Koori no Mamono no Monogatari
Volume Twenty-three

Story by Sugiura Shiho
Summary by Amparo Bertram

The priests close up the temple and turn it over to the northern demons, who join together to create a kekkai around the whole complex to keep Kauzel inside. As Kauzel begins to escape his bonds, Ishuca can't help but remember how closely Kauzel had been able to mimic Blood. He asks whether there's a chance Kauzel might be able to change. He has no time to ponder it further as Kauzel breaks out of the kekkai. Blood faces Kauzel to give Ishuca the opportunity to run away with Raugul, heading for the temple's tower. Ishuca still can't shake the memory of Kauzel insisting he and Blood are the same.

Outside the temple, Leo wonders if his "father" is there. Wild sends a message bird to Ishuca with his reply setting the final part of the plan in motion. Kauzel has resorted to dissolving his body completely, sending pieces of himself flying everywhere. Raugul and Lindou stay behind to fend off this threat, sending Sergi and Ruugis ahead with Ishuca. Blood sets the whole courtyard aflame in an attempt to stop Kauzel's blood from spreading, but it seems that Kauzel can dissolve and re-form at will. Raugul and Lindou add their power to helping the fire burn the whole temple.

Kauzel insists that Blood's efforts to kill him are futile, because he has realized that he is poison personified. His existence is darkness itself. Darkness is his role and his power. He believes that he is not actually alive, he is simply darkness in human form, with no heart and no real body. Thus, since he has no life, he cannot be killed. Also, because darkness is everywhere, Kauzel himself is everywhere. He uses this belief to fill the entire temple complex with the darkness that is himself. As he disintegrates, he points at Blood and calls the piece of him inside Blood's body.

Kauzel's expanding darkness puts a huge strain on the demon kekkai. Wild uses the vial of Ishuca's blood and one of Blood's message birds to strengthen it. Ishuca finally arrives at the top of the tower to receive Wild's message bird. He is stunned by the pool of darkness filling the temple grounds below. Even the sky is obscured by darkness. He worries desperately about what has happened to Blood. While he's frozen, thoughts whirling, the darkness grabs him from behind. Sergi calls for Blood, who catches the boy in time, but then Sergi is trapped by the black tentacles. He sends Ruugis to take Wild's message to Ishuca.

Ishuca notices that Blood is injured. Blood deduces that Kauzel must have used the arm left at Wild's house to heal his stomach wound. Ishuca checks his stomach and notices it's discolored, and Blood is suffering from Kauzel's poison. They both simultaneously come up with the idea of him the demon drinking Ishuca's blood to heal him. "My life is yours; your life is mine." Ishuca orders Blood not to die, at which Blood reminds him the promise he made to stay with Ishuca the rest of his life. Ishuca is so happy, he cries for joy. He promises to make Blood happy.

Blood explains to Ishuca that they're inside Kauzel's kekkai. The people trapped in the kekkai, like Sergi, feel that they have no body. They have a complete lack of sensory input, as if surrounded by absolute nothingness. Blood is keeping Ishuca protected inside his own kekkai, but Ruugis can't reach them. When Ishuca hears that Kauzel cast a spell on himself to create the darkness, he realizes that they can fight Kauzel's power with their own. Blood forcibly widens his own kekkai enough for them to see Ruugis swallowed by the darkness. Kauzel announces that if they destroy his kekkai, everyone currently trapped in it will die. Ishuca tries calling to the others, but there's no response. Blood shouts that he remembers Kauzel, so that as long as he lives, Kauzel exists inside his memory. He had noticed that the darkness wavered slightly when Leo called to his "father," so he tells Ishuca to call to Kauzel and use his power to give Kauzel form again. Kauzel attacks them with his darkness, engulfing them both, trying to make them disappear.

Ishuca opens his eyes and finds himself surrounded by pitch black. He wonders where Blood is and notices shadowy demonic arms embracing him from behind. Blood also opens his eyes and sees a shadowy form in front of him. The two call each other's name, both realizing that they are still together. The priests then begin to understand that they are not alone.

Ishuca calls Kauzel's name and challenges his claim not to exist. He asks Kauzel how he could possibly know such a thing. In order for something to be "darkness," someone has to name it so, someone must acknowledge it. The one who decides what "is" and what "isn't" must exist. What makes such decisions is the heart. Finally Blood can sense the others in the darkness. Ishuca continues his argument that if Kauzel created darkness, it was his own heart that did so. He repeatedly calls Kauzel's name, reinforcing that Kauzel is simply a demon, just like Blood, that he does have a heart, and that he's alive. He orders Kauzel to solidify. He adds the names of all the others as well, ordering them to return to being themselves.

Suddenly, the darkness shatters. Kauzel rematerializes in front of them. The people watching from outside the temple see the darkness vanish and know that the only task remaining is to seal Kauzel.

Amashi looks on from the woods.

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