Slayers:Volume 11 Chapter 4
Crimson - When the Puppet Play Comes to an End
"Freeze Arrow!" Aria’s yell drowned out the violent laughter.
Hey, wait a sec--!
Cairus showed no signs of dodging, simply let the ten or so frozen arrows to rain down upon him. And then - like Mucale did before, he sent a wave a chilling cold towards us.
Well, it wasn’t much of a chilling cold, more like cool wind, to tell the truth.
“As I thought...” Aria said, a bit crestfallen.
Ah, right. She let out a weakened Freeze Arrow to test whether Cairus absorbed Mucale’s ability.
“Kuahahaha! Useless! Haven’t you realized that Mucale’s power is mine? Such hopeless attacks from people like you will no longer have any effect on me!” Having no idea that we were testing him, Cairus kept gloating in a loud voice.
In the end, he really is just a third-rate villain.
We couldn’t assume that he only absorbed Mucale alone. No, on the contrary, it was only natural to expect him to have all of sorts of special abilities stolen from his other subordinates... huh?
In that moment, a question flashed through my mind - but I did not have time to think about it.
For now, the biggest question is how to defeat him...
“I’m telling you now, it was not only Mucale I had absorbed!” Cairus parroted my thoughts. “I’ll show you!”
He let out a beast-like howl, a dozens of Freeze Arrows appeared out of thin air.
This is the lesser demons’ power!
Without hesitation, Cairus guided all the arrows to strike him as soon as they came to being.
The second wave of cold spread quickly, sending a pulse of pain through our skin.
“Ugh!” Gourry groaned in a low voice as he grasped his sword and ran at our enemy. Cairus took a step back, however, and howled once more.
Another storm of cold fell upon us!
This man... really knows how to use his skills!
If he simply sent the Freeze Arrows directly at Gourry, he could have parried them with his sword or dodged them. But by changing them into a shockwave of freezing wind, Gourry was helpless to do anything about it.
Of course, as the wave expanded, its power fell to next to nothing, but what if he kept doing this constantly? We’d start to lose body heat, if only a little, and our movements would get slower and slower without even realizing. If he sent a couple of Freeze Arrows at us in such a state, maybe even Gourry would fail to avoid them.
This Cairus... judging from his way of talking and his strength of character he may look third-rate, but one can still call him a pretty good magician.
Looks like we need to think about another strategy for the fight as well.
“Gourry, Aria! Come here!” I called, running to corridor which was connected to the hall. “Aria, give me a hand!”
After explaining the plan to her, we started chanting a spell together.
“Are you trying to escape! It’s of no use!” Cairus chased after us with some sick excitement in his voice.
“Dam Brass!” I released my spell - my target was not Cairus, but the ceiling above him!
The ceiling collapsed, sending stone debris both big and small pouring down on him.
“Tsk! How meaningless!” Cairus avoided the debris by moving back, then made his way through the cloud of dust in the air. He passed over the stone pile which blocked the corridor and started nearing us again, but...
“Dam Brass!” At my signal, Aria shot the second spell, which smashed into the ceiling as well.
Now the dust filled the corridor entirely.
“What are you doing?! You’re starting to annoy me!" Voicing his complaints, Cairus took a step back once more, while Aria and Gourry withdrew further into the corridor.
“Dam Brass!” Again, Aria’s spell struck the ceiling.
“Damn it! You’re so persistent!” Looking impatient, after Cairus moved back to avoid the stone debris, he leaped quickly on top of the pile to continue his chase.
That was the moment I’ve been waiting for.
“Ragna Blade!” Responding to the Power Words, the sword of darkness emerged within my hands.
Try reflecting this!
“Huh?!” Cairus heard my voice coming from nearby, but could not see anything through the dust cloud, so he quickly released another beast-like cry and absorbed the arrows - just like I thought he would. His body shone up with brilliant light, and the magic wave swept through the corridor in both directions.
At that moment... I made the jump down.
I struck with the sword of darkness the moment I was right above Cairus’ head.
“What?” He finally realized what was happening and looked up, but it was too late! The black blade silently lodged itself deep into his body.
When Aria hit the ceiling on my signal with Dam Brass, I flew up to hole in the ceiling using Levitation. As I hoped, there was a similar corridor on the next floor as well. As Aria and Gourry ran on the first floor, I ran with them on the second while casting Ragna Blade. Next, Aria’s second Dam Brass blew a new hole into the ceiling and also into the floor of my corridor, and I attacked Cairus the moment I leaped off.
“Ah...?” From one moment to the next, Cairus turned pitch black - and his entire body burst apart.
The large amount of dust gradually settled down, revealing Gourry, Aria and me standing there.
“We... did it?” Aria asked.
I gave a nod. “As far as Cairus is concerned, yes.”
“But we’re not off the hook yet,” I interrupted her. “There are still enemies left. We have no idea how the people who were controlled by Cairus will act now.”
There was Aireus, who was literally stuck to the mansion from the outside, those human-like winged things, and let’s not forget about the flying lesser demons either. Not to mention that these were only the ones we’ve come across until now; Cairus no doubt has other forces under his command.
Since the mage was down for the count, the best scenario would be if his control spells would dissipate... but if they don’t, his underlings might keep attacking us still, as we are obviously his enemies. I don’t need to explain how annoying it’d be if that happened.
“We need to see what the deal is with our remaining foes before rescuing Bell,” I stated. “If we go in and save her only to face an all-out attack the moment we set foot outside the mansion, all our efforts could be wasted... By the way, can your sister use some attack spells?”
“No... not at all...” Aria mumbled in confusion. “...my sister...”
“Okay, so she can’t use offensive magic, right?” I tried to push the conversation along.
“No, actually, she doesn’t know anything about magic at all,” she said. “I became interested in magic when I was little and went to the Sorcerer’s Guild, but Bell loved cooking and often helped out in our parents’ small restaurant instead.”
“All the more reason to check out the situation outside first. We can start with heading into one of the adjacent rooms and take a look out the window.” With that, I opened the nearest door.
It seemed like a bedroom similar to the one where Bell had been. We could see outside through the terrace windows - I could not make out any enemies nearby. I couldn’t feel any bloodlust or even hostility around us either.
“What do you think, Gourry?” I asked.
“I can’t feel anything either...” he replied. “Anyway, I’ll go outside. Stay here.”
“Okay. Be careful.”
His sword at the ready in his right hand, Gourry opened the terrace door with his free one. He spent some time again checking if anyone was nearby, then ran out to the terrace and looked around the mansion.
“Ah...” Gourry gasped with both astonishment and horror.
“What happened?!” I asked, alarmed.
“No... the guy... A-Anyway, come here.”
Aria and me glanced at each other and cautiously headed to the terrace. We turned our gaze to where Gourry was looking...
“Is this...?” Our reaction was the same as his.
Aireus’ ivy covered the mansion completely, and among it, there were these huge masses of skin protruding here and there... but now, each of them seemed withered. The round blobs of skin were rustled by the wind, making a noise like dry fallen leaves, as if the whole thing was a huge, desiccated flower. Even the ivy-like vines turned to a brown color, looking entirely lifeless.
“Is he dead?” Gourry murmured in a quiet voice.
Deep silence descended upon us.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to me. “No way...!”
I crossed the room again and ran into the corridor. Gourry and Aria followed behind.
“What’s wrong, Ms. Lina?”
“One moment!” I told her. “There’s something I have to check.”
I stopped by the room through which we got in - where we met Ms. Bell yesterday. I couldn’t say anything, just stood there, my feet rooted to the spot.
Beyond the terrace, that human-shaped, winged something-or-other, who was leading the flying demons, laid sprawled on the ground like a doll. There weren’t any winged demons in sight either.
“What’s going on?” I heard Gourry mutter from the back, but obviously, I couldn’t give him an answer.
“It’s because Cairus died, isn’t it...?” Aria mumbled unsurely.
Yeah, that’d be a likely reason considering the circumstances, but... while I can’t say that it’s impossible to make a chimera that will die the moment someone else dies, there must be some pretty complicated methods involved.
“But why would Cairus do such a thing?” I objected.
“Well, it’s because...” Aria considered my question for a second. “Maybe he could not stand the thought that if any disaster occurred his subordinates might outlive him, or... perhaps he made them like that so they had no choice but to help him. Yes, that must be the reason!”
“Hmmh...” I let out a doubtful grumble.
I guess her reasoning did make sense for the situation, but... something... something weighed on my mind.
“Hey! Wait!” I don’t know if he was listening to our conversation or not, but Gourry suddenly sounded very nervous. “If this Cairus guy wanted to take all his people with him... what about Ms. Bell?”
My gaze met Aria’s, and we frantically ran into the corridor.
“Ms. Bell, answer me!”
“Heeey! If you’re safe, please say something!”
The three of us kept shouting like that as we searched through the mansion. To tell the truth, I expected to meet a couple of guards on the way, but there wasn’t any. Only the sound of our voices echoed through the seemingly deserted building.
We checked everywhere on the first floor, but Ms. Bell was nowhere to be found.
“Bell... oh, no...”
“Don’t give up yet, Aria!” I tried to keep her from panicking. “Let’s head to the second floor!”
We ascended the stairs in the front hall, and opened the nearest door we could find. It swung open with a creak... and we came to a halt for a second.
The window in the room was wide open, with the white lace curtain swaying gently in the cool wind as if swimming on water. There was a rocking chair set up near the window, and...
“Aria?” Sitting in the rocking chair, Bell glanced at us over her shoulder, with a forlorn smile on her lips.
“Bell!!” With a cry, Aria ran to her sister. Bell stood from her chair and embraced her softly. “Bell... Bell...”
“It is over...” she said in a small voice as she brushed Aria’s hair, who buried her head into her sister’s chest and sobbed.
“Yes...” Aria spoke in a weak voice. “We defeated... Cairus... The town will be peaceful... and I can live with you again...”
Ms. Bell didn’t answer, but gazed into the distance, almost like she was trying to remember something which she had lost long ago.
“This mansion... Is no one else here?” I asked her.
“Yes. Everyone had disappeared when the revolt started,” Bell replied, her eyes still staring somewhere far away.
I was starting to feel uncomfortable since it looked like I was butting in on their sisterly reunion, but there was something I had to make clear.
“But... Ms. Bell, are you alright?” I spoke cautiously. “Cairus made even himself a chimera...”
Hearing my question, Aria’s head snapped up. “That’s right... Bell, are you okay? Didn’t Cairus do anything strange to you?”
Her sister answered while smiling softly, “I’m all right, Aria. It wasn’t Cairus who made them like that, but me.”
At that moment, no one could really understand a word of what Bell just said.
“B-Bell?” Aria whispered hesitantly. Her sister merely looked at her with the same soft smile.
And then, I realized. The look in Bell’s eyes wasn’t forlorn, more like... crazy.
“What are you... talking about?” I asked in a hoarse voice.
“Cairus... deserved such a fate,” she answered, not looking me in the eye. “He deserved to suffer the disgrace of a traitor... to lose his honor... and to lose his life as well. It was only fair... to me. Cairus deprived me of him... deprived me of happiness.”
“Then... Cairus really did kill him?” Aria asked with surprise.
By ‘him’, are they referring to Bell’s fiance?
“Cairus never told me that... but... I could not imagine any other way.” Bell replied. “So I... changed everyone... along with Cairus... I made him create the revolt... so he would die in disgrace.”
“I-I don’t know what you’re saying... Bell... Change? What do you mean...?”
“I... Aria, I felt like I gave up everything. I thought I resigned myself to my fate to the point when even feeling sad about it would have been meaningless to me. But it wasn’t... I thought I gave it all up... but hatred built up within me little by little. So I changed everyone... in Cairus’ name. I made him create this revolt.”
“That’s a lie!” Aria shook her head desperately. “You have to be lying! Or else... or else it’d mean it was you who I fought against, Bell!”
“I love you... Aria... You are my only sister... but...” Bell’s smile became dreary. “After he died... Cairus proposed to me, and I savagely rejected. But one day... he visited me and said: wouldn’t I be bothered if my younger sister... would meet the same fate as my fiance?”
Aria’s form trembled silently; I could not see her face from where I’ve been standing.
“That made it certain to me... it was Cairus who killed him, like I thought. Although, looking back now, he might have told me this only to make me agree, but... at that time, all I could think of was that I cannot let Aria die, so... I had no choice but to obey him.”
In the end, this guy really was the worst kind of scum.
“This is not a lie, Aria...” Bell shook her head slightly. “And because of what happened... I love you, but at the same time...”
She has come to hate her as well.
She sent Aria away because she loved her. She did not want her to get involved in the fight.
She also sent her away because she hated her. She wanted her to feel guilty about leaving her sister alone in the town and also used Aria to spread information about Cairus leading the revolt.
So, could it have actually been Ms. Bell who dispatched Zonagain to spy on Aria?
Yes, with this, a lot of things finally begin to make sense. If Bell’s goal was to make Cairus meet his end in disgrace, after his death his subordinates were no longer needed. In fact, if his men continued to fight, that could have posed a problem - so she made all of them die. But... how?
“You’re lying!” Aria cried out in a shaky voice. “It’s a lie! All of it! I can’t believe that you could’ve done such a thing! You don’t even know anything about magic at all! There’s no way you could… transform everyone like this! It’s impossible!”
“Yes... I know nothing about magic. After I married Cairus, he kept me from studying it... perhaps he was afraid of what I could learn and use against him for revenge. Even though I hated him more and more, I was powerless to do anything... until a person came and gave this power to me.”
“A person?” I murmured with brows furrowed. It sounded like this ‘person’ was neither her dead fiance nor Cairus...
Bell possibly heard me, as she, still wearing the same smile, continued her explanation to her sister: “I’ve never been told what my benefactor’s name was... But this person realized I wanted power and lent some to me. With it, killing Cairus would have been so simple... but I wouldn’t have been satisfied with only that. And so, I made up my mind to strip him of his honor by painting him as a traitor. I used this power to change everyone and also to control them.”
“Lies! This doesn’t make any sense! It can’t be possible!”
“It is possible, Aria...” said Bell. “In the end, it will only be truly over if I die... along with everyone else here...”
“--Aria!” I ran to the girl and grabbed her arm, pulling her away from Bell as hard as I could. After what she said, it looked awfully like Bell might try to kill her sister - although for now she just stood there without any kind of concealed weapon, as far as I could tell.
“That’s a lie! Bell!” Aria was nearly crying.
Bell moved her gaze from her to me and Gourry. “I’m sorry for involving you two in something like this... but it’ll soon be over. No matter what kind of a man Cairus was, I know it was not right to drag people into such a matter who had nothing to do with it... thus, I deserve to die too. But I must stigmatize Cairus as a traitor... so... you two have to die as well...!" She glanced back at her sister, and silently lifted her right hand. “Aria... look at this. This is the... the power I received. Come to me... Dulgofa.”
The moment those words left Bell’s mouth, a haze of darkness materialized within her right. The darkness then abruptly solidified, turning into a jet black rapier.
“H-Hey, Lina! That’s...!”
“I know!” I snapped at Gourry in a cold tone that surprised even me.
I remember that name, and that sword. The dark blade, Dulgofa, is a mazoku itself, and was wielded by a certain high-ranking one under Dynast’s command, General Sherra. Gourry and I also had the opportunity to see someone who touched it get morphed into a bizarre form.
Right... If she used that sword’s power, ‘changing’ all these people could not have been very hard.
“Bell! Please stop!” Aria pleaded.
“Let us... get this over with...” her sister mumbled, her right hand already changing shape, fusing with the dark sword...
“I won’t let you do that!” Gourry shouted, running towards Bell. The blade in his hand struck - he probably tried breaking Dulgofa to stop the assimilation, but...
With a sharp noise, the sword in Bell’s hand effortlessly blocked the blow.
“Wha...?” Gourry took a huge leap back with a surprised yell.
It’s no exaggeration to say that his skill with the sword was among the best there is - so if someone managed to block a full-powered attack from him, that person either somehow had to be even more skilled than him,or had to have something like Zonagain’s multiple arms.
I couldn’t really imagine Bell knowing that much about sword-fighting...
“It’s much too late...” she said. “The sword was already within me... though it wasn’t a perfect merge yet, I was already close to becoming one with it. I don’t know anything about fighting... but Dulgofa does.”
The blade started sliding into Bell’s palm, like it was being absorbed - and then her extended right arm turned dark. From there, the darkness gradually spread through her entire body as well.
There was no stopping it now.
Ms. Bell entire form became pitch black. She had become... completely one with Dulgofa.
“Bell!” Aria’s cry filled the room in vain.
Earlier, when Dulgofa fused with a man in front of our eyes, it did so against the person’s will. The result of that merge was a deformed, huge lump of flesh. But now... she accepted it by her own will. Already, I couldn’t really tell if the woman standing before me was Bell or Dulgofa.
Is this the perfect form a merge with the sword can take?
Judging from appearances, it was similar to Mucale, who we fought just now. Only where Mucale’s entire body took on the appearance of a shining, clean emerald, hers was nothing but hopeless, solid black.
Like the statue of a dark goddess...
“Bell...” Aria spoke her sister’s name. In reaction, the woman silently pointed her right hand towards her.
“Watch out!” In the same moment, Gourry dashed to the girl, took her into his arms and ran.
With a dull thud, the wall behind where Aria had been standing was collapsed by an unseen force.
This is bad!
“Gourry! Let’s get out of here!”
“Got it!” Hugging Aria, he hurried after me into the corridor.
“Bell! Bell!!” Grief filled the girl’s voice as her yell rang through the room.
There’s no helping it... At this stage, there’s no way we can return Bell to the way she was...
We have no choice... but to bring her down.
No, we have to bring her down, but not in front of Aria. That’d be more than cruel.
“Gourry, let’s go outside for now!”
We headed straight down the stairs, blasted the front door open with a powerful kick and went out of the building.
“Aria, head into the town and find a place to hide!” I told her to go deeper into the city since the surrounding garden wasn’t exactly full of hiding spots, with only a couple of trees planted here and there.
“What are you going to do...?”
I could not answer her. Seeing my reluctance, Aria dropped her gaze.
“It looks like... It looks like there’s only one thing you can do... right?... I understand... Please do what you can...” she muttered, squeezing the words out. “Mr. Gourry... I’m... okay now... I can walk by myself.”
“If you’re sure about it...” He put Aria down gently.
“For now... let’s go into the town together.”
“Okay.” She nodded to my offer.
While I was worried that she’d insist on trying to persuade her sister, she seemed to have resigned herself into accepting what was to happen.
Before we left the garden however... I could feel a murderous presence approaching.
“Aria!” As she ran right next to me, I quickly shoved her to the side.
In the next moment, without any sound or wind, something passed by between the two of us - and a branch of a garden tree in the distance was blown to pieces.
I skidded to a halt, turned back, and saw the woman’s figure slowly strolling down from the entrance of the mansion.
It seemed like this wasn’t the time to try hiding Aria somewhere safe after all - the woman was targeting her specifically. Maybe as Bell fused with Dulgofa, she brought the conflicting love and hatred she nurtured with her and her horrible obsession persisted? If so, then even if she’d let us hide Aria somewhere, she would still stop at nothing to track her down.
“Looks like we have to settle this right here...” I said.
“Yeah... Seems that way.” Gourry and I stopped trying to withdraw, and turned around to face her.
“Aria, step back a little!” I warned. “But don’t get too far away from us either!”
After making sure that everyone knew what to do, I began chanting a spell in a hurry.
The woman pointed at us with her right hand again. Is she aiming for me this time?
I kept the chant going while quickly jumping to the side; an invisible presence passed by me. So, she figured that I was an obstruction to her desire to kill Aria and decided to take me out first?
As her attack flew by, she was already on the run towards me - and my spell was complete.
“Swightflang!” In answer to the Power Word, a thick fog emerged around us.
This spell was normally used to aid an escape, but it could also help to make invisible attacks visible; I already saw someone using this strategy before. The enemy’s attack leaves a cavity in the mist, and that makes it possible to see where it’s heading.
The woman raised her arm again. I was struck by a sense of foreboding and hastily dodged to the side once more. The loud noise of impact hit the air somewhere far behind me.
No way... She can zap someone without making the air move at all?
How could such a power even exist?
Although I could easily avoid these blasts since my opponent wasn’t attacking me continuously, and so I could anticipate them without much trouble... honestly, this ability was disturbing.
Gourry blocked the woman’s way as she came near, while I cast another spell behind him.
“Haa!” Gourry cried out, and swung his sword at her. Metallic clangs filled the air as each of his attacks were met with a solid defense. No one noticed until now, but she was holding a dark dagger in her right hand.. well, it was a bit longer than a dagger, but still shorter than a real sword. She must have summoned it the instant she blocked Gourry’s attack.
The woman met Gourry blow by blow; their skills were nearly equal, but her stamina likely far exceeded that of a human.
She’s... proving to be a really tough opponent.
Luckily, to fire her invisible attack, it seemed like she had to stop and concentrate; at least judging from how she refrained from using it while in melee.
As that thought flashed through my mind, the spell chant was finished. Expecting this, Gourry leaped back to create a large gap between him and her.
All right! Now!
“Dynast Brass!” I released my spell immediately!
Bolts of lighting struck the center of the pentagram that appeared below the woman - but then her whole body appeared to shake for a moment and was surrounded by black fog. The darkness neutralized my magic with mind-blowing ease.
Not bad! Well, in that case...
I quickly cast another spell while Gourry tried to divert the woman’s attention from me. The dagger in her hand blocked a swing from the side; Gourry immediately pulled his sword back and stabbed.
Just as quickly, however, another dagger emerged from the woman’s left hand, and she caught the blade between her two weapons. Then, with Gourry’s sword trapped like that, she closed in on him!
“Ugh!” He quickly backed away; and while the two of them were going back and forth from attack to defense, I managed to complete my newest spell. Not a second later, Gourry took another great leap back; he really knew the timing of my chants like the back of his hand!
A beam of light sprang forth of my finger, quickly approaching our opponent. She saw it coming, and moved away from its path with a half-step; Gourry took advantage of this and charged at her, but his strike was blocked by her left-handed dagger with a clang. That maneuver froze her in place for a moment.
Yes! That’s just what I’ve been waiting for!
The Zelas Brid’s ribbon of light I called forth had the ability to change directions freely according to the will of the caster. Also, this attack spell draws its power from one of the high-ranking mazoku, Greater Beast Zelas Metallium; if I could score a direct hit on Dulgofa, the mazoku would be in trouble!
Although the beam already passed by the woman, on my command it abruptly changed directions and sped towards her once more!
No sooner I thought that, though, without hesitation she struck with the dagger in her right hand towards the incoming spell, and...
Her blur of a strike effortlessly bisected the ribbon of light! The two halves zigzagged through the air uncontrollably, their power lost.
“Ugh!” Gourry tried to avoid the out-of-control remains of my spell, and lost his balance for a second.
Damn! Against her, even such a short moment can be critical!
Continuing the same movement she cut the beam with, the dagger in the woman’s right sped towards him!
Gourry crouched down on his left leg while kicking his opponent with the right.
And just from that... she got knocked to the ground with a thud.
“Huh, what?” Gourry mumbled. The whole situation was so awkward, he stopped his attack altogether.
Yeah, it didn’t seem like he managed to trip her by catching her off guard at all; it looked a lot more like she got tripped almost by mistake like a clumsy rookie.
“Gourry! She might have weak footwork!” I yelled my rough idea to him.
Ms. Bell said that Dulgofa knows how to fight, but... why did the woman summon those blades into her hands? If she wanted to extend her reach, she could have made her arms themselves longer, so why didn’t she do that?
My guess was: Dulgofa only knows how to fight as a sword.
And if my hunch was correct, beating her won’t be so hard at all!
“I’ll give it a try!” Gourry said as he regained his balance, launching a sliding kick towards her legs.
Again, with almost absurd clumsiness, the woman plopped to the ground.
“Sorry, but you’re going down!” Gourry swung his sword at her as she lay there.
A loud clang rang through the area.
“Wha--?!” we all yelled - well, except our opponent.
She did not block the strike with a dagger, Gourry’s blade did reach her chest, but... it was kept from doing any damage by the pitch-black skin.
Without another word, Gourry quickly took a step back.
I should have seen this coming. If the dagger she created is part of her, and she just uses it because that’s the only form Dulgofa can work with... then it’s not so surprising that her whole body had the same hardness as those knives.
Gourry’s sword didn’t have a name, but it still held a lot of magic power within - and yet it seems the blade still doesn’t work on her.
“W... What now, Lina?” he asked, apparently out of ideas.
“What now, he tells me...”
“Can’t you make this sword stronger with your magic?”
“That’s not an option!” I rejected his request in a firm voice. There actually is a spell that gives magical power to a mundane weapon, making it able to destroy things it previously couldn’t - but I couldn’t even imagine what would happen if I used that on a sword that’s already enchanted. It could become stronger if the spell and the enchantment successfully fuse with each other, it could respond badly and become weaker if the two magics cancel each other out, or, in the worst-case scenario, the two powers may interfere with each other and go out of control with a huge explosion.
Trying something as risky as that was not something I wanted to do.
Meanwhile, the moment the woman scrambled to her feet, she spun around and ran towards the mansion entrance.
“Is she trying to run away...?” Gourry asked.
“Let’s go after her!” I told him.
Normally, if an opponent gets enough of fighting and wants to flee, I wouldn’t necessarily give chase - but she was a being that contained Dulgofa, while also carrying the obsession of Ms. Bell within, so I doubted she would give up so easily. She might have ran off now, but she’d come after Aria and us later. And honestly, I’d rather take a dozen brass demons head-on than be hounded by someone like her.
Also, would her animosity be limited to only the three of us? She didn’t say, but what if she’s got fed up with the world in general? It’s not like it didn’t happen before: she transformed all the people in the guild using Dulgofa’s power without giving a damn about who they were.
We had to stop her - this woman, or whatever she had become - right here, right now.
“What about that black blade?” Aria’s voice came from the back. “If you could use the sword you defeated Cairus with, Bell could be--”
“That’s iffy,” I interrupted. “I don’t have the ability to catch up with her movements.”
Her footwork was weak, true, but she could handle the sword nearly on the same level as Gourry. If I charged at her, I could run into a blow before getting the chance to trip her.
It wasn’t just that, either; what worried me more than anything was that the spell drained too much magic power. Since I used it on Cairus just now, my reserves were running low; if I chanted it one more time, I could keep the blade of darkness going only for a few moments.
The question was how many strikes I can squeeze into that - I wasn’t sure I could land a hit in such a short time.
The woman passed through the front door and ran inside the mansion with us following behind.
She stopped at the center of the hall. Next to her, Zonagain’s body lay crumpled to the floor - he was already dead.
With a dull noise, the dagger in her right hand penetrated the body.
What is she doing?
I didn’t have the time to wonder, as she withdrew her weapon and faced us again.
Does she...? No.... No way...
“Stop!” Hearing my warning, Gourry and Aria came to a halt at the door.
And then...spider legs burst forth from the woman’s back.
Gaaah, it’s just like I feared!
“Fall back!” I shouted.
“You won’t hear me complain!” Aria and Gourry replied. We turned around in a hurry and dashed outside, when...
“Freeze Arrow!” The voice coming from behind our backs wasn’t very clear, but it was Ms. Bell’s beyond doubt.
“Scatter!” The moment we got out of the building, we split according to my directions, moving to the left and right to avoid the swarm of icy arrows that passed between us.
Daaah, it’s truly for real!
We moved away from the door and jointly started running. Instantly, we could feel a presence closing in and turned around again - the woman was right behind us.
“W... What do we need to do? Lina!” Gourry shouted, his hand on his sword.
An irritated yell was all I could manage. “I have no idea either!”
“No idea?” he echoed.
“She seems to have the ability to absorb others’ skills and knowledge if she cuts them with that dagger,” I explained. “In other words, if either you or me get so much as a scratch, she’ll master all of our techniques right away!”
“Are you serious??”
“It’s likely... no, actually I’m pretty sure about it!”
The way she looked like proved that she can absorb abilities, and the fact that she didn’t use a single spell until recently only to use one of Zonagain’s now proved that she can also absorb knowledge. Bell didn’t know anything about magic, after all, and I doubt Dulgofa knew how to cast Freeze Arrow.
Anyway, we really got ourselves into a hell of a situation. Winning against someone with spider legs, who has a sword skill similar to Gourry, while avoiding even the tiniest injury was pretty much impossible.
Thanks to those legs, if we tried to run away, she would quickly catch up with us. Fleeing to the sky was also not a good idea, since all she needed to do was find the corpse of one of those winged demons... and once she could fly around, our chances of beating her would quickly hit rock bottom.
No matter how I look at it, we have to defeat her the way we are now...
“When you say that she absorbs knowledge,” Aria asked from next to me, “you mean that she actually absorbs memories, right?”
“Yes, I think she does,” I answered, my gaze not leaving our opponent.
“I understand... Let’s settle this.”
“Eh?” Hearing that, I could not help but stare at her in confusion.
Aria was smiling broadly, her face devoid of hesitation. “Please save my sister...”
I... At that moment, I didn’t know what she was about to do.
Aria ran. Right towards her.
“Aria!” I reached forward to catch her, but narrowly missed. At last, I realized what she meant.
“No!” Gourry dashed forward - but it was too late. Aria was already held by several spider legs. She held her arms out, as if wishing to embrace the one in front of her.
“We will not be apart ever again... Bell...”
At that moment, the woman’s dagger cut into her chest in the middle.
Without hesitation, I started to chant my spell. Stalling was unforgivable, an insult to Aria.
Lords of the Darkness and all Four Worlds,
Following thy bonds of fate...
Aria’s body softly fell to the ground. The spider legs that held her began to tremble a little.
...Merge all thy might,
Grant unto me greater power!
The four talismans on my belt, neck and both wrists lit up with a dim light.
The woman’s body was shaking... it was like she was crying.
I paid it no mind, but walked towards her while chanting the second incantation.
Fragment of the Lord of Nightmares,
Release thy heavenly retribution
Blade of cold, black nothingness...
“Hey, Lina!” Gourry called out to me from behind.
He already realized: the bloodlust completely evaporated from the woman’s figure.
Become my power, become my body
Together, let us walk the path of destruction
And smash even the souls of the Gods--
I stood exactly in front of her as I finished my spell.
In a low voice, I uttered the Power Words while bringing my right hand forward,
The darkness sprang forth from my right hand... and sliced into her without resistance.
The moon was rising.
I stared at the town that lay under the dark sky in silence.
“...Are you crying...?”
“...Don’t be stupid...” I answered to Gourry with a small smile while glancing at him over my shoulder.
We were walking along a road that went from Cairus’ mansion alongside one of the canals. I could not sense a single living soul in the Crimson Town that was wrapped in darkness.
“It’s just... I have... too much on my mind, a bit...” Turning my eyes back to the city, I mumbled in a low voice.
“...Can I ask you about something?” he spoke up once more.
“...What is it?”
“Why did she stop moving so suddenly back then?”
“Aria... she paralyzed her,” I answered. “Using her ability to absorb the memory of her victims... she conveyed her feelings about Ms. Bell to her...”
Maybe, at that moment, Bell finally understood and accepted her. The hatred she had possessed seemed to disappear from her mind - the same hatred and obsession that allowed her and Dulgofa to merge. A rift was torn between the two; if we didn’t interfere, Dulgofa probably would’ve taken over Ms. Bell against her will, so I... really had no choice about it all.
I did not want... Aria’s sacrifice to save her sister’s mind to be in vain.
“Lina...” Gourry drew closer to me and put his hand on my head. “Don’t be sad... Whatever is on your mind, you can share that burden with me.”
“Gourry...” I rested my arm on his shoulder... right before I put it around his neck, and started to strangle him. “Of course you have to do that! Do you think I’d just stand idly by if you’d tell me ‘sorry, not my problem’?! I would choke the life out of you!"
“But... khh... you’re already choking me!”
“If I had told you in advance, you would’ve resisted!”
“Of course I would have! ...Well, you seem to be feeling better now, at least.”
“I am... Being depressed won’t change anything, anyway."
“Oh, okay, I get it.” Gourry let the subject drop. “Things are over here, anyway, and that sword is gone too.”
He said that with a honest smile, but the smile I could offer in return was less genuine.
True... after she was cut by the blade of darkness, the woman disappeared, crumbling into black dust. Perhaps Dulgofa met the same fate too.
As long as Dynast’s general is alive, that sword will be reborn.
What was Sherra thinking when she gave that weapon to Bell? What are the mazoku planning?
The answer wasn’t in my grasp yet.
I kept staring at the moon as it hang over the eastern horizon. The night had only just began...
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