Pandemonium is unleashed.
Ravaged by the violent storm, I can barely keep my eyes open. This wind is like a wall of infinite blades, sharp and powerful gusts trying to dice my body. If I was a normal human being, I would be mincemeat by now. It hurts nonetheless, and my skin is already covered by several red thin lines wherever it has been struck. I can endure this pain, I can endure any pain without even flinching, this is one of my many qualities. Not a single groan leaves my throat, but even if I screamed with all my might, this deafening fracas would have covered it. And yet, I can discern an eerie sound that is definitely not caused by the storm: It's a long, deep, feral howl.
It takes not a superior intellect to understand who is the owner of such guttural voice. True to her teachings, Maaya summoned Pazuzu by invoking his name thrice. Without a doubt in this world such a powerful charm cannot fail. The bearer of storms and drought is here.
Maaya: "To my side, demon! My arts and my magic bend you to my will! Obey me!"
The unnatural whirlwind quickly subsides and I can finally examine the demon without disturbances. The beastly being that stands near Maaya is only vaguely similar to the statue that I saw in the shed. His physical build is a lot more massive, and his nails and fangs are decidedly more menacing. While he is for the most part anthropomorphic, his head is more akin to that of a lion, his lower legs are like bird talons, and he possess a scorpion tail and two pairs of massive eagle-like wings.
This is Maaya's furniture, a familiar, so to say; a servant, a creature born from the mind of a powerful witch. This kind of magic requires a very strong will and a lot of practice, I must commend my opponent for being capable of such a feat. However this is still somewhat disappointing and boring, I can't shake the feeling that there is something very dissatisfying about Maaya's magic. I guess the problem is her lack of originality, she doesn't even try to come up with something unique or peculiar. She probably thinks that by strictly adhering to existing myths she can be more believable, and she knows that with that she can create more stable and powerful magics. This is one downside of depending on an external source of power.
But I am used to way more creative, bizarre and flamboyant performances, and no matter how strong is the flavor of this new dish, it still lacks the exotic spices that I grew accustomed to.
Aaah, this is really ironic! Who would have thought that I would miss Beatrice?
Pazuzu spreads his wings and stretches his limbs. His burning eyes glare at Dlanor with evident hostility.
Maaya: "What's wrong, human? Do you finally see the error of your ways? Do you finally realize how foolish your skepticism was? Are you suddenly accepting the existence of the demon Pazuzu, now that you see him in front of your very eyes?!"
Erika: "My very eyes?! Who do you think you're dealing with? Do you expect such a plain strategy to work against a slayer of witches? This place isn't real, I didn't acknowledge the existence of your pet in the world of humans, nor did I acknowledge your so called magic. In fact it is my intention to deny them both, along with you!"
Maaya: "And you believe you caaan?! Even though you're here, trapped in my realm! How can a human be so stubborn to deny what her very senses tell her! There's truly no end to the mortals' hubris! You chose to make yourself blind and deaf! Perhaps I will help you with such a foolish endeavor by ripping your eyes and piercing your ears until your brains bleed out from them!"
I grip my scythe firmly.
Erika: "And how are you going to pull that off, considering you'll be soon nothing but a talking head? Oh wait, let me guess! Magic?! Ah ha ha ha!!!"
Maaya: "Enough of this! Pazuzu!"
Pazuzu: "YeEs, MAsTeEeR..."
Maaya: "The human is mine, I'll entertain her personally. You'll take care of her toy. Make sure she won't be able to interfere!"
Pazuzu: "AaAs YoU WiSh, MAsTeEeR..."
Erika: "Now that's unexpected! It is customary for a third-rate villain to send her minions to the slaughter first before finally getting on the stage."
Maaya: "And who's supposed to be a third-rate villain? You fool! You still don't understand what you're up against! That will be your undoing, human!"
Erika: "On the contrary, if there's one among us who doesn't have a clue about the true nature of her enemy, that's clearly you! *giggle* *giggle*"
Maaya: "Ha! I must admit that you're indeed a very amusing creature. It's simply amazing that you can keep your cool and preposterous self-confidence in your current predicament. Tell me, is this a superb acting, or utter idiocy?"
Erika: "Don't expect an answer from me, I'd rather leave you in your ignorance. You're a lot funnier that way!"
Pazuzu: "YoU WiLl BoOoW DoWn To My MAsTeEeR, MoRtAaAl!"
It looks like I have upset the demon, how interesting! This pathetic creature thinks that he can intimidate me, even though he just received a precise order that forbids him from attacking me.
Dlanor: "Miss Erika bows down to no one but Lady Bernkastel, demon!"
Pazuzu: "YoU AaArE Of No CoNsEqUeEeNcE... YOu AaArE WaY OuT Of YoUr LeAaAgUe, DeAtH SeNtEnCe DLaNoR. YOuR JuRiSdIcTiOn LiEs ElSeWhEeErE. YOu HaAaVe No AuThOrItY In ThIs ReAlM. KNoW YoUr PlAaAcE, SeRvAnT Of ThE HeAvEnLy InQuIsItIoOoN! THe RuUuLeS ThAt YoU EnFoRcE HaVe No EfFeEeCt HeRe!"
Dlanor: "Nonetheless I will fight you and slay you. I do not need my full power to send you into oblivion. You will return to the abyss you came from!"
Pazuzu: "UuUrRrGh! WE ShAlL SeEe WhO WiLl Be ObLiTeRaTeD!"
Maaya: "Enough of this pointless bickering! Human, are you prepared to meet your doom?!"
Erika: "I'm prepared to be your doom, witch of power!"
Maaya: "I'll take that as a yes! Let the show begin!"
All my senses are heightened. I feel the adrenaline flowing in my veins. This feeling of excitement! This inebriating sensation! A battle in the metaworld, after so much time!
Come at me, Maaya, show me your terrible techniques, show me your power! Do not hold back, fight with all that you have got! I am ready. I am here. I will triumph once again, I will survive this new ordeal! In the end you are absolutely nothing compared to what I have already endured in the past! I am the only survivor of the Rokkenjima incident! They all died! All of them, but I am here! I have seen hell! I have touched the bottom of it and emerged victorious! It was meant to destroy me, it was meant to kill me, but look at me!
I won! I was the one laughing at the end! And how foolish they all look in my eyes now! How foolish they all were! I feel nothing for them! They cannot hurt me anymore, never again! I am invincible! Don't you understand?!
What do you think you can possibly do against such a superior existence?! Can't you see that I am blessed by karma itself? Don't you know that I survived in spite of impossible to overcome odds? Don't you understand that my resilience defies logic itself?!
But you simply don't get it! You made fun of miracles, as if they were something remote in the realm of myths and legends. You didn't realize... that I AM a miracle!
And confidently you smile, oblivious, unknowing, unsuspecting...
A simple gesture of your arm and a swarm of long, pointy objects is summoned in front of you. Hundreds, thousands, hundred of thousands! What are these things supposed to be? Nails? You summoned the same kind of nails you use for your stupid pseudo-voodoo rituals? Don't make me laugh!
Fast. Those things are coming at me at an incredibly high speed. They are very close to each others but they are spreading out. If I move away quickly enough, I should be able to pass through the widening gaps.
Your attacks may be fast, Maaya, but I can move and think at lightning speed myself.
This is not a problem at all, I fly backward, this way!
All right! They all went past me, I made it just in time. That wasn't too hard, but I doubt it will be so simple.
And in fact she snaps her fingers and another wave of deadly projectiles materializes out of thin air. She sent them at me from a different angle, I must quickly move to the left or I am going to become a pin cushion.
Come on, Maaya! You can do better than this! I have already visualized the pattern of your attacks, and they might be fast for a regular human, but to me they are just as slow as snails. You can keep swinging your arm left and right as much as you want, but you will not get anywhere at this rate!
What do you think of my evasive skills? I have already eluded five of your barrages, you should have already understood at this point that you can't really hope to kill me with this simple tactic!
But wait, why is she still smiling? Actually, I think her grin is even wider than before.
Maaya: "This is fun, great detective! Keep dancing! Keep dancing on my palm! Ha ha ha ha!"
Is she just toying with me?
Erika: "You're not thinking that I'll simply play defensively, aren't you?"
Maaya: "If you think you can get close to me, you're free to try!"
Oh, is that so? Is the reason of her ostentatious confidence the belief that I am merely a mouse unable to do anything but escaping her grasp? If that was the case, I wouldn't have nothing to worry about, but something is off, my danger sense is tingling.
Maaya must have something in mind, a surprise attack most likely. However she is a witch, she must recite an incantation or perform some kind of ritualistic gesture to use her magic. I am observing her very attentively even as I am evading her constant barrage. Should she make even the slightest move, I am confident that I will be able to react accordingly. All of my senses are focused on her and her attacks...
Wait! What if she realized that? What if this was her plan all along? Then... behind me!
Maaya: "Too late! You can't escape! Just give up and die!!!"
The nails that I thought I had already evaded... they are bouncing on the borders of the spherical hall and are coming back! Suddenly I am surrounded from all directions! There is no longer enough space for my maneuvers. They are coming, they are here!
Maaya: "Gotcha! Writhe in pain, human! Suffer and die! How does it feel to have your body skewered by a thousand nails?! What a disappointment you were! You didn't even put up a decent fight! What was the point of that oversized scythe, if you couldn't even get anywhere close to melee range?!"
Erika: "Not even close? What are you talking about? What are you looking at? I'm here, I'm right behind you!!!"
Startled by my voice coming from a completely unexpected direction, Maaya quickly turns around and stares at me with frightened and incredulous eyes. Nothing is more sublime than seeing the arrogance of your enemies becoming fear!
I swing my scythe with decision in a perfectly horizontal motion. This would be enough to cut her flimsy body in half, but with a desperate and inelegant backward dash Maaya manages to distance herself enough to be just grazed by the lethal slice.
I guess that now she will think that it was stupid from me to warn her of my presence just a second before my surprise attack. I could have simply killed her now, before she could even get a hint of what a dangerous being I am. I could have finished her now, before she could unleash her full power, right?
Ha ha ha! No way! Why would I do that? Why would I want to end this exciting battle in such an uneventful manner? This is not her show, this is my show! And it is not me who is trapped in this place with her. It is she who trapped herself with me!
Maaya: "How the hell is this possible?! You were there a second before! I saw your body being pierced!"
Erika: "Ha ha ha!!! What you saw was just an afterimage! Seriously, you didn't think that I survived and triumphed against several other witches just by sheer luck, didn't you? This might be your metaworld, but this is still a metaworld; conventional logic and physic do not apply in this place. If you think that moving almost instantly from a point to another is impossible, then you clearly know very little of how this world works. It is just a simple matter of will power and concentration!"
Maaya: "A simple matter of will power... you say?! Don't make me laugh! Teleportation is a high level magic! A pathetic being like you can't possibly have mastered it!"
Erika: "You think so? I wonder about that!"
Maaya: "I don't know what kind of trick you used, but I won't let you disgrace the art any further with your shams!"
Erika: "Shams?! Art?! Tricks?! Magic?! And what's the difference?! They're all the same thing!"
Once again I swing my scythe at my enemy, but this time my attack is charged with the power of truth. The blade traces an arc of light which bursts upon release creating a storm of blue, luminescent darts.
Maaya quickly retreats, the roles are now inverted. She summons again her magical shield, just in time before being skewered. The barrier shakes violently and dangerously while deflecting the shower of sharp, blue shards.
Maaya: "You fool! You understand nothing! Such an ignorant statement is an unforgivable blasphemy!"
Erika: "Oh my... you aren't even funny, you know..."
Erika: "You don't need to play the part with such emphasis. I know that you know the truth behind your so-called magic as well as I do."
Maaya: "There's only one who knows the truth among us!"
Erika: "That's what you want to believe."
Far from the two of us, on the lower part of the spherical hall, the battle between Dlanor and Pazuzu is continuing as we speak. The demon is very strong and his ability to control wind seems to be a real problem. I can see that even my furniture is having quite some difficulties at maintaining control over her flying maneuver under the ever-changing gusts and gales that her enemy is bombarding her with.
Maaya: "Ha! Don't even dare to think that you demonstrated anything with your stunt! I was merely toying with you!"
Dlanor is attacking the beast with her two swords, but the demon doesn't even seem to bother about evading. His wounds regenerates at an incredibly fast rate. He is really a troublesome furniture. I guess that the only way to destroy him is through a direct denial of his existence. I fear that he is more than what my companion can handle by herself, but for now I only need her to keep him occupied.
Erika: "So, does that mean that you're going to get serious now? I feel honored, it seems that you're finally beginning to understand how dangerous I am."
Maaya: "Don't flatter yourself! You're just becoming very annoying. I'm very sorry, but you're really getting on my nerves. I'm going to finish you now. Good bye!"