Let"s Go! Our Destination is the Sorcerer"s Guild!
A Fight to the Death Breaks out in the Lake Town
Crimson-When the Puppet Play Comes to an End
A Rebellion?! The Troubled World
"Hey, if you behave yourself and give us everything you have, that may convince us to leave you in peace."
"If you don"t..."
It was a great morning, but alas, it was not an explosion from one of my attack spells that made the five or six bandits, who abruptly appeared on the road next to the corpse of a man, fall silent.
Something could be felt around the corpse. Hatred, sorrow, anger, hostility-the presence seemed to emanate all kinds of negative human emotions.
"Wha... What is this...?" Although they were just a bunch of blockheads, when the bandits felt the sudden hostile atmosphere, they gave up on their threats and quickly began to flee.
In the same moment, I started to chant a spell.
"Is it just my imagination?"
"No! Something"s there nearby!" As their yells (or more like panicked screams) reached my ears, the presence seemed to be getting closer.
There was a muffled noise, and then...
With some fireworks, the brass demon that emerged from the corpse was completely annihilated by my attack before it could make another sound.
"By the way, there seems to be more and more of these nowadays." Walking on a path within the forest, Gourry, my travelling companion spoke in a peaceful tone while he glanced at the clear sky with a blank look.
This happened a bit later after I dealt with the brass demon and also sent the horribly scared bandits flying, grabbing all of their treasure.
"By "these" you mean the brass demon I just defeated with my spell?" I asked.
"Yeah, those," Gourry answered, looking over his shoulder. I also turned back, but the spot where we faced the demon could no longer be seen from here.
"You"re right," I sighed, not bothering to hide the gloomy feeling that took hold of me. "There"s a lot more of them than there was before..."
Lesser demons and brass demons-they were the lowest-ranking among mazoku, and I took care of them without breaking a sweat, but they still never were the kind of an opponent you simply ignore.
To your everyday warrior or sorcerer, anything that"s called a "mazoku" is a risk to their lives. It"s nothing to someone of my capability, of course, but even such people could be caught unawares by a surprise attack, or if they get overwhelmed by a group of such demons.
Luckily, there were not all too many of them-at least that was the case until recently.
It started around half a year ago. Like Gourry said, these low-level demons began to emerge here and there, causing serious damage to many towns.
We were also attacked by a demon late at night in an inn once. The two of us tried to mount a quick counterattack, but the buildings around us got damaged and we had to waste a lot of money to pay for it. Then there was the case when we went to a bandit hideout to mop the floor with them for the sake of fun and cash, but the hideout had already been destroyed by a wild demon, robbing us of our much anticipated money-and prompting me to blow up part of the mountain with the Dragon Slave. That, however, changed the topography of the land and caused us to be chewed out by the locals, and... Anyway, I could go on and on, but long story short we also had our fair share of these attacks.
The reason why these incidents happened more often-that was yet to be discovered. But still, the anxious thought that "something is afoot" was definitely on people"s minds.
"Something... is indeed afoot..." I murmured silently, having stopped in front of a pillar at the entrance of a town.
It was Telmoord City, located in the corner of Lyzeille; although honestly, the "city" looked more like a big, overgrown village, without any other distinguishing characteristics. If you asked me about it, I could only mention the wall that surrounded the town, but that wasn"t all that unique either.
But putting the town"s characteristics aside...
"What"s up, Lina? Why did you stop here?" Gourry asked with an incredulous look.
"Because of this." I pointed towards the pillar with my eyes. A piece of paper was attached to the doorpost made of stone.
To all mages on the road!
If you don"t have any other pressing matters to attend to, please visit the Sorcerer"s Guild nearest to you.
The chairman of the Sorcerer"s Guild
"What"s this all about?" Though it was a really simple sentence, Gourry asked anyway, looking clueless like he always did.
Actually, at first glance, all one could understand from the paper was "sorcerers, go to the Sorcerer"s Guild"-but the main point was to go to the "nearest" one, not the one in this town. That meant the poster was circulated more widely and not just in Telmoord. It could be seen by many travelling mages and could gather a lot of interest, but it didn"t contain any details. In other words, something important likely happened which they didn"t want the general public to know about. Now that I think about it, there was a note similar to this that was posted all around a pretty long time ago...
"Anyway, I need to go there," I said, and started moving again.
"Err... Aren"t you Miss... Lina Inverse...?"
We were on the main street of the town when someone addressed me. We"ve already heard the state of things from the Sorcerer"s Guild, took our time finishing lunch in a restaurant close by, and were about to depart to our destination.
"Yes, I think I am," I answered and turned back, and found a girl standing there.
Though I did say a girl, she seemed to be around the same age as me, or a little older. She had short blonde hair and green eyes; it wasn"t an overstatement to say that she was good-looking, but the clothes she wore-a black hat and cloak, and also the black mage outfit surrounding her whole body-combined with her "too much on her mind"-expression took away half of her charm.
"Ahm... I"ve heard your name just now at the Sorcerer"s Guild. You... You are the Lina Inverse who has so many rumors floating about her abroad... right?"
"I don"t want to hear about those stories that simply refuse to die-" I began in vain.
"It"s hard to tell whether the rumors are trying to praise or insult you, but-"
"Yes, I think I"m exactly that Lina Inverse." I cut her off, squirming. "So?"
I could feel a vein pop on my temple hearing her excessive words, but with extreme willpower I managed to keep my cool.
"I"ve got a favor to ask!" she yelled suddenly. "Please... Take me... Take me with you to Crimson!"
"He-" I grabbed her right arm and pulled her into the alley next to me. "Hey! Don"t shout! You want me to bring you along because you already know what"s happening, right? You know what"s going on in Crimson, don"t you?"
"Yes. Of course I do." She nodded to my question. We could glimpse hidden depths reflecting in her eyes.
"The rebellion of a branch of the Sorcerer"s Guild"
That was basically what was going on in the guild of Crimson.
When one of the magicians in the small Laagudo kingdom, who held both the title of a minister and considerable power in the guild as well, staged a revolt, a poster almost the same as this was put out in bigger towns.
At that time, thanks to the remarkable efforts of myself and another person, the king was saved and the matter ended with the minister"s severe punishment, but... this time it was happening in Crimson Town, also located at the outskirts of the Kingdom of Lyzeille.
The leader of this revolt was the chairman of Crimson"s Sorcerer"s Guild, who took no part in politics. In a ridiculous move, he killed the lord who ruled the place and now dominated the town by force.
Of course, it was said that the news spread to the heart of the nation quickly, and the king sent some troops to intervene. If the army was already on its way, crushing the revolt in Crimson would only be a matter of time. Still, the Sorcerer"s Guilds wanted to solve this problem on their own to restore faith in their organization.
That was the story I heard at the guild a little while ago. They requested sorcerers who can help to go to Crimson and give a hand in bringing down the rebellion. However... as there were some false rumors spreading around in places recently, to avoid causing unnecessary confusion, this operation was a secret. A formal announcement would only be made after the issue was dealt with completely-this was the opinion of both the guild and the kingdom.
So, of course, this topic was not the proper one to pursue at the center of the main street. But, as I studied her expression, I thought she might still have her reasons for behaving like that.
"Anyway, let"s have a talk..." I said. "So, what"s your name?"
"Aria Ashford." The voice that answered was not her own, but the hoarse words of an older man.
I instinctively snapped my head back; there was a shadow standing deeper inside the alley. The person wore a black cloak and hood that was pulled deep below his eyes. He wore nondescript black clothing, and his face was also unseen in the shadows under the hood.
Although I"m not very tall, he looked even shorter than me as he stood in the alley, as his back was bent forwards.
Ignoring the uneasy-looking Aria"s question, the old man opened his mouth to speak. "I see... So they are the assassins you chose... to defeat Lord Cairus."
"Who... who are you...?" the girl asked again.
"Please call me Zonagain. Now then, let me see their skills."
Something like a low whistle cut into the air of the shadowy alley.
I didn"t know what was going on, but it looked like gramps just declared war on us. I began to cast a spell in a murmur, while Gourry retrieved his sword from his belt.
Both Gourry and Aria looked shocked: the darkness itself seemed to wriggle. It was a really grotesque sight; around Zonagain the darkness was moving in waves... No! It was not the darkness.
"Eep!" Aria let out a quiet yelp as she realized the truth. A swarm of dozens of rats gathered there, hard to spot in the shadowy place. They weren"t there a moment ago; it looked like they appeared in response to the old man"s whistle.
So... gramps is a beast master, capable of controlling animals?
Well, regardless of his army of rats, I don"t think we have much to worry abou-
A small noise could be heard in the alley, halting my thoughts. It was a sound like something had popped. Gourry, who came to stand next to me, froze on the spot.
More popping sounds hit the air.
"Urgh..." As the noise got louder, I could hear Aria letting out a small groan.
The sound seem to be coming from near Zonagain. The rat swarm... wait, can I still call them that? They might have been animals right before, but now took on really bizarre forms in front of our eyes. Bones and skin burst apart-new skin and bones came into being.
They were now bigger than what I could hold in my hand, and were continuously growing more and more. Honestly, I was a bit curious about what they"d become-but it was certainly no time for sightseeing. So...
"Freeze Arrow!" I changed the target of my spell, which I chanted to use against Zonagain, to hit the transforming rats instead!
The dozens of icy arrows from my hand froze all of them right away-but right after they hit, the ice vanished with the sound of a gust of wind.
"Ungh...!" I unwittingly let out a loud groan. I knew which race could make something like this happen.
The answer to what these creatures were suddenly became clear to me.
"Ha-ha... What do you think? This is a rare sight to see, isn"t it?" Surrounded by the lesser demons that became of the rats, Zonagain flashed a lazy smile.
The sudden explosion was accompanied by a burst of flame-and followed shortly by the screams of people.
The Flare Arrows the lesser demons released hit the main street as we cleared out of the alley and moved to the side to avoid them. Fortunately, it looked like there weren"t any people injured, as traffic was low at that time of the day.
"Everyone, run away from here!" I shouted while the lesser demons poured out from the alley.
Some of the passerbys screamed again, as the few people there scattered quickly.
Good. This place has room, we can fight well here.
"Gourry! Some cover, please!" I said and began to chant a spell.
"Okay!" Gripping his sword, Gourry dashed toward the horde of lesser demons!
"Goooooh!" One of the demons took notice of him, let out a loud cry and created dozens of Flare Arrows in front of its body!
But before it could fire, Gourry ran up to it, and his sword cleaved the demon"s stomach.
"Kwaaaah!" the lesser demon screamed in its death throes and fell down, the flaming arrows in front of it quickly scattering in the air.
But it was too early to celebrate; a lot of lesser demons remained still. They"d all come out to the main street from the alley by then. Gourry"s blade felled a second demon-and by the time he was finished with a third, my spell was complete!
The blue light of the spell can penetrate its target and give a living man something of a shock; mazoku and undead on the other hand, would feel considerable pain. Still, normally the damage would not be very great; right now though, I had boosted the spell with the talismans!
My azure beam went through several of the demons that came out of the alley
"Kheeeeck!" With a scream, the demons collapsed on the spot.
Until then, all the demons concentrated only on Gourry, but now I"ve become their target as well.
"Aria! Get away from here!" I shouted, pulling out the short sword from my belt; then I ran forward chanting a spell.
"Graaah!" a lesser demon roared, blocking my way. At that moment, Flare Arrows appeared out of thin air and began to pour towards me.