Koori no Mamono no Monogatari
Volume Twenty-two

Story by Sugiura Shiho
Summary by Amparo Bertram

Wild regains consciousness to the sight of long, black hair and assumes that the arms cradling him belong to Rapunzel. He receives the shock of his life when he realizes he's being held by Blood in Kauzel's body. Blood offers his blood to Wild to heal him from Kauzel's poison, but Wild doesn't trust it. He would rather use Ishuca's blood, which had been gifted to Rapunzel for him, yet Blood doesn't want to allow that. Blood explains that, despite being in Kauzel's body, he has nullified its poison the same way Ishuca did. The northern demons can't help acting tense around him. Nei, in particular, has conniptions about Blood's looks. Blood explodes, hating that everyone is judging him by his appearance and not treating him as himself. He assigns the other demons to let Kauzel enter the temple.

Inside the temple, the other priests can't believe what Sergi is telling them. Luckily, Raugul shows up and vouches for him. Raugul adds that Ishuca had healed his shoulder wound when they last parted, without having realized it. Before the assembled priests, he lays out the plan to use the temple itself to seal Kauzel. He cheers them with the knowledge that they will have the golden demon and "gem boy" on their side, inviting Ishuca to say a few words to those gathered.

Ishuca, smiling brightly, greets them and proceeds to describe in great detail what a terrifying demon Kauzel is. However, just when the image he paints is at its darkest, he insists that he and Blood are no longer afraid. For someone who has been able to confront the darkness within him, Kauzel's darkness seems only natural, no longer anything to fear. His positive attitude inspires the priests to think that there might still be hope. The priests scatter to take care of their various tasks.

The madam wishes she could wait at the temple to speak with Amashi, but she is told that would be too dangerous. Leo awakens and doesn't like that everyone seems to view his "father" as evil. He knows his father is kind because of the protection Kauzel gave him from Wild's and Nei's attacks. This time he hopes to be the one who helps his father. Sergi resolves that when the crisis is over he will go in search of Amashi, not wanting the other priest to be alone.

Ishuca muses as evening comes that Kauzel will arrive shortly. He knows he is fine with not being with Blood, that they have separate roles to play, and yet... He wonders if by some chance Kauzel and Blood switched bodies again whether he would be able to tell...and concludes that the more childlike of the two would be the real Blood. His mind keeps returning to the fact that he can't help wishing that they could see each other again. Before he can fully complete the thought, he spots Blood perched in a tree outside his window. Blood is positive that Ishuca, at least, won't judge him by his appearance; he is rocked by the boy's firm statement that he wants the original Blood back as quickly as possible.

Ishuca admits that he felt like killing someone, continuing with his epiphany that people are best alive and smiling. Blood is reassured that, although Ishuca has a different expression from before, his eyes have no hesitation so he is probably just fine. Ishuca tells Blood to rely on him to do his part. He bids the demon farewell, pondering that they may not be able to touch physically, but they are connected.

In the town, people are talking about the golden demon who saves humans. Kauzel, walking past, hears the gossip and begins to believe it is about him. He loses sight of his own identity. Kauzel had originally sought purity. However, when Blood turned on him and killed him, his consciousness died and his instinct devoured him. He became a being of pure darkness with the desire to destroy and had to re-invent his identity.

In the temple, the priests prepare to bind Kauzel when he arrives. Ishuca is using himself as bait. Even if the demon would be wary of such a blatant trap, he will come to Ishuca's call. The priests worry that the golden demon will be unable to get his body back, yet Ishuca is confident that it won't be a problem. Raugul gives the boy three wards to protect him. Ishuca, contemplating his power--power that was once Kauzul's--is forced to wonder whether Kauzel himself could change the way his poison did.

Kauzel was a being that simply existed as a personification of darkness, of pure evil. His power was the poison of truth, and his body was his force of will. He had no way of knowing what a "soul" was and therefore didn't really know how to define "himself." Now, Blood can sense Kauzel's location, though he hadn't been able to before. He wonders whether it's because he's in Kauzel's body, but he had felt a similar sensation before the switch when he had been able to detect Wild approaching. Not only can he sense Kauzel, he can sense *two* of him--one large and one small--both headed toward him.

Kauzel had been nothing more than a gathering of darkness that had assumed a solid form. Just once, when he saw Blood spattered with bright red blood, he had a thought entirely his own...that what he saw was beautiful. When he was reborn as pure demonic instinct, his memory shattered and he had to connect various fragments together. The one thing he could not forget was the golden demon; he obsessively clung to the one instant he displayed a will of his own. Yet in his obsession with "his" Blood, he lost his grasp on who "he" was. Now that he is in Blood's body, his single-minded fixation leads him to believe that he is really Blood. When he starts to believe that, he throws himself into the role, going as far as thinking what the real Blood would think: he has to rescue Ishuca.

The other demons feel his approach, but they are stunned that he seems exactly like the Blood they know, down to his gentle smile. The demons are all horrified that they can't tell the difference. As he reaches the temple gate, Ishuca stands outside in the courtyard to confront him. The demon happily asks Ishuca to come with him. The priests even wonder if he is the real golden demon. However, Blood himself stands just beyond the gate and points out that if he were the original, Ishuca would run to him. The priests use Kauzel's moment of confusion to bind him with spell-chains empowered by Ishuca.

The priests' excitement at capturing the black demon reminds Kauzel of who he is. He calls Blood to him, causing their souls to switch back. This leaves Blood bound inside the temple and Kauzel standing outside the gate. The priests did not see the process, so they don't know what has happened. Blood shouts for Nei to get away as Kauzel begins gathering his power. Kauzel is suddenly surrounded by a crackling force field.

Ishuca, facing the dark demon, is engulfed by silence, as if everything around him has frozen. Kauzel mocks the "trap" intended to imprison him and calls for Ishuca to come. Ishuca stands his ground and calls Kauzel to him in return. Kauzel comments on Ishuca's newfound maturity--his capacity to hate. He can tell that there is a shadow of darkness on the boy's heart. He reminds the boy of his prediction that, in the end, Ishuca would call him. Ishuca steels himself and responds confidently that shadows are normal; they are cast naturally by every object. Being ignorant solves nothing; knowing evil exists allows one the chance to fix it. Though Ishuca has hated enough to want to kill, he also understands that he likes people to be alive, and he likes the smile of the one he loves. Despite knowing that all the darkness in Kauzel's words is the truth, he has the power not to choose the evil path.

Proclaiming that as long as he holds Blood dear he will not give in to the darkness, Ishuca summons Kauzel to him and throws the holy wards around him. Suddenly, the rest of the world returns. The priests are frantic at realizing they have permanently bound the golden demon. Blood merely smiles and reveals that he had predicted Kauzel would switch back. That was why he intentionally stood where Kauzel could see him plainly. The priests evacuate outside while Blood explains to Kauzel that the two of them are completely different. He easily breaks the binding chains.

Kauzel bites himself and allows his blood to splash on the ground, using it to destroy the wards holding him in place. The last of the priests scramble outside and give the order to close the gate. As the golden demon and the boy rush into the temple proper, Kauzel calls to Ishuca and says that he and Blood are the same.

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