to each other, such as—Elizabeth recalled this with a wide grin, just as Meliodas blushed a bright red and bristled, his haunches rising— “when you got so wasted, that you began reciting me a sonnet that even Sir Escanor would be envious of.”
“...I think we shared a bottle then, just like now,” she said with a small smile before taking one swig of ale and passing the bottle back to him.
Meliodas nodded and lightly swayed the bottle by its neck, his green eyes misting, “The ale then was never as good as this one though.”
“No, you’re right,” Elizabeth sighed, leaning against him and turning to lock her eyes with his.
Despite everything, kissing that night was inevitable.
Elizabeth couldn’t tell exactly who reached for who first, just knew that in a blink of an eye, her hand was tangled in his hair and Meliodas had his arms wrapped around her waist, their lips desperately moving against each other, in a dance they’d long become skilled in.
When she ended up falling back into their pillows, Elizabeth gasped from the kiss to stare up at Meliodas.
“Sorry, I-I just,” he rasped, then swallowed, “Was it too much?”
“N-no, it’s just—I don’t want,” Elizabeth choked, her eyes tearing up. She inhaled sharply and moved her hands to his shoulders, not pushing away, but not pulling close either. “I-it shouldn’t be like this. Us loving each other should be a joy...not a tragedy, you know?”
Meliodas smiled softly, his shoulders sagging with some relief, and nodded. With one hand, he stroked along her cheekbone. “Yeah. Yeah, I know.”
“...Is it bad that I want to stay? Because I do. I like it here, Meliodas,” Elizabeth found herself saying a little later, curled up against his (still very clothed) chest and feeling his fingers stroke through her hair. “I like the Boar Hat, and Hawk and his mom; I like my family, and my friends, especially the Sins; I love this life, our life here. I don’t want to just die and start all over again, leaving this life behind like the others. I want us to keep living this life, until neither of us can anymore, until we can meet each other on the other side like everyone else. And why...why is that so much to ask for?”
When they arrived at Corand the next day (second day), Elizabeth chose to stay behind and take care of Elaine; after watching the Seven Deadly Sins step out of the Boar Hat to meet Melascula and no doubt her army of the dead, Elizabeth began to plan.
Elaine woke up later, feeling whole and alive, for the first time in years, but when she turned to thank Elizabeth for this miracle, she paused. Elizabeth had removed her uniform and had donned an armored tunic, along with a pair of leather pants and boots—looking ready for a fight.
She and Elizabeth stared at each other in silence, one where Elaine went pale with knowledge while Elizabeth smiled sadly.
While Elaine sputtered, tried to come up with a protest, Elizabeth stood up and said, “I’m sorry Elaine, but I’m going to borrow Oslow for a bit. Make sure Hawk doesn’t follow me.”
Zeldris showed no emotion as Elizabeth was escorted (by some fear filled holy knights) into the makeshift throne room; he just leaned forward and quirked a brow, “So you came alone. Interesting.”
Elizabeth glared up at him and squared her shoulders; clenching her hands, she said, “I’ve come to make a deal.”
“A deal?” Zeldris looked almost ready to laugh, but instead just snorted; he stood from the throne and tilted his head, “And what makes you think I’d want to make a deal with you, goddess?”
“Because you’re a demon, and you can’t resist making a wager—must be a family trait,” Elizabeth said with a little smirk, and then added, “Besides, I have a feeling that there is something you want, something we both want.”
“Well, I’m a demon. There’s always something we want,” he drawled, shrugging, “What makes you think you and I want the same thing?”
“Because I don’t think you hate Meliodas the way we all thought,” at Zeldris further raising his brow, Elizabeth added, “You’re angry, yes, for many reasons; but I don’t think you hate him. I think you want to free him.”
Something flashed through Zeldris’ black eyes, very minute, but enough for Elizabeth to catch; with a slight nod of acknowledgment, he said, “That’s an interesting theory. And where does this wager come in?”
They spent a brief time discussing the deal—the challenge itself (which Zeldris insisted on), the benefits if either won, and occasionally, some questions—which went a little like this:
“You’re serious about doing this,” Zeldris asked at one point, sounding confused as his brow furrowed, “Why?”
Elizabeth stared at him, “If I have to explain it, then you’ll never understand.”
Even before the first strike, Elizabeth could see how this battle will end, how this whole day will end; and it was enough to inspire her power to flare at her hands.
When the dust cleared, Zeldris found his sword embedded in a shield with a luminescent crest he had not seen in three thousand years; and as he heard the singing of a blade aiming for his head, he acted fast and leaped back, his sword still at the ready.
Elizabeth stood ahead of him, lowering her shield and pointing her own sword at him; her gaze was hard, determined.
“Stop screwing around,” she almost growled, “I didn’t come here for us to engage in child’s play!”
The Goddess Clan had been known for many powers, for many services—life, death, love, war, purity, and more—but no matter what a goddess was skilled in, they all had the ability to use their light to cleanse the darkness from tainted souls. It was a power that many had tended to abuse.
There it is, she thought, her teeth clenched and her body bruised, but she never took her eyes off what was revealed from Zeldris’ torn sleeve.
Elizabeth thought it all strange, Zeldris and his challenge, but couldn’t, wouldn’t waste time wondering; and so, when she saw the mark that was binding him to the Demon King and his power, she summoned her power to spark right at her fingertips and leaped forward—
The battle at Corand had been long and difficult, but they’d succeeded in closing the rift and defeating Melascula; just as they began walking back to the Boar Hat, Meliodas fell to his knees, sharply gasping and clutching his chest.
Ban ran to him first, asking him what was wrong, but Meliodas just stared ahead with blank green eyes—feeling, for the first time in millennia, like nothing was weighing him down.
The moment didn’t last long, though, not when Hawk ran to them, followed by Elaine flying behind; with a panicked squeal, he said, “Guys, you have to run to Camelot now! Elizabeth is...She’s—”
You stupid, stupid goddess. What did you do? Meliodas could only think as he and everyone else stormed through Camelot, his hearts screaming and his jaw clenching tighter with each step, each moment he didn’t have her in his sights. Damn it, what did you do?
It didn’t take much to breach the castle, even with the few demons left in the way, so it didn’t take long to find Elizabeth—armor torn, unconscious, bloody and bruised, but alive—but Zeldris was nowhere to be found.
“So, what do we do now?” Diane said long after, as everyone gathered around the bed Elizabeth was resting in. She looked to Meliodas, who was sitting by the bed with a silent Hawk, still staring at his palms—like he expected chains to wrap around them—with a vacant gaze. “Captain, do we go after him?”
“No,” he said, “we don’t even know if he’s still alive.”
“And if he is…?”
“If he is, then he just let us win with barely a fight,” King spoke up, his brow furrowing. “But why would he do that?”
“Maybe he’s planning something,” Ban said, still staying close to Elaine, despite knowing that the danger she was in had passed.
Gowther pushed up his glasses and folded his arms. “Or perhaps, his motivations have changed.”
Merlin narrowed her eyes at that, and then cut a look to Elizabeth. She took in the young woman’s closed eyes, the slowness of her breathing, and she frowned deeply. Escanor noticed her look, and attempted to smile.
“W-well, either way, things are okay now, right? Arthur is safe, Meliodas’ curse is gone,” He nodded pointedly at Elizabeth. “So, Lady Elizabeth should be fine now. Right?”
Hawk brightened and stood up on his hooves, “That’s right! And if that Zed guy or whatever could have removed the curse...maybe whatever Elizabeth did to him removed it completely!”
With that in mind, most of the room slumped in relief, even Gowther. Merlin still didn’t remove her gaze from Elizabeth, while Meliodas clenched his hands with a deep frown. Could it really be that simple?
“I-I’m sorry Hawk, but...but no.”
They all froze, then turned to stare at Elizabeth, who was sitting up. She winced half-way and grasped her bandaged side, moaning in pain. Meliodas immediately went to her side, wrapping an arm around her back to support her. Elizabeth leaned against his shoulder and smiled, tired, in pain, and sad. She looked around the room, and then slid her gleaming gaze up at him.
And then, in a voice so soft, like something fading, Elizabeth said, “I could only save one of us.”
Chapter 3: A Cold, Broken Hallelujah
“Love will have its sacrifices. No sacrifice without blood.”
—Carmilla, Chapter VI
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Zeldris was frowning deeply as he held his aching jaw, his coal eyes clouded with anger and shame—Damn it, I should have known better than to let him get the best of me, I’ll never get stronger at this rate—emotions that only cleared when a cool hand gently grasped his clenched fist, coaxing him to look up and meet familiar crystal blue eyes.
Kissing Gelda started off as a pastime, something to keep himself busy when he was tasked to guard her for Izraf—or so he’d told himself—but Zeldris quickly found something addicting about her hands tangled in his hair, the gasp she’d let out whenever he pinned her against a wall, and the warmth of her mouth on his.
On nights when he grew bored with the sniveling humans he’d corrupted during his invasion of Camelot, including an especially weasley man named Kay, Zeldris found comfort in remembering her hands stroking his scalp and her voice crooning in his ears.
“What do you mean you can’t bring her back?” Zeldris all but snarled at Melascula, after gathering her to the crater left of Edinburgh, thinking her Hell Gate would work better there.
“It’s as I told you before, there is nothing to bring back,” Melascula said, her cool voice almost amused. “Your princess is just not here.”
Zeldris panicked, his eyes going round as Gelda hid a retch from the potato soup he’d attempted to cook her—because while blood was a main source of her nutrients, she could also indulge in other foods—and he reached out across the campfire, hoping to pull the bowl from her hands, “Gelda, no, d-don’t eat it if it makes you sick!”
One night, while escorting Gelda in a hunt, the skies opened up and rumbled as little bullets of rain poured down; panicking from the lightning that flashed, Gelda cringed and searched frantically for a place to hide—until Zeldris gently took her hand and slowly guided her to the open field, wanting to prove there was nothing to fear.
Gelda moaned around the piece of dark chocolate, hollowing her cheeks around her index finger to suckle any excess that had melted from her skin; as heat gathered from his neck, Zeldris found his wide-eyed gaze locking with her gleaming, laughing eyes from across the dining hall.
Happiness was a concept neither of the brothers thought about, something that they only understood through the shedding of blood, and service to the King and their clan, and the occasional little joys; it wasn’t until he met her that Zeldris wondered if there was something more.
“I-I’m sorry,” she kept saying, her voice a panicked pitch as she folded her bloody hands across her gown; her bloodstained mouth twisted into an anxious frown, “I lost control, but it won’t happen again, please, please, Zeldris, don’t leave—”
But Zeldris didn’t understand her fear, how she backed away from him with wide eyes even as he kept stepping forward, even over the body she’d ravaged in her hunger; if she believed that she was a monster, then damn it all, they will devour the world together.
“You two make me sick.”
Zeldris shook out of his daydream and whipped around to see Estarossa giving him a wry smirk, his coal black eyes gleaming.
“You know, you and little Vampirella, and those damned hearts in your eyes,” he said, his smirk widening as Zeldris sputtered furiously. “Why don’t you just kidnap her and marry her already?”
“...What’s that song you’re humming?”
Gelda paused to look down at him, her expression warm as she took in Zeldris resting his head on her lap, his usually stony expression softening with curiosity.
“It’s from a story, or about it, I suppose,” she explained, threading her hands through pitch black hair, “It’s about a little prince and the rose he falls in love with. The rose is demanding, insulting, as prickly as the thorns on her stem, and is perhaps a bit petty, but he dotes on her regardless; in turn, she softens around him, learns to love him.”
Zeldris frowned, his nose crinkling with a mix of confusion and derision. “Sounds dumb.”
Gelda chuckled. “Well, it’s a human tale, so take that as you will.”
“Friggin’ humans, their stories just get more bizarre every century,” he snorted, and then paused to stare off to the side, his eyes narrow; and then he slid his gaze back up to Gelda, “So, what else happens?”
Long ago, when they sat underneath the stars, Elizabeth turned to smile at Meliodas—a sweet smile, a hesitant, bashful smile that made his hearts flutter—and she leaned close to him.
“Meliodas, I have a secret to tell you,” she said.
Meliodas quirked an eyebrow, his dry expression easily shielding how much her presence was jostling his insides. “What?”
Blushing a light pink, Elizabeth grinned wider, giggled to herself, and tilted her head to whisper in his ear, “You are my rose.”
It took a beat for Meliodas to dwell on the words, to understand them, what she meant by saying them to him, of all people, of all times—and when he did, a hot blush flooded from his neck and lit his whole face up in a dark red.
“W-what...WHAT KIND OF THING IS THAT TO SAY TO A GUY,” he nearly yowled, very much like the cat he must be imitating as his entire being bristled, leaning slightly away from Elizabeth. As she began giggling harder, a sound that both brought him both joy and fluster, Meliodas added, “I-idiot goddess!”
Elizabeth just threw her head back and laughed, until her voice began echoing through the valley.
After Melascula couldn’t help, Zeldris decided to turn to a different method, a more ancient source:
“Outcast of your Clan, Ruler of Irkalla, the path of the dead,” he rumbled, while standing in a field, outside a circle of ash and salt and holding a skull, “For thy eternal wisdom, I call upon thee; I call to consult with Death herself!”
Zeldris waited and listened, eyes closed in a way that could be described as sagely; after a long moment, he scowled and opened one eye to look around the ruins of Edinburgh—nothing.
“Right, so...Irkalla? Ereshkigal? Lady Death—whatever the fuck you go by these days,” he snorted, rolling his eyes, “If there was ever a moment to make some grand entrance, it would be now.”
“Like, right now.”
Zeldris simmered, his mouth twisting into a near snarl. “You know the King—that’s right the Demon King—will not be pleased to know you denied me an audience.”
After a beat, his shoulders sagged; he folded his arms over his chest and looked to the side with a bitter scowl. “Bet you would have showed up for Meliodas,” he muttered.
“Probably. Unlike the rest of your family, he would not address me like some lapdog.”
As Zeldris whipped around to face her, he found her a looming presence reminiscent of a sharp winter chill at night—her skin darker than an olive tone, and her body covered head to toe in a black gown that hugged her voluptuous curves, her own head covered by a black, translucent shawl—and from the shade of her hood, molten gold eyes narrowed and gleamed down at him, just as red-painted lips curled into a smirk.
“Oh. My. GOD, Zeldris! I have not seen you since you were practically a babe, this is so great,” she gushed, wrapping her arms around Zeldris and swinging him mid-air, grinning wide even as he struggled furiously, “Not even three hundred (technically) and you’re already leading a cadre of warriors, have a throne and dominion over mortals, oh, I’m so proud!”
“Azrael, please,” Zeldris ground through clenched teeth before turning to throw her a glare, his cheeks flushed, “I am not a child anymore, put me down!”
“Yes, yes, you’re right. We have so much to catch up on,” Azrael said, deciding to sit down, her legs curled beneath her. With a smile, she placed Zeldris down and leaned towards him. “So, how are things?”
Growing up with a cold King and a dreary Queen, the three brothers often found entertainment with each other—either through playing or bloody training, as they grew older—which had been fine, most of the time; however, nothing beat the days when Azrael decided to visit the Demon Realm.
Azrael had been a long time friend of the Demon King, after being cast out by the leader of her clan, banished forever in the world of the Dead, for reasons that remain unknown; she was the closest thing the brothers had to a godmother.
Zeldris’ earliest memory of Azrael was her crooning to him and his older brothers, calling the three her “Little Killers,” before granting each with kisses on their faces; he remembered how her freely given affection made him feel light and warm, probably the closest to being happy before—
“...So, you summoned me—after years of not seeing me, without even a proper greeting, mind you—to figure out what happened with your lost Lenore.”
Zeldris blinked round eyes at Azrael’s flat expression, shifted his gaze side to side, and then nodded. “Yeah, basically.”
Azrael blinked slowly, and then sighed, leaning her chin on the heel of her palm; rolling her eyes, she murmured, “Different as night and day, and yet, very similar tastes...”
Zeldris didn’t truly remember the details of their parting, only that he had yelled while she cried back just as angrily—their hearts both twisting at the idea of each other’s possible betrayal—and that the last thing he ever saw of her were the tears that fell from her eyes.
“...She had requested her death from Meliodas, after he couldn’t confirm whether you were alive or dead,” Azrael explained, her expression softening as Zeldris’ expression fell. “She was a vampire, dearest. Her life would have been long and lonely, even without her father forcing her under his thumb. She’d earned her sleep.”
Zeldris felt his hearts twist, near fracture, but couldn’t summon up any anger—not towards Gelda, not while knowing her thoughts before her death—so when he looked up at Azrael again, he didn’t falter.
“Is that why Melascula’s Hell Gate won’t work for her?” He asked, and then added with a strain in his voice, “Has she...found peace?”
Azrael frowned, her whole expression twisting with an ancient fury. “No. No, she has not.”
“She had requested her rest, and I gave it to her.
“But someone came not long after, invaded my domain, and stole it from her—as well as the rest of her brethren.
“There is no life to revive in Edinburgh, vampire or otherwise, because someone else has already done it.”
“What do you mean?” He said numbly, gaping at her, his eyes wide; as her smile trembled, her eyes watering, he felt horror burn white-hot from his insides and he held onto her tighter. “No, no, don’t...Elizabeth, why. Why would you waste that chance on me?”
Elizabeth reached forward to stroke her hand along Meliodas’ jaw, and sat up to lean her forehead close to his, “Because that was part of the deal. And any chance to save you is never a waste.”
“Zeldris,” she called from behind him, her form flying after him like a storm, “Zeldris, wait!”
As a hand wrapped around his wrist, Zeldris shot a seething glare back at Azrael and tried to pull out of her grip, “Wait for what, exactly? For whatever bastard holding Gelda to do something worse to her?! Fuck that. I will tear them apart before that happens.”
Azrael’s mouth twisted into a snarl, her eyes sparking with an emotion more than anger as she growled, “So what? What are you going to do? Turn your back on your plans? The Ten Commandments, your new little kingdom?!”
“Ah, yes, because there’s so much of the Commandments left to be accounted for,” he laughed bitterly before frowning deeply, “And as for this fucking rock of a country...if its people love it so much, they can have it. I really could care less.”
Azrael sneered and pulled him up by his wrist to eye level, being larger and stronger; despite hanging mid-air, Zeldris glared back at her, his black eyes narrow.
“And what about your King?” She asked, “You’d turn your back on him? Even while knowing of this?!”
With her free hand, Azrael pulled down Zeldris’ sleeve to reveal the mark of two snakes curled around his wrist, much like a chain; they were formed with a foreign darkness, one that wasn’t from Zeldris, and they pulsed and moved along his skin.
Zeldris swallowed the taste of acid from seeing that mark, a reminder of what he’d given up for power; but he faced Azrael’s chilled expression head on, not daring to feel regret—after all, most of the time, it had been worth it.
“I can handle him just fine,” he said.
“You mean the way your brother did? The one your father killed, and then cursed? You think the Demon King will offer you mercy, just because you’re the one son who probably hasn’t disappointed him?” Azrael snorted, her smirk bitter, “The minute you turn your back on him, he will tear you apart from the inside out.”
“Well, if you’re that concerned, then remove it. And stop getting in my way.”
Something dark and sorrowful took over Azrael’s expression as she shifted her gaze to the side, “You know I no longer have that power. My powers haven’t been at their peak since—well, you know the story already.”
For the first time in eons, Zeldris felt something white-hot rage through him, coming out in a roar, “Then what else am I supposed to do?”
Later, after all the yelling and crying, Elizabeth made one last request of the Seven Deadly Sins, of Meliodas, as well as the other friends she’d made in her small time on Earth: “Let’s go outside and look at the stars. I want to enjoy the time I have left with all of you.”
“I will help you find her, but you’re going to have to do something about that mark first…and it requires you to awaken Elizabeth and her memories.”
“...So, if I do this for you,” Elizabeth was saying to him, her blue eyes narrowing, “You will break one part of the curse?”
Zeldris nodded, “Correct.”
“...May I choose which part?”
“I suppose you may,” he said, inwardly snorting; he was already expecting a certain answer—
“Then I want you to break the one on Meliodas.”
—And it was not that, Zeldris thought numbly.
The King had experimented with his with all his sons, though he’d clearly favored Meliodas more out of the three (even if he was more difficult to control); however, even when Zeldris had been a child, the King found him to be the best channel for power.
And so, by the time he gave Zeldris leadership of the Ten Commandments, as well as the Commandment of Piety and the mark that chained the boy to him, Zeldris had already gotten used to the idea that his power, his body, even his own mind—it was never his to begin with.
Probably an hour after the battle was finally won, Zeldris woke up gasping from the light that was still burning along his wrist, even his forearm; as his darkness sewed his wounds back together, he glanced to the side to see that all that was left of the mark was a scar.
He turned to direct a wide-eyed stare across what was left of the throne room, to where Elizabeth lay unconscious; he realized rather slowly that, for the first time in millennia, the only voice he was hearing inside his head was his own.
“Well,” Zeldris whispered numbly, wide black eyes now staring upward. “Fuck me.”
Hours later, not too long after midnight—the zero hour, the start of the third day—it happened.
They were all resting on the grassy hill Hawk Mama had settled in. She stood apart from them, atop the hill, her eyes solemn and focused on her son, Elizabeth, and Meliodas, respectively. It was in the middle of a little conversation Elizabeth had started, her voice coming out more and more tired, despite her brilliant smile—
“Next time, we should all go to the ocean. The way we used to, Meliodas.”
“...And search for those mermaids that don’t exist, have never existed? Thanks, but no thanks.”
“We never confirmed whether they existed or not; for all you know, they could just be good hiders. Besides, that was when it was two of us,” Elizabeth said, shooting a grin to Diane—who was kneeling nearby, back to her regular size—and to everyone else, as they lay on the grass in a slight circle. “There’s so many of us now. We’re bound to find something out there.”
“Elizabeth,” Meliodas had sighed, while lying next to her, his tone light as he kept his fingers laced firmly with hers. “Damn it all, no.”
“Maybe we can find that island you guys found Merlin on,” Diane suggested gently, before looking down at Merlin. “What was it called again?”
Merlin paused before answering, her eyes staring straight up at the sky. “Belialuin.”
“W-was that where you grew up, Lady Merlin?” Escanor asked curiously, stroking Hawk’s head.
“If you could call it that, yes.” Realizing that she had an edge to her voice, Merlin sighed and added softly, “It might be nice to visit it again, though…”
“All things considering, it might be even harder to find it the second time around,” Elizabeth chuckled before staring up at the stars, her eyes clouded with something deeper than fatigue. “But yes, that would be nice—”
Meliodas sensed it before anyone else. He heard it in how slow she was speaking, felt it in how her grip on his hand kept getting weaker and weaker, could see it in her eyes. And despite the fact that it’d happened before, the anxiety still shot through him like lightning. All Meliodas wanted to do was run, even as his hand held her tighter, as if to keep her here. Please, just a little longer, only a little...
“Hmm?” He blinked out of his thoughts and turned to look at Elizabeth, who was also turned on her side, her expression frighteningly blank. “What is it, Elizabeth?”
Elizabeth waited a beat before curving her lips into a sweet smile and saying softly, “I have a secret to tell you.”
Meliodas swallowed into his tight throat, but kept his grin bright. “No kidding? What is it?”
She shifted closer to him, and then tilted her head to brush her lips against his, her breath warm but shallow. Meliodas took in a shuddering breath, his hearts throbbing, but he didn’t pull away. If anything, he leaned further into her and felt Elizabeth smile against his mouth. When they parted, she was looking down at him, slightly (and shakily) propped on her elbow. Despite everything, her eyes still sparkled like the stars above.
“You are still my rose,” Elizabeth whispered. “Curse or no curse.”
No...no, don’t tell me that, he thought desperately, his eyes clenching closed. A breath, painful and heavy, left his hearts near bursting. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t fair. It was never fair, but now...now there was a possibility of leaving Elizabeth behind to suffer, while he got a peace he never deserved, one he no longer wanted. How could he ever move on if she didn’t go with him?
How could she do this—
But Meliodas opened his eyes to face Elizabeth again, and as he lifted himself onto his elbows, he tilted his head towards hers. Because, despite everything, Meliodas knew how to respond this time—and he wasn’t going to waste it.
“And you are mine,” he said, firm and true, even after such a numbing existence. “Always.”
Elizabeth smiled, tears beading from her eyes. With a shuddering breath, she wrapped her arms around Meliodas and tucked her face into his neck. Meliodas again swallowed and then wrapped his arms around her, one hand stroking up and down her back. He gave one more look to the stars, and then turned to nuzzle her crown, his eyes sliding closed.
Breaking into the Boar Hat was too easy; Zeldris honestly felt a little disappointed. Then again, with everyone off to mourn—either somewhere outside, or in some other secluded corner in the tavern—he figured it made some sense that their guard would be down. Just in case, of course, he made sure to repress his power and cloak his presence as he carefully stepped inside the bedroom window.
As he crouched under the window, Zeldris listened and observed the room. Not even Meliodas was here—or anywhere close to the Boar Hat. He tilted his head, narrowing his eyes in thought. Then he shook his head and focused on Elizabeth. Zeldris still had work to do.
He walked to the bed slowly and observed her. She had been laid on her back, her hands folded along her torso, as if already being prepared to be buried. Zeldris narrowed his black eyes and leaned over the body—and then poked her cheek.
“Hey goddess,” he said, his tone blunt, almost nonchalant. “You still in there?”
Elizabeth didn’t respond, of course. But she wasn’t all dead either. Azrael wouldn’t have allowed it.
(“Wait, wait.” Zeldris paused to squint up at Azrael, disbelief furrowing his brow as her expression remained undaunted. “You want me to give Elizabeth back her memories and access to her powers...and then keep her alive?”
“That’s what I said.”
“Why? Why would I do that? For the woman who ruined my brother—who ruined everything?!”)
Zeldris folded his arms on the mattress, his eyes still staring at Elizabeth but unseeing. He flicked his gaze to his wrist, now bare except for a scar, much like a burn.
“I’ll be damned. You actually did it,” he said, more to himself than to her. “I still can’t believe it…”
What would happen now? Zeldris still wanted to search for Gelda and save her from whoever was imprisoning her—but what would happen next?
“I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t know what else to do now…”
Because technically, Zeldris had no commitment to the Demon King, or his goals anymore. And he really had no desire to take over Britannia, or the rest of the world; he had no idea what he’d want now that he wasn’t the Leader of the Ten Commandments, now that there were no more Commandments to lead. Was this what regret felt like? Zeldris wondered and then shook his head. No, this wasn’t regret. But there was too much uncertainty, too much doubt now. With a deep scowl, Zeldris decided he didn’t like the feeling.
Not to mention, there was the other thing to worry about; the thing that Azrael had warned him about.
(“...Do you honestly think that the worst the world has to face is you? You and your bitter demons? Let alone, your King?” Azrael smirked, but not with amusement; despite himself, Zeldris felt a chill weigh deep in his gut. “You still know nothing, child.”)
I’ll figure it out later. I always do, he decided with resolve. Then his eyes narrowed, his scowl deepening. Besides, if Azrael’s right, then I can’t afford to falter anyway.
(“Believe me, with what’s coming, you’re going to want that goddess to stay alive.”)
He cast one more look to Elizabeth and clenched his hand. And neither can you, apparently.
Zeldris lifted himself from the mattress, palms on the surface. He leaned slightly over Elizabeth and moved one hand over her head.
“Still, looks like I owe you one anyway, goddess,” he said with a wry smirk. “Don’t ever say I never did anything for you and that shithead.”
With that said, Zeldris placed his fingers on Elizabeth’s head and began murmuring a series of words from a language that many had long forgotten, a language even he barely knew beyond his scholarship of it. Almost immediately, Elizabeth’s eyes popped wide open, and began glowing with a light that spread to the rest of her body.
...So, apparently, I can't write an edgelord.
I am so sorry
But yeah. Writing Zeldris was the hardest thing to write in my entire life. Like, I had an idea of how to write him--I have lots of ideas, too, but a lot of them are likely so non-canon it's a sin (HA)--but there's so little to him in the manga, despite his Pure Evil ™ status. I swear, I would have lost hope in my ability to write him if Lickitysplit hadn't commented on the initial draft. (Thank you again!)
Also, I am low-key Zeldris/Gelda trash. I can't help it. Like BettyBest2's I Knew From Day One is one of my go-to fics. (These two are adorable in that fic) I had to involve them somehow. It's like..an unwritten rule at this point.
I am also trash for vampires, especially lady vampires. Y'know, if the Carmilla quote wasn't obvious enough.
As for the OC, Azrael: Okay, so I'm usually pretty iffy with OCs. But I love the idea of Death basically being a family friend to the Demon King and his literal hellspawn, while also having a mysterious backstory to go with her. We'll see a little more of her later, and maybe get some answers as to why she's involved herself in their lives.