Koori no Mamono no Monogatari
Volume Seventeen

Story by Sugiura Shiho
Summary by Amparo Bertram

Priests swarm on the street below Blood and Ishuca, who are trapped on the roof of the brothel. A man, spotting Blood's stained sword, declares he must have murdered the women there. Amashi speaks with the owner, offering her the temple's protection, believing her to be a victim of the demon.

Just as Blood tells Ishuca to hold on tight, preparing to jump to another roof, the baby begins crying. It apologizes and tells them to get away from it. It had been given instructions to go with them to Sheece. Ishuca tries to say it did nothing wrong, but it explodes.

Blood shelters the boy from the blast. Amashi emerges in time to see the black shrapnel kill the priests below, exactly like the slaughter at his grandfather's funeral. As he stares down in shock, Kauzel appears to Blood and Ishuca. The demon accuses Ishuca of killing his "boy." Kauzel had made the baby out of one of his arms, constructing it so that pressure would build inside it the more it was loved until it blew apart. It was to teach Ishuca that his love can cause suffering and death. Even the girls' disease had been transmitted by the baby, so Ishuca is responsible for their deaths as well.

Blood tries to protect Ishuca from Kauzel's words and from the spectacle beneath them. Kauzel keeps repeating his message that the world doesn't conform to Ishuca's naive ideals: promises can be broken, people murder each other, and love can kill. He insists that, in the end, Ishuca will call for him. He points directly at Ishuca--who faints--using his *right* hand.

The surviving priests cry out to Amashi, begging for direction. He turns to Blood, but he's too late. The demon carries Ishuca away. Amashi orders his men to follow, knowing that Blood will head north--straight into a trap the priests had set up in advance. Amashi continues to assure himself he hadn't been raised by a demon, that everything is Blood's fault.

Blood runs into the priests' wards, which leave open only the path they intend for him to take. When he stops to ponder what to do, he notices a demonic bird sent by Nei. Sergi and Nei have guessed Amashi's plan and are going to use the bird to trigger the trap and distract the priests. Amashi leads the other priests after the decoy, giving Blood some breathing space.

Blood tries to awaken Ishuca, contemplating the image of Kauzel's right arm. He had cut off Kauzel's three right arms, so he's devastated that Kauzel still has them--and their power. If the baby was one arm, that leaves two more still out there somewhere. He has no way to know one has taken on Blood's original demonic form and appeared to Nei.

Blood does his best to break through the holy wards. Meanwhile, Wild ventures out in spirit form to return Sheece's jewel, Rapunzel protecting his body. When he's about to leave, Sheece appears to meet him and demands to know why he's delivering the jewel. He comments that the "Bearer of Darkness" seems to have lost some of his "dark." Wild good-naturedly blames it on Ishuca. He informs the water demon that he'll be moving back into his tower, but he won't disturb the lake. Upon Wild's return, Rapunzel comments that the moon prompts thoughts of Blood. Wild suggests that, in that case, they should go.

The placement of the priests' trap, directly blocking the way to the North, tells Nei that Amashi knows Blood's identity as the North Head. Nei is discussing the path the decoy should follow when the demons notice Kauzel's "Blood" apparition. They recognize it for what it is, the spitting image of Blood from the time he first came to the North.

Nei instructs Sergi to go with the other demons while he confronts the apparition. He borrows Sergi's staff to use as a weapon. Zaha is worried, because he knows Nei is in love with Blood and might be vulnerable; what he doesn't realize is that, for that very reason, Nei would never be satisfied with a substitute.

Blood does his best to care for Ishuca, changing him out of his stained shirt. When the boy wakes up, he doesn't remember what happened. Back in the town, the brothel owner confesses to the murders of her girls. She senses that Amashi is just like her, and she wants the other priests to stop him.

The priests are sure the demon must have been responsible for the deaths, but one of the girls corroborates the story and explains about the terrible illness. The girl maintains she would have done the exact same thing. After the priests lead away the owner, the girl visits her sick friend--and is amazed to discover that Ishuca had cured her.

Blood faces Ishuca's amnesia in a quandary. He reasons that Kauzel intended for the boy to forget so he can trigger the memories at a time when the shock will be greatest. Blood can't deny the truth of Kauzel's words--Ishuca's treatment of the "baby" did result in many deaths--and if that guilt causes Ishuca to despair, he might very well succumb to Kauzel's influence.

Blood wonders if he should erase the memories completely, leaving Ishuca innocent and untarnished. He knows it would be like running away from reality, but it would be far easier for Ishuca not to know what he had done. Just thinking about it, however, makes him weep for the boy. He understands that Ishuca is both strong and weak. He has to put his faith in Ishuca's desire to be strong while providing whatever support he can offer. Though it will be painful, he must believe Ishuca has the capacity to handle the memories.

Blood begins by assuring the curious Ishuca he will always be with him. Silently apologizing for what he is about to do, he convinces himself that Ishuca would never choose to run. He unlocks the sealed memories, stressing that the fault for what happened lies with both of them.

Nei flashes back to the time Blood first came to the North, frightening the lesser demons because of his pure demonic nature. The first words Blood spoke were to ask if Nei could kill him. Nei considered him so beautiful he would feel good to kill.

In the present, Nei attacks the apparition. He notices that it reacts differently from the clone he had constructed before. It has nothing of the real Blood in it, only the outward appearance. It's nothing more than a copy, and it even copies the priestly staff Nei is using. It doesn't attack; rather, it continues to parry all of Nei's moves. Nei gets extremely angry that he's not even having a satisfying fight. He's taken aback when Kauzel's copy says the exact same words as the original Blood had.

Meanwhile, Blood concludes his explanation of recent events. Ishuca realizes that Blood is taking the trouble to go into such a detailed analysis so that all the work of thinking will already be finished and Ishuca won't have to dwell on it. Ishuca remains blank-eyed, not listening to Blood's prediction that they'll encounter two more of Kauzel's arm-creatures, musing instead that he liked seeing Blood cry. He knows he should feel sorry for Blood's sadness, but the tears made the demon look so pretty he can't help it.

The unlocked memories are so overwhelming, Ishuca can't think about them. The most he can do is keep concentrating on Blood. He notices the burns on the demon's hand from tearing a path through the priests' wards and instinctively heals them. Blood continues to insist that he shares the blame for what happened because he hadn't killed the baby while he had the chance. It's the best he can do to make the burden less for the boy.

Ishuca discovers some "sand" on him, which Blood slaps away, knowing the grains are remnants of Kauzel. Ishuca is stricken with terror, so Blood holds him and warms him as he shakes. Ishuca doesn't understand exactly what he's feeling, just that Blood's body heat is his only anchor.

Nei is confused by how similar the copy is to the Blood of long ago. Finally it strikes him what is the same: though it faces him, it doesn't *see* him. It gives its attention to nothing. The copy offers to say and be anything Nei desires as well as to stay with him forever. It leans in close, and Nei drops the staff from his hand.

Saying he appreciates the offer, he rips its heart out with his bare hand. If it's not the real thing, there's no point. He's not in love with Blood's appearance, it's the inside that's important. The real Blood, now, looks straight at him and acknowledges him. Nei understands what Kauzel does not--Blood's beauty, like the moon, is not something wrapped in darkness, it sheds light upon the night. [Ed. note: Nei's name means "night."]

Nei couldn't kill the original Blood because the inner beauty that attracted him came from life itself. It pained him that Blood considered life boring. After Blood vanished and he made the clone, Nei thought he was satisfied. When he discovered Blood again, when Blood truly looked at him for the first time, it brought home to him the joy of being alive. Unfortunately, though Nei is victorious, the copy's blood that splashed all over him is Kauzel's poison.

Ishuca mulls over the things Liria had said to him. He figures out that he had felt ill after speaking with her from the guilt of recognizing the underlying truth in her message. He has someone special to care for and protect him, a luxury denied many people. It doesn't matter to him what happens to anyone else, as long as his friends are okay. Reading between the lines, he seems like someone pampered and spoiled who gets whatever he wants at other people's expense.

Blood warns Ishuca never to call Kauzel's name, because the demon can't possess him unless he somehow wishes it. Ishuca maintains that he wouldn't, he's too frightened. Still, Kauzel's certainty bothers him. Blood interrupts that train of thought to announce they'll travel west, back toward Wild's house. Blood has deduced what Sergi's grandfather had done and that Kauzel's body is probably trapped there.

Ishuca is positive that it's wrong to kill another living thing, yet he remembers Wild's warning that in some situations it's kill or be killed. As he wrestles with his concern, Blood declares that he won't let himself be killed, and neither will he kill anyone else. Ishuca finally agrees that they must do something about Kauzel.

Blood repeats that he will always be with Ishuca. At the time, Ishuca didn't understand the full meaning of those words.

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