By Passing Chance, Tangled Up in the Mazoku"s Fate
A Glimpse of a Wriggling Shadow in Gyria
The Flames of Battle Climb from the Castle at Night
The Old Dragon who Knows the Scheme of Dynast"s Army
By Passing Chance, Tangled Up in the Mazoku"s Fate
Darkness came and brought only silence to the City. Even though it was the middle of the night, in a city of this size, some of the taverns were still open, with some of the drunkards still wandering down the nighttime street- Of course, this was normal. If we"re only talking about this city, there were no longer any stores open.
...well, clearly it was a dangerous time of day. Naturally, the streets were devoid of people, so I was going on my way all alone. My mantle, the color of darkness, fluttered in the night. I crossed the ground stifling the sound of my footsteps. I"m hurrying on my way all alone. Coming from behind me I heard:
"Going to pick on more bandits again?"
Hearing the sudden voice behind me, my body instinctively started to shake. In a panic, I turned around to see who it was.
"H-Hey.... don"t sneak up on me like that, Gourry...."
I see. He showed up before I knew it, under the faint moonlight, standing there with a look of disgust on his face. It was Gourry, my traveling companion. A blond beauty, tall, and an ultra-first class swordsman. Up until now that was undisputed. Regrettably, his head was stuffed with seaweed. I feared that by having stealthily slid out of the hotel room, he had caught me escaping and followed me.
"I"m not sneaking up on you. Seriously though, sneaking out of the inn on your own again..."
"By any chance... did you come to steal too?"
"There"s no reason for that."
The two of us argued at a whisper. Because no matter what, we were still in a town in the middle of the night. Although I would have liked to yell, excessive noise wasn"t a good idea.
"But Gourrrrrrryyyyy~ If I don"t steal, I can"t supplement our traveling expenses, and this bug in my gut won"t let me rest!"
"Are... you still upset because of that?" Gourry spoke to me, his face half stunned.
"That"s right." I said plainly. He responded by letting out a little sigh.
* * *
"....Let me ask you this... This report is absolutely certain... is it not?" That"s what the old sorcerer"s face and tone said, but in his mind it was probably more like "Don"t make such wild exaggerations, girl! Bringing this nonsense in here-!" or something like that.
This was about ten days ago. I somehow managed to finalize my report detailing the incident that occurred in Crimson Town and submitted it to Telmoord City"s sorcerer"s guild. I had desperately written everything down, ending up with a report five scrolls long. But after only one reading, that"s all the guild elder had to say.
"There"s no mistake, Sir."
He spoke to me with disappointment, his face a bit troubled.
"Is this... your witness?"
The moment he asked, I went silent. If there was a live witness to that event- just one, Gourry was the closest thing. Really, he was a witness. But Gourry didn"t have the memory power of ordinary vegetable gelatin. My "witness" and companion, in this situation would be stupid enough to say "what happened there?" and I would get the "complete liar" treatment without fail. For a while I thought about it.
"...My traveling companion...Well, the credibility of his testimony is probably pretty weak. It"s like I said in my report: The number of live witnesses is zero."
"Hm... I see..."
For a short while the sorcerer was silent with disappointment.
"...To tell the truth... I can believe some of it, and by that I mean the real parts... such as the General"s magic sword. However that had to do with the incident that occurred in Bezeld. Your story goes way beyond reason."
I gave the sorcerer a doubtful look, my forehead turning blue. So much for that. But come to think of it, it was reasonable of him. In this world, the word "Mazoku" carries a strong reputation. When it comes to high ranking Mazoku, the extent of that reputation reaches it"s peak. Naturally, it would require confirmation to be an officially recorded document. In this case a similar story would have been fine.
At the top of this world"s monster race reigns the Dark Lord Shabranigdu, and under him are his five servants, and then just below them, priests and generals. Thus Noble Mazoku society (?) is structured as such. In this world, there are few sorcerers who would think so much about a simple legend. Coming from a practical standpoint, for a while, even I wasn"t sure if the tale of the Dark Lord sealed in the Kataart Mountains was fake or not. If the me of that time were to read a report like this from an unknown person, I"d think someone had published it just to make a name for himself. I wouldn"t think it was like that. With that in mind, I can say that the old sorcerer"s reaction was natural.
I say that but...
That means he"s probably pretty angry.
"...Well... at any rate, your report has been received. Really, the Guild has only one petty request and that is Truth. Why, if there is a resolution to a report like this, it will be impossible to commission someone to do it." Within the old sorcerer"s words, clearly, the color of sarcasm was mixed in.
* * *
And so I was ordered to make an investigative report of the recent outbreaks of Lesser Demon and Brass Demon hordes. Starting off, I would be heading toward the Kingdom of Dils where the most recent incidents had occurred, as I was instructed by the Guild. Mmm but, just like any Guild commission, the commission fee, mainly because of the labor costs, was dirt cheap. Of course I didn"t want to accept this kind of job.
If it bothers you, you can always decline. The investigation, or should I say "cause for investigation," had no leads. And I don"t even know how long it"s gonna take to get a testimony out of every single person involved. Getting into this stupid, troublesome, incident for the measly commission fee is a mistake in itself. And yet, and yet- I have to. If I had refused so easily they"d say "You aren"t afraid of demons, are you? Just as I thought, your report was fake" and things like that. Even though I saw it with my own eyes.
And so, drinking my tears, I took this fucking awful commission. Of course, after agreeing to take on the job, I demanded the total commission fee up front. I didn"t know how long I"d be able to suffer through this incident without any decent leads if I didn"t have money. I just can"t live like that.
There, the Guild Elder gave me an introductory essay. If they were to see this, any Guild would give us shelter and food for our journey. Food and lodging was basically payment in kind. However, going from city to city, we weren"t limited to Guilds. If anything, the comped meals there were pretty poor quality. We set out for the job and had been traveling until now, gathering information here and there.
The advanced payment that we accepted already quickly disappeared. Under these circumstances it was impossible to do the job while smiling and laughing. So as revenge, I massacred a bandit gang. Er- well, more like I plundered a bandit gang"s treasure. I was only trying to replenish my traveling expenses. Who on earth could blame me for that?
"...Hey... getting rid of bandits, well, it"s not exactly BAD, and I guess it"s kind of your thing, and I wouldn"t dare tell you to stop but..."
"My... thing....?" to someone who acts like an animal- I took a deep gulp in the middle of my sentence.
"I know" I said, giving a small nod. On the edge of the surrounding darkness, I could feel an increasing weight. And that"s not just because the moon was being obscured. Mixed in with the darkness, there was a certain presence. Hatred, sadness, jealousy, despair- The negative emotions that living things carry, combining with their surroundings, the presence melting into the air- Namely, Evil. This presence was just wafting through the surrounding air, which means...
"...Hey Lina... I get the feeling we"re getting mixed up in something crazy again, don"t you?" There was a quicker answer to Gourry"s complaint.
BOOM!!! The sound of a heavy impact came from a slightly far off place.
Gourry and I simultaneously broke into a run.
"It"s coming from this side-"
"Lina! Over there!"
At the corner of the road we stopped, Gourry pointed right where I was looking, at the scattering debris in the road. So, that far away presence was- A person?! In a panic we rushed over to find a single collapsed man. His age was probably a little over 20 years. A dark liquid was flowing from his side, glowing red by the light of the moon. I held him up in my arms, glowing in his last moments. A single stroke to one side of his chest had done him in.
"...What on earth..." He was in the midst of murmuring his last words. I felt bloodlust rising up. Gourry stirred.
That sound of clashing metal was clearly a blade. I instantly dodged from the side where the sound was coming from. If I changed my line of sight I could see a dark shadow of a person who looked like they could hold their own against Gourry, without letting loose a sword. I say shadow, but it would be more accurate to say that his whole body was black. His body was adorned with light mail and in his right hand he held a black sword. Under the faint moonlight on that pitch black being, I could make out a strange white pattern. He had the appearance of an armed shaman of some suspicious religion. The presence he gave off was unmistakable.
He appeared out of empty space- but that couldn"t be. A nearby building- probably an Inn. The second floor window was smashed outward. This guy must have been staying at the inn when this bastard attacked and killed him, then confirmed the kill by throwing him out the window. Or at least that"s what probably happened.
"I have business with that man." With a muffled, awkward, holding-something-in-your-mouth-like voice he turned in the direction of the fallen man.
"He"s already dead."
When I said that there was a brief moment of silence before he turned his featureless face toward me.
"Already....dead....?" He tilted his head a little bit, as if he was thinking about something. "I see.... he"s dead...." he muttered, followed by another silent neck tilt.
What"s left of his mind seems to work properly... though he is still Mazoku. There was some more of that awkward silence after that. Then he suddenly lifted his face up.
"You"re the only one... who saw me...."
Whoa, wait a minute! I was just passing by! I better object to this quick!
The black Shaman kicked the ground. In one go, he jumped to the side and closed the distance between him and I. He"s fast!
He came to take me down with a side-jump attack, pulling the short-sword from my back, I just narrowly caught the blow and jumped off to the side. This guy"s strong! Clearly in this first round, that one strike wasn"t just a lucky hit. A moment after, if my attack was late, I think he could have easily killed me. If I had completely pulled the sword from my scabbard, I wouldn"t have been able to catch the weight of his sword and it probably would"ve mowed straight into my stomach.
When The Shaman received the blow, he understood and yet he didn"t, and pulled back his sword. Simultaneously jumping backward and out of the way, he looked over his shoulder to see Gourry following his attack by lunging his sword at him! If he were to attack me again, Gourry would attack from behind, striking a fatal blow to his back. That would be the end-all attack.
Gourry"s sword repelled him and at the same time, Shaman spun around and struck. Then, by jumping towards Gourry, I put some distance between the Mazoku and I.
"Lina, watch out! This guy"s pretty skilled!"
Of course, that went without saying. This time I had already started chanting my spell. That"s when Gourry and The Shaman faced off. The Shaman kicked the ground. Brandishing his sword above his head, Gourry slashed forward. But at that moment Gourry hesitated.
He was probably capable of knocking right into The Shaman"s stomach. However, by laying into him with that sword, could he really cause a lethal blow to a Mazoku? That doubt brought the slightest hesitation.
With his sword hoisted above his head, Gourry was able to stop The Shaman"s blow. But at the same time- The Shaman kicked the ground again! Using the two locked swords as a fulcrum, The Shaman was sent spinning into the air. Jumping high over Gourry"s head, and coming right at me! However!
The attack spell I had chanted made a direct hit and sent our opponent into the sky! Of course, I couldn"t kill a Mazoku with that, but the force of my fireball"s explosion had sent The Shaman flying way back. Landing quite a ways past Gourry, he turned his face towards me again.
"-hold on!" Shaman looked like he was about to take off. I restrained my voice. "Hey you, you said you were going to kill us. Isn"t it bad to leave us witnesses behind?"
Shaman was silent again then tilted his head.
"Indeed... the witnesses.... kill all...."
"Well, wouldn"t it be just fine if you ran away? With the sound of the explosion from my spell, people are gonna start gathering here in droves. You"re going to have an endless number of witnesses and it"s just gonna keep growing!"
Thinking about killing everyone. I thought you would come out and say something like that.
Shaman, as silently as before, kicked the ground very quickly and leapt high into the air, disappearing back into the shattered window.
"Did he just give up....?" Without letting go of his sword Gourry muttered, looking up at the broken window.
KABOOM! From within the room came a huge explosion.
* * *
"...So ...What should we do?" Gourry asked me the next afternoon. We were in the middle of a meal.
"What should we... About what?"
"Shhh-!" I shushed Gourry as he hurriedly stuffed a fried chicken wing into his mouth. I casually glanced over to the table next to us.
"....Your voice is loud.... what would we do if someone overheard?!"
Still stuffing fried chicken into his mouth, chewing and drinking, Gourry somehow picked up on my whispering.
"What we"ll do if someone hears...? But there isn"t anyone who seems particularly evil in here... And it seems like all the officials are still looking for clues about the whole thing. So isn"t it okay to talk about it?"
....huh... At Gourry"s unexpected words I let out a little sigh. He was already aware of such things. Right. Last night we happened across the attack, but afterward Gourry and I had quickly fled the scene. Naturally, the sound of an explosion had called people to the scene, causing an uproar in the surrounding area. Ever since this morning, the sound of guards bustling about the town has been continuous. Of course, I could come forward honestly and just tell them the particulars.
"Hey Gourry, if we did that, what do you think would happen?"
"....The officials would help us out."
.......uuuuuuugggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... More and more, you just wear on my nerves.
"I want to listen to you but... That attacker yesterday, what do you think he was?"
"A Mazoku. Right? He had that kind of presence."
"Probably. That"s what I thought too. Well, it was a Mazoku, but it"s not like them to use their heads and blow up a room for the sake of destroying evidence. That"s what I"m basing it on, anyway. The person he killed yesterday had been asleep when he attacked. Practically, since he was still wearing a nightgown. And then the room he was lodging in was blown up. This way, the victim"s identity is probably unknown. Maybe. We could be stupidly honest and tell the officials about what happened yesterday....But if we look at things from an official"s standpoint: The explosion at the inn left one unidentifiable body. How would it look if an unfamiliar sorceress with blood-stained clothes and a mercenary, happened along and said "A Mazoku killed this guy! Then there"s a problem. In that situation, what do you think the officials would do?"
"First, they"ll thank us for cooperating."
"They will not! If they saw two suspicious people-! Long story short, they"d look at us and say "A Mazoku killed him? Don"t be ridiculous! You"re the real culprits!" and then they"d arrest us on the spot. Then they wouldn"t listen to anything we"d say after that and that would be an appropriate conclusion."
"I guess so.... but if they realize that there"s a mistake they"d probably let us go."
At that I waved my finger at him and made a "tsk tsk" sound.
"That would be sweet, wouldn"t it? But in times where people are confronted by difficult situations, they"ll just label any suspicious people as culprits without evidence, and that would solve everything. For that, they"d be soaked with satisfaction. That"s how humans are. I did similar things back in the day, y"know?"
"............... you did what?"
"On that note, how the hell long do you think it would take to make them understand that we aren"t the culprits? Before, with the incident in Solaria, even with this and that the police interview went on forever! ...Oh wait. You don"t remember, do you, Gourry?"
"Yeah... I do...."
At Gourry"s words my face became weary.
"You can"t even remember the name of this city and yet you can remember an endless rambling conversation you once heard?"