Makai Senki Disgaea: Revelations
4: The Death Game
He was just about to enter the cafeteria when a voice called him from behind, and Laharl stiffened. He recognized the owner of the voice immediately.
Laharl's joints creaked loudly as he turned around.
Yasurl was approaching from the opposite end of the hallway, wearing her costume that hid little of her body.
"What do you want?" Laharl's tone was strong, but his legs wanted to turn and run for the cafeteria.
"Can I not say hello to my adorable nephew without wanting something?" Yasurl asked in reply, raising her thin eyebrows ever-so-slightly.
"An Overlord doesn't have the time."
"My, they do say that, don't they?"
Fixing Laharl with cold eyes, she struck her left palm with her fist. The motion was precisely as if she were grasping something and pulling it out, and Laharl gave a shudder. In his eyes was a fear he did not even try to hide.
"What's wrong?" A smile that said she understood everything floated on Yasurl's face. "It's because I took such good care of you back then, isn't it?"
Yasurl moved even closer, and Laharl's entire body froze.
"And you used to listen so well to what I said back then, too." Yasurl stretched out her right hand and touched a finger to Laharl's cheek. "Who was it who raised you, with that inferior human blood, so well?"
At those words, strength returned to Laharl's eyes.
An intense anger and a hatred like flames.
"Yeah, that's right," he said. "The emotions characteristic of a human. The power of a strong will."
Yasurl moved nimbly away, and smiled coldly. "But, that's also your weakness."
"What did you say?"
"Exactly what I meant," Yasurl replied with a laugh, avoiding the question, and she went on to say, "Well, you just aren't right, for the Overlord."
"My musclehead of an uncle doesn't seem appropriate either."
"Of course not. I'm not that unrealistic. Well then, Laharl-chan." Yasurl walked off down the hall.
Laharl glared at her back, and once he could no longer see her, he turned and rushed into the kitchen.
"Get me a meal!" Laharl shouted, and sat down at the table where prinnies and those who worked in the castle normally ate their meals.
"Huh? Prince, what happened, dood? I thought someone brought you lunch, dood," a prinny's voice replied from inside.
"Forget that and just get it already!"
"Aren't you in a bad mood, dood."
From the kitchen came the clatter of the prinny gathering leftovers. He wore a cook's hat on his head.
"This is all we have, dood," he said as he placed a plate on the table.
"I don't care!"
It was simple fare: bread and stew, cheese, ham, and a salad. He stuck the proper things between the bread and then started in on the soup.
The spoon held in his mouth, Laharl's hand stopped.
"Oi." He went towards the kitchen and raised his voice.
"What is it, dood?" The prinny cook came running back out.
"Was it bad, dood?"
"Just eat it."
Looking skeptical, the prinny ladled out some of the soup and spooned it into his mouth.
Immediately, he opened his beak wide, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he fainted.
"Poison, like I thought," Laharl said simply, watching the prinny rolling around frothing at the mouth.
"Trying to kill me with this weak a poison is ridiculous. But, who the hell was it?" he spat, glaring at the soup.
"It's obvious that it wasn't this guy." Looking at the prinny in agony on the floor, he tilted his head.
"Yasurl is the most suspicious, but she should know that poison is useless......"
As he watched the group of prinnies that had come running shoulder the fallen prinny cook and carry him away, Laharl left the kitchen behind.
Maybe I'll go question Yasurl, he thought, but he thought better of it and went outside. That won't work no matter what. Better to relax or something. And she wouldn't be out in a place like this. Maybe I'll go to Flonne's place or something, he thought.
He had just come to the steps leading down when he was suddenly shoved from behind.
His body swam in mid-air.
At once he tried to spread his scarf, but it did not open.
When he realized that the threads of his scarf were tangled, he pitched far forward and tumbled down the stairs.
He went tumbling head-first down the 30-step staircase. With his scarf entangled, he could not use it to protect himself.
When at last he thought he had reached the bottom, there came the sound of something loosing from either side.
From both sides of the passage, arrows came flying.
Faster than he could confirm it, Laharl leapt up and ran through the hallway.
"I think I dodged them......"
Before he could catch his breath, there was an ominous thump.
When he looked up, he saw a boulder about to roll towards him.
"Who made all these traps!?"
He did not have the time to chant a spell.
Aiming for the stairs from which he had come, he ran back.
The rumbling sound of the boulder closed in on him.
Once again the arrows shot out at him all at once.
An arrow pierced through his scarf and struck his body. But, he did not even have the time to cry out in pain.
At the same moment he leapt onto the stairs, the boulder crashed into them with a great noise. Just as one would expect from something that rolled into a place it could not climb.
"T-they made sure of this trap," he muttered in amazement, looking at the state of things below from the top of the stairs. The hallway's decorations were completely destroyed, and the boulder had dug a trench into the floor where it had rolled.
Pushing aside his scarf, Laharl pulled out the arrow that had pierced his side.
"Tch, so this is poisoned, too." Clicking his tongue, he threw the arrow aside. "Just as you'd expect, the double-punch is working......"
That instant, Laharl stumbled, and gritted his teeth.
"Damn it, I can't show weakness, not now......"
The effect of the poison was strong, making his legs unsteady, and he was growing unable to stand.
"Maybe— I'll hide somewhere......"
His scarf fluttered, and Laharl's body ascended. Coming out of the castle, he turned towards the town, and alighted at Flonne's church. Because the spread of the poison was so fast, he could not knock on the door. He rolled forward so that he could hurl his entire body against it.
As soon as he entered, he collapsed with his limbs sprawling. The demons inside looked at Laharl in astonishment.
From within, Flonne came rushing out, and with one look she recognized the abnormality.
"Laharl-san!? That wound—!?"
Helping the fallen Laharl to sit up, Flonne touched a hand to the wound in his side.
"It's poison. After I rest for a while, I'll go back."
"Please wait. I'll remove the toxin right away."
"Thanks...... Sorry, Flonne."
Flonne doubted her own ears. It was the first time she had heard Laharl say anything in gratitude.
"Ahh, my beliefs weren't wrong, Seraph." Without thinking, Flonne put her hands together and offered up a prayer.
"F-forget the prayers, I'm asking you, just go ahead......" Laharl breathed in a pained groan, and he collapsed limply.
In a panic, Flonne broke off her prayer and began chanting the spell for Espoir.
A green light surrounded the unconscious Laharl, and neutralized the poison.
"For an Overlord, this guy's pretty careless."
"Sensei, how about we do him in?"
The demon children who had gathered spoke of disturbing things.
"What are you saying?" Flonne admonished them, but their bloodthirsty talk did not stop. On the contrary, it became increasingly extreme.
"Well, he's weak, this guy."
"If I defeat this guy, I'm Overlord?"
"That'd be awesome. Come on, do him in."
The young vampires crowding around nudged at Laharl.
Flonne wavered over whether or not she should use magic to protect Laharl. As someone who teaches love, I must not attack those who have come to my church, she thought, and her arms stopped. Instead, it was as much as she could do to lay Laharl's head on her lap and so protect him.
Then, a quiet voice broke in.
"Don't go that far."
"What?" asked the demon children.
"Kira-chan......" Flonne looked at the owner of the voice in surprise.
"You've learned a little of what Flonne-san's been telling you, haven't you?" As he spoke, Kira took several of the figures in his hands. "These things you made, this is it."
"This is what you're doing." With the figures in the palm of one hand, he held his other fist above them, flames emanating from it.
"It's the same as what you were trying to do to His Majesty."
"We get it. We weren't serious, so stop already!"
Hoping to escape, the vampires moved away from Laharl.
Kira looked at the figures as though wondering for an instant what to do, but in the end he opened his hand and let the flames go out.
"Thank you, Kira-chan."
"You're soft, Flonne-san. But..." As he walked towards Flonne, Kira smiled. "Maybe that's what His Majesty is attracted to."
"Attracted— It isn't like that."
"Is that so? If that wasn't the case, I don't think that he would have run to your side at a time like this, Flonne-san."
"I- I wonder......"
Flonne looked down at Laharl's head upon her lap, and her cheeks reddened.
He is cute like this, isn't he? Flonne found herself thinking.
And, just then, Laharl turned his head and let out a moan.
"Laharl-san, have you come around?"
The poison was gone, but his face was still pale. Flonne held a hand to Laharl's forehead.
"Your strength is gone, so I'll heal you, too." Flonne said, and chanted the words for Heal.
Then at last Laharl became aware that he was making a pillow of Flonne's lap, and hurriedly he tried to sit up.
"Please don't strain yourself!" Flonne said sharply, and she returned Laharl to where he had been.
"Have a little patience," she said soothingly, and Flonne began casting Heal anew. A bright green light surrounded Laharl's body, and strength flowed into him.
"Just now, I was dreaming," Laharl murmured with his eyes closed, as though he had suddenly remembered it.
"What sort of dream?"
"I dreamt I was playing with my mother, then got tired and fell asleep. When I woke, your face was there."
"Why are you apologizing?"
"Wouldn't you rather it be your mother's face?"
"No, what is it......" Looking off into the distance, he whispered a single phrase. "It isn't like that."
"Eh?" Flonne asked in return, and Laharl got to his feet.
"It's nothing. It's about time I got back. I have to look for the guy who's been setting traps for me."
"Laharl-san." Flonne spoke up, looking worried. "Please don't overdo it."
"I won't," Laharl replied as he turned around, and spreading his scarf to either side, he flew off.
"You really looked good together." Wherever he had been until now, Kira revealed himself.
"You shouldn't tease your elders."
"I am not teasing. It was beautiful, just like a painting," Kira objected in dismay, and Flonne smiled a little.
"About Laharl-san, I don't think of him that way."
"You talk about love every day, but when it comes to yourself, you don't know it, do you?" Chuckling, Kira regarded Flonne. "Your feelings are something else, right?"
Kira smiled warmly.
Returning to the castle, Laharl raised his voice.
"What is it, Prince?"
Etna came from the direction of Laharl's room. Now that I think about it, I did tell her to put the traps back the way things were, he remembered.
"Are you still thinking to turn me into a corpse?"
"Me? I'm thinking about it single-mindedly, but I haven't done it yet, you know."
"Come on, when I kill you, there's no question that it'll come like a knife from behind."
"There was a shove from behind......" Laharl muttered, remembering earlier.
"It wasn't me. I mean, you aren't going to die that easily, Prince."
"But, after the shove there were poisoned arrows and a boulder."
"Eh? That's pretty elaborate, huh."
"Anyway, someone is after me. Reinforce the prinny security detail."
"Got it. But, more than someone being after you, I get the feeling they're playing."
"Don't you think?"
Laharl grimaced deeply. "And her parents being the way they are, I don't want them scolding her."
"You should get straight to it and complain to her parents."
"Even if I could, I wouldn't bother!" Laharl spat in disgust. "Anyway, at least one thing is certain."
"That there's someone in this castle besides me who's after your life."
At Etna's words, Laharl nodded.
Someone called out to Etna just as she was nearly done putting Laharl's room in order, and in the middle of making the finishing touches.
Laharl had called her away in the middle of it to tell her of something dangerous, but it hadn't been outside the range of her expectations, so she didn't feel that it was a huge problem.
Putting that aside, he didn't look so good. I wonder if something happened, she thought, but from that conversation it seems like he just fell into a trap. If he's moving around without any trouble, then it didn't wind up being anything big. Until I move in on him, I'll have him in good health.
Laharl had gone to his office without stopping by his room, so Etna returned with a feeling of relief. That was where, per her orders, the prinnies were now shoving in the six-sided block which she had pulled out of the room. She had had the door repaired first, from when she'd missed in moving the block and destroyed it, and it was no longer noticeable.
"Etna-chan, you said~?"
Who the hell is calling me 'chan'? Etna turned around with an extremely grim look on her face.
A face looked back up at her, a smile splitting it in two.
"Oh, it's you, Shas-chan."
Certainly she wouldn't have thought it was anyone else, but strangely, until she saw the face, she hadn't brought it to mind.
"What do you want?"
"Play with me."
"I'm working right now." She had meant to be angry, but once she opened her mouth, her tone wasn't very forceful.
"That's boring," Shas said with a pout.
"Whether it's boring or not, there's no helping it. Go play with the prinnies over there."
"But the prinnies are so weak."
"So you really are the culprit...... Six of our prinnies are laid up and now we're short on hands. They won't die even if you kill them, but go easy a little."
"But if I play easy on them, it's no fun." Shas looked up at Etna earnestly. Then, she pointed at the prinnies in the hallway. "What are they doing?"
Four prinnies were pushing the six-sided block of earth.
"They're putting it back in the hole in the hallway."
"I'll do it, too!"
Leaving no time to stop her, Shas leapt in amongst the prinnies pushing the block of earth.
"Don't get in the w—"
Etna's words cut off in the middle. The huge block which the prinnies had been struggling to push slid right along with one push from Shas, and fit into the hole with a ker-thump. The prinnies, not able to keep up with its momentum, flopped forward onto their bellies.
"I guess that's the difference between prinny underlings and a real demon," Etna muttered, amazed by the difference in power.
"That was fun! Let's play more!!" Cheerfully, Shas came running up to Etna.
For all her weariness, Etna felt a smile come to her face.
I must be weak against this type.
An existence like a light, devoid of malicious intent. It was an unusual type, not found in the Netherworld.
Now that I think about it, I can't say I'm that strong against Flonne-chan either, she thought, and then she said something which had suddenly come to mind.
"Why don't you go play at Flonne-chan's place?"
"That's no good. Kira-chan said he likes Flonne-chan."
"Precocious, isn't he," Etna laughed in reply, at the same time thinking, I'd never expect that kid to say something like that.
"And then, he said that Laharl-chan and Flonne-chan look good together. It's too bad for Kira-chan."
"The Prince and Flonne-chan? They look good together?"
"Uh-huh! He said that Flonne-chan likes Laharl-chan, too."
"Huh, I see......"
Peering into the face of the muttering Etna, Shas asked, "I know! Etna-chan likes Laharl-chan, too, right?"
"T-that's ridiculous," Etna replied reflexively, but she looked flustered and shaken.
"You don't like him?"
"He's the king, so there's no liking or disliking him."
"Really!" Etna asserted forcefully.
Shas looked at her and nodded repeatedly as though she understood. "A girl's feelings are complicated. Don't give up!"
As soon as the words left her mouth, Shas dodged.
"Are you mocking me!?"
Frolicking away down the hallway in a run, Shas called back over her shoulder, "Did I get you?"
That one phrase from Shas as she darted away jabbed into Etna's heart.
What are you so shaken about, Etna? she asked herself. The Prince and Flonne-chan seeming like a good thing, isn't that old news? Why do I have to be aware of something like that?
Thinking about it awoke in Etna's mind a scene from 10 years prior.
When Seraph Lamington had punished Flonne for going against the laws of Celestia and turned her into a flower, the anger Laharl had shown. Everyone had been there—Etna, Gordon, Jennifer, and Thursday, too, had felt that anger, but that had not been the anger of having just a friend killed. It had been the anger of losing someone irreplaceable.
It has to be because the Prince has half-human blood running through him that he reacted like that. Or, like Flonne-chan says, do demons know love, too? And if that's true, then could I, too?
"Ahh, what the hell am I thinking!?" Without thinking, Etna raised her voice at having considered something so outrageous.
"Etna-san, what's wrong, dood?" The prinnies spoke to her cautiously, staring at her.
"Etna-san's snapped, dood!"
The prinnies ran off, scattering like baby spiders.
"Who's snapped?" Etna spat with a frown, folding her arms.
But— she continued in her innermost thoughts, I wonder what the Prince thinks of me?
The demon children who had been playing at the House of Love waved and went on home. Flonne saw them off, waving in return, then closed the door and returned inside.
Just as one would expect dealing with that many children, the fatigue both physical and mental piled up. On top of that, because Laharl had come flying in, she had used her magic, and the degree of her weariness was considerable.
"Flonne-san, are you all right?"
A voice came suddenly from within, startling Flonne.
"Kira-chan, you're still here."
"Am I in the way?"
"Not at all, but is it all right for you not to return to the castle?"
"They don't mind. No one pays me any attention."
Kira smiled self-deprecatingly, and Flonne shook her head chidingly.
"I wouldn't say that. Even so, you're always alone. You could come together with your sister once in a while."
"Do you want to see us together?"
"Well, you are siblings, aren't you?"
"We look so alike that you can't tell us apart. It's unsettling, isn't it?"
"You think so?"
"Our parents can't tell the difference either, so we're treated the same. The two of us are one. That's why, I try not to be together. With my sister, or with our parents."
At Kira's words, Flonne froze and stared at him.
"What's the matter?" Kira asked, puzzled.
"Doesn't that make you sad?" Flonne murmured, her eyes growing red.
"No, I have never felt that."
"You've numbed your emotions so much that you're not aware of it, haven't you?"
Tears spilling from her eyes, Flonne stretched out her hands to embrace Kira.
But, Kira escaped from them and drew away. "I'm fine," he asserted to drive her away.
His unexpectedly forceful tone surprised Flonne, and she hesitated on what to do next.
"That's it. If you're not going home yet, are you going to play?" Flonne said, going to take a figure in her hand.
"Never mind that. What's that statue?" What Kira pointed to was the church's far back wall—below the stained glass, a statue was on display.
"That's the Seraph."
"So that's Lamington."
"That incident 10 years ago is famous."
"It is, isn't it? And, this is a cup into which Lamington-sama poured his power. When I fell down here, it was given to me by Lamington-sama."
To show Kira, Flonne took hold of the cup and lifted it. The inside was filled to the brim with water. Because it was a holy chalice, it was water gifted with power— it was holy water.
And, Flonne's toes caught on on a figure rolling on the floor. It would not do to crush one of the figures the children had made, so Flonne quickly averted her foot and tried to twist her body.
At that moment, her foot slipped and she lost her balance. She stretched out her hands in search of something to hold on to.
The cup flew from Flonne's hands.
"Ahh! The chalice!!"
As she fell, Flonne reached out her hands to try to grab hold of the cup. But, caught in its momentum, the cup was out of reach even of her fingertips. The water filling it came flying out.
In front of her eyes was Kira. In an instant, Kira reached out his right hand to try to grab the cup, but instead the exposed skin of his right leg was splashed.
There was a noise like water suddenly being dashed on a burning-hot iron plate.
"Kira-chan, are you all right!?" Having caught up the chalice, Flonne immediately hurried towards Kira.
"I'm all right, this much—"
Grimacing, Kira covered his leg.
"Let me see."
Flonne tried to take his arm, but Kira turned his body around, trying to hide it.
"It's not fine. Just wait a minute." Forcibly taking him by the arm, Flonne dragged out his right leg that had been splashed with holy water.
"How awful......" Flonne could find no more words.
His skin festered as though it had been scalded. Even more, it was still spreading. The power to destroy evil was the power in exact opposition to demons. For a child not yet grown, it was like a strong poison.
"I'm sorry. It's because I'm a klutz......"
"It's all right. It will heal after a little while."
"That's no good. I'll heal it for you right away," Flonne said, and began to cast Heal.
"Please stop!" Kira cried out suddenly. He shoved Flonne away, turned around, and ran away.
Flonne stared dumbfounded and uncomprehendingly after Kira's running figure, and then ran after him in a panic. But, Kira was already nowhere to be seen.
It was nearing evening, and Laharl, who had been looking over the bothersome documents in his office, suddenly lifted his eyes and stretched.
"This is tedious......"
It was work, not play, and it was both tedious and uneventful, but Laharl did not care about that as he stood.
Originally he had retired to his office to avoid contact with the apparent assassin, but now escaping from work was the only thing on Laharl's mind.
"Where might you be headed?" the door asked him in a low voice as he turned towards the doorway. The door's voice and character were both different from its construction.
"Why am I getting asked that by you?"
"Etna-sama instructed me, 'ask where His Majesty is going.'"
"Food, I'm going for food!"
"Did you not dine earlier?"
"Oi, that's getting detailed. For an unmoving door, how do you know that?"
"All of the doors are in contact with one another," the door answered triumphantly, and Laharl clicked his tongue.
"What I had before wasn't enough. And I didn't have any dessert either."
And, suddenly sensing something behind him, he whirled around. "Who's there?"
His scarf fluttered, and he stood ready to attack at any moment. But, there was no one there.
"Just now, I felt that there was someone there, but......" Laharl muttered, cocking his head in confusion. "Am I tired? Yeah, that must be it. I definitely need to take a break."
Making this convenient interpretation, he opened the door without unnecessary conversation, and stepped out into the hallway.
He was about to go to the kitchen when a voice unexpectedly called out to him from behind.
"Oh, Flonne. What are you doing?" Laharl asked once he turned around. He did not let her sense his earlier weakness at all.
"Thank goodness. You're all right now."
Flonne smiled in relief, and for some reason Laharl looked away.
"Y-yeah," he replied, seeming embarrassed.
"I'm looking for Kira-chan, have you happened to see him?"
"I've been working all this time," Laharl replied with a self-satisfied air.
"I did something sort of awful, and I have to apologize."
"Yes. And I must speak to his parents, too."
"Forget that. You can't carry on a straight conversation with those parents."
"If I don't try it, I'll never know."
"Listen, I was with those two for nearly 100 years. I know that much."
"Eh? When was that?"
At Flonne's question, Laharl withdrew completely. His expression said that he had spoken of something which was better left unsaid.
"I-it doesn't matter when! I've forgotten about back then!!" he said hurriedly, and turned his back as though to run away.
"Huh? Laharl-san, is there something on your back?"
His scarf fluttered, and she thought she saw something beneath it, so Flonne called out to Laharl to stop him.
"Yes, though it's beneath your scarf."
Laharl tried to check his own back, but he could not see it. His scarf flew up on its own, and his back became completely visible to Flonne.
A black ball about the size of the tip of a thumb was stuck in the center of Laharl's back.
"T-that's—" Flonne gulped.
At that moment, the black ball on his back suddenly swelled up.
"Laharl-san, it's a shokuma2 egg."
"What did you say!?"
The shokuma were nasty demons of low standing, but once they bit, whether pulled or roasted or struck by lightning, they would not let go, and they possessed the appetite to devour their victims.
The black mass swelled up larger than Laharl, opened its mouth wide, and snapped at Laharl head-first.
In one bite, he was swallowed to the waist.
Flonne covered her mouth with her hand and screamed, "Laharl-san!"
The shokuma swelled up even larger, and Laharl's whole body was reduced to a mass of flesh.
At Flonne's chanted spell, the mass of flesh was swallowed by a pillar of ice and froze. Immediately Flonne took hold of her staff and swung it with all her might.
A loud crack sounded, and the pillar of ice shattered, the fragments scattering. The fragments of the shokuma with them.
Meaning to burn them to nothing before they melted, Flonne loosed flames upon the shattered ice that had been the fleshy mass.
The hallway was enveloped in explosive flames. The smell of burning flesh hung close in the air.
Laharl crawled out from amidst the flames. His lower body was frozen and shedding white cold, and white smoke trailed from his torso.
"T-that was a close one...... I was preparing myself to be digested over 1,000 years. And I couldn't help thinking, on the way to eating dessert, I got eaten myself."
Covered in digestive juices, Laharl exhaled smoke and looked towards Flonne.
"Flonne, you saved me.3 That's twice now." Laharl grasped Flonne's hand and thanked her.
"Um, well, that is, thank goodness. Yes." Her cheeks suddenly turning red, Flonne quickly shook off Laharl's hand.
"I'm sorry! It's nothing! Well then!!" Now beet red, Flonne vigorously walked away.
Not having any idea what had happened, Laharl watched her go in astonishment.
"Was it because of this?" Laharl sniffed at the digestive juices stuck to his own body. "I'll shower before I eat."
He turned his legs from their path to the kitchen and headed towards his room.
Neither of the two could know that Etna, who had just happened to be passing by, had witnessed the scene. Moreover, on seeing Laharl take Flonne's hand, and Flonne turn completely red, Etna had immediately hidden herself, and she had not seen the parts before or after.
"What was that just now?" Etna muttered sullenly.
What the feeling was that had suddenly awoken inside of her, Etna did not know. She didn't know, but it had definitely become a very unpleasant feeling.
It has to be that fallen angel's fault, Etna thought, without making any logical connection.
In the corner of the empty hallway, a malicious giggle escaped her and then quieted.
Jane was with Jennifer and Gordon, inside the spaceship which had landed in the castle courtyard. Gordon was working and could not play with her, so she was in Jennifer's room.
And yet, Jennifer, too, was in the midst of research and not taking notice of anything else, so she couldn't play. Even so, Jane didn't want to be by herself.
Ever since returning from the House of Love, she had not left the room. She got the feeling that if she went outside something frightening would be there, and she could not move.
When she remembered Kira's eyes, she got scared and her legs froze.
She had never before seen such dreadful eyes. They had been so cold and devoid of emotion that she could not think he had the same face as Shas.
Jane suddenly strained her ears, and looked around her. She felt as though she had heard someone's voice calling.
She lifted her face and went to the door.
She had the same face, but Jane was not afraid of Shas. Even if she was Kira's double, Shas had done nothing. Jane was sure of it.
Jennifer did not notice that Jane was going out.
And without her notice, Jane went to the hatch.
She descended the ramp, and walked across the courtyard.
"Shas-chan?" she called out, and this time she heard the voice clearly.
"Over here." She heard the voice from the direction of the hallway.
With small steps, she crossed the courtyard and entered the hallway. But, Shas was not there.
"Where did she go?"
Walking around in search of Shas, Jane recognized someone standing in the hallway and ran up to her.
"Eh? Oh, Jane-chan." Turning around, Etna gave a sigh. Her expression was dispirited.
"It's nothing," Etna replied in an uncharacteristically depressed voice.
"Are you hurt somewhere?"
"I said I'm fine!" Her voice came out unintentionally forceful. When she realized that Jane was looking up at her with a stunned expression, Etna fell into self-loathing. There's no use lashing out at a human child.
Jane did not dispute Etna's reaction, and she hadn't forgotten that she had her own question.
"I'm looking for Shas-chan. Have you seen her, Etna-san?"
"Nope, I haven't," Etna replied, having pulled herself together.
"I heard her voice from over here."
"Maybe she's playing hide-and-seek again or something."
"But, the prinnies aren't here either," Jane said, looking around her curiously. And, she noticed the shadow of a person.
"Ah, it's Laharl-chan."
At Jane's voice, Etna felt her heart leap in her chest.
When she turned around, Laharl was headed in their direction. I guess he separated from Flonne and came this way. He must be going to the kitchen or outside.
"Etna? Is something wrong?" Laharl asked.
"Eh? No, nothing at all."
She tried to answer in the same manner as always, but Laharl hummed skeptically.
"Is that right? I get the feeling that something is really stressing you out."
Etna could not figure out how to answer. That was where Jane cut in.
Whether she understood the situation or not, Jane tugged on Laharl's scarf and asked, "Laharl-chan, do you know where Shas-chan is?"
"Oi, you're calling both me and Shas 'chan'?"
"That's right," she replied as though she were entirely oblivious, and Laharl grimaced.
Without thinking, Etna laughed at the scene.
"This isn't something to laugh at," Laharl said. "It doesn't have the dignity of the Overlord or anything."
"It's your right as a demon, Prince."
"I don't need that option!"
"Although I don't think the previous Overlord Krichevskoy changed much on the point of dignity."
"Idiot. My old man was like that, so I'm going to be an Overlord with dignity."
"Well, keep at it!" Etna encouraged him, grinning as though she wasn't in earnest.
"Shas-chan isn't here, is she?" Tugging on Etna's leather skirt, Jane tried to get the conversation back on track.
"That's right," Etna said. "You want to come to my room?"
"But, I can't if I'm going to look for Shas-chan."
"Well then, I'll tell the prinnies that if they find Shas-chan to lead her to my room."
Jane nodded, and Etna returned her attention to Laharl.
"And you, Prince?"
"I'm not going."
"You're going to the kitchen, aren't you," Etna asserted in a knowing tone.
"Later then, Laharl-chan."
Jane waved a hand to Laharl and walked off together with Etna.
"That brat, just once I'll have to make her understand my greatness."
Grumbling, Laharl walked off in the opposite direction.
After parting from Laharl, Flonne walked the inside of the castle in search of Kira.
She had glanced around the places she thought he might go, and she was beginning to think he was no longer in the castle. Jut as she was about to give up, she spotted him walking right before her eyes.
Kira turned around and asked Flonne in surprise, as though absolutely nothing had happened, "What is it?"
"You went flying out earlier and I was worried."
"I thought I said I was fine." A chuckle floating up from him, Kira beckoned her around a corner. "Never mind that, Flonne-san, come this way."
"What is it?"
"You'll be able to see something interesting." Kira's silver eye turned towards Flonne.
Although she thought to herself that an angel should not peek, somehow Flonne found herself looking without protest to the other end of the hallway.
It was a sight not at all unusual.
Etna was in front of Laharl. Jane was there, too, but to Flonne's eyes she might as well not have been there.
"It seems we have seen a bad spot." Kira smiled wryly.
Somehow Flonne could not move away. She could not take her eyes off of the two.
Etna was talking to Laharl, looking like she was enjoying herself. That was all, but the moment she heard Kira's words, something in her heart grew fretful.
No, I don't want to look anymore.
Pain ran through Flonne's chest.
It was a feeling more painful than any injury she had experienced in the past.
A pain like nausea welling up from deep inside her body.
"I'm sorry, Kira-chan. I'm not feeling well, so I'm going home."
No longer able to stand it, Flonne took her gaze away from the two.
"Are you all right?"
"I'll be fine once I rest a little," Flonne said, and she retraced the path from which she had come at a quick pace.
"Just as you'd expect from a former angel. She's too pure, she can't even stand the wicked thoughts in her own mind," Kira muttered, and then he raised his voice and laughed.
"This really is interesting. Flonne-san is the best, isn't she?" he murmured, and Kira stared at Laharl from the shadows.
Both of his differently-colored eyes were filled with hatred and an all-too-cold light.
"Ne, Etna-chan, do you like anyone?"
They were drinking tea and eating cake in Etna's room. Jane asked this inadvertently in conversation, and at her words, Etna looked like she was going to choke.
"Me, there's this boy in my class at school that I like. But, I haven't told Papa or Mama, so it's a secret, okay?" Jane held her index finger up to her lips. "What about you, Etna-chan?"
"I don't understand the word 'like' very well, I think."
"Because until Flonne-chan came to the Netherworld, words like 'love' or 'like' were taboo. The Prince doesn't like them either."
"Eh!? Then how do you get married?" Jane asked curiously. "How do you decide who to be with? Papa and Mama got married because they loved each other, they said."
A lot happened with Gordon and Jennifer, huh, Etna remembered, and could not help grinning.
Jennifer's father General Carter had used mind control on Jennifer, and attacked Laharl and the others. Gordon had risked his life to protect her, and what had started as a relationship between hero and assistant had apparently developed into love.
"In the Netherworld, what decides partners is sheer strength, or falling into a trap— We prioritize partners by their strength."
"Eh? It has nothing to do with their faces or the length of their legs or how nice they are?"
"It's better if they have a good face, but there's no such thing as 'nice.' If you're nice, then in the Netherworld you die pretty quickly."
"Really? The boy I like is cute and nice. But, he's good at soccer."
"Is that right?"
"So, what about you, Etna-chan?"
Abruptly Laharl's face came to mind.
Hey, wait a minute. My impression of him has changed since the first time I saw him, and he's gotten stronger, but...
Flustered, she shook her head.
"It's nothing." Putting on a false smile, Etna shook her head again.
There came knock, and they heard a voice from outside.
"Jane-chan, you there?"
"Ah, it's Shas-chan."
When Jane leapt up, the door opened and Shas was standing there.
"The prinnies told me you were here."
"Those guys are good for something every once in a while, huh," Etna said from her seat on the couch, as though she had no faith in her own subordinates.
"Shas-chan, over here."
As Jane started to lead her over to the sofa, she noticed that there was something strange about Shas's leg. From above her shoe up to about her knee, it had become completely red.
"What happened to your leg?"
As though Shas was realizing it for the first time at Jane's question, she looked at her own leg and made a curious face.
"Huh? I dunno."
"Doesn't it hurt?"
"It stings a little."
"Where did you hurt it?"
"Mm, well, before I realized it,4 it was like this."
"Show me." Etna came closer to Shas and peered at the injury.
"Maybe I fell down."
As she examined the wound, Etna's eyes narrowed grimly. "This isn't just a scrape. And it's not a burn......"
Staring intently, Etna's face grew even grimmer.
"This couldn't be— a holy water burn?"
There was only one place that would have a thing like holy water.
"That rotten angel...... What's she thinking getting this child hurt?" Etna muttered. Then she turned to face Jane. "Jane-chan, sorry, but go home for today."
"What is it?"
"A little something's come up."
Jane looked at Etna's expression, and she nodded obediently as though she had guessed at something. "Mm, okay. See you tomorrow then."
Etna saw Jane and Shas out, and then with a grim face she rushed out in the direction of the town.
It was almost night, and having finished his work, Gordon had realized that he didn't see Jane anywhere and was searching the interior of the ship.
"Jane's not here, do you know where she went?" Gordon raised his voice, having rushed to Jennifer's research lab. He usually didn't do anything so thoughtless as raising his voice when Jennifer was in the midst of research, but circumstances were what they were.
"Hm? I thought she was just here a little while ago, but......" Jennifer looked up and replied distractedly, still unaware of anything outside her research.
"When is 'a while ago'?"
"Let's see, maybe it was about two hours earlier," Jennifer replied absent-mindedly.
"So she went outside. This is bad."
Jennifer hurriedly searched out the clock showing Netherworld time with her eyes. She had completely lost track of time. It often happened when she immersed herself in her research, but one could also say it was the problem with being a genius scientist.
"Jesus! It's evening already!!"
"Yes. For us humans, we're entering a dangerous period of time."
Vampires and other demons that preferred humans came out at night. Someone like Jane would wind up becoming the perfect prey.
"I'm sorry, dear. It's because I didn't warn her."
With a ghastly pale face, Jennifer took off her white coat and cast it aside. Beneath it was her revealing costume as Jennifer, the assistant to the Defender of Earth.
"We're going to save you now, Jane," Gordon said.
Just as Gordon and Jennifer rushed out of the room—
They heard Jane's tired voice call from the direction of the hatch.
"WHAT HAPPENED, YOU TWO?" Thursday, who had gone out to pick up Jane, asked in his beeping voice.
"Are you going out to play now?" Jane asked with a puzzled look.
"N-no," Gordon said, "that is, well—"
"It's nothing," said Jennifer.
For someone who in his position as Defender of Earth professed that he must conduct himself in a calm and collected way, this disgraceful behavior was difficult to explain.
"Now that's suspicious." Jane said dubiously, staring at her parents.
"W-well, are you going to eat dinner?" Gordon asked.
"I had cake with Etna-chan, so I don't need anything yet."
"O-oh, I see."
Jane was about to go to her own room when she suddenly turned around and asked Gordon, "Ne, when are we going home?"
"That's right. Before much longer I'll have to return to work. Why don't we head back the day after tomorrow?"
"Okay. Well then, tomorrow I'll play all day. That's okay, right?"
"Yes, that's fine. In exchange—"
"Today I'll start my homework now," Jane answered immediately, and smiled at Gordon.
"I'm glad that's clear."
Watching their daughter run off to her room, the two exchanged glances and breathed a deep sigh of relief.
Flonne was before the statue of Lamington within the House of Love, offering up a prayer.
"Today, too, I was able to pass another day safely. Thank you."
Down on her knees with her head bowed, Flonne prayed with all her heart. There were no wicked thoughts in it. Although she was a fallen angel, it did not mean that she had fallen to violating precepts, and Flonne's heart was no different from when she had been an angel.
"But, I did something awful to Kira-chan. I may be careless, but hurting someone is out of the question. Is it a punishment, that my heart hurts for no reason? What should I do?"
As she prayed, she looked up at the statue of Lamington.
Of course, there was no way that a fallen angel would receive an answer from Celestia.
And, just then, suddenly the entrance was opened with a loud bang, and there came a shout full of anger.
The one who had stepped inside was Etna.
"Eh? What is it, Etna-san?"
Surprised, Flonne came out to meet her, and Etna showered her in abuse.
"Don't ask me what, you rotten angel!"
"R-rotten angel?" Flonne's eyes went wide.
"What the hell are you thinking, injuring a child!?"
Etna's words stole her breath away, and Flonne hung her head.
"And on top of that, to splash one with holy water!"
"I-it was an accident—"
"An accident? The bigger point is, it's completely senseless for you to keep something that dangerous here in the Netherworld!"
"It's not danger—"
"It is dangerous! It's a hazardous material! I can't understand why you'd hold that repulsive stuff so dearly!!"
"A-and as for you, Etna-san, what's wrong with you? You're horrible!!"
"W-well, to do those things!" Flonne shouted without knowing herself what she was saying. The pain in her chest from midday seemed to have returned, and she felt awful.
"What the heck is that!? You're just turning it around and getting mad at me!"
"I thought we were finally able to understand each other, but you're terrible!"
"What are you saying? You, are your brains gone rotten!?"
The two glared at each other for a moment and stiffened.
In the next moment they had squared their shoulders, and their hands and mouths moved at the same time.
"You airheaded goody-two-shoes!"
"You savage woman!"
"You fallen angel!" Etna chanted a Fire spell and hurled a mass of flames.
"You demon!" Flonne chanted a Wind spell and struck at her with a gale.
"I'm through with you!" Etna shouted, thrusting a finger at Flonne.
"I was just about to say that myself!" Flonne retorted, glaring at Etna.
"Go back to Celestia already!"
Slamming the door with all her might, Etna left the House of Love.
"Repent your sins!" Flonne yelled back at the closed door. As one last shot, she flung a small flame at it, and with an expression of indignation that could not be calmed, she returned inside.
In the empty House of Love, silent laughter rang.
"The first match between fallen angel and demon. As a bonus, it's between women. Their friendship is a fragile thing, isn't it?"
Behind Etna's running back, the figure that revealed itself from lurking within the darkness was that of a single child.
"Now then, why don't we start wrapping things up," Kira murmured, and with his silver eye filling to the brim with a cold light, he gave a chuckle.
Next Time's Preview5
- ^ Laharl is using the casual form of a phrase that's used like "sorry to bother you."
- ^ There's no real English translation for this, but the characters 食魔 read "eat" and "demon," and from the description that's just what they are: demons that eat.
- ^ Laharl uses the phrase 助かった tasukatta here, which does literally mean "I was saved," but in Japanese this can be very casual. It's used for anything from escaping death to having someone loan you their cell phone.
- ^ Interestingly, the verb being used here can also mean "to regain consciousness."
- ^ This particular preview is a parody of Heidi, with Etna being Heidi and Flonne being Clara.