A/N: The theater play kinda sucked, but the better half liked it for some reason. The problem with spending much of my time reading stories is that I have little patience for poorly written characters, or certain character types, and the play featured two really bad types as the main characters. The wimp and the cocky-useless guy. Just wanted to vent that out. Hope you enjoy the chapter.
The man Shiori was holding down let out a small mirthless laugh. “Give it up girlie. There’s no way your friend can win against the lord. She is one of the rare masters to excel in all three of holy magic, magic and internal power. If you let me go right now and beg for forgiveness, I might give you a quick death, instead of selling you to slavery after torturing you.”
To his surprise, he was answered with a full bodied laughter full of mirth from Shiori. After laughing for a while, Shiori twisted the knife that was impaling the man’s hand to the table soliciting a grunt of pain. “Oh gramps, you have no idea. If your little lordling was fighting someone else, she might actually have a chance, but she picked the wrong fight this time. The question isn’t whether or not Neleh will win, but instead how many pieces your little lordling will be in when they return.”
The old demon grimaced. “Lots of people have made boasts like that little girl, and all of them have fallen before the demon lord. Your friend will be no different.”
Shiori gave another laugh and another twist of her knife. “Since you’re not going to be living through this, I’ll let you on a little secret. A couple of years ago, your little lordling might have been able to put up a fight at least, but a lot has changed since then. Now Neleh could take on everyone in this conclave and win. Do you know what the seers of the naga empress call her? The empress of the Immortal Flame. Do you think they’d call her that just for nothing? It’s also a wonder what the right personal spirit can do to a person.”
“Bah! I spit on the naga and the titles they grant people. Eternal Empress! Immortal Flame! What kind of dinky spirit could an elf obtain with her feeble spirit magic?” The man said disgusted. He was well aware that humans were really the only ones that could connect with powerful spirits. Even if another race could connect with a spirit for some odd reason, that spirit would be a medium ranked spirit at best.
As she was the only person aside from Neleh to know the real identity of Neleh’s personal spirit, Shiori had an evil smile as she whispered the name in the old demon’s ear in a voice that made sure no one else could hear. Demons might not be able to use spirit magic, but Malassa and her kind symbolized the Chaos that the demons worshipped, so her name was familiar to them. It was slightly ironic that the name of the Queen of Darkness and of ruler deadly secrets was the last thing he heard as Shiori slit his throat to make sure this secret was kept safe.
Neleh was actually quite impressed by the demoness’ skill when it came to fighting in the air. Fighting in the air was completely different to fighting on the ground for countless reasons, some of which were not as obvious as others. Momentum was very important while in flight, as it was more difficult to make sharp turns in the air. As you had no solid footing, you could easily get thrown a great distance by the strength of both your own and your opponent’s blows. Fights in the air often consisted of a quick flurry of blows as the two combatants came together, and were often cut short when one or both of the combatants was pushed away, followed by yet another collision and a flurry of attacks.
There was also the fact that it required different kind of movement to bring your strength to bear, as you didn’t have a solid footing to use as a base. Footwork was one of the most important parts of any close combat arts, and that factor had almost disappeared along with the solid ground. Instead, the most important factors of bringing your strength to bear were the ability to use your wings, the momentum from your flight speed and your ability to twist your body into the blows, to add the strength of your whole body into the blows.
Of course this was all complicated by the fact that both combatants actually had the ability to make quick temporary footing in the air, Neleh by using her air magic while the demoness used her Ki. Even so, since they both moved with such speeds, those footings were really quick, and only gave very temporary purchase. Neleh had to admire her opponent’s skill. The demoness didn’t have the same kind of experience in aerial fighting as Neleh had from her previous life, yet she was able to keep up, and even managed to pressure Neleh a bit with ranged bursts of Ki whenever they separated.
So far their fight had been mostly conducted by using their internal power, while occasionally using burst of holy power to either defend an attack from a difficult angle or use the occasional buff magic to increase one’s speed or strength. Neleh had managed to score a wound on the demoness with a surprise attack, but that wound had been healed almost immediately. That was the benefit of warriors with holy abilities, not only could you use several holy spells to buff yourself, but you could also heal most non-life threatening wounds. As such, it became really hard to gain upper hand in a relatively equal fight, unless you managed to score a lucky critical wound that would take longer to heal. Fights between equal warriors often became a race to exhaust your opponent enough to force mistakes. It became even more so when holy power was added to the mix.
They both knew the other person was also capable of magical attacks, but the close melee didn’t really afford a chance to use chanted spells or anything that required gestures. They were both also waiting for the other person to make the first move when it came to magical offense. That suited Neleh just fine, as she was quite enjoying their fight, as there were few beings in this world capable of challenging her this much. The growth of her powers had already reached a point where the combination with the benefits gained from Malassa moved her beyond anything seen in this world and closing in on the beings that roamed the universe proper. That of course was a necessity, as the lost-deities were not something that could be faced by the strength of normal beings.
This demoness had potential though. With some proper training, she could be made into a real asset in the coming war. As a result Neleh had decided not to kill her, and wanted to give her as a gift to Khali, so that the ex-ruler of Inferno had a helper of her own down the line. Neleh also quite enjoyed the look of confusion and frustration on the demoness’ face. That looked spoke of not being able to understand what was happening. There was something wrong and the demoness couldn’t figure out what that was.
Neleh had actually been surprised to see the demoness using a simple form of the technique Rhythm Break that Neleh had used herself, and taught to both Shiori and Asheara. She had not expected anyone else on this world to be able to use that technique. Neleh knew of ways to counter the effects, but had instead opted to use another technique of her own to confuse the demoness’ attacks. While the demoness played with timing, Neleh played with space and reach.
One of her spirits, the Blazing Glory had given Neleh the ability of near instant movement. The first way to use this ability that came to everyone’s mind was to try and jump into your opponent’s blind spot to attack from there, but as the ability only allowed movement in a straight line, that would be too predictable, and would be seen through by an opponent as skilled as the demoness. No, instead Neleh made very small movements . She used the ability to shift her position just few millimeters at a time, the whole thing happening so fast that it was impossible to see, and impossible to detect if you weren’t looking for it. Instead of a one strike kill, what Neleh aimed for was to make the demoness’ attacks slightly off target or just barely out of reach. That forced the demoness to overextend, doubt her senses and keep her off balance. While the Rhythm Break drained stamina by forcing focus, this tactic of Neleh’s made focus almost a detriment.
The result was the obvious confusion on the demoness’ face. She could not understand why her attacks were not connecting. Confusion also lead to frustration, and as everyone with experience can tell, emotions like those will lead to your downfall in battle. The demoness was already stepping into Neleh’s trap, and didn’t have the slightest idea on what was going on.
The demoness decided to vent her frustration. “Is this all you’ve got, oh great hope of the elves? Just running away and feeble attacks. I thought you were supposed to be something great on powerful, but so far I’ve seen nothing worth mentioning.” She was also trying to goad Neleh.
“Oh, you assume I give a damn about what a demon whelp like you thinks of me. That’s so cute.” Neleh’s voice was close to baby-talk by the end.
“You bitch!” The demoness was quick to anger due to her frustration, but was stopped by a coughing fit.
“Oh? Having trouble breathing? Come to think of it, you might be getting a bit cold as well once you’re calm enough to notice. It can get quite chilly so high up, with the air so thin.” Neleh had used the demoness’ confusion to mask the fact that they were constantly flying higher and higher.
The demoness was about to start moving down, but was intercepted by an attack from Neleh. The great force behind the attack pushed the demoness even higher, followed by several more similar pushing attacks, by Neleh, who had been hiding the strength granted by Malassa until now. The demoness was even more shocked, but could barely fight back as the air kept getting thinner and thinner. Suddenly Neleh made a gesture and chanted the name of the spell ‘Colosseum’. The spell resulted in a large magical formation surrounding the two of them on all sides. It looked like an arena, which it in a way was, almost hundred meters in length in all directions except down.
“There we go. Now you won’t be able to leave until you can force me to relinquish the spell.” Neleh said with a small smile.
The demoness coughed again. “If you think a little cold or thin air will kill me, you’re delusional.”
“That’s not why I forced you here, although if I really wanted to I could force the issue. I can supply myself with air and warmth, but I’m guessing air magic is not your forte.” Neleh answered patiently like explaining something to a child.
She was right of course. The demon lord was rare in the fact that she had great affinity in six elements, but air was not one of them. She could manage something like Neleh mentioned if she were to use fully chanted spells and waste a lot of mana, but that wasn’t really an option in the middle of a fight.
The demoness growled like a beast before answering. “I might not be an air mage, but I have something else instead.” The demoness cast one her most powerful spells with a shortened chant.
“Tears of Ishmail with a shortened chant? Not bad.” Neleh said giving a small whistle of appreciation. The spell was an eight circle spell combining two elements of fire and earth to summon a huge flaming meteor. To make things worse, the demoness also used chantless magic to control the darkness around them in an attempt to strike at Neleh. With them being almost at the edge of the atmosphere, there was plenty of darkness of the space to control. To Neleh’s surprise, the demoness also added a third spell that was even more insidious if she had been unable to see the flows of magic and recognize the spell.
The demoness watched, certain of her victory as her spells converged on Neleh. The meteor was grand and eye catching and certainly powerful, but it was something more appropriate for use against cities or large armies. The point was to keep Neleh in place and force her to react, while shielding against the shadows attacking from the surroundings. The real danger came from the third attack that was aimed at Neleh’s shield. The arcane spell would turn the shields against Neleh, instead of protecting her, they would enhance the effects of any spell traveling through the shield, and would also invert them so that Neleh’s own shield would keep her spells from exiting the shield.
Unfortunately the demon lord’s hopes were dashed. She watched in horror as Neleh raised her hand and gathered all the heat and fire surrounding the meteor in front of her hand and burst that heat outwards in a blast of power enhanced by Neleh own magic. The meteor turned into a hail of gravel. For some reason the shadows simply retreated back away from Neleh. As for the arcane spell, the demoness could not contain her grunt of annoyance as Neleh raised a shield as if to mock the demoness. The problem was that the shield was made of a thousand green hexagonal segments, and only one small segment was affected by the arcane magic, making it entirely useless.
“How?” The demoness managed to ask while grinding her teeth.
“A bad choice of elements I’m afraid. I’m pretty sure you already knew I specialize in fire magic, so the thingy with the meteor shouldn’t’ have been too much of a surprise. I doubt the reports told you about my spirits though. What would you say if I told you that the name of my personal spirit was Abyss?” Neleh asked with a small grin.
The demoness’ eye started twitching a bit. “Your personal spirit is the one that rules over darkness and shadow? No wonder the darkness didn’t affect you. Also explains why you brought me up here. Seems you got the same idea as I did with all this darkness close by.”
“Oh, but that’s not the reason I brought you here. The reason I brought you here is because most of my really fun spells are rather detrimental to my surroundings. I doubt the celestials would appreciate it if I made the remains of their precious little island plummet into the ocean.” Neleh’s grin had turned positively evil, which more than anything convinced the demoness that she wasn’t bluffing.
The demoness could only use her final trump card, the magic that had won her the position of demon lord, as she slaughtered her competition. She combined Holy magic and Death magic in a way similar to Neleh’s holy fire. “Voice of Tiamat.” The demoness uttered the spell’s name, her voice carrying the deadly effect of the spell, killing anyone that heard her voice.
The demoness was utterly stumped, when her trump card only produced a gale of laughter from Neleh. “Oh honey, you have such rotten luck. Your target for that little spell was the worst possible. You’re trying to use the power of your god to kill someone that is not only the Chosen of two deities, but also carries the greater blessing of that same god whose power you’re trying to use. Just to make things worse, I love using sound to carry my own magic, as every report about me should’ve told you. What makes you think I didn’t take precautions against others using the same thing? Even if your death magic was sufficient to affect me, you can’t use your voice to carry that power.” Neleh explained almost gently. She was genuinely feeling a little bad for the rotten luck of the demoness who had such pride in her power. She was also feeling bad, because the bad matchup took away most of her fun.
“Well to make this up to you, I’ll show you something special. If I were you, I’d use the strongest shield you can manage.” Neleh’s voice turned decidedly draconic, as she took the sinuous form of a Kirin or in other words a snake-like dragon made of flames. Unlike the previous time she had used this form, this time the flames were almost purple as the holy fire was affected by the power of Malassa. The demoness could only see her death in the eyes of the magical dragon that looked at her in sympathy before opening its mouth wide as dark power gathered for what could only be a breath weapon of sorts.
Azrael was somewhat disappointed that the two combatants flew so high, making it impossible to see their battle. They would’ve followed the two from a discreet distance, but the rain of Ki attacks made it clear that would be a bad idea. This became even more obvious as they saw the flaming meteor appearing and being destroyed. The rain of gravel was deflected by the defensive shield of the island. Suddenly they all gasped as they saw a beam of dark energy sweep across the sky above them. The beam was long enough to reach beyond the horizon, and the sweep carried it over their heads from side to side. Unknown to them, the sweep was due to the demon lord’s desperate attempt to dodge the breath weapon, but running into the borders of the colosseum spell that prevented further escape.
All they could do was to wait, and finally they saw the golden form of Neleh as she descended from the sky. When she landed, they could see that she was dragging the broken form of the demon lord behind her. The clothes were all burnt, her wings were broken in multiple places, and the only reason her body wasn’t horribly mutilated was because Neleh had stopped her attack once she felt the demoness’ shields failing, and used her healing magic to keep the demoness alive. Not that she was very gentle as she was dragging the demoness’ body along by holding the upper body barely aloft with her hand clasped on top of the demoness’ face. The damaged heels of the demoness were dragging and bouncing along the ground behind her.
“Well then. That was somewhat interesting, but also somewhat disappointing.” Neleh stated as she came to halt in front of the other representatives. She could see Shiori coming to greet her with a smile. The lack of a prisoner told Neleh that the old magician didn’t survive his encounter with Shiori. The man had probably said something stupid to earn his fate in Shiori’s eyes.
She turned around as she sensed Jormungandr returning its huge head above the island long enough to spit out the third demon, before disappearing. Neleh could sense the great wyrms thoughts through the bond enough to get a general grasp of what had happened. If the fight had been on land, then the demon might have managed to manage a better showing, but it’s a bit challenging to fight a great wyrm in hand-to-hand while underwater. Water resistance was a real problem when trying to punch the thick scales and manage more than a tickle.
“Any of them alive?” Azrael asked a little curious. She knew Neleh didn’t like leaving live enemies behind.
“The guy is alive, but barely, you should probably take care of him. The old man is dead I’m sure. This one is alive, but only because I’m keeping her so with my healing magic. The corruption element in my last attack was a bit too strong to be healed by others. I think the guy is your best bet to carry the news about the deals struck here back to the demons. This one won’t be going back for a while.” She explained with a shrug.
“Doesn’t much matter. She was the demon lord until you fought her. Now that she lost to a person outside their race, she has shamed their whole race and would only be executed if she returned. They will have a replacement picked as soon as the higher ranked demons get their pecking order straight.” Azrael said showing a calm front. Secretly she was quite happy. The demons were still the nemesis of the celestials, and any misfortune they faced would be faced with hidden celebration by the celestial race. Neleh had done them a great favor.
“I assumed something like that. I’ll keep her then. She shows some promise and might be useful in the future if someone half decent gives her a little bit of guidance. She relied too much on her powers.” Neleh shrugged. As planned, she would gift the demoness to Khali later on. Khali could use the old demon lord as a material for her plans towards taking over the demon continent. A plausible excuse or something like that.
“Wait, wait, what? You’re taking in the demon? I’m coming along to monitor things! We wouldn’t want her ways corrupting you.” Azrael’s words were an excuse, and they all knew it. She wanted a reason to come back, and now she had one.
“Whatever you say.” Neleh replied while hiding her smile.
Shiori was less polite and outright burst into laughter. “We’ll see who corrupts who.” She mumbled just loud enough for everyone to hear.