Title: Lion and Unicorn
Fandom: Princess Crown
Length: 1138 words
Warnings: (if necessary) major spoilers, AU
Author's Notes: Written post-game, with Eriel and Leon at the Academy, bonding over shared experiences of being possessed by the cursed book. The books reminded me of the cursed book and the house in the woods looks like Proserpina's house. AU because I don't think the book or Leon would still be there in canon.
If my sister gets to keep that goddamn crown, she thought to herself, they should give me my book back.
Of course, she knew exactly what the response would be if she said that out loud to the Headmaster or Justinei. Princess Gradriel has already shown she can control her darker side, and anyway there would be an uproar if they let students just borrow floating books with sharp teeth that whisper promises of demonic power into impressionably young ears, whereas how exactly were they going to explain why the crown was missing? Not that anyone at any point gave her a second chance to control her powers after she was literally jumped on as a novice mage and possessed by a Demon Overlord, even though she was in advanced lessons now and easily the most promising in her class. More importantly, she was forewarned and had been researching precisely how to deal with this kind of enemy. Goddess Above, they even let her come along on field missions to deal with arcane threats, after she had expressed interest in defending the Kingdom with her magical talent. If they didn't trust her alone yet, why didn't they send a squad with her to deal with the book instead of refusing to even tell her whether it still existed, never mind where they put it?
No, scratch that. She didn't want that. They would only be tempted to destroy it. She couldn't let them do that, not when a way to reach her true potential, the absolute limits of her power, was still sealed away in there. And besides, as a Princess, she knew politics well enough to guess that they hadn't destroyed the book yet, not when it could be useful to them in some way if they found someone brave or foolish enough to try and tame it. She also knew the real reason why they trusted Gradriel and not her: because she was the undefeated Warrior-Queen of Valendia, the reincarnation of Elfarion Herself, and practically a divine being who could do no wrong. Her twin sister Sidrael, meanwhile, was the tragic heroine of a timeless love story, the maiden so pure and self-sacrificing that she could tame a raging demon. Whereas Eriel was just a good student who had once been possessed by a book in one of Gradriel's adventures, a useful moral tale about divine hubris and the temptations of power beyond your means but nothing really all that remarkable. Most of the women in the town square didn't know the Second Princess' name or recognise her in her Academy uniform rather than her court dress.
"Looking for any book in particular?"
Eriel flinched and bit back a scream. The library was even quieter than usual this morning and she had been completely taken by surprise by the soft-spoken man who was suddenly behind her. Don't look too suspicious, she told herself, until she realised that looking too deliberately nonchalant made her appear even more suspicious and then she panicked and almost careened into the bookshelf with enough force to knock it over until a pair of strong arms caught her.
She blushed. Leon noticed it straight away and regarded her with a gentle smile of pleasant humour, his green eyes gazing into hers. He still wore as little as he could get away with, his green robes not covering his chest, the scoundrel, and she got the feeling that the exotic perfume he wore was supposed to impress her or something. Resigned to her complete loss of dignity and relieved that they were hidden behind a bookshelf, she replied, "One that isn't here."
He leaned forwards a little further than was appropriate (not that she minded, she privately admitted) as he deposited her on a stepladder, but not before whispering into her ears, "I know what you're after. I can see its lingering effects in your eyes, its disruption of your aura with my other senses. It speaks to you still, doesn't it? No, don't look at me like that. I'm not going to try and talk you out of it. I understand that it wouldn't work. I feel it too."
She let out a soft gasp. She had forgotten that he, too, had been possessed by the book. For the longest time, Leon had just been a senior mage and occasional guest lecturer, famous for flirting with the female students and sometimes riding into town on a unicorn. He's a half-elf, she reminded herself, he's probably as old as Justinei and his big white beard.
"How do you resist it?" she asked.
"I don't. Do I look like someone who can resist a promise of vast power and the opportunity to impress everyone? I've been looking for the book at every opportunity handed to me. The Castle doesn't have it, you know. I think I've narrowed down where it's most likely to be, though. Would you kindly come with me?"
She sat and gawped at him until he elaborated, "The fact that you've dealt with it before is what makes me trust you. Once bitten, twice shy, so they say. You won't be caught unawares again and I know you've been specifically researching how to fight it. Like me, you still want its power - hopefully along with the impressive things it does to your figure - but on your own terms, this time. Because you've learned enough now to understand that such power isn't in itself evil, or the seeking of it. The Headmaster is already capable of some of the spells listed in that book, you know, and he's about as sinister as the fat old cat who sleeps on his desk."
She laughed at the mental image, "I apologise if I'm getting us both into trouble."
"It's no problem. I'm the responsible adult here, as your academic senior. I'm the one who'll be turned into a toad if this ever goes public."
"I need you to not be a toad right now," she smiled, "And I'm still a Princess, you know. I could order you to do many things and you'd have no choice but to do them or leave Valendia in disgrace."
"I assure you, I have no desire to disappoint a lady or disgrace myself in front of her," he bowed theatrically. The librarian looked over and glared at him, but it was only because of her opinions on his personal habits, not any suspicion of activities that technically counted as treason. He leaned in and whispered to her, "Get packing, I leave tonight. We’re going to Proserpina’s. Yeah, I know, it’s bad news that she has it and I think we’re only alive because she’s such an incompetent wizard that she can’t even get possessed by an evil book properly. Meet me in front of the unicorn."