Another explosion. Don't tell me Judas ran into another group ahead!
In fact, it's actually Judas' fault that we're all the way out here in the middle of freaking nowhere. He's the one who took me prisoner... and all the way out here! It's times like this that I wanna hit him... what I wouldn't do for a nice warm bath or a big hot dinner... mmm...
"Stop daydreaming, Rina! Bomb Di Wind!" Judas bursts from the foliage in front of me, arms outstretched before his chest. When he forms the ball of compressed wind in his hands, I cringe and hit the dirt. Yup... just wanna hit him. Really, really hard.
Judas lets out a breath and scowls towards me. "If you're going to be a liability, then I'm just going to leave you behind and make my own way. I have no time to be babysitting." Did I mention that I would like nothing more than to feel my knuckles grinding into his granite crown right now?
"Babysitting? I'm no baby! I can do just fine on my own... I'm just with you until we find Kari, remember??" I ignore the fact that he just blew away a few would-be assaulters from behind me. After all... if I was more trusting than I should be of Judas, I would've been blasted to kingdom come by his powerful wind magic.
"Hmph." As usual, "King" Judas turns his head without care of my comment and walks off into the forest. What a jerk he is, sometimes...
"Well? Are you coming or not? I know of a town near here, but if you'd rather grow roots like the rest of the trees here, that's fine with me as well."
"Whaaat? A town?! Lead the way!" A town! I'm so thrilled! I can take a loooong bath, eat a biiiig meal, sleep on a nice, warm, comfy bed.... it sounds so heavenly right now. I can't hold in my enthusiasm! I give a small grin and almost skip after Judas. "Wait up! I'm coming, I'm coming!"
My grief was unbearable. There was a town alright... now, it's a ghost town. No bath... no bed.... no FOOD. I drop to my knees and cry a few tears of anger, frustration, and disappointment. The whole situation was a swift punch in the proverbial gut. Looking up, Judas is rolling his eyes. "Oh get over it..." Idiot. Does he think everyone is like him? I can't deal with being in such miserable conditions for so long! It has been three days since we got away from Judas' former hideout. I can understand why he'd have his hideout so far from town... but this is ridiculous! It should've been a functional town that was here!
Oh bah. After releasing my pent-up stress, I look to Judas. Since we didn't get any sleep the night before, either, he decided that we should sleep in one of the old stables here. There's some straw... so it's better than the ground. "Judas? Why is this town like this? You know... abandoned?" The sullen chimera gives me a slightly apathic look from the corner of his left eye before shutting it. He has nothing better to think about, evidently, because he answers my curiousity promptly. "This place was a mining town, 50 years ago. It used to be quite prosperous... so much so, there are other towns around it. Unfortunately, the mines' resources were too few to be profitable and the town collapsed on itself. Since the gold and silver that kept the place alive were gone, all the other towns around here also became ghost towns. Just more proof that one shouldn't rely so much on a risky gamble..."
"Oh," I sigh, in response. Although I'm a bit of a gambler, I try not to bite off more than I can chew. Of course, things never go as I planned them. For example... I planned to get some sleep tonight... or today. In no more than five minutes, what should happen but the roof bursting into flames? Judas is quick to get up and rouse me from my coming sleep. The smoke was getting thicker by the moment when my eyes flickered open. The smoke was forcing itself down my throat when I felt Judas' rough hand grip my forearm and pull indiscriminately. He and I burst out of the first window Judas finds, a few of the falling crystals of glass pattering against my armor and cloak.
"Aw hell," I choke out. Personally, I think that little event was enough proof for my theory. As I cough out the last cloud or so of smoke from my lungs, I raise my gaze to see Judas glancing about cautiously. He must've been caught by surprise... he probably thought that they wouldn't find us here... here, in this ghost town.
Judas' glare settles on the end of the street. I level my gaze there as well and see none other Brahm, this time in full plate armor, holding a bomb. Damn it... how I sometimes hate technology... especially when it's used against me. Judas voice comes forth with a sharp, angry tone. "You don't learn, do you, Brahm?!" The strongman seems to grin as he shakes his head, striking his axe against his plate-clad forearm once. "Never, Judas. I'll see you dead before I do!" Brahm gives a low guffaw before raising a shower of sparks from his armor, lighting the fuse on the bomb. Judas is quick to push me through a door, the force being enough to splinter it.
"Ahhhgh!" The jerk could've been gentler. "Juuuda---!!!!" I try to call out to him, mainly to complain, but the boom of the explosion from the bomb drowns out my voice. Brahm runs by... and, to my insurprise, followed by a score or more of trolls, goblins, orcs, and berserkers... but none of them came for me? Huh? What's wrong with this picture? They're after Judas... but not me...
Now seems like the perfect time to split and leave Judas to fend for himself... but this stupid little thing called 'a conscience' prevents me from shuffling off to Atlas City without helping the poor guy out. I think it over before groaning and looking out the door for Judas and his persuants, muttering, "I'm gonna regret this..." No sooner do I pull my head inside that a rain of strange blades pierces the floor and the wood of the building near where I was standing. I pivot and look down, eyes widened slightly. I draw in a shuddering breath upon observing that the blades were neither physical or magic. Looking at the damage caused by the blades, I figure that it can only be one thing... the last thing I or anyone else would want to run into....
The word escaped my mouth as naturally as I breathe. The most powerful white magic comes from the Shinzoku, the Gods... just the same, the most powerful black magic comes from Mazoku, the Demons. Perhaps this race wouldn't be so much of a terror if it weren't for several factors. For one, they cannot be physically injured. Mazoku are spiritual beings... so the same laws that apply to physical beings such as humans and dragons don't adhere to them. Because of this, they can't be harmed -- I repeat, can't be harmed -- by regular swords and blades. In my research, though, I read that someone can actually hurt Mazoku if their will is strong enough... thoughts that blight the Mazoku; Repeating 'go to hell' in your mind and not giving in to fear is supposedly enough to at least wound them. This brings me to the second point... Mazoku, especially the kind that can cause this kind of damage -- pure Mazoku -- are very powerful. Getting close enough to hit them with a sword would probably be a near-impossible ordeal.
Seeing how several of the most powerful Mazoku have been ruined, I hoped that I only would ever run into lower-leveled demons like Brass Demons. That's not gonna be the case, it looks like...
This arouses a question in my mind.
Why is a Mazoku coming after me and helping Seto?
Call me crazy, but I smell a conspiracy. I'm not quite sure what it is or could be, but something is definitely going down here. Mazoku don't just help anyone without a price...
"Little Rinaaaa... come out and play, Rinaaa...."
A hissing voice fills the air. It knows my name... "What the hell do you want?!" I yell. If I sound angry, you'd better believe it. I'm thuroughly pissed.
"Oh come now, girl... Seto would be SO disappointed if I didn't kill you..."
I grin a little. My brow is a little damp with sweat... this IS the summer. Kinda muggy... and it's cloudy; the dark, angry clouds hang low, like it's about to rain. I do my best to be brave in this situation. Even then... I'm sure I'd much rather be in Judas' position than mine right now. "Yeah right, like I'm just gonna sit here and let you kill me. You'll have to catch me!" As I said that, I took off away from the door and up a set of ladders inside the building. As I clear the ladders, I turn to my right and put my arms out, forcing the old door open.
"Levitation," I quickly recite. My body becomes light... and this lets me get onto the next building's roof. I didn't expect to get home free... and I didn't. A salvo of black blades flies before me horizontally, shredding the roof of the building just in front of me. I glance off to the right, teeth bared just slightly. "Oh..? So now you show yourself? Well I'm ready for you!"
My antagonist makes his presence evident. In essence, he is a gangly, lizard-like creature, at least visibly. It's holding a semi-physical presence... I can see him, just not hit him. The demon is clad in a monk's robes, hood only revealing a pair of yellow eyes glinting back at me. "Heh heh heh... you stupid witch. Don't you know that defeating me is an impossibility for you?"
I don't take insults like that lightly, so I instinctively perform a quick spell's motions. "Overconfident? Maybe... but never call me stupid! Flare... Arrow!" From before myself I let fly a volley of ten fiery arrows, all aimed at the robed demon. It moves aside, up, and down, evading the flaming shafts with relative ease. Then, three of the beams hit him, bursting and throwing flames all over his form. "Yes. Direct hit!" I give a small grin and flash a victory sign... but my joy is short-lived. Before I can give my victory speech, another blast of blades carves a line past where I was standing. "Blaaah! I knew it was too good to be true!"
The familiar raspy laughter permeates the muggy air as I look up. The Mazoku's form is still coated in flames, but it is rising and moving as if untouched. "You foolish child... you can't hurt me with your shamanist tricks. Heh heh heh..." I groan and prepare to jump to the next roof in an escape attempt, but fate spits in my soup when the roof beneath my feet gives way and drops me into the building's age-ruined inside. Stupid fate...
And then it throws another screwball by letting me land in the lap of yet another screwball! I wince and reach down to rub my tail end, but I rub something else... a leg? My eyes flutter open through the objecting movements of my eyelids and trace a path upward. Past a red tunic, past a breastplate and up into the confused cobalt gaze of a young, blonde-haired warrior. I gape for a second before we speak at the same time.
A moment passes before I put Kari into a headlock. "Where the HELL were you?! You don't know what the HELL I've been through! Weren't you gonna protect me, you dope?!" I did say I was pissed, and with good reason. The guy all but abandoned me! He chokes out a few words from beneath my family's patented knuckleheadlock... "But Rina... I was looking for you! *gasp* And you know what else?" I snarled and loosened up a little, "What?!"
"You're pretty strong, even for a girl..."
"... ..." An explosion breaks the silence and catches me somewhat off-guard. Finding Kari distracted me a little from the battle with Mazokuface back there. I let go and kick Kari from my reach while bounding for the back door, "We'll talk later. We have to get out of here," I pause only long enough for an ethereal knife to whiz by, "... NOW!" Kari, back to his semi-obedient manner, nods and follows me out, rubbing the knot I probably put on his crown.
I look back, my soaked violet hair getting in my eyes. The rain is coming down hard, lightning flashing in the heavy, darkened sky. A fiery whip from the still-chasing, still burning Mazoku splinters the tree in front of me as Kari and I are about to dash in. I grin sardonically. "I guess escape is out of the question." My gaze also catches Kari drawing his sword and angling it with our enemy. I shake my head and wave my arms in protest, "NO, Kari! Swords can't hurt him!" Kari looks to me, a little confused. After a moment, he grins, shrugs, and turns to the Mazoku. "You never know if you don't try..." he tells me.
... what... an... IDIOT!
He turns and charges. Ugh... no amount of speaking against is gonna convince HIM. I just hope he survives my next move. When push comes to shove, I return with a Dragon Slave...
"Darkness beyond twilight... Crimson beyond blood that flows; buries in the flow of time as where your power grows," I begin. As before, I close my eyes and put my concentration on channeling the energy needed to fire the spell, as well as 'reciting' the spell in my mind. "I pledge myself to conquer all of those that stand against the mighty gift I hold in my unworthy hand." The air between my hands heats up rapidly as the energy materializes. The Mazoku's sandpaper voice and Kari's confused wailing mettles somewhere among the rain, thunder, and humming of the energy. My eyes snap open and focus on the Mazoku, who is distracted with Kari. There's my chance... "... let the fools who stand against us be destroyed by the power you and I posess! Dragon--! huh?!"
Lightning strikes just nearby and obscures my vision with its blinding flash. If it's possible through the following thunder, I also hear the Mazoku's... agonized screaming? A cloaked figure dropped from above just before the lightning struck, now that I think about it. Damn... I dropped the spell. All the energy I gathered disipated and withered away since I lost my concentration before I finished casting. As I thought it was over, a tendril of light lashes out at the center of my chest. My eyes go wide as a hit is iminent. If somone is thuroghly injured by a Mazoku... survival is slim. My legs felt heavy and time seemed to slow as I tried to move aside in time... and when I thought it would hit, a powerful mass strikes me from the right and gets me out of the way just in time. I look right and see that Judas tackled me from sight. Now I was carried on his shoulder.
"Haa.... you want to get killed, Rina!?" Judas doesn't give me time to answer as he turns to Kari. "Finish him off, Kari! Astral Vine!" Judas outstretches his right hand. Kari puts his sword out away from himself as it flashes and takes an ethereal glow. The battle is short-lived as Kari jumps and strikes three fatal blows to the wounded Mazoku using his enchanted blade.
Judas drops me on the soaked ground, splashing mud on him and myself. "Damn it... now I owe you twice. I hate being in debt," I told Judas. He just turns his head with a 'feh'. Jerk. Kari sighs and sheathes his longsword, looking over to me and banking his head to one side as if wondering what was next. I look to Judas and raise a brow. "Hey... what happened to Brahm and his goons?" The gloomy chimera looked at me through the rain and darkness. His eyes are slitted and glow a dim slate in the shadows... he's part demon... I can feel it. But he isn't evil, not by any stretch...
"Brahm..." he begins. "Syrius and Ilisidus showed up... but they were loyal to me. Brahm is dead..." After his brief explanation, he closes his eyes and lets the rain patter on him. Syrius wasn't so mummy-like anymore and offered an apology since we were on the same side now. Sure... I can let bygones be bygones, but you're still a third-rate wizard. Ilisidus is the other pretty-boy mercenary, although he's considerably... hmm... quicker-witted than my self-proclaimed bodyguard.
Kari looks to Judas, Syrius and Ilisidus, then me, then Judas, Syrius and Ilisidus again. He leans down to me and whispers, "Say.... isn't that--?" I put my hand on the back of his head and shove his face into the mud. He lies still as I scowl and banter, "Yeah, yeah, it's Judas. Long freaking story. I'll tell you later."
And I did. The rain let up when me, Kari, Judas, Syrius, and Ilis got to a mountain road, a few miles north of the ghost town. We made camp for the night there, knowing that we would finally get some rest. Since Brahm and the Mazoku are both gone, Seto won't know what happened for a while. We can form a plan on what to do next meanwhile. I looked off to the west at the sunset while I was alone, thinking. The sun was unnaturally red... a blood red, almost. The wispy clouds sillhouetted against the sinking red disk make it look eerily like an eye. I don't believe in omens... but, deep down inside, I prayed to Ceiphied that this wasn't a foreshadowing of darker days.