OmaeGotoki: Volume 1 Interlude 2 - Ruinous Good News

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“Not enough… It’s nowhere near enough…!”

The blue-skinned man floats in the air far above them, his red hair flowing unnaturally upwards. He raises both of his hands above his head, his arms trembling with rage.

“You aren’t hot enough… We finally get to fight all-out, so why the hell are you so damn cold!?”

His howl almost bursts Cyrill’s eardrums. As if responding to his rage, the temperature of the air around them suddenly spikes.

“Prometheus: Illegal Formula!!”

After gathering enough mana into the spell that it almost bursts apart on its own, he thrusts his hands down towards them. The earth below him splits, and ten-storey scarlet flames engulf the land as far as the horizon.

The Demon Realm is suddenly the very image of hell itself.

‘Illegal Formula’ is a magic technique that consumes an inordinate amount of the caster’s magic to increase a spell’s effect exponentially. Normally, the Fire spell Prometheus only turns a hundred-meter radius area into a sea of flames, but Illegal Formula expands it to more than ten times that. In exchange the spell is extremely difficult to control, but there’s only one demon in the area: Tsaion the Flickering Inferno himself. All of the lesser demons have already retreated --- he doesn’t have any reason to hold back.

“Eterna, hurry up and put out this blasted fire!”

The sage Jean gives the witch Eterna an irritated order even as they and the saint Maria put up a Shield spell to protect their party.

“I know.”

Eterna gives him a curt reply. She'd started casting before he’d even opened his mouth.

Concentrating, she draws mana out of the depths of her small body. The two fishlike things floating by her shoulder start glowing, helping her shape and expand the spell.

“Water Meteorite.”

A massive sphere of water appears above Tsaion’s head, falling at him as if to crush him --- in one spell, an attack and a fire extinguisher.

“You’re still only lukewarm!!”

Tsaion wraps himself in flames before flying straight through the sphere of water and out the other side. Now looking down on the massive sphere, he gathers intense heat into his right leg.

“ORAAAAA!!!”

Yelling, he kicks it away with all his might, and Eterna’s own spell is sent falling towards the party at an intense speed.

“Impossible! He can’t just kick it like a soccer ball!”

“Demons really are nonsensical things, aren’t they?”

“...This is unexpected.”

Not even the three holding up the shield are sure they’ll be able to withstand the attack.

Just then, Gadio rushes forward to intercept the sphere.

He leaves a small crater behind with every step. The ground simply can’t stand the combined strength of his legs and the weight of his black full-plate and almost two-meter-long greatsword.

It’d be a mistake to think him an ordinary human.

The weight of all his equipment isn’t even enough to slow him down --- not only that but he's completely mastered the use of his own magic.

“Earth Glaive.”

Moving only his mouth, the spell erupts into being. Focusing his mana into the ground at his feet, a steeply sloped stone pillar rises out of the ground in front of him. Every time he takes a step he creates a new outcropping of rock in front of him, the staircase of boulders leading him up into the sky.

Halfway up, he draws his massive blade. The sphere is still a fair ways off --- he shouldn’t be able to strike from here, but he nonetheless stops and raises his sword above his head.

“Fuuuu...”

Letting out a deep breath, he converts his stamina into a different power entirely: prana, an energy similar to but distinct from magic. By consuming the wielder’s stamina, it temporarily enhances the user’s body past its natural limits.

Gadio pours prana into his sword, saturating it all the way to the very tip.

“HAAAAAAAAHH!!”

Then, he swings.

The speed of his swing is so great that the air around him bends with an earsplitting screech. The edge of his sword releases an invisible shockwave.

He unleashes Cavalier Arts: Prana Shaker, an ancient sword technique said to have been passed down through knights in the Kingdom for generations. Because it’s only an elementary technique of the Cavalier Arts style, his full strength is on display.

For someone of Gadio’s level, even cutting through a powerful spell like Eterna’s is easy. The shockwave slices effortlessly through the watery falling star, splitting it clean in half, and without losing strength or speed it rapidly closes in on Tsaion himself.

“Tch, stop getting in my way!”

Extending a hand in front of him, a thick black smog forms.

The smog isn’t Fire Attribute but Dark Attribute --- Tsaion’s Attribute is Flickering Inferno, just like his second name, a Rare Attribute that allows him to control both Fire and Dark.

Passing through the smog, the invisible Prana Shaker becomes visible. Following it with his eyes, Tsaion catches the shockwave with his right hand. A loud, almost electrical crackling fills the air --- the sound isn’t coming from his hand but from the thin layer of protective flames enveloping his body.

“Still not enough… It’s not hot enough, none of you weaklings are hot enough!!”

Bringing in his left hand, he stops the shockwave completely.

“ORRRAAAA!!” he yells roughly as he breaks it over his knee. Crumbling it up like a piece of scrap paper, he throws it over his shoulder.

He thought that if he crushed Gadio’s attack by sheer force he’d lose the will to fight, but Gadio doesn’t let up his attack there. Finishing climbing his stone staircase, Gadio kicks off the last step and flies through the air, making a direct attack this time. Tsaion responds to Gadio’s sword with a fire-clad fist.

Kshiiin!

Fist and sword clash, the very air around them trembling with the force of the impact.

“Gh… nnnngh…!”

“Let’s get on with the REAL fight already!!”

In terms of both magical and physical power, Tsaion far surpasses Gadio.

Dooom!

Putting even more strength into his fist, he sends the armoured warrior crashing to the ground, but fortunately the split sphere of water hits at the same time, extinguishing the fires around him. The air is filled with hot white steam.

“Hey, Hero! Stop crawling around on the ground like an insect and come up and fight me already! You’re the only one who can REALLY turn up the heat on us Three Demon Generals!!”

What Tsaion says isn’t a taunt but the truth. With the Hero’s power, all of their fights with the Three Demon Generals up until now have been on roughly even footing. Cyrill, however, is still hung up on Flum's departure and hasn’t been able to concentrate properly as of late.

“Looks like my chance.”

Just as Tsaion tries to provoke Cyrill, a single arrow comes flying from beyond the area of effect of Prometheus, beyond the horizon, far further than the naked eye can see.

“You’re mine.”

The archer Linus puts everything he has into that one arrow, saved for the moment Tsaion’s attention is completely occupied by Cyrill. Despite being such a long shot, the arrow travels in a perfectly straight line, not slowing down or turning off-target in the slightest. Hidden by the thick steam, Tsaion doesn’t see it coming.

Whoosh!

The arrow cuts through the steam and wind, headed straight between Tsaion’s eyes. As soon as it enters his field of vision, in the split second before it hits---

“Tch!”

Acting purely on reflex, he snatches the arrow clean out of the air.

“Crafty little assholes… Not like this… This is wrong, wrong, WRONG!!”

Tsaion lets out a cry of rage, and the arrow in his hands bursts into flames and is reduced to ash in an instant by his soaring body temperature.

As someone who believes in heated battles more than anything, being sniped at is nothing less than the ultimate insult. Letting his anger take over, he raises his hands above his head as he pours even more mana into his spell than last time.

The massive sphere of fire that forms above him makes the Water Meteorite that Eterna cast seem like a marble in comparison.

“Fine, if you won’t turn up the heat on me, then I’LL turn up the heat on YOU!! Flare Meteorite---”

The spell is the same as the one Eterna cast, only Fire Attribute. There’s only one reason for the sheer difference in size and power between the two.

“---Illegal Formula!!”

He uses an Illegal Formula.

He puts as much magic as he can into that one spell, determined to kill Cyrill with a single blow.

As the steam clears, the humans on the ground stare up in shock at the second sun growing in the sky.

“If that thing hits us we’re all dead!”

“Good game, everyone.”

“How can you stay so calm, Eterna!? If you weren’t so weak we wouldn’t be in this predicament to begin with!!”

“Nn? This is my fault?”

“Yes, of course it is! This is all your---”

“This is no time to be fighting, you two!”

Maria, instead of staying calm as she normally does, harshly scolds Jean and Eterna just as he looks ready to boil over.

“Everyone, gather in as close as you can! Gadio-san, you too! If we cast the same Shield as before but with a far smaller area, we might be able to make it!”

“Do you really think something so petty can stop that monster!? Unless Cyrill uses Brave, we’re all dead!! Can’t you see that!?”

“I’m trying to figure out what we can do since Cyrill can’t use it right now!”

“Kh… How did this happen!? Why on earth can’t Cyrill use the Hero’s greatest weapon anymore!? Cyrill, can’t you just make it work already!? This is no time to be slacking! If you’re really the Hero, then just do it!!”

“...!”

In response to Jean’s words, all Cyrill can do is clench her teeth.

She has no excuse.

Right now she’s showing a weakness utterly unbecoming of the Hero. At heart she’s still just a normal girl, still too immature to be able to put aside her regrets and her guilt and do what she has to.

“You can’t stay fixated on useless trash like Flum forever! You’re one of the Chosen! You don’t need to care about every pathetic, ignorant little commoner you meet! Focus only on protecting those actually worth saving!”

“I-I...”

“If you’re a Hero, then act like it! Stop making idiotic mistakes! Get rid of such trivial emotions!!”

“Jean-san!! Stop yelling at the poor girl and help us!”

“Dammit! Why don’t you understand!? It’s only the absolute truth of the matter! Why can’t any of you comprehend that!?”

Only Cyrill knows how painful his words are to her.

In the end she can’t bring herself to act and Jean, Eterna, and Maria get into formation and start putting up a Shield spell.

Far above them, the Flare Meteorite only continues to grow larger.

“And here I thought I’d get to have a smouldering fight with you… Looks like you burn out here!”

Already the spell is strong enough to reduce their entire party to ash. All he has to do is release it.

But just then, a figure suddenly approaches him from behind---

“What do you mean ‘burn out’, you idiot!?”

She smacks him in the back of the head.

“What’d you say!?”

Brow furrowing with rage, he whips around.

Floating in the air behind him is a blue-skinned woman in a revealing dress. Tossing her deep blue hair, she glares at her colleague.

“Oh, it’s just you, Neigass. Don’t interfere.”

The woman is another one of the Three Demon Generals, Neigass the Bloody Gale.

The Hero’s party watches powerlessly from the ground as the two Demon Generals argue.

“No, you’re the one interfering! If you go through with this you’ll kill them! Don’t you remember our orders?”

“Yeah, yeah… Wait, what orders?”

“‘Don’t kill any humans,’ obviously! Do you seriously not remember ever being told that!?”

“Ahh, those orders. I totally forgot.”

Finally remembering their orders from the Demon Lord for the first time, he dispels the magic he’s casting.

“I guess that’s it for today, Hero. Just remember, next time I’ll be expecting a real hot fight!”

Tsaion, having completely lost any desire to fight them, waves as he flies off.

Cyrill and the others look on in utter confusion as he simply leaves without dealing the finishing blow.

“I wish I could just convince you to turn around and go home right here and now... but it looks like there’s no chance of that happening.”

Neigass tries to offer a peaceful resolution to their little conflict, but noticing the murder in Maria’s eyes she gives up.

“Well then, until we meet again, you peace-destroying little 'Chosen.'”

With a parting wink, she follows after Tsaion.

The Hero and her party can only stare blankly at the sky for a long moment.

Only one of them watches the backs of the Demon Generals as they leave, her eyes filled with a bottomless hatred.


◇◇◇


After the battle, Linus meets up with the rest of them as they assess the damage done. Fortunately, none of their injuries are beyond Maria’s ability to heal, though most of their supplies were reduced to ashes. They can’t continue forwards with what they have left.

“We can’t afford to use a Teleportation Stone here… Dammit, this entire trip was completely pointless!”

If Cyrill was to use Return here, they’d be able to freely move to from here and the Royal Palace. Given how limited their supply of Teleportation Stones is, however, they can’t afford to create a Continue Point wherever they want. At times like this when they run out of supplies or fall hopelessly behind schedule, they have no choice but to cast Return without creating a Continue Point and try again next time.

“Up until a little while ago we were on schedule, if only barely... Why are we falling behind now!? We should be completely unburdened now!”

“Jean-san, please calm down.”

Maria tries to calm Jean down while she treats Gadio’s injuries, but he doesn’t listen to her.

“Calm? How am I supposed to be calm at a time like this!? Why didn’t you do it, Cyrill!? How in blazes did you get to be so weak!? What’s wrong with you!?”

“...Sorry.”

“Do you seriously think apologizing is going to fix anything now!?”

“Hey, Jean, calm down, will you!?”

Linus puts a firm hand on Jean’s shoulder. Jean shakes off his grip immediately.

“Damn, damn, damn it all!! I’m right! I’ve always been right! Why can’t any of you plebeians understand that I know what’s best for you!? You’re all absolute idiots! I’m disappointed in the lot of you!!”

Without meeting eyes with anyone, he storms off alone into the scorched wastes.

“Seriously, what’re we supposed to do with him?”

Linus knows Jean has feelings for Cyrill, and that’s exactly why the situation is so delicate.

He’s jealous of Flum, plain and simple.

His god complex is just making Cyrill’s rejection more painful, especially now that Flum isn’t even there --- worse, he has nobody to vent his frustration at anymore. He’s probably suffering plenty in his own way, unable to do anything with his emotions.

Even though he’s Jean’s friend, however, there’s no way for Linus to really support Jean in such a situation.

“There, all healed.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it.”

“You don’t need to thank me. Healing the injured is my job.”

Maria finishes Gadio’s treatment and he stands up, rolling his shoulders to see how they feel now. They still hurt, but not as much as when he’d taken Tsaion’s fist head-on.

Eterna, who had been watching Gadio’s treatment a short distance away, stands up when Gadio does and walks in the opposite direction that Jean did. She’s always been a bit capricious, so nobody but Gadio pays her much attention -- but since he’s closer to her than any of the others, something about her attitude tips him off.

He almost gets the impression she’s calling him.

“I’ll be back.”

He leaves those words behind as he follows after Eterna.

The only people left there are Cyrill, Linus, and Maria.

An unsettling silence fills the air.

Cyrill feels it strongest of all of them, afraid that it’s her fault.

“Hey, don’t worry about it. We all have our off days, right? You're human, just like the rest of us.”

Breaking the silence, Linus gives Cyrill some words of encouragement.

“Just take it at your own pace, Cyrill-san. There’s still a ways until the Demon Lord’s Castle, so you still have time to pull yourself together.”

“...Yeah...”

Her heart sinks deeper into her chest as they shower her with hollow words of encouragement.

Linus and Maria exchange worried looks. Nothing they say will help her, so maybe it’s for the best that they let her be.

“I wonder why those demons left without killing us? They said something or other about not killing humans, too…”

Linus forcibly changes the topic.

He wasn’t anywhere near them at the time, but he was able to read their lips and get the gist of their conversation. He's confident that bringing up a topic they’d all be able to relate to would help fix the mood --- but at the mention of the Demon Generals Maria starts rubbing her nails together with irritation.

“Yes, it is strange, given how many innocent people they’ve slaughtered already.”

“Y-Yeah… It’s probably a lie, or at the very least it’s too late for them to change their ways now. They’re probably plotting something evil.”

“Without a doubt. I wish they’d all hurry up and die already.”

Her words drip with venom.

Linus had always gotten the impression she hated them, but now it’s clear that her hatred far exceeds that of any normal person.

Unlike last time, however, Linus knows the reason now. The last time they were in the capital, he put his years of experience in gathering information to use in secretly looking up her past. He knows it was wrong, but his curiosity got the better of him.

Maria Affenjenz, age eighteen.

Her talent for Light Attribute magic has earned her a high enough position within the Church of Origin to have earned the title of ‘Saint,’ but it turns out she wasn’t a worshipper of Origin her whole life. She grew up in a village that had its own folk religion, and she herself was a fervent believer in their gods. Even now, rumor has it that one can still see the faint remains of a tattoo showing her devotion to those gods on her back.

Ten years ago, when she was only eight years old, Demons attacked her village and destroyed it completely. Having lost her friends, family, and even her home, she was taken in by the Church and started worshipping Origin. Since she just happened to be Light Attribute, she became a priestess.

Then, as per Origin's prophecy she became a Chosen and joined the Party. End of story.

She has more than enough of a reason to hold a grudge against the demons, but looking at her Linus can’t help but feel as though that doesn’t explain her completely, as if there’s still some secret lurking behind her saintly mask.

“Is something the matter, Linus-san?”

Feeling his gaze on her, Maria cocks her head to the side.

She really is cute --- cute enough that he really doesn’t want to think she’s hiding some deep darkness in her heart.

No, he doesn't care even if she does have some inner darkness.

If only she’d tell me what’s really going on, then I’d love to support her and everything she is---

“Nah, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

---but I don’t have the resolve to take on all her burdens yet. Someday...

Slightly sickened by his own irresolution, he starts doing all he can to cheer up Cyrill again.

Her smile doesn’t return.

Unless she meets Flum again and apologizes properly, she’ll probably never return to her former self.

Even while slowly succumbing to the bleak mood himself, Linus continues to do all he can to keep all their spirits up.


◇◇◇


After walking for about five minutes, Eterna stops. She turns around and Gadio, who had been following close behind, stops as well.

“Why're you following me?”

She pokes one of the strange things floating at her side --- apparently some sort of magic amplifying device.

“You’re the one who called me out.”

“Really? Hmm. Maybe you're right.”

Either she really forgot at some point as she was walking or it’s supposed to be a joke. It’s impossible to tell what’s going through her head at the best of times.

“Question: What do you think of this party, Gadio?”

“What do you mean, exactly?”

“Is it fun? Boring?”

Gadio has been suspecting that Eterna isn’t really interested in defeating the Demon Lord at all for some time now. Despite being on the same level as an S-Rank adventurer, before joining them she lived a simple life alone in the mountains. She looks about the same age as Flum, but her real age and motives are shrouded in mystery --- or maybe she’s just deceptively simple, just doing whatever she happens to find most interesting at the moment.

“I was kind of excited to be a part of something as hero-y as defeating the Demon Lord.”

“Yeah, I get what you mean.”

“I realized something after Flum left, though. I think she made it interesting. Nothing's fun anymore. The food and the mood are both toxic.”

“I can’t say you’re wrong there.”

Gadio has also, of course, noticed the party slowly starting to crumble.

Jean'sthe primary reason for it, but between Cyrill’s easily-triggered guilt and Maria’s unsettling mood swings it feels as though he’s always treading lightly. Anything could set any of them off at any time.

To think all this happened just because Flum left them.

He certainly knows that she was trying her best, but he didn’t realize before now how essential she was to their cause.

“That’s why I’m out,” Eterna says matter-of-factly.

“What?”

“If Flum can leave, then I can leave. Even if you try to stop me I’ll be gone before you know it.”

This is the flaw in Jean’s plan --- since all of them were convinced that they had a duty to defeat the Demon Lord as the chosen ones, they never even really considered leaving.

Flum’s departure --- or rather, her being driven out --- awakened them all to that possibility.

“According to Jean, I’m just weak, useless, and in the way. Apparently he’s always right, so I’d better just leave.”

“Holding a grudge, are you?”

“Of course. His Magic is only 8,800, you know? Mine is 10,000. There’s no way I’m weaker than him. No self-respecting mage would let a weak little brat like him talk down to them like that.”

“I see. Well, I won’t stop you. Do what you will.”

“Oh. I thought you’d start lecturing me about discipline or something.”

“Do you really think any of us are that disciplined?”

“You won’t be lonely without me?”

“Losing my ‘apprentice’ was one thing, but I’ll be glad to not have to keep up with you anymore.”

“Nn. I feel the same way.”

Eterna chuckles, and Gadio doesn’t manage to keep a straight face either.


◇◇◇


After everyone meets up again, Cyrill casts Return and they go back to the Capital. There, Eterna suddenly breaks the news of her departure. Jean practically explodes with anger and Cyrill is dismayed, but nothing they say can stop her now. With an aloof wave, she leaves the Teleportation Room, never to return to the Hero’s party again.


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