Koori no Mamono no Monogatari
Volume Twenty

Story by Sugiura Shiho
Summary by Amparo Bertram

Ishuca mentally begs Blood not to notice how tainted he is, not to hate him. Blood understands that Ishuca is hurt so deeply because he's not used to his own darkness--the same negative emotions that everyone has naturally. He orders Ishuca to get used to thinking bad thoughts, on the principle that once Ishuca is accustomed to it, he will be in a state of mind more conducive to making the decision between confronting his darkness and being swallowed by it. He insists that as long as Ishuca considers him important, then even if Ishuca sinks to contemplating bad things, he can always think of Blood and stop his descent.

Blood then openly admits his love and respect for Ishuca. His feelings aren't for Ishuca's "purity," nor is he blindly devoted; his love for Ishuca is based on everything that has been said and done, on Ishuca as a complete human being. As long as they care for each other, their hearts can be washed clean. Ishuca is moved to tears of gratitude. He grows determined that he wants to become a suitable partner for Blood and not have to be constantly protected. As the sun rises, they set off together toward Kauzel.

Meanwhile, the three priests balk at Raugul's plan to release the seal holding Kauzel's body. He elaborates that they will only release a tiny bit--just enough to draw the demon's spirit back into it using the remaining pieces of the binding spell that Ishuca had made solid--and then re-seal it. It's a gamble, but he's hopeful that it will work.

As Blood and Ishuca near their destination, they stumble upon Wild and Rapunzel. (Blood and Wild are once again dismayed by the way Ishuca and Rapunzel glomp onto each other.) They discuss what to do with Kauzel when they arrive, knowing it will be hard to deal with him in spirit form. Blood muses that they should let him enter a host and then finish him.

Just before they reach the house, however, they run into Amashi's mob of priests. They are helped by the arrival of Sergi and the Northern demons, who keep the priests busy--although with strict orders not to hurt anyone. The situation is complicated when more zombies attack...and the demons wind up saving the priests. Sergi assures the other priests that the demons will cause them no harm. He grows worried when he hears that Amashi had gone on ahead to the house.

Amashi plows through the undead with a ferocity that a priest murmurs is inhuman. Amashi continues his battle, repeating to himself that he's human, though it still nags at him that the burn on his hand won't heal. He also doesn't understand why he feels such an intense pull toward the house. He wonders why he wasn't sad when he heard that the man who raised him had died, how he could so quickly destroy the body of the one who had been his only family. When he enters the house, he is surprised to see it isn't Blood waiting for him, and he can't figure out why this demon tugs at his arm.

Darkness pours from the house. Wild and Blood use their magic to block it. As the group of four rushes forward, Raugul and the other priests begin their spell. Sergi searches for Amashi. Blood and Ishuca look through the window into the living room and see only one arm left, the rest of the spirit gone. Just then, Amashi stabs his staff through the window, penetrating Blood's chest.

Though Blood pulls out the staff, Amashi begins chanting, and flames engulf the area. Sergi tries to tell Amashi that what he's doing is wrong. Ishuca is going to heal Blood's wound, but suddenly Blood senses Kauzel's presence. He shoves Ishuca at Amashi with instructions to take him to the temple. Abruptly, the wall of the house explodes, and Leo appears. Ishuca is reminded of Blood's promise not to kill and watches in horror as the possessed boy thrusts his arm through Blood's body.

Wild and Nei send their magic against Leo, but he's protected by a barrier. The boy believes he is now highest in his "father's" regard. He senses Kauzel approaching and is about to allow the spirit to enter him when Blood grabs him and wraps him in bonds of energy. After throwing Leo out to Sergi, he orders everyone else to stay away. Blackness rises behind him, and he holds it back even while calling Kauzel to him.

Ishuca frantically tries to reach him, but Amashi holds him pinned. Blood yells at Ishuca to wait for him, promising to return, and repeats that he'll always be by Ishuca's side. He begs Ishuca to believe him, swearing that he wouldn't lie. Unfortunately, all Ishuca can see is that Blood is being swallowed by the darkness; his shock is so great he can't focus on Blood's words.

Raugul and the other priests complete their spell, drawing a soul back into Kauzel's body. Meanwhile, the northern demons react with shock to the fate of their leader. Nei and Wild blame each other, forcing their friends to restrain them. Ishuca repeats Blood's name over and over, asking where he could be, until his eyes fall upon the spare key to his house he had given the demon as a symbol of their relationship. Amashi punches Ishuca to knock him out and orders the priests to take Sergi and Leo back to the temple.

Raugul is pleased that his spell succeeded. As the priests turn to leave, however, a small noise alerts them to the fact that the demon is moving. The demon opens his single eye and looks at them. Raugul can't understand how the demon could move, freeing his arm, without breaking the barrier around him. The older priests prepare themselves for a fight they have little hope of winning.

The madam from the town takes the ward from Blood's horse with her for protection as she draws nearer Amashi and the others. Sergi knows he will be treated as a traitor by the priests and wonders whether he should grab Ishuca and run, but he doesn't want to disregard Blood's instructions that Ishuca should be taken to the temple. The demons agree that Blood can't be dead; Wild goes to search the house. He and Nei ponder the significance of Blood's plan to entrust Ishuca with the priests rather than protect the boy himself. They come to the realization that he used his own body as bait and called Kauzel to him.

Nei and the demons pretend to take Sergi hostage. The charade persuades the other priests that Sergi really isn't conspiring with demons. After the priests leave, Nei announces to the demons that their role is to ensure Ishuca's safety by secretly guarding the temple. He's certain that Blood will return.

Inside the house, Wild duels Kauzel in Blood's body. He receives a serious wound in his side, but he manages to trap Kauzel's leg with his thorns. He reasons that, if Kauzel is bothering to remain in such a damaged body, it is because he's stuck there. He leaves Kauzel trapped in the house and goes out to tell Nei to block him there before the dark demon can get away.

The madam finally catches up to the demons, who recognize their leader's blood on the ward. Nei explains to everyone what is happening with Blood's body. Rapunzel is worried that they won't be able to take advantage of Ishuca's healing ability in time to help Wild recover. The demons head off to guard Ishuca, Wild using his abilities to search for the real Blood. Kauzel severs his trapped leg and uses the arm left behind to create a new one.

Back at the temple, the priests have noticed the scars on Ishuca's back. Amashi goes to confront him about them. Ishuca admits that Blood made them. He's glad he never healed them because they serve as evidence that Blood had been with him--the last proof he has that Blood ever lived. Amashi doesn't grasp the meaning of Ishuca's tears, seeing the injuries as a sign that the demon hurt the boy.

Ishuca is frantic in his defense of Blood. He argues that Blood being a demon makes no difference and insists that Amashi doesn't understand how deeply he cared for Blood. He questions the very definition of "demon." He calls himself a demon and includes Amashi in his outburst. Amashi, who is still sensitive about the holy water burn on his hand, locks Ishuca in the room. Calling the boy dangerous, he instructs the guards not to open the door.

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