Seeing this, Essairyn’s chest lurched in heartache. Darren had put himself on the line and reluctantly committed callous acts all because of her altruistic arrogance in saving the barn animals. They were no longer in a world secured by law and order. This was a kill to survive world where power granted protection. It was possible that for the sake of their lives and the upholding of their integrity, they might have to execute future unimaginable atrocities. But in this distorted morality, they would paradoxically have to lose some of those principles too.
Essairyn didn’t let Darren’s efforts go to waste. She hunted down the runaways while he maintained the wolves’ aggression and fended off their second floor jumping advances. This gave Mr. Welfort enough time to finish obstructing the door. He yelled up at Darren upon the barricade’s completion, and the boy quickly fished the pitchfork back up, tossed it onto the hay beds behind him, and started shutting the loft doors.
But halfway through closing them, a wolf vaulted toward the vulnerable youth. Darren strove to snap the doors shut, but the lunatic, cochineal orbs of the triumphant beast blazed into his eyes. With less than one meter remaining between them, and a quarter of the doors left to close, Darren readied himself to dodge the incoming fangs and claws. While dodging, he would finish shutting the door as the wolf crashed into the hay. Then he’d retrieve his pitchfork to fight the possessed creature. Because of his heightened abilities in this world compared to Earth, he was assured that he could beat the wolf in a one-on-one battle.
However, he wouldn’t need to follow through this risky plan as Essairyn had just returned within range of the barn to lob a downward angled spear into the airborne wolf’s back. Darren cringed upon seeing the wolf’s eyes bulge in the prelude of imminent death before it plunged down into the barn wall right below the bottom of the now closed, loft doors.
He released a tremulous breath of relief and slumped down to his knees. He could still hear the dying throes of the wolves and Essairyn’s magic whizzing about outside. Darren slowed down the remaining adrenaline rushing through his system, and fifteen seconds later, it was silent. He fretfully waited a few seconds before he heard Essairyn’s familiar, mellow voice.
“Hey! You okay in there?”
Darren cautiously opened the loft doors. The elated face of an ebony-haired girl greeted him. He lightly smiled in return. It was finally over. The three cleared the barricade, and in the middle of comforting the jittery animals, Akari and Mrs. Welfort arrived at the barn. They had observed the gut-wrenching battle from the farmhouse windows and rushed over to join them upon its end.
When Mrs. Welfort fixed her gaze on the half dozen, strewn wolf corpses in front of the barn, she nearly retched. Essairyn’s magic had quickly ended most of the wolves’ lives, so their bodies dissipated into black mist as the first tier demons could no longer escape from their host. Hence, they died theoretically as beast demons, and their bodies were disposed of in the same way. The majority of the intact corpses resulted from Darren’s brutal pitchfork attacks. Some of these demons had decided to leave their mutilated hosts. Essairyn couldn’t chase after the extremely nimble, gaseous demons, so they successfully fled the scene.
In retrospect, this made Essairyn wonder out loud if for the future, she should severely injure possessed creatures in order to draw out their demons. But Akari speedily rejected that notion. It was simply too inefficient and sacrificed time and safety for unnecessary kindness.
“Speaking of safety, you got injured.” Akari nervously examined the girl’s wound on her right leg. After seeing it wasn’t serious, only about a millimeter deep, the fox exhaled a sigh of relief. “Next time, you need to be more careful battling beast demons. I know this is your fourth time, but demon wounds get infected easily. They can also develop nasty afflictions which turn the flesh into soot, much like when beast demon bodies dissipate.”
Essairyn internally shuddered at the thought of her body deteriorating away into ash. “Thankfully, my body mostly healed itself while I was fighting. Now, I can probably finish healing it myself.” She placed three fingers at the top of the five-inch long slashes and pressed downward, swiping her hand slowly across their length. Lavender light flushed beneath her fingers, and the skin seamlessly repaired itself. Healing oneself took much less concentration than healing others, even for white mages or green elementals. Essairyn figured she could’ve easily willed the injury to heal without bending down and following through the gestural motions.
“How deep was the wound initially?” Akari was curious about the speed of Essairyn’s self-healing abilities. When regular m’u and magical ability was high enough, usually D-ranked mages or higher, the body would self-heal when injured.
“Yeah, that wolf got your leg good. I was worried that you’d be pulled down, and I wouldn’t know what I’d do then,” added Darren with a slight wrinkle to his forehead. It hadn’t crossed his mind until that moment, but if he had to brave this world without her, he suspected that it would be invariably harder. As much as he hated leeching off of people, his best chance of survival was with Essairyn. I need to get stronger, fast. He hated feeling so useless.
Essairyn chuckled mirthlessly and drew her forefinger and thumb close together, gauging the original depth to be about half a centimeter. Akari didn’t know whether to grouse on the girl’s literal inhuman regeneration or skin toughness. She had only received half-centimeter deep lacerations from a falling wolf that seized her leg with two centimeter claws. If it was a regular wolf, Akari wouldn’t be surprised if Essairyn had only gotten a third of a centimeter, but under possession, wolf claws were enveloped in black magic which made them razor sharp.
Nevertheless, the fox only huffed in disgruntlement. Perhaps getting injured would make Essairyn wake up to the harsh reality of possibly taking on more than she could manage. It never hurt to be extra careful, but Akari couldn’t determine whether Essairyn was unassumingly arrogant or compassionately courageous for jumping straight into dangerous situations. She settled on a mixture of both.
“Well, now that’s over, I guess it’s just a matter of cleaning up and figuring out how to prevent this from happening again.” Essairyn struck a pensive pose, leaning on one leg with a hand on her hip and her head tipped to one side.
The Welforts looked anxiously at one another. They had only wanted to live tranquilly on their farm for the last half of their lives. It had been that way until now with the appearance of demons. The trio understood the anxiety on the older couple’s faces. Darren directed that they first clean up like Essairyn had suggested and then discuss over dinner. By now, the stew was probably overcooked.