“I’ll kill you!” As soon as I had made that announcement, the Dark Fairy Queen flew into a rage, dark power swirling all around her.
I pulled back with the other girls. Only Karr seemed calm. Even though all of her ire was centered on him, he seemed the least bothered by her presence. Well, he was a powerful adventurer in his day. Maybe he was strong enough to fight back? When I summoned him, my desire was to reveal the truth and then allow her to exact her vengeance on him. With that, the dungeon should be able to finish its curse.
After all, the problem seemed to be that the Queen never got her proper vengeance. He had died before she could express her anger against him. That had to be why the dungeon was incomplete.
A moment later, Karr raised his hand. The Fairy Queen reached for her chest as an emblem began to shine. I made a noise of shock. It was the slave bond! That was right! Karr had enslaved the Fairy Queen. This bond would have broken when he died, but now that he was back, it had somehow been restored. The Fairy Queen let out a cry and then collapsed down to the ground.
“Stop this!” Karr cried out.
“I hate you!” She screamed.
“I said, stop it! You need to listen to me!”
“Karr… you’re hurting her.” I warned.
“You… bastard… you took everything! Everything from me!”
“And I lost everything as well!” He shot back. “Please… hear me out!”
“I refuse… ahhhhh… I… will… never… be… your slave again!” She screeched, her hand slowly raising.
It looked like she was in extreme pain, but she was determined to attack him. That final attack might very well kill her. Isn’t that for the best? A dark voice inside me told me that if the pair destroyed themselves, it would be for the best. Then, we could all go home. Then, my eyes landed on Celeste. She was holding her hands against her heart, with a look of deep worry on her face. It was clear that she still saw these two as her parents. I remembered her when I tried to force her to follow my slave command that first day. The pain and defiance were the same as the Fairy Queen now.
“W-wait!” I shouted, stepping forward. “Wait! Stop! I’ll take the slave bond!”
The two people, Karr and Astria, turned their eyes to me. I instantly felt a deep pressure from both of them, but I stood defiantly.
“Astria… you need to hear what he has to say. Even if you don’t owe it to him, you owe it to your daughter. You don’t want to be his slave? Fine… then I will take control. As long as you promise not to attack us, I’ll even release you from it!”
I immediately activated the Slave Taker skill. Both Karr and Astria gasp as they feel the bond between them being tugged away.
“E-even if you take my bond, you’re still a human!”
“Then… I’ll destroy it!”
Karr was still weak from being resurrected. There was no way he could stop me from taking the slave bond. As soon as it ended up in my grasp, I pulled out one of the runes Figuro gave me and activated it, unraveling the slave bond.
“No!” Karr cried out.
Astria looked stunned for a moment, touching the spot where the bond had just been. Then, she laughed.
“Foolish human!” She raised her hand, “Now, I will-“
“Enough!” A shout caused Astria to be stunned into stopping.
Celeste stood up next to me, her hand finding mine and holding it.
“It’s enough, Mom,” Celeste said. “You need to stop punishing everyone. You need to stop punishing me! It’s time you just listened. It’s time you understood and moved on!”
Astria looked down confused. “Punished… I’m… protecting you… Trying…”
Celeste shook her head, “No, mother… you only hurt me. You killed a part of me, and to this day it still hurts.”
I looked over at Celeste with shock in my eyes. I had already guessed most of this, but she really had a part of her die. I didn’t know the kind of pain she had been in. Then again, I had seen the state she was in when I came to this mansion. She was confused and lost. She was scared and alone.
“Celeste… I’m so sorry…” I reached out and touched her cheek.
She looked over at me and pressed her cheek against my palm, smiling. “Deek… Thank you.”
Astria watched this exchange, her expression turning strange. Finally, like a balloon losing air, she fell back down to the ground.
“My daughter… for you… I’ll listen.” She turned to Karr and crossed her arms. “I read your journal. How will you explain what you did?”
Lord Karr collapsed, his hands on the floor as he shook his head. “I… I didn’t have a choice…”
“Didn’t have a choice?” I asked. “And the fairies did?”
Karr shook his head in aggravation. “It wasn’t like that! Astria… I did what I had to do.”
“What did you do?”
“Don’t you get it?” Karr said, his hand closing into a fist. “We had been stealing and freeing slaves for years. The Slavers were about to go to war. They were vying for permission from Aberis to sack Chalm and throw everyone we freed back in chains. Dioshin wouldn’t take any of the former slaves. If it came to a war, thousands would die, and everyone we saved would be right back where they started.
“But… the faeries… they’re just drones. They are used to being controlled, and they don’t have much of a mind. That’s why… that’s why I made the deal…” Karr lowered his head. “It was between a war of 1000s… or fifty fairies. House fairies were very popular then, and the slavers agreed that if I helped them sack the colony, they’d sign a non-aggression pact. I agreed not to take any more slaves, and they agreed to leave Chalm peacefully with the profits from the fairies.”
“You destroyed my family!” Astria cried out, “You sold them like cattle!”
“I saved them!” Karr’s eyes shot up. “I saved them from you!”
Astria backed up a step. “You… liar!”
“Don’t you remember?” Karr shook his head. “Were you so infatuated with me, even then?”
Astria reached up and grabbed her head, confused. “Remember… what do… what do you mean?”
“You kept showering me with presents. At first, I was just young, and I took your gifts for granted over the years, but every time I came back, you kept wanting to give me more and more. You wouldn’t let me refuse, so… I convinced myself it was the right thing.”
“Convenient.” I snorted.
“And so, you’d have let innocent people die!” Karr shot me a glare. “If someone offered you life-saving medicine, would you refuse to take it!”
“And the fact it lined your pockets with gold I’m sure had nothing to do with it.” I narrowed my eyes.
He sighed. “I won’t say that the desire for more money didn’t play a part, but it was only because a country is difficult to build, and this land lacks valuable resources for me to create a free nation. I don’t deny it. I turned a blind eye to the dark side of Astria’s goodwill. I wanted to believe that she had everything under control. However, the person who destroyed that fairy spring was Astria herself!”
Astria lowered her head, her eyes starting to fill with tears. “I wanted… I wanted you to stay. However, you always left. I thought… if I just gave you enough, you wouldn’t leave me again.”
“I couldn’t live that life with you… I told you that many times.” Karr explained hesitantly. “But when I returned to see the spring dried, your fairies half-dead and starving, and you still trying to push gifts on to me. I knew it had to end. Those house fairies, they found homes where they are cared for. They may be slaves, but they were slaves with access to food and mana. And for you… I accepted you into my home. With you no longer clinging to the spring, you can finally have what you wanted too.”
I was starting to realize the truth of things here. It wasn’t all anyone’s fault. At best, Karr was guilty of being a bit of a gold digger, using her affection for him to gain more stuff. In the end, his plans didn’t quite work out, and he did what he thought would work for everyone. There was only one thing about this story that still bugged me.
“What about these other girls? How can you call yourself some anti-slave philanthropist when you created a slave harem?”
“My time as a ghost is a dim memory, but I remember encountering you,” Karr said, looking at me appraisingly. “You were the boy who keeps two girls on your side yet speaks ill of harems.”
“I don’t have a problem with the harem part. People should have the right to do whatever they want. However, when you add slavery in the mix…”
Karr chuckled slightly. “You remind me of myself when I was younger. Idealistic. Noble. The words going through your head? Those were the same words that went through my mind. I told myself if everyone was free it’d all be okay. I had spent my life believing those words… and then I got to watch my best friend, my lover, my sweetheart… she fell apart because of those words.
“Karr?” Astria’s hand went to her mouth.
Karr nodded and sighed. “A fairy and a man? How could that work? She can live thousands of years, and I would barely live fifty. I told myself if I gave her the cold shoulder that she would eventually move on. She didn’t… and because I wasn’t willing to accept her in my youth, my actions led to the fate we saw.
“What does that have to do with slavery?” I asked.
“A Fairy Queen… is compelled to create a colony, her own fairy spring.” Karr shrugged. “Only the bond of slavery can redirect her primal instincts. It’s a part of nature. Fairies are an important part of the mana cycle. That was why I enslaved her, to break that cycle.”
I was starting to understand a bit now. Just like bees made honey and pollinated flowers, it looked like fairies pollinated mana. They created mana springs and mana dust. Their bodies were even composed of mana.
“And the other girls?” I asked.
“Not… everyone wants to be free.” Karr sighed. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but the longer I went, the more I realized that some people were so used to servitude, that the act of being freed hurt them. Many of my servants stayed on because of that reason. I tried to free them, but they couldn’t stand freedom. They decided to stick with something they could understand.
“There were also many women who fell in love with me. I was a handsome adventurer in my day, and saving a girl from an abusive slave master has an effect on her. I used to just ignore these crushes. Toss these women away and let them fend for themselves. Some moved on, but others were like Astria. They remained heartbroken, a pain they never got over. That is the path we walk, the path of harems.”
“We?” I took a step back. “I’m nothing like you…”
“Have you ever asked yourself lad, if these girls want to be free?”
I paused, turning to the three women that had been watching our conversation in silence. The three girls blushed, not meeting my gaze. However, before I could say anything, Astria stepped forward.
“Karr…” Astria said, her expression complicated.
Karr shook his head and finally turned to Astria. “I wronged you… perhaps my entire life. I don’t expect you to forgive me. However, perhaps, you don’t need to. Rather… wouldn’t it be best if we just stood aside, and let these children have their future.”
He gestured to Celeste and I, still holding hands.
“Karr… I’m sorry… I didn’t know… the things I did…” Astria looked down at her hands. “Celeste… my baby, what have I done?”
“I am just as guilty…” Karr sighed. “I made mistakes. I regret many of them. Among them, I’ve never gotten to truly meet my daughter. Hello, Celeste…”
“F-father!” Celeste straightened herself as Karr finally stood up.
He walked over and patted her head and then gave me a sharp look. “Boy… you are her master… and now her man. Take care of my girl. Don’t make the mistakes I did. Never make her feel like she isn’t loved.”
“Ah… y-yes!” I nodded.
“She is my precious daughter.” Astria added. “I have wronged her for so long, so I’m putting faith that you can do it right.”
“Is that it?” I asked in disbelief. “Your anger is gone?”
“My fury isn’t so simple as to be obliterated by a few cheap words.” Astria chuckled darkly and Karr looked away sheepishly. “However, I have a better understanding now. I know enough to know that I’ve been pushing myself on my daughter all these years, keeping her down. Celeste is our future now.
Karr straightened, his body suddenly covered in a white light, “Yes, one thing we both can agree on, this daughter of ours deserves a future, and she can’t have that while we continue to squabble in this dungeon! The curse must be broken, and to do that, we both must move on.”
“Father… Mother…” Celeste spoke with tears in her eyes.
With that, the atmosphere in the room started to change. Astria’s body was covered in a light too. She gestured for Karr to come to her.
“Is it really okay?” He asked, unsure of himself. “I’ve made so many mistakes.”
“Me too…” She smiled. “It’s time, that both of us move on. It’s time to let them take over.”
A glowing orb appeared from the ceiling and started dropping down. That was none other than the dungeon’s lore! The story of Lord Karr, his curse!