Inflamed, Essairyn swore to give this flagrant demon a painful whooping. If she couldn’t catch it, then she’d have to ensnare it. She hoisted barriers around the pen it was currently in, and the daunted demon reflexively jolted and smashed into one of the walls. But before it could escape from the broken wall, Essairyn formed another box around the previous. The alarmed demon knew that it was being trapped. If it kept trying to strong-arm its way past the barriers, then it would cause its own doom. Aggravated, it shot back to the injured animal within the trap and resumed feasting on it with renewed vigor.
Revolted by the blatant act, Essairyn grimaced and pounded over to the encasement. Spikes formed along the inner walls and the demon’s eyes flickered from side to side in trepidation. Just as it was about to spring from the collapsing cow, the spikes speared the demon mercilessly. It dropped to the ground, now a ball of skewers.
Before it could dissipate, she layered smaller boxes around the demon and withdrew the spikes. This demon could talk, so if possible, she wanted to keep it alive for questioning. Essairyn was prepared to heal the demon if she was able, but puzzlingly, the demon merely smoldered with a few sprinkles of dust. It was still alive.
Glaring at the writhing demon, she grilled it, “Why are you in this barn, and why are you after Akari? What’s your relation with the wolves and the demons after her?” She hoped the demon would answer at least some of her questions or unknowingly drop some clue. This demon was abnormal. It looked like the first tier demons that had fled some of the wolves’ bodies, and it evidently had the wily little demons’ speed too. But this demon also had more substance to it besides being able to talk in the common language. Is this some kind of in-limbo demon between first and second tier? But that wouldn’t explain why it could talk but the second and third class demons from before couldn’t.
The simpering demon was tight-lipped, but it finally caved in the girl’s scathing gaze. “Y-you think you’re s-strong e-elemental? J-Just you wait, we d-demihumanss will take b-back our landss!”
Taken aback by the misunderstanding which only caused Essairyn to be more baffled, she went with the flow and replied, “What lands of yours do you mean?”
The demon spat. “The borderlands! Our c-cities! Y-You e-elementals destroyed our nation and t-turned the world on uss! Futile! Futile! Y-you’ll n-never win! All hail Taithar! Our R-redeemer!” It then willingly crashed into the walls and ricocheted around. Unable to stop it or release it, Essairyn could only watch as the demon self-destructed.
Something wrenched her heart upon hearing the demon. “Akari,” she softly said after the demon dissipated, “What was that? Why is it so angry at the elementals? What did the elementals do?” Even though she knew she wasn’t an elemental, Essairyn acutely felt the raging indignation of the demon’s words directed at her.
The fox could only shake her head, honestly perplexed by it all too. “I do not know what happened since I was last alive. Although the elementals loathed the demons for fighting against them in the Great Elemental War, they never outrightly declared war on the demons.”
“Demons fought against them in the war?!” Essairyn let out a cry of disbelief. “You mean they were on the side of Water and Light?” After reading the history of Sol’h’meyr, Essairyn felt like the other elementals were in the wrong for trying to kill Cyrienne. Supposedly the rain goddess would cause havoc on the world because the power balance would be destroyed. But it sounded like a bunch of propaganda. Obviously, Cyrienne had restored the lands instead of seeking revenge. Essairyn reckoned that the jealous gods might have even deceived her! But never once would she have imagined that the demons were on her side. Yet again, Akari’s past words rung in her ears. Demons weren’t necessarily evil. But that didn’t explain why they acted as such. Was Cyrienne actually a threat? Did the other gods in fact push her out of the world? What is the real truth?
Akari released a heavy sigh. “Yes. Both demons and spirits fought alongside Water and Light. Since the two gods protected the humans and the beings that were born out of them, of course spirits and demons would support them. But the reason why elementals didn’t hate spirits was because after the war ended, the spirits caused them no trouble while the demons continued to rebel.”
“Damn.” Essairyn didn’t know what else to say. Sol’h’meyr’s history was indeed more complex than what that brief booklet had told. The current situation arose out of age-old conflicts, but neither she nor Akari knew why it boiled to this tipping point. “Then did you also fight Akari?” Perhaps this was the reason why the fox had looked miserable the first time she spoke of the Great Elemental War.
“No, I was just a baby then.” Akari hesitated on telling the next sequence of events. Deciding that it would only complicate matters, she skipped the detail and remained silent.
“I see…” Essairyn sensed that there was more to the story, but yet again, the fox’s mouth was sealed on matters of the war and the relation to her. “Well, I suppose we’ll find out eventually with all these demon disturbances…” She blinked in deep thought. “SHOOT!” The sudden shout made Akari jump.
“What’s—?!” the fox began but then saw the girl racing over to one of the injured cows. “No way! You’re not going to heal them NOW are you?! They’re on the brink of death! There’s no way you can— HEY! Are you listening to me!??!” The fox dashed over to the girl who had put her hands on the fallen cow’s side. The animal’s breath sputtered, and its eyes glazed over.
“I have to at least try Akari! The poor cows! What will Mr. Welfort think?” Her forehead wrinkled in consternation.
“NO.” Akari’s words were stern. “Healing Banran was crazy enough, but you’ve used up too much magic these last few days. Especially after two fights in a row, you’ll only be putting yourself at risk by trying to heal them!”
“NO BUTS ABOUT IT!! You're NOT going to heal them!!!” Akari was nearly gasping in emotion.
“Akari..?” Essairyn was surprised by the fox’s outburst. Does she really care about me that much? Even though we aren’t…? The girl softened her gaze. The fox could very well be protecting her own protector from self-destruction, but somehow, Essairyn knew it wasn’t just that.
As if realizing her own mistake, Akari coughed and recollected herself. “If you’re aren’t going to listen to me, your guide in this world, then I might as well find someone else!” Dang it Akari! You let your emotions get the best of you again! How many times do I have to remind you that you need to keep your distance! You can’t, not after…
“I’m sorry, Akari.” Essairyn’s words were heartfelt. “You’re right. I can’t do everything. If I don’t conserve my magic, I won’t even be able to make that protective system tomorrow. Then the Welforts and the rest of the animals will be in danger…” She sighed. She had to get a grip on herself and not be carried away. Survival was first.
With heavy hearts, the two headed back to the farmhouse to inform Mr. Welfort that two of his cows had died because of a rogue demon that had been hiding in the barn. Seeing the wretched looks on their faces, he knew that it had been a tough battle. He grieved a bit at the loss of two cows, but at least the situation could no longer escalate had the adventurers left before encountering the sequestered demon.
They all slept fitfully with only a few winks of rest when they woke up at eight o’clock. But like well-oiled machines, the Welforts went about their typical chores while Essairyn studied the fence and layout of the whole farm. Akari followed her on the loop around the premises, and Darren stayed behind with the Welforts to assist them.
“So, what do you think? Can you do it after all?” Akari vocalized after they completed the circle.
Essairyn thoughtfully inclined her head in assertion. “Yes, I trailed some magic on the fence, so I can give it a shot now.”
Closing her eyes and taking a deep, steady breath, she focused on connecting herself to the ring of magic. Protect. Defend. Warn. Fight. Rest. Recharge. Essairyn let a string of commands and courses of action take form depending on various situation flow into the magic. After she covered all her intended bases, she felt her vision and intention was complete. Her eyes flashed open. Unbeknownst to her but caught by Akari, a faint lavender glow emanated from her pupils. Not even a breath later, the ring of magic flared the same color for several seconds. The whole farm flushed in lavender, and the fences emitted spiraling streams like extensions of the enclosure into the air. They hatched themselves together in a lattice, and blooms of magic circles sprung up from their centers. The individual circles were separated by a few meters all around the farm. At this spellbinding sight, the Welforts and Darren stopped their work to gaze at Essairyn’s handiwork.
“She really did it…” Mr. Welfort whispered in wonder. This girl…was truly gifted. He glanced at his wife and Darren. Their eyes were hooked on the luminescent display. Returning to the sight, he inhaled a profound breath. Little by little, the world had been changing. From the tales told by adventurers to the murmurs of the townspeople, something big was brewing. Perhaps this girl could be the tipping point. It was inevitable that she would be dragged into the chaos whether she wanted to or not. But possibly, he could help her retain a little freedom for some time.