OmaeGotoki: Volume 3 Interlude 2 - Because Girl 𝛼 Embraces Contradiction

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Cyrill, Jean, Maria, and Linus --- even reduced to four people, the Hero’s Party continues the Journey.

Cyrill’s expression is as dark and unsociable as always, and that had been dragging the entire Party’s mood down --- but now things are different.

For some reason, Jean is actually in a good mood.

“Don’t be so glum now, you three! It’s a beautiful day for a journey, don’t you think?”

“Seriously, the hell’s up with Jean recently…?”

“As long as he’s happy, that’s enough. We should hurry and catch up, Linus-san!”

“Uh… Sure...”

Even Maria seems to be in high spirits recently, proving a lot more talkative than she has been recently.

I guess I should be happy they’re both feeling better, but…

Linus hangs back away from them, however, studying them both carefully.

He can barely feel something dangerous coming off of them, as if they were walking on thin ice.

It feels less like they’ve worked their way through what they were struggling with and more like they’re relying on something now, something they shouldn’t be…

Maria, who had been walking in front of him, turns around to face Linus. She puffs out her cheeks discontentedly, evidently in an unusually expressive mood.

“Didn’t I say we should hurry up?”

“Y-Yeah… Right, you did.”

She links arms with him, pressing her chest into his arm. He’s used to skinship with women, but feeling Maria at his side he nervously twitches.

“Is there something bothering you, Linus-san?”

“You seem a lot more cheerful now, is all… I was just trying to figure why.”

“There’s no real reason for it. My body simply feels a bit lighter than normal is all.”

“I guess that’s fine, then.”

She’s probably hiding something.

If she’s keeping something from him, it might be because it wouldn’t help her, or maybe she doesn’t trust him.

Or maybe --- she doesn’t want to drag him into her problems.

Up until recently just looking at her face was enough to make his worries disappear, but now her expressions only make him more and more uneasy.

Maybe I should make her quit the Journey with me, by force if I have to… Maybe if we manage to start a life somewhere far away, then…

Maria would probably resist it with everything she’s got.

No matter what, though, he can’t bring himself to believe in what she thinks is right.

“...Why are you so…?”

Studying his thoughtful face, Maria’s own expression clouds over.

“Hm?”

“No, it’s nothing. Let’s go, Linus-san!”

A moment later the shadow is gone from her face, however, and as if to distract him she grabs his hand.

They walk hand-in-hand, both fully aware of the invisible wall between them.


◇◇◇


Heading ever-deeper into the Demon Realm, the four of them are attacked by Tsaion once again. He’s attacked them and forced them to retreat several times now.

“You guys aren’t hot at all anymore… This’ll be enough for you guys --- Flare Meteorite!!”

He summons a massive sphere of flames above his head.

This time, however, he isn’t using the high-cost high-power Illegal Formula. The Hero’s Party has grown so weak that he needs to hold back on them now.

Linus, the only one of them left who can properly fight, fires three arrows in quick succession at Tsaion from beyond his spell’s range. Before they reach him they split up, each closing in from a different direction.

“It looks like you’re still burnin’, at least, but this isn’t hot enough to hit me!”

A wreath of flames explodes out from him, easily reducing all three arrows to ash. Linus’ attack wasn’t weak --- Tsaion’s flames are simply too strong.

Linus doesn’t let up on the offensive, however, this time putting three arrows to the string at once. They howl as they flash across the sky, cutting through the air in a different way than his last arrows did.

“Not bad… but this still ain’t enough!!”

Tsaion fires a similar spread of three flaming bolts in return.

Just after that, Jean casts magic at him from where he stands down on the ground below.

“Blue Flame.”

“Fire magic at me!? Are you nuts!?”

Like a disembodied soul, the ball of blue fire flickers unnaturally as it flies up at Tsaion. It’s small and weak enough that it doesn’t even feel worth countering.

Ignoring Jean’s spell, he turns his focus back to Linus’ arrows. The Fire Arrows collide with them, shattering them apart with ease --- but the Wind-magic-infused shards continue to hone in on Tsaion.

“Dammit, they aren’t normal arrows after all!!”

“Terror Messenger --- even if they’re reduced to mere fragments of wood, they’ll never stop hunting you.”

Linus may be an archer, but he’s also a caster of Wind magic in his own right. While he’s nowhere near as strong as a full-fledged mage, he can produce impressive results by combining magic with his physical prowess.

Tsaion flies away from them at high speed, swivelling and spinning in an attempt to shake them off, but even though he increases the distance between them he can’t seem to lose them. He hits them again with Fire magic, but he only succeeds in breaking them up further. The arrow shards and Jean’s Blue Flame refuse to be lost.

“Enough of these stupid games!!”

Inhaling deeply, he draws all his pursuers in, then---

“Blaze Sphere!!”

The air around him burst into flames as he wraps himself in a veil of extreme heat. Linus’ arrows are reduced to ash --- but the Blue Flame is unaffected. Even now the flickering blue ball is the same as it was before Tsaion’s spell.

Clicking his tongue in irritation, he grabs the Flame to crush it directly.

If it really was just fire, that should be enough to snuff it --- but instead it flares up, engulfing his arm and draining the warmth from it at an alarming rate.

“Wha… this ain’t fire? Damn, that’s cold --- this’s gotta be ice, then… but then how’d it get though my Blaze Sphere…!?”

As Tsaion looks down at his numb arm in confusion, Jean starts laughing.

“Blue Flame is, obviously, fire, but at the same time it’s ice --- I don’t expect an ape like you to understand the intricacies of a genius’ magic, though! Hehe, hahaha, AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I’ve already reached the point in my research where such a thing is possible! Next up --- Medusa Wind!”

Jean extends his hand, but nothing visible comes out, as though he weren’t casting magic at all. Just then, however, a breeze tickles Tsaion’s cheek, and with a thin cracking sound he can feel something odd stuck there. Reaching up to touch it, he finds a clump of stone on his face. He tries to pull it off --- only to realize it’s a part of his flesh.

“Wait… You’re turnin’ me to stone!?”

The ‘wind’ must be causing it. Tsaion flies away from the wind’s path as fast as he possibly can manage.

“Your turn now, Linus,” Jean mutters.

As if knowing exactly where he’ll go next, Linus’ next arrow hits Tsaion in the right shoulder.

“Gh…! D-Dammit, stop with all this creepy magic! Prometh---”

Abandoning all restraint, Tsaion moves to unleash some more powerful magic on the Party.

Maria’s magic cuts him off.

“Sacred Lance!”

A spear of light flies at him from her fingertips at an intense speed. He attempts to twist his body out of the way, but unable to avoid it completely it embeds itself in his right arm, searing his flesh.

“Gaagh! Gh, not yet… I’m not done yet!!”

Tsaion doesn’t lose heart --- but Maria’s magic isn’t finished yet.

“Spiral.”

The spear of light starts spinning inside his arm at a breakneck pace.

“W-What the--- gh, gagh, aaaaaaaagghh!?”

GWEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

Like an electronic mixer, the spear wraps itself around his flesh, spinning and tearing great chunks of it loose as it wreaks havoc on his bones. In moments chunks of bloody flesh are sent flying as the spell does its horrible work.

“Hagh… a, ghu… y-you… assholes…!”

His will is still unbroken. Only the determination to prevent the Party from reaching Shietume prevents him from losing heart completely.

Jean and Maria have already started to prepare their next spells, however, and Linus’ sights are trained on the gap between his eyes. Only Cyrill just stands there, sword in hand with a dark expression on her face --- but even without her they’ll kill Tsaion at this rate.

“I-I can’t… I can’t lose here…!”

Shietume’s crying face appears in his mind.

He absolutely can’t afford to die.

“Dammit, I…!”

Frustration rich on his face, he grabs as much of his scattered arm as he can muster and turns his back on the Party, fleeing north.

“Elemental Burst!”

“Judgement Storm!”

Jean and Maria don’t let up their offensive, however, unleashing their strongest spells at his back.

Elemental Burst is a combination of earth, fire, water, and air, a blast of raw power designed simply to destroy. The four elements together are released as a burst of white energy, making it look very similar to Light magic.

Judgement Storm is a modified version of Judgement, a spell that launches a massive sword of light at the enemy. By causing the sword to rotate at high speeds, it not only covers a greater area but creates a powerful shockwave that travels with it, ‘purifying’ and immolating everything in its path.

Tsaion first focuses on dodging Judgement Storm. It only grazes him, but it still manages to carve out a mass of flesh from his shoulder. Since that arm was already in tatters, however, it won’t pose a problem now.

Then, extending his left hand and gathering all the mana he possible can into it, he takes the Elemental Burst head-on. Given its raw power it’s impossible to cancel it out, but he should be able to deflect it.

“Gh… DORYAAAAAAAAAAA!!”

By putting literally everything he has into that counter, Tsaion succeeds in altering the spell’s path enough that it misses him. The white light pierces the cloudy sky, blasting through with enough force that the clouds clear in an instant.

Shuddering at the thought of what that spell would’ve done if it had hit, Tsaion somehow succeeds in escaping.


◇◇◇


As soon as he returns to the Demon Lord’s Castle, Tsaion shuts himself in his room and collapses onto the floor.

“Gotta patch myself up before Shietume sees me… I can’t… hahh… hng, let her see me like this…”

The only issue is how to get help. If he can make it out of the castle, he might be able to make it through some low-traffic alleyways to an acquaintance’s house --- that should be enough.

Head bobbing, body refusing to listen to him, he manages to eventually stand with a hand on the wall beside him.

But just then---

“Niisan, are you back already?”

The last person he wanted to see arrives at his door.

“Dammit…”

He collapses back to the floor again. He hopes for a split second that keeping quiet will be enough to fool her, but he knows it’s impossible. The two of them are close enough that they don’t even need permission to enter each others’ rooms, after all.

“I heard your voice, so you’re there, aren’t you? I’m coming in.”

Sounding slightly peeved after being ignored, she opens the door without waiting for an answer. She lets out a little “Hya!?” as soon as she sees Tsaion on the floor.

“Niisan, what happened to you!? Don’t tell me the Hero…!?”

“...Yeah, that’s about it. Damn, I’m lame…”

“Wha… Is that why you didn’t answer me!? It’s too late for that, Niisan, I’ve known you’re lame for a long time now!”

“That’s kinda disappointing, honestly…”

Shietume gives him a new mental wound, but she tends to his physical wounds with healing magic right then and there. Thanks to the fact that he’d picked up his lost arm, she’s able to heal it good as new.

Her Rare Attribute is Eclipse, which gives her control over both Light and Dark magic. Since she’s especially talented with healing magic, Tsaion often teases her for being un-Demon-Lord-like.

“Thanks.”

Tsaion looks Shietume in the eye and thanks her, and her cheeks turn bright red.

“I hate it when you hide things from me. Come right to me next time, okay?”

“I’ve gotta look tough, y’know?”

“At your age? Hurry up and grow out of it already… and stop turning up your collar, too.”

“No can do. That’s my---”

“Blazing soul, yeah, right. I know what you think. Seriously, if not for that I think you’d be really cool and everything…”

Shietume complains to herself quietly, but a part of her is glad he’s so clueless --- she doesn’t want him doing anything that might make him popular with the other demons. She’s far too embarrassed to just tell him that, of course.

“More importantly, what’d they do to push you this far?”

Standing up for a moment, she plops herself down on the edge of his bed.

“How should I know? They just suddenly turned up the heat on me outta nowhere, pullin’ out all this weird magic I’ve never seen before…”

Tsaion sits down the bed right beside her.

“I can’t believe they’d get stronger so suddenly… Their numbers were thinning so much I was hoping they’d all give up soon.”

“You weren’t wrong, though --- get a buncha deceived humans together and they’ll start breaking up on their own sooner or later.”

He affectionately pats her on the head, and she leans in closer to him.

Demons as a race avoid conflict when they can avoid it, but Shietume’s mother taught her to believe in the good in peoples’ hearts and avoid conflict as much as possible. When the Hero’s Party started their invasion, she had the demons living near the southern border retreat up north. Even now, most of the inhabitants of the Demon Realm are loyal to her, but there are of course always exceptions --- the Three Demon Generals were created to appease that radical element, though honestly she still dislikes the idea of fighting the Hero and destroying villages in the Kingdom.

“No amount of training could’ve made them that hot that fast, though.”

“Maybe… Maybe they’re using Origin’s power?”

“‘Rotation’, ‘connection’, ‘multiplication’... I saw them usin’ that kinda thing, yeah. You sure the seal’s still tight?”

“I’m the only one who could possibly get at the book with the sealing ritual, and only Dieza and I know its contents. There’s no way anyone could’ve messed with it.”

“Those guys down in the Kingdom started going screwy fifty years ago, right?”

“Yes, during Mother’s generation. We haven’t been on good terms with them since…”

“I can’t imagine her screwing anything up… Seriously, what’s goin’ on here?”

The previous Demon Lord, Rietus, was Shietume’s mother. Unfortunately, she died of illness thirty years ago, just after the end of the Demon War.

It was far too early an end for a demon.

The only ones at her deathbed were Shietume and Dieza. After saying her last farewell to her daughter, Rietus squeezed Dieza’s hand, said “Dieza… You…” in a thin voice and left Shietume to him. Moments later she quietly passed away, as if simply falling asleep.

After that the still-young Shietume took up the mantle of Demon Lord with the support of Dieza, Tsaion, and Neigass, maintaining the seal at the same time, but --- somehow, the humans got their hands on Origin’s power.

Neigass left to investigate, thinking that there might be a different Origin responsible for recent events, but she hasn’t found anything yet.

“If the Hero reaches us here, then the seal will fall apart.”

“I guess we’ll hafta kill them, huh.”

“That’d be playing right into Origin’s hands! If we kill the Hero then the humans will only hate us more!”

“Sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”

“No, I’m sorry I yelled at you. It’s because I’m so naive that you keep getting hurt…”

She edges closer to him, clinging onto him more tightly than before. Feeling her leaning on him, Tsaion knows what he has to do.

I’ve got to protect her, no matter what.

“But how can we stop them now…?”

“We’ll have to stop either the Kingdom or the Church, I guess.”

“They won’t even listen to us anymore…”

The humans have been convinced that the demons are evil ever since the Demon War. By the time Shietume became the Demon Lord, their relations were beyond repair.

“They haven’t returned any of my messages, and of course they ignore me every time I try to hold a summit… All the nobles that had anything to do with us have either lost their titles or their power.”

“I guess it’d be hard even for us, huh. Aren’t there any humans who’ll help us?”

“All the humans these days have been taught we’re evil from a young age.”

“Yeah, but what about those guys who left the Party?”

“Umm… Gadio-san, Eterna-san, and… Flum-san, was it?”

Shietume’s never met them herself. She only knows what Tsaion and Neigass have told her.

“Maybe we could talk to one of them… Neigass said she ran into them a while ago, didn’t she?”

“Yeah, but she hasn’t been around much.”

“I’d imagine her investigation’s hit a few snags. We’ll ask her about it when she comes back. I think it’s worth a try.”

“I wish.”

Silence falls between them.

Shietume strengthens her grip on his arm. His wounds may have healed, but the smell of blood on him makes her uneasy.

“...Why does everyone have to fight?”

“I’m sure those guys’ve got their reasons.”

“All I want is peace, though…”

Tsaion wraps his arm around Shietume’s shoulders.

Feeling his warmth, she finds herself wishing that things could always be so peaceful.


◇◇◇


After beating back Tsaion, the Hero’s Party finally arrives at their next Continue Point on schedule. Cyrill casts Return and brings the four of them back to the Teleportation Room beneath the Palace.

“We made some fine progress today! How about we go out for a celebratory drink, Linus?”

“Sorry, I’m busy.”

“What, I finally invite you out and you turn me down? You’re a bit of a wet blanket, aren’t you? Not that it matters, really. Nothing could spoil my good mood! Fuhahahahaha!”

Still laughing, Jean leaves the room. Cyrill watches him leave, more confused than anything else.

Maria, on the other hand, has a content smile on her face.

“Hey, Maria-cha…”

Linus calls out to her, but Maria leaves the room without responding. It’s as if she didn’t even hear him.

He simply stands there, watching her walk away, a troubled look on his face.

“Linus-san… What do you think happened to those two…?”

Cyrill can’t stay quiet any longer, unable to keep her question to herself.

“Hell if I know. They’re not acting themselves, that’s for sure.”

“It’s because I’m useless, isn’t it…?”

“Don’t worry about it, just take your time. Everyone knows you’re the heart of the Party.”

“...Yeah.”

Even Linus’ encouragement feels empty. A dark look on her face, Cyrill leaves the Teleportation Room, headed for the Palace’s balcony to get a bit of air.

Since she’s the Hero, just walking outside is enough to draw a crowd. Maybe because she feels especially approachable many people are eager for any chance to talk to her, making even a casual stroll impossible. That’s the last thing she needs right now.

She looks out on the Capital below her.

Out of the corner of her eye she spots a sweet shop, one that she remembers visiting before. Closing her eyes, she thinks back on that time, the sight still fresh in her mind.

“Mmm! The cream, the sponge cake, the fruits, everything’s so good! The Capital really is amazing, huh?”

“Mm, it’s good. Really good.”

“Hehehe, if you eat it that fast it’ll be gone in no time!”

“I’ll just get another. What about you, Flum?”

“Hmm… Maybe I’ll get another, too! Ehehe!”

Before they knew it, the cake had disappeared from their plates. For the next course, they each decided to order for the other.

“I’m really glad you’re here, Cyrill-chan.”

Right after the waitress left, Flum turned to face Cyrill with a smile.

“What’s this, all of a sudden?”

“I’ve been kind of a nervous wreck ever since I came here. Everyone’s so strong, but I can’t seem to do anything right… If you weren’t here I think I would’ve run away long ago.”

“Flum…”

“I’m really glad I met you, Cyrill-chan… from the bottom of my heart.”

Flum averted her gaze bashfully.

She wasn’t the only one feeling under pressure, though. Cyrill felt all the same unease and pressure as Flum, only stronger. Without her Cyrill would’ve been completely crushed by it.

She should’ve been honest with Flum and with herself and thanked her.

She couldn’t do it, however. The words caught in her throat, and she didn’t know what to say. She’d never cursed her clumsiness with words any more than at that moment.

Cyrill’s memories move on, taking her to a very different incident some time later.

“Thanks to you, one of the actual Chosen got hurt again. Well? How are you going to make up for it, hmm!?”

“I-I’m so sorry…”

Flum, sitting sprawled out on the ground, inched away from him.

Cyrill watched her from Jean’s side.

“You simply don’t understand what absolute trash you are, do you!? Do you really think that just apologizing will make up for all you’ve done!?”

“Agh…!”

Jean grabbed her by the collar, uncomfortably hoisting her into the air.

He only abused her when nobody else was around. Cyrill was the only person Flum could rely on, and as such it was natural that Flum gave her a pleading look. She had to have known that she was the only one who could’ve helped her.

But --- Cyrill simply turned away, pretended not to see anything.

She had enough on her own plate, she didn’t have the energy to worry about others, Jean was too scary to stop --- she could think of any number of excuses.

Not one of them justified what she did, however.

In the end it’s her fault Flum was forced to leave, never to return.

Those happy days, her only real friend --- they now exist only in her memories.

All of Cyrill’s unhappiness is nobody’s fault but her own.

“Cyrill-chan.”

A kind voice from behind her snaps her out of her reminiscence.

“Maria…”

Turning around, Cyrill sees the saint standing behind her, giving her a merciful smile as if offering her the hand of salvation itself.

Maria takes Cyrill’s hand, pressing a small black crystal into her palm.

“We call this a ‘Core’.”

“A Core…?”

Looking at the spiral within the Core’s depths, Cyrill can feel her consciousness getting drawn into it. A chill runs down her spine. Her instincts whisper to her, telling her that the Core is by no means a good thing.

“Both Jean-san and I were able to use this to become stronger, you know.”

Cyrill herself has seen their new ‘power’ at work just recently.

If I can use that ‘power’... if I can make myself useful again… then maybe I can get out of this slump I’m in. But---

There’s no way something so convenient, so easy could possibly exist.

“You want to help us, don’t you?”

Maria’s voice sounds just as it always does, but for some reason Cyrill can feel a pressuring edge to it.

OmaeGotoki 03-Int2 1.png

“Why don’t you try it, then? I’m sure it’ll be to your liking.”

“Is it really safe?”

“Everyone’s using it, myself included. The Church has spent many years researching them, so you can trust it, I promise.”

Cyrill doesn’t have any reason to distrust Maria. She thanks her, then puts the Core into the bag slung over her shoulder.

As if that really was the only business Maria had with Cyrill, she says “You’re welcome,” then heads back inside the Palace.


◇◇◇


Maria is walking the halls when a blonde woman in a long white coat approaches her. The woman stops, glasses glinting as she readjusts them and the corners of her mouth twisting upwards.

“How’d it go, saint-samaaaa?”

“Echidna-san… Don’t worry, Cyrill-san accepted the Core as planned.”

“That’s so goooood to hear. It’d be a pity if the fruits of my labour weren’t put to good uuuuse, nfufufu!”

Echidna Ipeira, a bewitchingly beautiful woman with a distinctive beauty mark under one eye, is on even terms with Mother within the Church --- in other words, she’s in charge of her own little ‘project’.

“How’s your Core doing, saint-samaaaa? Feeling sick at aaaall?”

“Not yet, at least. I’ve heard only good things about your Chimaera Cores so I’m honestly not worried.”

“Nfufufufu, that’s good to heeeear. I can’t afford to lose to the Children or Necromancy, after aaaall. I’m still a liiiittle worried about you, though, saint-samaaaa. I didn’t design those Cores with huuuuman use in mind.”

“Thank you for your concern, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’m afraid I have some business to attend to, so if you’ll excuse me.”

“Aaaahh, I’m so soooorry for keeping you. I’ll seeeee you later, then.”

Giving Maria one last flirtatious smile, Echidna disappears into the depths of the Palace.

Maria, now alone, concentrates on the voices reverberating inside her head.

[NOT BAD] [ALMOST THERE] [DON’T NEED HER] [I’M NERVOUS] [MUST REVIVE SOON]

She receives the voices loud and clear.

“Don’t worry, Origin-sama.”

The saint smiles.

[BECOME ONE] [LET’S CONNECT WITH HER] [NO, KILL] [CRUSHING THE STARS’ WILLS COMES FIRST] [WHAT ABOUT OUR NEXT REBIRTH] [NO, KILL, KILL, KILL]

Her Core amplifies the voices flowing into her mind.

All of Origin used to be of one mind, but recently their opinions have been divided, their arguing incessant.

Everything is her fault --- everything is because of Flum Apricot.

“Seeing Cyrill-san safely to the Castle comes first.”

They’ll have all the time they need after that.

Everything is for breaking Origin’s seal, for achieving Maria’s true goal---

“To eliminate all life, no matter what it takes.”

Muttering to herself, she heads for the Palace gates.

“Those foul, awful demons… I’ve got to kill them all…”

She’s all alone. She can show her true colours.

“I hate, hate---!”

Something cuts in.

A faintly smiling face… his face.

She shakes her head clear of him.

I need to forget him.

He’s only in the way.

I can’t trust him to do anything.

If she trusts him she’ll be betrayed, she can feel it.

“I hate humans… I hate all life. I’ve got to kill them all…”

She bites her thumb. Blood flows out. She laps it up, swallowing the iron tang.

Her grudge is burned into her chest --- something that has become Maria herself, violating the very title of ‘saint’, moving only to see its wish fulfilled.

She’ll betray and be betrayed, compromise with whomever she must, all for that.

She has no reason to hesitate.

There’s (probably) nothing in this world that could make her regret what she’s going to do.


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