Koori no Mamono no Monogatari
Volume Twenty-one

Story by Sugiura Shiho
Summary by Amparo Bertram

Sergi attempts to free Leo from Kauzel's possession, but the demon's arm won't leave the boy. The other priests try cleansing the boy, but nothing works. Now that Sergi has returned, the other priests admit that the things they've witnessed point toward the fact that the golden demon does help people. They silently blame Amashi for Blood's death. When Sergi goes to see Ishuca, he is surprised that Amashi is keeping the boy locked up. Amashi can't understand how Blood and Ishuca could have so much confidence in themselves, as if they could be doing the right thing even if they weren't human. Amashi knows that he was drawn to Kauzel's arm, though he continues to insist to himself that he's human. He's afraid that Ishuca can see him for what he really is, which makes the boy dangerous.

Inside his cell, Ishuca weeps. He tells Sergi to leave the door locked because he doesn't want anyone to see him. He starts to inquire about Leo, but he stops himself, afraid of what he might do to the boy. After asking to be left alone, Ishuca tries to calm himself by repeating that the boy was only being manipulated, yet that doesn't alter the fact that he killed Blood. Ishuca also feels responsible because he made Blood promise not to kill people. He realizes that he had not only been naive, he had been ignorant of the way the world worked, of the wickedness inside people.

Ishuca remembers all of Blood's good qualities and how much he loved the demon. He hadn't known that having something so precious taken from him could make him so hateful. He could probably cure Leo with his power, but he knows it won't work with his heart not in it. He realizes that everything Kauzel said to him about human darkness is true. He faces the reality that Blood is dead, that the one person he believed in is no longer with him...that he has nothing left.

Ishuca remembers Kauzel saying that if he called, the black demon would come. It reminds him that he has power--enough power to destroy everything. As soon as he thinks that, he hears a gem shatter on the floor. In the next moment, his heart begins to beat.

Although several days have passed, Wild's house is still ablaze. Kauzel, in Blood's body, relaxes safely inside. He likes his new body, particularly since Blood's intake of Ishuca's blood has made him resistant to holy wards. Smiling, he announces that he will go "rescue" Ishuca. He extinguishes the fire and sets off toward the temple.

The northern demons are gathered outside the temple to guard it. Rapunzel and the madam, the only two humans with the group, decide to go inside to check on Ishuca. Wild likes Rapunzel's prostitute costume, but that doesn't stop him from worrying. Rapunzel assures him that everything will be fine and reminds him that someone has to tell Ishuca about Blood. On top of that, Rapunzel urgently wants Ishuca to heal Wild's wound. Wild had thought that his injury would be fine because it was Blood's body that attacked him, but it seems that Kauzel has been able to poison him even so.

Raugul convinces his companion priests that Kauzel's body contains the golden demon's soul by helpfully offering to put his hair in a ponytail--after all, Kauzel's body only has one arm--and Blood's response is proof enough. Blood explains that when he called Kauzel into himself, his own soul was bumped out and had to find a place to inhabit. He asks Raugul to take him to the temple. He knows Kauzel will try to take Ishuca, and he needs the priests' help to seal the black demon inside the temple.

The priest council acknowledges that they should have believed Sergi about the golden demon. They begin to mutter harshly about Amashi's merciless slaughter, though Sergi attempts to defend him, saying that hesitation in dispatching the zombie priests would have resulted in more victims. Then the madam and Rapunzel arrive, asking to speak with Sergi. As he is escorted to them, Sergi hears about Amashi's unsettling displays of supernatural abilities on his hunt for Blood, such as his uncanny sense of direction.

After getting Sergi alone, Rapunzel asks to see Ishuca. Just then, someone rushes in to report that the redhead has vanished from his room. Meanwhile, the madam testifies before the council that Blood was not responsible for any of the deaths in the prostitution district. She asks about Amashi, drawing the priests' attention to his absence. Amashi has the keys to Ishuca's room. Sergi assigns the priests to split up and search. Amashi wraps himself in a hooded cloak and leaves the temple.

Ishuca wakes up to find himself lying on the floor of a strange room, bound and gagged. Listening to the sound of his heart, he decides that he'll give as good as he's gotten. He can feel the familiar chest pain that signals his impending death. He is able to deduce that the gem he heard shattering was what had kept him alive and gave him the power to heal. He resigns himself to dying, feeling that he no longer has the will to live alone. Given the choice, he would have preferred to die together with Blood.

Ishuca figures out that the gem broke because he seriously considered calling Kauzel. He knows it's wrong to want revenge, but he contemplates that he can't be forgiving of Blood's murder. Just then something pokes his leg, and he notices dark stone fragments scattered on the floor. Instinctively he associates them with the black grit Kauzel left behind when his arm crumbled. He scoots away in fear, attempting to convince himself that it's only regular stone.

He can feel the pain of his death drawing nearer. If he is going to die anyway, he wishes for the power to curse someone, finally understanding the depth of hatred that provokes one to want to kill. He's willing to trade his remaining life for the chance to have revenge. All the warmth of his feelings for Blood have turned cold and heavy within him. He will show everyone how a person can truly become a demon.

Again, he feels stone fragments on the floor beneath him. Not only do they evoke the image of Kauzel in his mind, their number is increasing. He desperately works at freeing himself from his bonds, insisting he never actually called to Kauzel, watching the black fragments in terror. Finally, with tears in his eyes, he calls for Blood to save him...but Blood is gone. Because he always relied on the demon to protect him, Blood died.

Suddenly, his impression of the fragments changes. He understands that they are the essence of the baby Kauzel created. The fragments coalesce into the ghostly form of the baby, who blasts the wall open for Ishuca to escape. Ishuca apologizes for not being able to protect him; his response is to smile happily and give Ishuca a burst of power that quiets his heart. It strikes Ishuca that people are always best off smiling--that the smile of his dear one is all he ever really wanted. Ishuca resolves that it would be wrong to use for wicked purposes the life that Blood sacrificed himself to save.

The priests are unable to locate Ishuca anywhere. The only room they haven't checked is one that is always kept locked, and the missing Amashi is in charge of the key. Sergi takes Rapunzel to his own room to wait. There, upon his desk, they find Amashi's key ring.

Sitting on the roof of the temple, Ishuca muses that Blood was right--the demon will always be with him, inside him, because of their bond. He has seen that it all comes down to a matter of choice: with the decision laid out before him, he can choose to follow the path of evil, but he does not have to. He is lonely without Blood and wishes they could have been together forever, yet he wants to be a person of whom Blood would be proud. Just as he grows determined, Sergi and Rapunzel rush in. Rapunzel announces that Blood is alive, and that Ishuca is to call...*him*.

Blood is in contact with Wild and Nei, but he's concerned for Ishuca. He knows the boy isn't accustomed to his own darkness. Blood feels that he should thank Ishuca for teaching him how to love and be loved. He wants to tell Ishuca that it's okay to hate people and to cry, that as long as Ishuca is alive, Blood will accept him just the way he is. Even if Ishuca is drawn into darkness, Blood is positive that the boy will remember their relationship and regain his kindness and ability to smile. Raugul assures the demon that everything will be fine.

Ishuca goes to Leo and calls Kauzel's arm out of him, taking it into himself. He then hugs Leo, hoping the boy won't remember what he did while possessed. Afterward, Ishuca ponders his silent, motionless heart. He can tell that his lost powers have also returned. The key to his understanding was the baby, who was created from Kauzel's power yet was able to change and display his own soul. The baby could smile. If that is so, then Kauzel's poison itself can change. Kauzel's arms are simply lumps of power--power that can be used for good as well as for evil. It is the person who puts that power to use who decides. Poison in the heart can be erased by a smile.

Among the northern demons, Wild is handling all the communication with Blood. Nei is practically having a breakdown at the thought of Blood in *that* body; he wants his leader to have golden hair again. (Wild takes great pleasure in taunting him.) Amashi is still missing from the temple. He has gone out into the forest, headed toward Wild's old house, though he doesn't know why. There he encounters Kauzel, who tells him he is the "fourth arm." Amashi's left arm, the one burned by holy water, reacts to the demon.

Sergi meets up with the northern demons and hears about Blood's plan. Rapunzel fills Ishuca in. The boy escorts Rapunzel out, offering an important gift. When asked if he's all right with not seeing Blood, he responds that he's fine because Blood is always with him. He is glad that Blood is relying on him to carry out part of the plan, that he isn't merely being protected this time. Together, he and Blood will seal Kauzel. Leo awakens and wonders where his "father" is. Wild collapses from Kauzel's poison. Sergi returns to the temple and explains to the other priests that the two demons have switched bodies, and that Kauzel is headed to the temple to capture Ishuca. They're worried that they don't have the strength to fight Kauzel. Sergi announces that Blood has a plan, but he needs their help--and they have to be willing to abandon the temple.

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